BBQ World Magazine
This past March I posted about a new and exciting barbecue magazine, BBQ World. Well, I received a letter a little more than a week ago that formally states what most of us in the BBQ world have long suspected -- it's toast.

To summarize the letter, the economics just didn't work. I must say that, while I'm disappointed (I was a contributing author), I am not at all surprised. It's no secret that the print world is giving way to the internet. When food magazines like Gourmet are folding it does not portend good things for magazines in general, let alone a new food publication.

It's too bad that the magazine couldn't make a go of it, and the handling of the whole situation was very poor at best. Just this past summer barbecue forums were replete with assurances that the magazine was continuing, with the second issue (yes, there was just one) due out next month. According to the letter, we subscribers can expect a refund within the next 30-90 days. I certainly hope that is the case, but the history of the company doesn't allow me much optimism. Case in point: Their site is still offering subscriptions.

What I can't understand is why they didn't just turn it into an electronic publication. They presumably had all the pieces in place, and it would have been much more feasible economically. Why just abandon the whole concept? I have to assume that there's more to the story.

Kosmo's Q Beef Injection
When it comes to competition BBQ, I have always been somewhat of a purist. I say, "somewhat" because I do inject my pork butts and brisket, and I am a firm believer in leveraging "the Texas crutch" (foil). We competitors are constantly striving to achieve that perfect bite (or maybe two) that will wow the judges, and you have to use chemistry to your advantage.

In my mind there are two kinds of chemistry -- natural and enhanced. The natural uses preparation and cooking techniques that make use of what is already in the meat to help it the be best it can be. The enhanced end of the spectrum adds a concoction of additives (typically containing sodium tripolyphosphate and calcium lactate) that help enhance the natural flavor and retain moisture. Many of the top competition teams use these types of commercial injections to gain an advantage.

Until now, I had never tried any of the commercial injections, but I've been admittedly curious to see what all the hullabaloo is about. I've heard about the great beef flavor and juices pouring out of an otherwise monotonous brisket. All this, combined with the results of the aforementioned top teams, certainly made me wonder if I was missing something.

I decided that it was time to see what all this buzz is about, so I contacted Kosmo of Kosmo's Q and he kindly sent samples of his beef and pork injections for me to try.

I started with an 11.3 pound select-grade brisket. I wanted to keep the playing field level, so I trimmed it like I normally do, and I injected it per the instructions, using beef consomme as the mixing liquid. The powder mixed very easily without clumping, and I injected all but about 1/4 cup of the mixture.

Aside from the new injection formula, this was a standard brisket prep for me. I then cooked the brisket using my standard hot & fast technique. Again, I wanted to keep the injection as the only variable in my standard procedure.

I must say that I was impressed with the results. While I didn't see much difference in the moisture content, the beefy flavor was definitely enhanced, but not unnaturally so. There were no off flavors or other noticeable changes in the overall flavor profile, as compared to my standard competition brisket. It was just a "kicked-up" version of what I normally cook. Kosmo's is a serious winner in beefy flavor enhancement.

Now that I know what all this phosphate injection madness is all about, I don't know that I would use it in competition. Why? Well, it contains MSG and, while I don't necessarily have a problem with it, I am very leery about using MSG in situations where I don't know who will be eating it. I prefer to keep things natural in these situations.

In conclusion, Kosmo's Q is a great product for those that are looking to take their brisket to a new level. It offers outstanding flavor enhancement without compromising your flavor profile.


BBQ Pitmasters on TLC

Last week our BBQ pitmasters took us along with them to the Riverfest Barbecue Cookoff, a standard KCBS contest in Decatur, Alabama.

Decatur is the home of Bib Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q, where the undisputed pork king of Memphis In May (now MBN), Chris Lilly, is the pitmaster. Not only is Chris a tremendous restauranteur and talent on the BBQ circuit, but he is also the author of Big Bob Gibson's BBQ Book.

Early in the episode, Chris treats the competitors to a grand BBQ feast at his restaurant. Of course, our man in black, Myron, couldn't pass up the opportunity to throw cold water on the occasion with his now-familiar wit, charm and humility.

