Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Eating Out: Heirloom Market BBQ in Atlanta, GA

By Dru Chai

This is one of the best Texas-style BBQ spots I've tried outside of Austin and Lockhart in Texas. I ordered the Texas trinity -- pork spare ribs, brisket, and sausage. All three were excellent. I judge a BBQ joint on how well they smoke their brisket. Heirloom's was smokey, juicy, and incredibly tender.

This place is the epitome of a hole-in-the-wall. It shares the same space with a shady-looking convenience store on the left. They just recently allowed people to dine inside, with about 6 or so chairs up along the wall.

I wasn't impressed with their Korean-style pork tacos. Then again, coming from Los Angeles, I've had my fair share of Korean fusion food so my taste buds are a bit skewed.

Although I wasn't impressed with their Korean influenced items, I do love their BBQ sauces (although they charge 50 cents extra) with a touch of Korean flavor -- the sweet, the spicy, all mixed in -- it's a great compliment to the meat.

The next time you find yourself in Atlanta and you're craving some Texas-style 'Q, don't hesitate to check out Heirloom Market BBQ.

2243 Akers Mill Rd SE
Atlanta, GA 30339

Friday, September 9, 2016

Oink Oink! October 12 is National Pulled Pork Day

By Dru Chai

These days you can't go through an entire day without seeing a " Happy National ______ Day!" Social media really explodes when it's food related (how many National Burger Days are there in a year?!).

The folks at Sonny's BBQ reminded me that this upcoming October 12 is the first ever National Pulled Pork Day. Are you ready? It's on a Wednesday, so that middle-of-the-week BBQ cookout is always a nice surprise. Be sure to share your pictures on social media with the hashtag #NationalPulledPorkDay.

If you're a novice BBQ enthusiast, or you're just breaking in a new smoker, smoking pulled pork as the first meat is highly recommended. Compared to brisket and ribs, which are relatively time consuming, smoking pork shoulder is as simple as slapping on some rub or marinade and letting it smoke until ready.

For all the details, check out my post on pulled pork.
Learn more about National Pulled Pork Day.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Test Kitchen: Templeton Rye Whiskey BBQ Sauce

By Dru Chai

Making basic BBQ sauce from scratch is something that every BBQ enthusiast should get into a habit of doing -- you can control your own ingredients, customize the taste and flavor profile so that it is exactly the way you want it. The next step is to introduce different ethnic ingredients like chipotle, Sriracha, or gochuchang. If that doesn't suit your fancy, there's only way to go -- alcohol.

Now, I'm no stranger to concocting BBQ sauces with alcohol. It seemed like only yesterday that I made this killer bourbon whiskey BBQ sauce with Four Roses. Now, it was time to try some different. Enter Templeton Rye whiskey.

I just knew that the Templeton Rye would be a great ingredient for the BBQ sauce to complement some spare ribs that I smoked last weekend. Pork always lends itself well to a sweeter sauce, so the mellow spice from the whiskey -- along with the subtle caramel and toffee undertones -- would balance out the other ingredients in the BBQ sauce.

- 1 cup ketchup
- 1/3 cup water (more or less depending on your preference for BBQ sauce consistency)
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/3 cup Templeton Rye whiskey

Thoroughly mix all ingredients (I like to use a whisk) in a pan over medium-high heat until it comes to a boil, then lower to a slow simmer. 15-20 minutes should do it. You can adjust, add, delete ingredients depending on your personal taste. That's the great thing about making your own BBQ sauce -- it's totally up to you and there's no wrong or right way to do it.

The end result is a Templeton Rye whiskey BBQ sauce that has a rich, mahogany color go along with a smooth flavor profile to complement my pecan-smoked pork spare ribs. The sauce was tangy, sweet, and with just a hint of the whiskey that wasn't too overpowering.

After about three hours of smoking the ribs, I brushed both sides of the spare ribs with the BBQ sauce and wrapped in foil. The ribs can really baste in the sauce with this method. When the ribs have reached your desired tenderness, throw them on the grill for about a minute on each side so that the sugars from the sauce can caramelize and form a crusty, flavorful bark. So good!

