Author: braddog

Review: Gobblestop Smokehouse

This is unique.  A BBQ joint that specializes in chicken & turkey.  You won’t find pork & brisket on the menu at the Gobble Stop Smokehouse, just poultry.  And darned good poultry too.

I headed over for lunch today after spotting it on Google Maps recently.  I found it in an older shopping plaza, like a lot of good BBQ joints these days.  It’s a pretty unassuming place, but behind the counter they’re making some magic!

I ordered one of the house specialties, smoked chikcen wings with a side order of BBQ beans at the counter.  A short while later, they delivered a plate of 8 large, meaty wings with sliced white bread, my side of beans, and a side of BBQ sauce to my table.

The wings were meaty, and smokey, and delicious!  They were lightly seasoned and smoked to perfection.  After the first taste, the sauce and sides were nearly forgotten.  However, I did get around to trying both.  The beans?  Well, they were jazzed up beans from a can.  And the sauce?  Probably right out of a bottle.

But I didn’t care.  Did I mention how good the wings were?  And the folks running the place were super friendly and took great care of not only me, but the other lunch patrons as well.

Here’s my score card for the Gobble Stop Smokehouse:

So here’s how I’d rate Hill Country BBQ:

  • BBQ – A
  • Side Dishes – C
  • Atmosphere – B
  • Value – A
  • Service – A
  • Overall – B+

If you get to north-west St Louis county, you can find them here:gobblestopsmokehouse.net1227 Castillons Arcade Plz, Creve Coeur, MO 63141(314) 878-5586

Cheers,
Braddog 

Review: Hill Country BBQ – New York City

I caught a wiff of wood smoke while I was still more than a block away, and my mouth began to water.  You see, I’ve never eaten BBQ in Texas so this opportunity to eat at Hill Country BBQ in New York City was as close as I’ve been.  

When work took me to the city, I began to scout for one of the BBQ joints that have sprung up there that I’ve read about.  Then, I realized that Hill Country BBQ was only a dozen or so blocks from where I was staying.  Immediately, I began to plot a night to myself when I could make the walk for dinner.

Hill Country BBQ – 26th St & 6th Ave – NYC

Hill Country BBQ is a tribute to the central Texas markets that began serving BBQ over the counter, by the pound, wrapped in butcher paper, and served with saltine crackers.  Just like those markets turned BBQ joints, Hill Country serves the BBQ the same way; over the counter and by the pound.

The meat counter at Hill Country BBQ

The menu consisted not only of beef, but also pork, chicken, and sausage from Kreuz Market in Texas.  At Hill Country, you order your meat at the counter and specify the amount (by weight) that you’d like or in the case of ribs, how many bones.  I opted for 1/3 lb. of lean brisket (that’s cut from the brisket flat, but you can also order “moist” brisket cut from the point) and a single pork rib.  They cut the meat, weighed it on a butcher scale, wrapped it in brown butcher paper, and handed it over with a half sleeve of saltines.

Then, I headed over to the counter where they served sides.  Sweet Potato Bourbon Mashed caught my eye so I ordered that and a side of green bean casserole.  The server was at my table when I got there and my order was complete with a glass of sweet tea.

I’ll cut to the chase and say that the food was excellent.  In fact, this is probably the best brisket (from a restaurant anyway) that I’ve eaten.  The pork rib was pretty good.  A little tougher than I expected but it had a great flavor.  And the sides?  Fuggetaboutit!  I could go  back and just eat side items.  The sweet potato dish was amazing, and I loved the comfort food style green beans.  There were plenty of other sides as well as desserts, but frankly I can’t eat that much.

Really, the only negative comment I have about my experience at Hill Country BBQ is the cost.  I mean, I know I was eating in New York City, but brisket at $26/lb?  That seems excessive.  While I thoroughly enjoyed my experience, my dinner (for only me) was ~$39.  That’s with nothing from the bar or dessert.

So here’s how I’d rate Hill Country BBQ:

  • BBQ – A
  • Side Dishes – A
  • Atmosphere – A
  • Value – C
  • Service – A
  • Overall – A-

No doubt about it, this is one of the best BBQ joints I’ve eaten at.  Frankly, I didnt’ expect that to be the case.  If you get to New York, here’s where you can find Hill Country BBQ:

30 West 26th Street
New York, NY 10010

They also have locations in Brooklyn and Washington, DC.