I was very pleased that this episode welcomed Tuffy Stone back to the action. He used the contest as the opportunity to try an untested brisket recipe. Of course, this is a dangerous proposition that is generally regarded as too risky for competition -- especially a $19K competition.

I, like Tuffy, have bucked the traditional wisdom on occasion and have been rewarded for it. I also appreciate Tuffy's use of spreadsheets to develop a well-formulated plan. Laugh all you want, but I do the same thing, and it's indispensable.

This was my favorite episode so far. It seemed to strike the perfect balance of personality and competition cooking skills. The results truly show what can and does happen on any given weekend.

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Sweet-n-Sassy BBQ Almonds
Make some of these Sweet-n-Sassy BBQ Almonds. They are brain-dead easy to make and would please almost any BBQ lover.

Homemade Hot Sauce
I am a serious hot sauce fanatic. I put it on almost everything, so much so that my girls think I've burned off all my "tastebugs". At any given time I'd guess that I have ten kinds in the house. Some, like Tiger Sauce, are for more specific purposes while the others are various types and flavors to accessorize certain types of food. If I had to pick one to use for the rest of my life it would probably be Melinda's XXX Chipotle. It's great stuff!

It occurred to me last night that it's strange that I haven't ever made my own sauce. That situation has now been rectified and I have a recipe to share. It was purely an experiment that I made up as I went along.

My favorite sauces are those that add flavor and heat without overpowering the food with a vinegar taste. This recipe definitely falls in that camp. It's thick, subtly smoky, and earthy, with a little bit of sweet and just enough heat. I think it will prove to be great on meats.

Let's get on with it.

1/2 cup Dried de Arbol chiles, ground with a mortar and pestle
1/2 cup Dried Pasilla (negro) chiles, ground with a mortar and pestle
12 oz Red wine vinegar (I used Star brand)
2 cups Water
3 Tbsp Garlic salt
1/2 cup Dark brown sugar
1/4 tsp Ground tarragon
1/4 tsp Ground ginger
1/4 tsp Cinnamon

Combine the chiles, vinegar and garlic salt in a medium non-reactive mixing bowl.

Boil the water and add it to the bowl.

Cover the bowl and let it sit 12 hours at room temperature to reconstitute the chiles.

With a spoon, skim off and discard as many of the floating seeds as possible.

Put one cup of the chile mixture in a small non-reactive sauce pan and bring just to a boil.

Remove from the heat and add the sugar, tarragon, ginger and cinnamon.

Stir unil the sugar is completely dissolved.

Pour all of the chile mixture into a blender and puree two minutes.

That's it! Put the sauce in clean sanitized hot sauce bottles or jar(s).

The recipe made enough to fill six standard five-ounce bottles. I don't know how long it will keep, but it should be at least a couple of months. Of course, in my house it won't be around that long.

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BBQ Pitmasters on TLC

This episode took place in Murphysboro, Illinois at a contest put on by barbecue pitmaster and legend, Mike Mills. What makes this contest unique and much more challenging for the cooks is that it's dual-sanctioned. It's a standard KCBS four meat competition and an Memphis BBQ Network (formerly Memphis In May) competition all rolled into one furious day of turn-ins and judging.

One of the categories in MBN competition is the whole hog. The clip below gives you an idea of how involved that is. It was Lee Ann's first whole hog cook and she had to face the king of hog cooks -- Myron Mixon. I won't spoil it, but I thought she held her own very well.

Caution: The following clip contains profanity.

Another thing about MBN contests that turns up the heat even further is the on-site portion of the judging. I know how focused and intense KCBS turn-ins are, and I can't imagine doing all that and then have to make a coherent presentation to a live judge. My camp generally looks like loosely organized chaos when I am done with my turn-ins. That's to say nothing of smelling and looking like a smoke jumper dipped in grease and sauce. It ain't pretty.

Early in the episode Johnny Trigg almost came to blows with a fellow competitor who had clearly indulged in copious adult beverages. Encounters like that, and Myron's incessant colorful language, don't do anything to dispell the "Bubba" stereotype of BBQ. Oh, and said drunk makes another appearance near the end and he was still well-lubricated. Mama must be proud.

