Sunday, October 1, 2017

Product Review: BBQ Box - Monthly Subscription Box

By Dru Chai

Monthly subscription services are as popular as ever, and the BBQ industry has taken notice. There are several BBQ subscription boxes out there in the market, and BBQ Box is one of the better ones I've come across. BBQ Box is endorsed by Myron Mixon, the winningest man in competitive barbecue history and one of the most influential people in the BBQ industry.

So what's in the BBQ Box?

- One sauce or marinade
- One rub or spice
- One edible (jerky, snack, etc)
- Sample package of premium wood chips
- One custom recipe from Myron Mixon showcasing BBQ box contents

There are so many BBQ products out in the market -- it is virtually impossible to research and try them all. How do you know if a product is any good if you haven't tried it yourself? You will most likely rely on reviews and recommendations from trusted sources. Myron Mixon is a household name in the BBQ industry, and you are trusting that he personally handpicked these products.

BBQ Box is perfect for those time-strapped BBQ enthusiasts who grill and smoke on a regular basis and require consistent replenishment for their BBQ pantry. At $24.99 per month, it is one of the lower cost BBQ monthly subscription services that don't break the bank.

Dirty Smoke Rating: 4/5 stars - Recommended

Sign up HERE.
Use code DIRTY for 20% off!

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Hot Smoking vs. Cold Smoking Meats: What is the Difference?

This is post is brought to you by Alto-Shaam.

The Culinary Art of Smoking

While smoking meats and cheeses was once expensive, involving specialized equipment, in recent years it has become much more affordable to the average cook. Inexpensive but reliable smoking equipment has coincided with the perfection of smoking techniques, and today anyone with the right equipment can learn how to make delicious, flavorful smoked foods.

Which Foods Smoke Best?

In general, smoking works best with savory foods such as meat, seafood and cheese. Pork products are especially receptive to smoking including ham, sausage and bacon. Seafood and fish can also be enhanced by smoking, as is the case of smoked salmon or lox.

Hard and soft cheeses can also be smoked. Gruyere and cheddar are common choices, but almost any type of cheese can spend time in the smoker to give it added flavor. Even delicate cheeses like Brie and ricotta are sometimes smoked, though they need to be handled with more care than their hard counterparts.

Hot vs. Cold Smoking

Food may be smoked in either a hot environment or a cold one. Hot smoking usually results in more moist and tender food, making it ideal for ribs, beefsteaks and other types of meat that are going to be eaten as a filet or entree. Cold smoking, on the other hand, results in dryer meat. It is ideal for bacon, sausage, salami and cold cuts such as prosciutto.

Cold smoking is also the preferred method for more delicate foods. Seafood and cheese should almost always be cold smoked to help preserve their more subtle flavors.

Try It for Yourself

If you are interested in smoking your own foods, check out the infographic below to find out more about how to get started!


Sunday, August 20, 2017

Product Review: Schultz's BBQ Sauces

By Dru Chai

One of my favorite things about smoking BBQ is being able to experiment with different flavor profiles on meats, which serve as a blank canvas to the art of BBQ. There are millions of BBQ restaurants all over the world, and there are millions of different ways to make BBQ.

On a recent backyard BBQ session, I experimented with a couple of Schultz's BBQ sauces -- Spicy Mesquite and Tangy Mustard. I tried both sauces on two full racks of spare ribs, both as a marinade and as a finishing sauce. I enjoyed the tangy mustard because it complemented the apple wood smoked pork ribs. The mustard-based BBQ sauce also contains molasses, and the sweetness typically lends itself well with pork ribs or pulled pork.

The spicy mesquite has a very strong flavor profile, and somewhat overpowers the pork. I love spicy foods, and this sauce has a sharp initial kick, but slowly mellows out after time. Once I tried the sauce with some brisket, it was a match made in heaven. The tang and acidic flavor from the tomato, jalapeno, and vinegar effectively cut the fattiness from the beef brisket. The spicy mesquite BBQ sauce would also pair nicely with a burger, or even as a dipping sauce for meatballs.

Dirty Smoke rating (3.5/5 stars) - Recommended

Friday, June 23, 2017

Fourth of July BBQ Brisket Recipes with Stubb's Bar-B-Q

This post is brought to you by Stubb's Bar-B-Q. The content and opinions expressed below are that of The Dirty Smoke BBQ Blog.

By Dru Chai

Both Memorial Day and Father's Day has passed and now July 4th is right around the corner, which means the summer BBQ season is in full swing. Fireworks, flags, family, friends, and... brisket! Yes, brisket. There isn't anything more American (and Texan) than smoked brisket to celebrate the Fourth of July. Brisket is my favorite smoked meat, and of course the most requested BBQ item whenever I host a family or friends gathering.

