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Q-talk *ON TOPIC ONLY* QUALITY ON TOPIC discussion of Backyard BBQ, grilling, Equipment and just outdoor cookin' in general, hints, tips, tricks & techniques, success, failures... but stay on topic. And watch for that hijacking.


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Unread 05-25-2006, 10:57 AM   #1
BrooklynQ
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Default Schoolin' them Yankees (May be too long for BBQJoe)

At barbecue school, the heat is on

It's almost Memorial Day, which means it's time to dust off the Weber and check outall the must-have tools, techniques, and marinades. Let the grilling begin.


Instructors Ray Depot (center) and Jed LaBonte at BBQ School, held at the Maynard Rod and Gun Club. (David Kamerman / Globe Staff)
By Jonathan Levitt, Globe Correspondent
May 24, 2006

MAYNARD -- Sunday morning at 9 o'clock and Kelly Keady is already passing out her famous maraschino cherries. ``Life is good," she says. ``I used to bring Jell-O shots to these things, but cherries are much better." Keady, a personal chef from Norwood and a barbecue groupie , soaks the fruits for several months in Everclear, grain alcohol, and they have turned out to be quite popular in this sleepy group.

Keady is on the board of directors of the New England Barbecue Society, which is hosting its second hands-on cooking school. This year, about 30 students have gathered in early May at the Maynard Rod and Gun Club to learn the finer points of briskets, rubs, and baby back ribs.

There is no judging at the end of this competition-style class, but rather a discussion of how everything went. Most of the students, from all over New England, have been using backyard smokers for years and either want to hone their skills for competitions or to just make better barbecue at home.
They arrived at noon on Saturday, armed with sleeping bags, folding nylon chairs, coffee, cigarettes, and coolers filled with beer and soda. In pick up trucks and vans, they came hauling smokers, grills, and barbecue rigs of all shapes and sizes. All night long they worked in groups, hovering over their meat and poultry, learning the secrets of brisket, pork butt, pork ribs, and chicken thighs. Late Sunday morning, they will arrange their meltingly tender meat in styrofoam boxes, garnish it with neatly trimmed greens, and present it for evaluation.

The pit bosses give the marching orders and the recipes. Andy King, 45, instructor and pit boss of the Bastey Boys team, says that his first barbecue contest was eight years ago, in a downpour. He won a second place ``chef's choice award" for his baby back ribs. ``I was hooked after that," he says. Good barbecue doesn't necessarily begin with expensive meat, says the Templeton resident. ``Higher grade meat has more fat and more flavor, but the goal of barbecue is to take a cheap, tough piece of meat and coax the flavor out of it until it tastes like heaven."
That heavenly taste often comes from a rub or sauce. On Saturday night Jed LaBonte, captain of Uncle Jed's barbecue team, shared his wisdom on the subject. ``The first rule is that sauces and rubs are secret," he explains. ``If you compete you'll have to figure out your own rubs and sauces." But he does offer a few tips, such as buying spices whole so you can toast them before you grind. ``That's where the deep flavors will come from," he says. And you have to be careful about chilies and other hot spices. ``Hot is good, but remember that you need sweet to balance hot. If you add chili powder, add sugar too." Sauces and mops (sauce diluted with apple juice or water) are important, he adds, but moisture and flavor should come from the meat itself.


King says that in competition cooking, you should give the rubs and sauces everything you've got. Remember,``the judges are only taking one bite," he says.

LaBonte says that his neighbors in Wrentham know him as the ``weirdo who cooks all night long. I'm the guy who is always outside on his porch at 4 in the morning cooking something."

Once the students have trimmed and rubbed their meat, it's time to light the fires. In competition, most of the instructors use big, expensive insulated cookers like the Backwoods Fatboy or outrageous custom cookers. At home they use something smaller, like the Weber Smokey Mountain, a bullet - shaped cooker that resembles R2D2.

Hardwood charcoals, specifically the Wicked Good brand, provide the heat. All pit bosses agree that briquettes are for chumps. The Wicked Good Competition Blend, says King, is hard to light but burns forever. The Weekend Warrior blend is easier to light and burns a little faster, but still long and slow compared with other brands. Chunks of hardwood lend smoke and flavor. King likes young apple wood, which he gets when orchards are being pruned. Mesquite and cherry lend nice aromas, but burn hot and smoky and can overwhelm delicate flavors.

When the smokers are humming along , the meat goes in. Briskets and pork butts go on first, around 10 p.m. ; they take 12 to 14 hours. Pit bosses move the meat around with pizza peels. Ribs go on at 4 a.m. They need five to six hours to cook, and, according to King, there is only a 20-minute window when they are perfect: ``Any less, they're not cooked. Any more, they get dried out." Chicken goes over more direct heat for about one hour on Weber kettles.

Instructor Dave Frary, a retired lobsterman from Mashpee who builds model railroad scenery for clients like Tokyo Disney, says that the barbecue at competitions is much better than anything you eat at even the best barbecue joints. ``In competition cooking, everything is fussed over and done in small batches," he says. Frary says he's never eaten really good barbecue in a restaurant, not even during a 1998 road trip driving all over the South with a friend in a rented Cadillac. ``When I came home all I wanted was a green salad," he says.

By 10:30 on Sunday morning, the meat is ready to be presented. It's not on time but close enough. ``Barbecue is done when it's done," says King. Before the group digs into the spread, the instructors go over what could be better. Meat that looks candy-coated with a nice shiny glaze brushed on at the end receives the highest marks. Most of the students are a little loopy from lack of sleep and too many cherries. They all look relieved when after almost 24 hours of talking about barbecue, smelling barbecue, and looking at barbecue, it's finally time to eat.

Ray Depot, the rotund captain of the Anchormen team from Rhode Island, dines with gusto. ``You know, I'm not sure if barbecue is a sport, but if it is, it's the only sport that I've been training all my life for. There are hunting guys, fishing guys, golfing guys. . . and there are barbecue guys. Same boys different toys."

For information on other New England Barbecue Society-sponsored contests, go to www.nebs.org.
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Unread 05-25-2006, 11:26 AM   #2
backyardchef
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You tryin' to make us blind w/ all that reading??

Cool....those NEBS folks are good peoples.....nice article, thanks for posting Rob.
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Unread 05-25-2006, 11:51 AM   #3
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Yep!
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Unread 05-25-2006, 01:12 PM   #4
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Good post man, if not a little wordy, but all the words spelled BBQ...BREW!!!
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Unread 05-25-2006, 05:28 PM   #5
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good read...I would love to go to a "school" like that in SoCal.
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Unread 05-25-2006, 08:23 PM   #6
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Candy coated meat?
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Unread 05-25-2006, 11:06 PM   #7
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Thanks for posting that Rob - we were happy to get the press - although they could have left out the part about 'too many cherries'. I guess it's all in the name of "disclosure" - Should people be warned what they're getting into if they are thinking of jumping into the pit with us - or should we keep it a secret? You had those cherries at the Snowshoe, didn't you? Oh wait - we were judging - I, for one, was a good CBJ and waited until AFTER the judging. About ten seconds after. heheh.
Hey ... are you going to be able to make it up to Merrimac, NH in June?? There should be more 'fun fruit' there also.....look us up - we have new recipes since our trip to Memphis! See y'all out there!
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