I feel this installment spent less time on the personalities and more on the craft, which is a good thing. However, the entire episode is largely focused on four teams. Notably absent was "The Professor", Tuffy Stone. I really missed the balance he brought to the first episode.

According to the TLC publicity folks, the premier gave them good ratings. That's great news for competition barbecue, and I certainly hope it continues to do well.

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Grilled Chicken Cordon Bleu
It's no secret around the house that I think boneless/skinless chicken breasts are just this side of worthless. That being the case, I can't deny that they can make for a quick meal. The problem is that they have me on a seemingly never-ending quest to find ways to make them taste like something. This recipe is one stop in that quest.

These breasts are stuffed with herb brie which is wrapped in Black Forest ham. The trick was to find a way to get the cheese and ham in there with just a pocket cut in the breast. I wish I could give you a simple way to do this, but it's largely a figure it out as you go sort of thing.

6 med Boneless/skinless chicken breasts
6 slices Black Forest ham (sandwich thickness)
1 wedge (8 oz) Herb brie cheese (I used Président® brand)
1/4 cup Your favorite chicken BBQ seasoning (of course I recommend mine)

4 Tbsp Unsalted butter
3/4 cup Dry white wine
3 Tbsp Apricot preserves
2 Tbsp Lemon juice
2 Tbsp Honey

Using the palm of your hand (or a meat mallet) on a hard surface, press down (or pound) the thick portion of each breast until they are fairly uniform in thickness (about an inch).

Carefully cut a horizontal pocket in the center of each breast using a very sharp knife (I recommend a paring or boning knife).

Note: Try not to cut through the outside of the breast.

Repeat the process for the remaining breasts.

Cut the brie into six slices and mold them to the width of the ham slices.

Roll each piece of the cheese with one slice of the ham.

Hold the pocket in the breast open with a knife and slide the ham and cheese roll inside. This is the tricky part, so you'll have to be inventive. Perhaps lubricating the roll with some oil would help. If it's too hard to slide in, just stuff it as best you can.

Repeat the process for the remaining breasts.

Pin the open end of each breast closed with a toothpick.

Season both sides of each breast moderately with the BBQ seasoning and let rest at room temperature for about 30 minutes.

Prepare your grill for two-zone cooking (direct and indirect) at medium-high heat (about 350º).

Quickly grill each side of each breast over direct heat until they are seared and have grill marks.

Move the chicken to the indirect part of the grill and cook until the internal temperature reaches 160º.

While the chicken is cooking, make the sauce.

Melt the butter in a medium sauce pan over medium heat.

Add the remaining sauce ingredients and stir until it is well-combined.

Cook at a simmer for five minutes, remove from the heat and set aside.

Remove the breasts from the grill, drizzle with the sauce and let them rest for five minutes.

Drizzle each breast again with the sauce, serve, and enjoy.

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BBQ Pitmasters on TLC

Tonight was the premier of the new eight-week docu-series, BBQ Pitmasters on TLC. I thought that I would offer a short review of each episode from the point of view of a fellow competitor.

The clip below gives you some idea of what happened in the first installment. I can say that it is an accurate portrayal of how weather can and does affect a competition. The conditions were reminiscent of a couple of the competitions I've participated in.

I must say that the show is just about what I had envisioned based on my interview with Executive Producer, John Markus, and others I've read and heard. It is indeed faithful to what actually happens at a competition. It shows the mix of personalities, the conditions, the pressure, and the humility that is mercilessly dispensed at the awards ceremony. I'm sure that Paul Petersen can really relate to that last part. Some may think that falling asleep and ignoring a cook is far-fetched, but it is not at all unusual.

While I'm happy that the show was authentic in covering what really happens in competition barbecue, I was somewhat surprised and disappointed in the abundance of foul language, especially from Myron. I know it's part of the "reality", but it's sad when I can't relax and watch the show with my kids. In my view, it was completely unnecessary. This is a common sentiment from what I am seeing on some of the BBQ forums.

All in all, the show is outstanding so far. If it continues in the same vein I think it will serve competition barbecue well.

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