The great thing about brisket is that it's so versatile when it comes to adding and developing recipes. Sure, you can simply eat brisket by the slice with some pickles, onions, and a slice of bread. But for those who want to a bit more creative, check out some of these recipes by Stubb's Bar-B-Q:

I like both the brisket sliders and brisket tacos recipes. Brisket complements any type of bread or starchy component because it can soak up all the meat juices and sauces. Combined with some pickles and crispy onion strings -- or just thinly sliced raw onions if you prefer -- it's just a great contrast in texture and flavor. Plus, it's BBQ backyard food! It's always fun and satisfying when picking up a slider or taco in one hand, and having a beer or cocktail in the other.

Rocky Stubblefield, grandson of Stubb's Legendary Bar-B-Q founder C.B. "Stubb" Stubblefield, has some tips for creating the perfect brisket to serve either on its own or in other recipes like the ones mentioned above. For the tip about placing the brisket fat side up, it really depends on where the heat source is located. On my Weber Smoky Mountain, I like to place the brisket with the fat side down because it shields the heat which is located on the bottom of the smoker.

The "Sweet Heat" is my favorite

On the last tip, it just depends on your preference. There are some folks who are absolutely against any BBQ sauce touching good, quality brisket. Personally, I like to offer sauce on the side. A little bit of sauce can also really elevate your brisket recipe. On bad brisket? Sauce can be a lifesaver because it can mask horribly, dry brisket with no flavor.

- Get a good crust: One of the most delicious parts of a brisket is the flavor crust (the bark). Make sure you rub the entire brisket generously with rub 15-20 minutes before the meat goes in the smoker.

- Fat side up: Whether in your smoker or on a charcoal grill, place the brisket fat-side up so that the fat drips down into the meat and it stays moist.

- Slicing is important: Make sure you cut against or across the grain of the brisket for tender slices. Not sure where the grain is? It's easier to see on the raw meat before it's rubbed, so cut a notch when prepping to help guide once it's cooked.

- Add the sauce: As we say in Texas -- it's not done 'til you add the sauce! Serve on the side for dipping or drizzle it over the top.

So what's your favorite brisket tip? Comment below and you could win some Stubb's Bar-B-Q swag.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Product Review: Cave Tools Barbecue Chicken Wing Rack

Chicken wings! Next to ribs, it's one of my favorite snacks things to eat throughout the year. There's something primal and satisfying about holding a piece of cooked meat from its bone and tearing the flesh off. When the craving hits, I'll head over to the meat section at my local grocery store or buy wings at one of those chain restaurants. But for the best experience, nothing beats homemade chicken wings.

I've made chicken wings in all types of methods -- deep fried, oven baked, oven broiled, smoked, and grilled. There's a pro and con to every cooking method, and it really just depends on personal preference and what equipment is available. Personally, I love smoked wings because it's healthier than deep frying and plus I like the smoke flavor from the wood and/or charcoal.

I was intrigued by the Cave Tools Barbecue Wing and Leg Rack because I wanted to smoke chicken wings evenly and thoroughly. Typically when I would smoke/grill wings or drumsticks, I would simply place them directly on the grate -- but it would cook unevenly or be vulnerable to flare-ups when the drippings would fall down into the hot coals.

The unique feature of this rack is that it also includes a drip pan so that it can catch all the drippings during the cooking process. Since the drip pan is placed directly on top of the hot grate, I would suggest lining the inside with aluminum foil so that the drippings wouldn't evaporate so quickly. You could then put vegetables like chopped onions, bell peppers, or mushrooms. I'll definitely use foil on the next cooking session.

On this particular night using the chicken wing rack, I used some drumsticks that were on the small side so it took some trial and error to figure out the best way to hang the chicken upright without falling down. If you have bigger wings or drumsticks, then you could dangle using the bone -- as pictured on the box. After about 10 minutes, the wings/drumsticks turned out great. Cooked evenly throughout, golden brown on the outside yet still tender and juicy on the inside with a subtle smoky flavor.

If you're wondering what flavor wings -- lemon pepper. It is my all-time favorite flavor for chicken wings. Here is my simple recipe using one (or two) lemons:

- Grated lemon zest
- Lemon juice
- Salt & pepper
- Olive oil
- Marinade overnight

Cave Tools Barbecue Wing Rack & Drip Pan
The Dirty Smoke Rating (4/5 stars) - Highly recommended
Buy from Amazon
Buy from Cave Tools website (15% off with code WING15)

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Recipe: How to Make Smoked Barbecue Beef Short Ribs

By Dru Chai

There is no shortage of options when it comes to selecting meat for a barbecue -- the grade, the cut, the source, the list goes on. I usually pay a visit to Costco or Restaurant Depot when I need to purchase meat in bulk to save on costs. For a more personal experience and wider selection of quality meats, I head over to The Butchery in Costa Mesa.