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Review: Premiala Stainless Steel Marinade Injector & Heat Resistant BBQ Gloves

By Dru Chai

The beauty of BBQ is that you can spend as little or as much as you want. You don't need any fancy equipment to produce really good BBQ -- it is more about the technique, recipe, and the attention to detail. The BBQ industry is a multi-billion dollar industry for a reason, and there are new products being promoted at every corner.

For those who have a limited budget, there are three accessories that can really improve your BBQ grilling or smoking: 1) instant-read thermometer, 2) heat-resistant gloves, 3) marinade injector. Thermapen is a worthy investment, but what about gloves and an injector?

Most heat resistant BBQ gloves that I've tried are short in length and don't cover up the wrists. This is obviously important if you're trying to reach further in and around any hot surface. Silicon gloves can get can quickly lose its grip when handling BBQ where there is a greater chance of touching oily surfaces and meats.

The Premiala Heat Resistant The ArmorGlove BBQ Gloves are made from the same material from firefighter's suits and can withstand 932 degree F (500 C) for up to 15 seconds. I used the gloves on various tasks around grilling and smoking, and passed every test with flying colors. These gloves are also larger in size than most others -- so anyone with gigantic hands shouldn't have a problem quickly slipping these on and off.

A meat injector is a BBQ or cooking accessory that is very underrated in my mind. Meats like chicken, turkey, beef roasts and brisket are all just begging to be injected with some marinade that can really enhance or elevate the overall flavor and tenderness. I've tried my fair share of marinade injectors, which were all plastic and not the greatest quality.

The Premiala Stainless Steel Meat & Flavor Injector is a top notch injector that just looks serious, like it belongs in a hospital or torture chamber. It comes with three needles -- one shorter needle that is used for injecting marinade into thin cuts like steaks and kabobs. The other two larger needles are for larger roasts -- one with an open end for thicker marinades with garlic and herbs, the other with 12 holes for even distribution of liquids.

I used the smaller needle to inject some broth into 10-lb brisket and it was extremely smooth and easy to use. Other meat injectors made out of plastic are very flimsy and I've had a difficult time throughout the process from piercing the meat to injecting the liquid into the meat. The 304 food grade stainless steel is high quality too, making it very easy to take apart and clean.

The Dirty Smoke Rating:

Premiala Stainless Steel Meat & Flavor Injector - 5/5 stars
Premiala Heat Resistant The ArmorGlove BBQ Gloves - 5/5 stars

Sunday, June 5, 2016

How to Grill Lobster And Not Screw It Up

By Dru Chai

One of my favorite proteins to grill is lobster, hands down. I would take grilled lobster over steamed or boiled lobster any day of the week. The firm texture and sweet flavor from the lobster is the perfect complement to chargrilled flavor. Unless you completely ignore your lobster so that it overcooks into a rubbery mess, you just can't screw up grilled lobster.

Over the past weekend, I grilled some lobster tails from, a wholesaler and mail order seafood company in New England. They were shipped raw and frozen in a reusable styrofoam box with dry ice. After letting the lobster tails defrost in the fridge for a couple of days, it was time to get grilling!

I fired up the Weber grill and made sure to lightly oil the cooking grate so that the lobster meat doesn't stick. I also brushed the lobster tails with the perfect sauce for lobster (ingredients below). If you don't want to go through any of this trouble, then you can't go wrong with just some good 'ol fashioned melted butter.

- Juice from half a lemon
- 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
- Finely chopped garlic
- Seasoned salt
- Cracked black pepper
- Optional, but highly recommended: Pinch of dried oregano or chopped parsley, pinch of Old Bay seasoning or paprika, cayenne pepper if you want a kick

For the 24 oz. lobster tail, I grilled approximately 3-5 minutes per side directly over medium-high heat. You want the meat to turn completely opaque and for the shell to transform into a bright orange-red color. This is the part where you do NOT leave the grill. No matter what.

Wait patiently and shift the lobster if you need to depending on any flareups after you brush the sauce. If you see some of the legs getting burnt, that's okay. Just shift the lobster over to indirect heat away from the hot charcoal. You can even cover the grill for a few minutes to cook the meat all the way through.

For the smaller lobster tails, about a minute per side was all it took. You don't want to overcook them. These lobster tails were about 5 oz. each, and already cut, cracked, and butterflied from

PRO TIP: If you still aren't sure if the lobster tail meat is fully cooked, check to see if the temperature is 120 -130 degrees F. Also keep in mind that the lobster will still cook a bit longer after removing from the grill. It's always better to slightly undercook the lobster than overcook. You can always put it back on the grill to cook a bit longer.