Cheers,
Braddog 

Butcher Paper Brisket

Over the past few months, I’ve been reading about this technique on the interwebs.  I’ve tried wrapping my brisket in foil before, but frankly I prefer to cook it unwrapped.  Now keep in mind, I’m not cooking for competitions or trying to cook a brisket in a short amount of time (usually).  However, there are times when I’d sure like to be able to do one in less than 12 hours.

So this past weekend, I decided that I would cook one brisket on Saturday using the butcher paper method.  If that was successful, I’d cook one on Sunday morning for my annual Daytona 500 gathering.  If it wasn’t successful, I’d still have time to cook one overnight on the Big Green Egg.  Seemed like a reasonable plan, all except for the $45 practice brisket.

In general, wrapping your brisket (or ribs, etc) after a couple of hours helps the meat finish sooner.  There is some science behind this around how connective tissues break down etc, but frankly if you’re reading this because you’re looking for the science behind the process you should stop now and move along to another blog.

Most often, you’ll see folks wrap brisket in foil.  But recently the notion of wrapping in  butcher paper has become popular. Part of the theory is that the paper provides the same benefit in terms of helping the meat finish sooner, without the braising effect of foil.

So, I prepped my brisket:

Cooked indirect at 325 degrees for 4 hours

At 4 hours, I wrapped in butcher paper.  Didn’t check temp, but wrapped when the bark had the right “look” and placed the brisket back on the cooker.

I probed the brisket through the paper and when I thought it felt tender and the temp was 200 degrees plus, I pulled it.  Total cook time was about 6 hours.

Here’s the brisket as I unwrapped it:

Sliced…..

The results?  It just wasnt’ tender enough.  You could say that I should have cooked it longer.  Maybe, but it was also dry and if I’d cooked it longer it would have been even drier. 

So the jury is still out for me.  I don’t think this is a viable option for the Big Green Egg.  I’ll try it again on the Backwoods Smoker and see if different cookers have different results.  Stay tuned for more.

Cheers,
Braddog 

Review: Smokeware Vented Chimney Cap for the Big Green Egg

I’ve been cooking on a Big Green Egg for several years now.  My stand operating procedure (SOP) has always been to place the cast iron vented cap inside the hot grill when I finish and use the solid ceramic cap to extinguish my fire (along with closing the lower vent compeltely).  This allows for the cast iron cap to burn off any build up, while extinguishing the fire more efficiently with the solid ceramic cap.

Alas, I finally did what may others before me have done.  When removing my all weather cover from the egg and table, I inadvertently flipped the solid cerami cap off and busted it on the pavers in my cooking area.

Sure, I could just use the cast iron vented cap to shut the cooker down.  But I know from previous experience that it gets gummed up pretty quickly and becomes hard to use.  I could also break out the JBWeld and try to repair the ceramic.  But I know from previous experience that it would only be a temporary solution.

So I decided to just buy a new cermaic cap.  Much to my surprise, I had a hard time finding one.  Then, I stumbled onto this new SmokeWare SS Vented Chimney Cap from Smokeware.  It looked very interesting and it’s affordable enough that I thought, “Why not?”.

The product shipped quickly and I finally got around to installing it.  First, I had to clean the chimney where the new cap will sit.  I scrubbed it pretty good, but there’s some discoloration from years of use that was more stubborn than me.

Then, to ensure that the new cap is airtight a felt gasket is applied.  This is similar to the gasket between the base and lid of the Big Green Egg.

Then the lower part of the 2-piece stainless steel vent cap sits firmly agains the egg.

And finally, the adjustable cap fits on top of that.

Here are my initial thoughts on the SmokeWare SS Vented Chimney Cap .

Pros:

  • It’s affordable, yet well-made
  • It solves both the need to control air flow and the need to cover the chimney for extinguishing the fire and storing the egg
  • It’s build like the flue on your chimney such that it won’t allow rain/water into the system.  I’ve cooked under an umbrella and other unique arrangements to avoid this.
  • It sealed tight enough that I don’t think it’ll come off easily

 Cons: 

  • It’s stainless steel and it does get hot.  I wish the tab to control the size of the opening was a little longer/bigger.  If you’re not careful you’ll burn your hand, trust me I know.
  • I wish the sliding vent control had a stops for fully open and fully closed.  As it is, the vent control can move 360 degrees.  You have to be sure to position it exactly right to fully close off the air flow.