Needless to say, the Butchery is a carnivore's dream and a vegetarian's nightmare. They have just about every type of meat imaginable -- and they source most from quality, premier beef ranches such as Double R, 1855, and Snake River Farms. I had my eye on the dry aged steaks and the American Waygu ribeye, but it was the certified angus beef (CAB) bone-in short ribs that piqued my interest.

Typically, short ribs are cut in pieces so that it can be easily braised in a stew or grilled as "galbi" for Korean BBQ. This is sold at almost all grocery stores. I had never seen and uncut plate of short ribs, with three to five bones intact together. During my past visits to Texas, I was always in awe at the massive dinosaur sized short ribs at legendary spots like La Barbecue or Louis Mueller.

So I asked the butcher if they had an entire uncut plate of the short ribs, which I don't normally see at my local Costco or grocery store down the street. He disappeared in the back and came out with what I wanted! That is the best thing about going to a butchery -- you can ask for a specific cut (or uncut, in my case), and chances are that the butcher will oblige.

When I unwrapped the plate of ribs, I was in awe at the amount of marbling running through it. I honestly didn't think there would be this much fat. I decided to try to replicate the Texas style bone-in short ribs by applying a simple dry rub of pepper and kosher salt. I also used The Butchery house made smokehouse mesquite BBQ seasoning for an extra layer of flavor. I applied the rub liberally on each side, wrapped it up in foil, and let the ribs marinade overnight in the fridge.

The next morning, I loaded up my Weber Smokey Mountain smoker with chunks of hickory wood and stabilized the temperature at around 225 degrees F. I placed the plate of the ribs bone side down on the top rack, closed the lid, and went about my day as visions of juicy and succulent short rib danced in my head for the entire day.

Eight hours later, I checked the internal temperature at 195 degrees F and decided to take out the short ribs to rest and let the juices redistribute. Then the moment of truth -- I cut through one of the ribs and was in awe at what I saw, a beautiful cross-section of peppery bark, red smoke ring, pink smoked meat, and a massive layer of rendered fat running through the rib.

I took one bite and already put on my BBQ Certified Judging hat! The smoky flavor was subtle on the bark, but didn't quite seem to penetrate enough into the meat. It needed a pinch of sea salt to really bring out the beef flavor. The fat content for these particular set of short ribs was just too much. Everyone knows fat equals flavor, but only to a certain extent.

Smoked Barbecue Beef Short Ribs Recipe:

1. Buy a plate of uncut of short ribs from your local butcher (inspect, not too much fat)
2. Apply your favorite rub.
3. Marinate overnight in fridge.
4. Bring smoker temperature up to 225-250 degrees F.
5. Use wood that complements beef -- hickory, pecan, or oak.
6. Smoke ribs until internal temperature of 200 degrees F.
7. Take out ribs to rest and let juices redistribute.
8. Cut, eat, enjoy!

Friday, February 17, 2017

Product Review: Silverton Foods Apple Rum BBQ Sauce

By Dru Chai

Although most of the country is still dealing with Mother Nature's cold weather spells of rain, snow (even hail in Southern California!), it's never too early to start thinking about the start of BBQ season. Officially, it's always been Memorial Day weekend -- but who's keeping track anyway?

I've been whipping up new recipes, trying new products, and figuring out which BBQ competitions to judge. Recently I had a chance to try a few BBQ sauces from Silverton Foods. With unique flavors like Cherry Habanero, Apple Rum, and Orange Vodka -- I wanted to dig right in and figure out which meat to pair these sauces with.

Out of the three flavors, the Apple Rum sauce was my favorite because of the balanced combination of sweet, tangy, and juuuuust the right amount of spice. Because the sauce is more on the sweet side, it is the perfect complement with meats like chicken and pork. It would be great on a grilled chicken sandwich, a dipping sauce for chicken tenders or nuggets, wings, pork chop, and of course on spare or baby back ribs.

The same line of thinking can be applied with the other sauces too. They all lean on the sweet side, so I don't see any of the sauces as a good pairing with beef -- unless it's a lean beef cut that doesn't have that much fat and could use more flavor from a sauce. Think beef tenderloin. Pairing fruits with alcohol isn't a novel idea, but proper execution is essential. Silverton Foods does it well.