I enjoyed the grilled lobsters with some vegetables and an ice cold beer. The smaller lobster tails were sweet, while the monster lobster tail meat had that salty ocean flavor. Though frozen, everything tasted very fresh -- I was "lobster wasted" by the time I was done. I even used the leftover lobster shells to make a stock for lobster bisque. 'Til next time, happy grilling!

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Review: Weber's New American Barbecue BBQ Cookbook

By Dru Chai

Since starting this BBQ blog over five years ago, I've come across my fair share of BBQ cookbooks. For a BBQ enthusiast like myself, they all tend to look the same and have the same content. I was even approached by a publisher to write my own BBQ cookbook, but I turned it down at the time because I couldn't complete the project on their tight deadline.

Weber just released a new cookbook entitled "New American Barbecue - A Modern Spin on the Classics" and it's one of my favorite BBQ cookbooks of the year. The book has some incredible, mouth-watering closeups of the food, and it is easy to read for any grilling or smoking novice who wants to learn more about some of the newer trends of BBQ today. 

The book includes more than 120 recipes and is organized by types of meat -- pork, ribs, brisket, chicken, etc. James Beard Award nominee and author Jamie Purviance profiles some of more popular pitmasters to get the best tips on their particular expertise in his "Lessons from the Legends." Chris Lily and his pulled pork, Mike Mills and his spareribs, Aaron Franklin for his brisket, just to name a few. Another cool feature are the "Top 5 Barbecue Trends Today" sections sprinkled throughout the book. 

Some of my favorite and interesting recipes:

- PB and J Ribs
- Aloha Spareribs with Coconut Ginger Glaze
- San Antonio Brisket Enchiladas
- Boston Bacon Fatties
- All of the smoked turkey recipes (I love smoked turkey!)

Weber's "New American Barbecue - A Modern Spin on the Classics" is perfect for someone who wants to learn a bit more on the history and background of BBQ, while embracing the new trends and techniques of today's BBQ. With gorgeous food photography and plenty of recipes to try out through the summer, this book is a worthy addition for any BBQ enthusiast. 

Thursday, March 24, 2016

West Coast BBQ Classic '16 at The Queen Mary

By Dru Chai

I've been following the BBQ competition scene in Southern California for the past 5 years -- judging, cooking, and eating my way to a larger waistline. Based on venue, organization, and quality of BBQ teams, the West Coast BBQ Classic at The Queen Mary in Long Beach has consistently been one of my favorites.

Saturday, May 14th, marks the fifth annual competition and every year just gets bigger and better. The BBQ competition circuit is one of the few "sports" in which amateur and backyard BBQ smokers can go toe-to-toe with experienced, semi-professional teams. The $260 entry fee gets you into the door, but that's just the tip of the iceberg. Other costs including equipment setup, meat, and supplies that will push the average cost of entering a BBQ competition in the range of $1,000 or more. For many teams, it's well worth it for the bragging rights -- along with a shot at the $10,500 cash purse.

For those not interested in competing, you can count on eating your way to BBQ bliss. With a scenic backdrop near the historic Queen Mary by the water and near perfect sunny weather, it's a great location to try different samples of BBQ with a fistful of tasting tickets.

PRO TIP: Avoid the lines and go early. Many teams will run out of BBQ later in the afternoon and you'll be stuck eating scraps and leftovers. For more tips, check out my tips to enjoy a BBQ festival.

For more information about the West Coast BBQ Classic at the Queen Mary and to buy tickets, click here.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Eating Out: la Barbecue in Austin, Texas

By Dru Chai

It's no secret that Texas has some of the best barbecue in the country. In fact, one could make a strong argument that Texas has THE best barbecue in the world. The monstrous beef ribs. The Texas post oak wood. The long lines. It's all part of the experience.

