Sunday, December 11, 2011

Nephew's Peachy Potle' Barbecue Sauce

Tonight I broke out the Nephew's Peachy Potle' barbecue sauce. I'd been saving it back for a special evening, and since some of the guys were in for the holidays, it seemed a good night to test out this sauce from Garner, North Carolina.

Since I had some nice boneless pork chops, I went ahead and sauced them and let them rest for about a half hour while I started up the charcoal. With a sauce with a sugar base like this one, I would not sauce ahead with a larger cut of meat that takes longer to grill. These little cuts of pork grill up fast, so it works out perfect to sauce them ahead.

I had the charcoals good and hot and let the grate heat well, since it was very chilly outside. You want the grates hot regardless, since meat is likely to stick to cold grates and then your barbecue sauce doesn't stay on.

The Nephew's peach barbecue sauce set up nicely in 3 or 4 minutes. Then I flipped the chops and did the other side. All told it took about 10 minutes to grill these done but not dried out. The biggest mistake with the little pork chops that I see is grilling them too long. The USDA recommends 145 degrees F on grilled pork now. Remember though that pork continues to cook a bit after being pulled off.

Our grilled pork chops looked and smelled great, and the flavor was terrific. The peach flavor is natural with a nice sweet taste and just a little kick of heat. The balance is there. This sauce enhances the meat without overpowering it. It's a shame to grill a perfect pork chop and then not even be able to taste it. With Nephew's the sauce simply takes the flavor up several notches.

I'm glad I saved back the peachy potle' for an evening with the guys home. I was pretty certain it would be a hit, since the cherry potle and ghostly pumpkin by Newphew's had both been winners. The cherry barbecue sauce by Nephew's is our all time favorite on country ribs in the smoker. I think the peach would be really good too, so that's the next thing I want to do with the peach barbecue sauce.

Nephew's is a rather new sauce and growing. They were in the Raleigh/Chapel Hill area close to Garner, but I think they are available in Charlotte as well. If you're not close by, you can buy Nephew's barbecue sauce online, and it's well worth it. I ordered in the Cherry Potle' to give for Valentine's Day gifts. It's a beautiful red sauce, so it went well with the heart theme.

Here's a picture of the Nephew's barbecue sauce jar. I know it helps to know what you're looking for. The red headed guy in the blue cap is on all the labels.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Barbecue Lover's Guide to Austin - Book Review

Texas is a big barbecue state, and Austin has a terrific selection of barbecue joints. While you can spend hours online looking up information on barbecue restaurants in the area, I'd recommend getting Barbecue Lover's Guide to Austin by Gloria Corral.

Gloria's guide is her first book, and it's a basic guidebook. It includes all the information you'd need or want without a huge amount of fluff. Austin is divided by area with maps for each marking the barbecue restaurants included. Each restaurant gets a double page spread with general data like times open and whether they take credit cards etc. Then, Gloria gives the inside scoop on each. This is the kind of information you don't usually get. Some little barbecue places can be hard to spot, so she gives extra descriptions. She includes data about other specials like homemade banana pudding or peach cobblers. You don't know to order those goodies if someone doesn't check it out and tell you.

This is a book that is small and easy to pack to take along. It has a solid index of the barbecue restaurants which range from ones I've heard of like Stubb's to others that are not as well known like The Salt Lick BBQ and Bee Caves.

I used to live in Texas, and I sure do miss that beef barbecue. I'll have to take a road trip one of these days, and I'll have to save up some calories, so I can try out all these neat barbecue restaurants in Austin or at least a few of them.

If you live in Austin, TX or close or are moving there or just taking a trip, this is a very handy book to have on hand or in the glove box.

For more information on the book and Austin barbecue or to buy a copy, visit Gloria's barbecue web site. You can also follow her at Twitter under bbqloversguide.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Top Ten Christmas Gifts for Grilling and Barbecue Guys n Girls

If you have a grill guy or girl on your holiday list, there are loads of great gifts that are sure to make your special barbecue person want to fire up the charcoal or hit the gas button. Best of all, you can get great grilling gifts in a big range of prices from just a few dollars to off the charts.

I'm sharing some of my favorite barbecue items drawn from years of outdoor cooking here at home. I don't sell grilling products (or make a profit on these top picks), so my links will be to reviews I've written (for more info) or to home sites for the companies.

Top Ten Christmas Grill Gifts - On a Budget 

1. Barbecue sauces - There must be thousands of barbecue sauces on the market. I was amazed when I started looking around and trying out new ones. Wow. I've had the opportunity to try out some absolutely fabulous sauces, and I can't begin to name all the great ones (sorry to all you great sauce makers that I can't get in a single post - I'll do a sauce only post one of these days).