All in all, I think it’s a winner.  Check out the folks over at Smokeware.net for this and other BBQ accessories.

Cheers,
Braddog 

Review: Beast Craft BBQ – Belleville, IL

BBQ joints seem to be opening every other week in my area.  Recently, Beast Craft BBQ opened up in the location of a former diner.  I’ve been anxious to try it out, and today I finally had a chance.  

A friend and I agreed to meet for lunch at 11:30.  The parking lot was pretty full when we arrived and when we went inside, the line was 20+ people long and there were no empty tables.  I figured this was a good sign.  However, nearly every table in one of the dining areas were waiting for their food and the line hardly moved.  In fact, more than a few potential customers in line behind and ahead of us chose to go elsewhere based on the slow service.

All that aside, how was the BBQ?  Pretty darned good.  I had the brisket sandwich and hand cut fries, while my lunch mate had the pulled pork sandwich and corn on the cob.  All the items were very tasty.  The brisket sandwich was served with grilled onions and a house mustard.  The pulled pork was served with slaw on the sandwich (as it should be).

Brisket Sandwich with Hand-cut Fries

Pulled Pork Sandwich w/Slaw & Grilled Corn

Beast Craft is bucking one of the most common trends in BBQ joints these days.  There was “1”, count ’em, “1” bottle of BBQ sauce on the table.  And, it was very good.  In fact, it might be my favorite part of the meal.  I saw no evidence that they’re bottling and selling this sauce, but they should.

I also like that they are selling soft drinks from a local bottler and not the big guys.  However, no self-respecting BBQ joint should ever sell sweet tea that is mango flavored.  That’s just wrong.

If they can address their customer flow and service issues (and lose the mango flavored tea), I believe that they’ll do just fine.  Here’s my report card for my visit to Beast Craft BBQ:

  • BBQ – B+
  • Side Dishes – B
  • Atmosphere – B
  • Value – B
  • Service – C
  • Overall – B-

And, here’s their location & contact info:

Beast Craft BBQ

20 S Belt W Belleville, IL 62220

Give ’em a shot, I think you’ll like it,

Cheers,
Braddog 

Recipe: Bacon Wrapped Chicken Bites

It’s playoff time in the NFL and that means I have a lot of chances to get together with friends for football on the weekends. I don’t do this all that much during the regular season, but after the holidays it seems like folks aren’t as busy and we enjoy getting together.

But I digress. I get tired of the same old snacks that I’ve done for gatherings like this. So, I was looking for something different when I came upon a reference to bacon-wrapped chicken bites. Sounded good to me, so I gave it a shot on Sunday.

I cubed 2 large chicken breasts and wrapped each cube in a half a strip of bacon. I then rolled them in brown sugar and hit them with a little bit of spicey rub. That’s all there was to it.

I fired up the Big Green Egg and set it up for indirect cooking. However, I ran the temp up to about 350 degrees. The chicken cooked for 45 minutes to an hour. The only problem I had was judging the doneness of the chicken, as I couldn’t really see the chicken through the bacon.

There are a couple of things I’ll do differently next time.  First, I won’t panic and switch to direct cooking half-way through.  That was a mistake (and why there are no “after” photos).  Second, I think a little more brown sugar and a little more heat would be good.  I will try to punch up the flavor next time for sure.

Conference championships are coming up this weekend so you’ve got time to perfect your game time grub before the Superbowl.   Leave a comment and let me know what you’re going to cook for the big game.

Cheers,
Braddog 

My BBQ Space

For the past few years, I’ve cooked on a variety of pits at home. Each time, I’ve moved the pit from the garage to the edge of the driveway or onto the lawn. The benefit is that my BBQ Pits (I have more than one, doesn’t everybody?) are stored indoors. The downside, my cars are not.

So, I’ve decided that I’d like to get my cars in the garage. But, I didn’t really have a great place to keep the BBQ gear and I wasn’t sure about storing my gear outdoors. Recently, I took the first step in solving this problem and laid pavers behind the garage. So far, I couldn’t be happier with the result.  I’ve got 2 of 3 cars in the gargage and a dedicated space for cooking.  I’ve ordered a cover for my Big Green Egg and table and I’m about to order one for my Backwoods cooker.

IMG_2095

Some time in the future, I could see a cover on this space.  But that’s a blog post for another day and at a time when the finances could support something more.

Cheers,
Braddog