Sunday, October 27, 2013

How To Be a KCBS Certified BBQ Judge

By Dru Chai

It seemed like only yesterday that I sat through a BBQ judging class. People from all walks of life were crammed into a hotel conference room in San Diego, eager to learn about the strict judging standards set forth by KCBS. Since then, I've judged over ten BBQ competitions. Each judging experience is different from the other, but one thing's for sure -- I always get excited when I'm sitting at the judge's table, ready to dig my fingers into another meat category.

So it's no surprise that the most commonly asked question is "how do you become a BBQ judge?" When I tell them that all they need to do is take a class for a few hours, the usual response is "that's it?" Yes, that's it. But the problem is finding a class that's local. You can search for the nearest class on the KCBS website, or simply go to Las Vegas on November 7.

The World Food Championships official logo...
See the fork and spoon in there? Yes, intentional.

Yes, Las Vegas! The 2nd annual World Food Championships will be held from November 7-10 and luckily for those who are in Southern California or nearby states, now is your chance to become a BBQ judge. Classes just don't happen very often, especially on the West Coast. So if you've ever wanted to become a BBQ judge, now's your chance.

This year's World Food Championships is a bit more low key, taking place in downtown Vegas. Last year's event was hosted by Adam Richman (who has since slimmed down) along with other celebrity judges and chefs. While it was a fun event to judge and attend, I felt like the food competition was overshadowed by all the glitz and glamour of the Strip. I can already tell that for this year, the focus will be on one thing, and one thing only -- the FOOD!

Sign up to become a certified BBQ judge.

Monday, October 7, 2013

How to Choose a Weber Smokey Mountain Smoker

By Dru Chai

Ahh, it seemed like only yesterday that my beloved Weber Smokey Mountain Smoker (WSM) arrived at my doorsteps. Hard to imagine that was over 2 years ago. Below is a picture of the smoker fresh out of the box, brand spankin' new, and clean as a whistle.

Brand spankin' new, fresh outta the box

So how does it look now? Well, just the complete opposite. The smoker is just filthy, greasy, and borderline disgusting... and I love it. Sure, I'll do a few wipe downs on the exterior, but I haven't touched anything inside.

Why? Because all that smokey residue, smell, and gunk that has been accumulating inside for over 2 years helps with the seasoning and flavor for future meat smoking. That's why I will never smoke any fish in there -- I'll have to buy another WSM, one that is dedicated just for smoking fish and seafood.

Shhh, the smoker is sleeping

Amazon is the best place to buy a WSM. Weber currently makes 3 different sizes for their popular Weber Smokey Mountain. So how do you know which one is right for you?

22.5" - The biggest one available. There's more than enough room and rack space if you need to smoke a lot of meat at one time, especially for a very large BBQ party. On the downside, it requires a lot more charcoal and wood. Buy the 22.5" Weber Smokey Mountain Smoker.

18.5" - The most popular size, the sweet spot. It's perfect for medium-sized barbecue gatherings -- you can comfortably fit one type of meat per rack. I can smoke a couple slabs of spare ribs on one rack, and either a 10-12 pound brisket or pork shoulder on the other. Buy the 18.5" Weber Smokey Mountain Smoker.

14.5" - This "personal" sized WSM was available in the market at one time (long before I got started into BBQ). Now, Weber decided it was time for a comeback. According to Amazon, it will start shipping sometime this month. If you're more of a one-man BBQ wolf pack on a budget, then look no further. Buy the 14.5" Weber Smokey Mountain Smoker.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Review: Trader Joe's Carolina Gold BBQ Sauce

By Dru Chai

Trader Joe's has always been one of my favorite stores to grab snacks, drinks, and some frozen stuff. If you're not familiar with the Trader Joe's markets, or if you don't have one where you live, it's a popular specialty retail grocery store with a cult following. To me, it's not really a one-stop grocery shop, but it's a great place to grab a few goodies. But certain popular items will fly off the shelves and even experience a national shortage.

Case in point -- the Speculoos Cookie Butter, one of Trader Joe's top selling items. It's basically like peanut butter, only ten times better, unhealthier, and laced with crack. Okay, no crack -- but you get the idea. It's made of ground-up cookies and oil, with the flavor of graham crackers and gingerbread cookies. I recently bought a jar for the first time and I found myself licking cookie butter off my finger. Not a pretty sight.

Anyway, enough with the cookie butter. I wanted to share my thoughts on the Trader Joe's Carolina Gold BBQ sauce. A relatively new addition to the family of Trader Joe's BBQ sauces -- the "All Natural" and the "Bold and Smoky" Kansas City style. I gave my thoughts on them a couple of years ago, and they served its purpose as a compliment when grilling and smoking meats.

While those BBQ sauces were just okay, the new kid in town is a hit. At $2.69 a bottle, the Carolina Gold is bit higher than the $1.99 for the other sauces. But it's worth it. I bought a bottle home and have been hooked ever since. Even the slogan is catchy and subliminally pays you a compliment -- "For BBQ that's as good as gold." Why, yes... I do think my BBQ is as good as gold. I'm buying it!

All kidding aside, what sets this BBQ sauce apart from the others is that it's a mustard-based sauce. It's a little tangy, smoky, with just a hint of sweetness. I think it's a perfect combination of flavors -- a nice compliment for pulled pork or grilled chicken. I even use it as a dipping sauce for veggies (believe it or not!). If you're a fan of mustard, I think it's a worthy addition to your pantry.

Dirty Smoke rating (out of 5 stars)
Trader Joe's Carolina Gold BBQ Sauce - 4.5 stars