One of my favorite barbecue sauces for this year is Nephew's which is out of Raleigh, NC. I especially love the Cherry Polte that we enjoy on country ribs. They have a yummy pumpkin barbecue sauce and a peach sauce that I'm planning to try out soon.

 If you're on a tight budget you can get your griller a new sauce and put a whole new twist on a favorite grilled dish.

2. Marinades - Marinades make a big difference when it comes to grilling or smoking. Marinades add moisture and flavor. It is hard to find really great bottled marinades, but I found a line that I fell in love with when my son gave me a gift certificate to Southern Seasons (a high end food/cooking store in Chapel Hill). That marinade was Allegro Spicy. It's still my all time favorite, but all the Allegro marinades are super.

After I wrote about Allegro marinades, Food Lion added them. So, you may be able to find Allegro at your local grocery store. If not, you can order online. The prices are very reasonable, and these marinades turn even cheap meat into something really special.

3. Oils - This may seem an odd pick for a top barbecue item list, but a rub of a nice oil seals, crisps, and adds flavor to grilled foods. I brush olive oil on boneless, skinless chicken breasts, and they come out really moist and full of flavor.

I've tried and liked a lot of oils, but my favorite for oils would be Garlic Gold. They have all natural products with American grown garlic. The flavor is so smooth, you may not even be able to pinpoint that you have a garlic product. This stuff really is like liquid gold.

I'd recommend the sprinkles too. I use the oil and sprinkles on my Greek grilled potatoes, and they are wonderful. I lived in Greece years ago, and I built on what I learned there along with these products to come up with our favorite potatoes on the grill.

4. Grilling and Barbecue Cookbooks - There's nothing much better than kicking back with a great grill or barbecue cookbook. I like to page through and read at night before I go to bed. Then, I have visions of ribs and burgers dancing in my head when I dream.

Again, there are loads of cookbooks to pick from. You can't go wrong with the Weber brand grilling books. I have several and often give them as gifts.

If have a low and slow person on your list, then I'd highly recommend Peace Love Barbecue. It is chock full of stories as well as great recipes.

5. Bear Paws - While I've got low and slow on my mind, I have to mention Bear Paws. If you do pork butts or shoulders, then you'll know that it can be hard to chop them. You need good knives and space to do a nice chop. I've found it easier to shift over to Bear Paws. They are a really simple idea, but they do a great job. It only takes a few minutes to pull the meat and have it on the table.

6. Basting brush - I much prefer the silicone basting brushes out now over the bristle brushes that always seem to leave some bristles behind. Clean up is also easier. You can also get recplacement heads for some of the silicone brushes. There are several basting brushes that I like and use. The ones from Oneida have been solid.

7. Grill Gloves - Outdoor cooking is hard on kitchen gloves and mitts, so it really does pay to spring for a real grill glove. There are two that I especially like. For general outdoor cooking with gas, I love the Oxo grilling mitt. It can go on either hand, and it has a magnet so can be stuck to the side of the gas grill. For charcoal, smoking (especially with larger meat cuts), and for Dutch oven, I go with the Lodge red gloves. They are super sturdy and stand a whole lot of heat.

Here is the Lodge Dutch oven glove:

And, here's the Oxo grilling mitten:

8. Chimney Starter - If your favorite grill guy uses charcoal and does not have a chimney starter, it's an excellent purchase. It's low tech, but it really works. I never buy lighter fluid. The charcoal starts right up with perfect coals in about 10 minutes with my Weber chimney starter. Charcoal starters are under $20 and pay for themselves in just a few grillings. If you want to know more about charcoal starters, I wrote a guide showing how cchimney starters work.

9. Grill Wok - I find that a lot of my barbecue gear gathers dust, but my grill wok gets constant use. It's much easier to wok shrimp, meat chunks, and vegetables rather than thread them on skewers. I usually put them in a marinade beforehand, wok them quickly on the grill, and serve over rice. Quick and easy meal - and really yummy.

Yes. This dinner made in a grill wok was great. In fact, just posting the photo makes me want to go out and find some shrimp.

Here is a photo of my grill wok. I would share the company, but I've had this wok for years, and I don't know who made it. You can find similar woks at most big box stores.

10. Cast Iron Skillet - This may sound odd, but you can do a whole lot with a cast iron skillet on top of a grill grate. I've been using my Lodge skillet on the grill for years. Since it's black, it does not mess it up to have it over flames. If you have more bucks to spend, then Weber came out with a really neat grate system with cast iron drop ins. I don't have that for my Weber kettle, but I hope to get that set one of these days.