Dirty Smoke rating: 4/5 stars
Apple Rum sauce: Highly recommended
Check out the Silverton Foods website

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Eating Out: Famous Dave's BBQ Restaurant

By Dru Chai

I used to love eating out at "BBQ" restaurants. I write BBQ in parentheses because this was over 10 years ago, when I wasn't very knowledgeable about food and I thought Tony Roma's fall-off-the-bone and Chili's baby-back-baby-back ribs were the best thing ever. Over time I began to educate myself on food, cooking, and of course, BBQ.

BBQ chain restaurants serves its purpose, feeding the masses who don't necessarily care about the quality and tenderness of the meat. If a BBQ restaurant doesn't have a smoker in their kitchen, in my book that's not real and legit BBQ, which is cooking meat with nothing more than wood and smoke. The same thing applies to grilling. If a restaurant isn't grilling their steak over an open grill, then they might as well use a boring, conventional oven.

Several weeks ago, I had lunch at Famous Dave's, one of the largest BBQ chain restaurants in the country. Now, I'm not some big-shot food critic or self-absorbed food Instagrammer with thousands of lemming followers (and no, they're not bloggers no matter what they say). There are instances where a restaurant will invite me to one of their media events, but generally I like to keep a low profile, pay for my own food, and dine without any special treatment.

Surprisingly, I enjoyed my meal. I say surprisingly because it was my first time trying Famous Dave's and had really low expectations. Like, mushy-tasteless-nasty BBQ expectations. The thinly sliced brisket had some nice flavor, although it tasted more "roast-beefy" than brisket. The pork spare ribs were good and had a good amount of meat on the bones. They were not overcooked, and the bit of smokiness was a nice complement to the sweetness of the BBQ sauce.

Dirty Smoke rating: 3.5/5 stars

Famous Dave's BBQ
13122 Jamboree Rd
Irvine, CA 92602

Friday, January 27, 2017

Update: Should I Use Mustard Before Dry Rub?

By Dru Chai

Original post from July 22, 2011.

The other day, I was thinking about something. Why do some people slather a coat of mustard on their meats before applying the dry rub? Is it simply a method of improving the way the dry rub sticks to the meat, or does the mustard itself impart some type of flavor? Why not use something else, like olive oil, hot sauce, BBQ sauce, or heck, how about some maple syrup?

I did some research online, reading forums and articles, and the opinions are widely varied. Some are firm believers of the mustard coat, because it improves the hardening of the bark after such a long period of smoking the meat. The general consensus is that most people use mustard so that the rub adheres to the meat (which I've never had a problem with before). Mostly everyone said that you can't even taste the mustard when the meat is done.

Well there's only one way to settle things, and it's to see for myself. Many people I've seen on television only use mustard for pork butt/shoulder and spare/baby back ribs. Since all I have is a brisket, I decided to use that as my guinea pig (or cow, har har). I just took some plain organic yellow mustard that I had in the fridge and slathered it all over on both sides.

Then, I used a slight variation of my Dirty Smoke dry rub:

- Grounded black pepper (heavy)
- Seasoned salt
- Granulated garlic
- Paprika
- Cayenne pepper (very little)
- Cumin (very little)
- White granulated sugar
- Brown sugar

I put the dry rub on the top of the mustard-covered brisket, and honestly couldn't tell much of a difference if there was no mustard. The seasonings stuck onto the meat just fine. I wrapped it up in foil and it's in the fridge for now, waiting to be smoked.

UPDATE - January 27, 2017.

So after countless sessions of smoking ribs, pulled pork, and brisket over the past five years since starting this blog -- what's the verdict? The mustard mostly serves its purpose of making it easier for the rub to stick to the meat. That's it. In regards to flavor, if mustard is used on brisket or pulled pork where it requires a long smoke time, then the mustard will burn off and any mustard flavor will have dissipated. However, when used on chicken, which cooks relatively quickly, you will still see and taste some of the mustard -- depending on the heaviness of your rub and sauce.

What about creating a better bark? I've tried smoking meats with canola oil, mustard, or just the rub itself and the best thing you can do to create a better bark is to make sure that you completely dry the meat by damping with paper towels and leaving the meat to come up to room temperature before smoking. There are also various other factors that affect the bark, like the moisture inside your smoker, or type of wood used too.

So there you have it. The question of whether you should use mustard before applying dry rub has been answered. It really all depends on what you like and your preferences. That's the fun of BBQ -- there really is no "wrong" or right away, and you can experiment by trying new recipes and cook methods. What works for one person may not work for you, and vice versa. What has been your experience? Tell me in the comment section below.