I've been to a handful of barbecue restaurants in the Lone Star State, but not nearly enough. It had been three years since my last visit to Austin, so when I had the opportunity to visit one barbecue joint -- I picked la Barbecue

Shortly after opening its trailer in 2012, la Barbecue was already praised as one of the top barbecue joints in Texas. So it's no surprise that owner/pitmaster John Lewis used to worked for Franklin, He honed his craft by building his own smokers and entered in barbecue competitions, 

After reading about the long lines at la Barbecue -- but not nearly as long as Franklin -- I showed up at 10am expecting at least several people waiting until the 11am opening. To my surprise, I was the first customer there. My guess is that the rain showers slowed some people down. 

When I wasn't seeking refuge from the rain underneath the tarp, I killed my time checking out the two offset pit smokers. Both run 24-7, and there is someone there at all times to manage the fire and temperature. These were the kind of smokers that I dream about building in California. 

With about 15 minutes to go before 11am, there was a line of about 20 deep. After skipping breakfast, I was beyond starving. I settled on one beef rib ($22 per lb, and one beef is about 1.5 lbs), a slice of fatty brisket, and an order of potato salad. 

With my first bite of the fatty brisket, it literally melted in my mouth. The slow-smoked rendered fat with the crusty bark is just about the perfect bite of brisket. la Barbecue's brisket tasted very, very similar to Franklin -- just without the 3-hour wait. The flavor of the beef rib is more pronounced -- deep, rich, intense. The meat is super juicy, with lines of fat running up and down the bone. 

la Barbecue will inevitably be compared to Franklin, and rightly so. Both started in a trailer, both are in close proximity to each other in Austin, both serve awesome brisket, and both have 30-something owner/pitmasters. But if I had to choose, I'll take the one with the shorter line. 

la Barbecue - Austin, TX - (Dirty Smoke rating of 5/5 stars)
Highly recommended - splurge for the beef rib (trust me), fatty brisket
Not recommended - skip the sides, and the sauces provided

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Meat Massaging With The FlavorKey Culinary Pulser

By Dru Chai

Many people love massages. It's calming and soothing. They're just so relaxed. Not just relaxed, but relaaaaaaxed. Another way people relax is by soaking in a tub. But if you soak for too long, then your skin becomes wrinkly and more likely to resemble a prune.

So why am I talking about massages and hot tubbing? Well, there's an analogy there with tenderizing and brining meats. If you're serious about your BBQ, then you have an obsession about doing everything you can before the cooking process to deliver the most tender, moist, and juicy meat possible. 

Many question whether massaging meats has any effect -- especially, if it's just a few minutes. After all, it's not like you're massaging Wagyu cattle over many years to produce fatty and marbleized Kobe beef. With a huge hunk of raw meat, how do you get the flavor inside the meat? You can either use a meat injector or tenderizer. Or, you can use the FlavorKey Culinary Pulser

The FlavorKey is a device that simultaneously pierces and pulsates meat, and claims to shorten the brining time because, in theory, the meat is more relaxed (remember my story about massages?) and able to retain more juice and flavor from the brine. Normally, brining chicken or turkey takes several hours, depending on the size of the meat. With the FlavorKey, you can brine the meat in significantly less time. So does it really work? I put it to the test.

During the Thanksgiving holiday, I cooked turkey twice (Friendsgiving time) and used the FlavorKey on one turkey -- concentrating mostly on the breast, where the meat can easily dry out. Given it was a 13 pound turkey, I placed it in a brine for one hour. For another turkey of the same size, I brined it overnight for a total of about 12 hours.

I smoked both turkeys for the same amount of time, until the internal temperature of the breast reached 160 degrees F. I let each one rest and the juices re-distribute, then sliced them up for taste testing. I could tell that the turkey meat that brined overnight was noticeably more juicy and flavorful. It didn't seem like the FlavorKey had much of an effect.

I did the same test, but this time on chicken breasts. I used the FlavorKey on some meat, and brined for about 15 minutes. For the other chicken breasts, I brined for 6 hours. I grilled all of the chicken for the same amount of time, and everything turned out juicy and tender -- without any difference in taste or texture.

So can you attribute the juicy and tender meat to the brining, the FlavorKey, or my awesome smoking/grilling skills? My skills, of course! It really depends on the poultry. According to my tests, the FlavorKey works better on chicken vs. turkey. I can also see the FlavorKey being useful for thick-cut pork chop (for a future test). One thing is for sure -- no matter how much massaging and brining is done to the meat, at the end of the day, it's just as simple as not overcooking the meat.