Merry Christmas - And Happy Grilling!

See there. Shopping for the barbecue fan or grill guru in your life isn't hard, and it won't break the bank. All of these ideas are inexpensive but very nice to have if you grill or smoke.

If you have a bigger budget, then your outdoor god or goddess likely has his or her eye on a fabulous new grill or a smoker to add to the arsenal. That's terrific too. I won't name out any best grills or smokers, or this post will be a book. Plus, different units work for different people. I have more than 20 grills and smokers, and I love them all (-:

Making a List - Checking it Twice

If you follow my blog, you'll know that there are loads of products that I've tested out and loved. Please feel free to add your products here and tell us about them. Or, if you have a favorite I've not mentioned, toss it out.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Thermapen - Barbecue Master Finally Finds the Perfect Outdoor Grilling Thermometer

Thermapen Splash Proof Digital Thermometer

Finding a good thermometer for outdoor grilling and smoking has proved to be quite a challenge. Over the years I've tried thermometers ranging from cheap pocket models (forever to get a reading and often not accurate) to a deluxe probe model with an indoor alarm (a bear to program and again not particularly accurate).

Some of my barbecue friends had been buzzing about Thermapen, but I'd not had a chance to see or use one. I was toying with the idea of springing for yet another thermometer when Jesse got in touch to see if I'd like to test drive one and share my thoughts. I did a little more research, and this sounded like a thermometer that might work here in the land of multiple grills and chronic smoking.

Jimmy was drafted to smoke a turkey that my step-dad won at the turkey shoot, and I hooked him up with the brand new red Thermapen. The colors on these thermometers are just terrific. They even have a pink one, but my guys aren't so keen when I start snagging pink stuff. They can't wander off with my pink gear (or not so easily).

Checking a Smoked Turkey with the Thermapen Thermometer

This was Jimmy's first turkey on the Big Green Egg. He whipped up a nice brine and let the bird rest overnight and then put it on before I got out of bed. He's the early bird, and I'm a night owl. This works out well for smoking but not so much for movies.

Smoked Turkey on the Big Green Egg - Not Ready Yet

The Big Green Egg is a lid-closed outdoor cooker - convection but with more moisture and with the smoke of course. Opening the lid drops the temperature, so the fast read on the Thermapen was terrific. It only took three or four seconds to get an accurate reading, so it was a fast in and out when the turkey was getting close to done.

Eyeballing a large cut like a turkey or pork shoulder is one sure way to get undercooked meat or dried out sawdust. You can see here that the turkey looks like it could come off. The head room in the Big Green Egg is not huge and with the natural sugars in the brine, the bird browns up really fast. We were several degrees out from a fully smoked turkey at this point.

Jimmy finished smoking off the turkey while I mashed up some potatoes and made gravy, and then we headed over to Mom's house for a big family dinner. Everyone loved the turkey. It was spot on, since the Thermapen made it easy to check the temperature.

Thumbs up Thermapen

I'm really impressed with the Thermapen. It's super easy to use. You just snap the probe out, and the reading comes on. Then you wash and close it to turn it off.

The reading is really fast, and the numbers are large enough to see. My vision is not as good as it used to be, so it's a blessing to be able to easily read a thermometer.

Likewise, the battery compartment is big enough to easily open and replace batteries. I hate items that are so scaled down that I need a magnifying glass and tweezers to try to work on them.

On the flip side, Thermapen is compact and easily fits in my hand or pocket. I have one set that is really big and has wires and probes, and I have to box it up to keep the thermometer set together. I'm not thrilled about the cabinet real estate that one takes up, so I'm a lot happier with the Thermapen which fits right in my kitchen catch all drawer.

The price of the Thermapen would be the only ouch. But, if you wreck a few steaks or a couple of briskets, then you'll find this investment well worth the money. You're getting a custom hand made product out of England that is top quality and accurate. Thermapen has, as an added bonus, the cool factor with the nice design and great colors. After using the Termapen, I'm sold.

I'd also note that Termapen is not just for outdoor grilling and smoking. It's also popular with the kitchen crowd. My next project will be making some homemade candy. I've been using the cold water ball trick which is not always a winner.

You can check out Thermapen and see the thermometer that I tested out as well as some other cool thermometers that they sell. No. I'm not connected with the company in any way. As always, I'm just sharing what I find - the good and the bad. This one goes on my happy list (-: