BBQ Bands & Brews – Keeping The Momentum Going in Fluvanna County

On June 22-23, Degüello BBQ competed in the inaugural BBQ, Bands & Brews in Palmyra VA.  Coming off our huge win at Swinetastic we were hoping to keep the momentum going, and for the most part we accomplished that objective.  With 28 teams   competing in this event, Degüello BBQ took 7th place in chicken, 4th place in ribs and 5th place in brisket.  Our second three-call competition in a row was good enough for a 5th place overall.  Congrats to 3Eyz for yet another GG, and I guess it was payback that Dan and Chris punked us in our home state after we scored the Chalice of Victory the week before in their home state.  I’d like to thank John Atkins for running a really nice first-year competition at a great venue, and the word is going to get out that this will be the place to be the third weekend of June next year.

Here’s the contest rundown:

Chicken: 7th out of 28 (159.4286)

Our Wagshal’s chicken was good, and this week’s cook in the Backwoods Extended Party was probably a little smoother than last week in Frederick.  But every week is unique, and our chicken was not the killer product of the week before.  The thighs were a little bigger, and I think they would’ve benefited from another ten minutes in the Backwoods.  Tenderness was good, not great but skin was right on.   The larger thighs meant we had to go with fewer pieces in the box, and I felt the 7th place finish was just about right.

Ribs:  4th out of 28 (161.7144)

For a second week, I thought we cooked good ribs.  This week, however, the judges agreed.  Sharon did her usual awesome job picking out the right bones for the box, and she invoked an unnamed famous pitmaster when she suggested that I go with six perfect ribs instead of trying to fill the box with lesser product just to make it full.    Using the Extended Party to cook chicken and ribs is allowing us to cook more racks, and I think it was the last rack I pulled that went in the box.

Pork: 18th out of 28 (149.7138)

As I said last week, we are cooking a completely new pork recipe for 2012 that I really like.  The judges liked it last week too.  This week?  Uh, not so much.  No cooking mishaps, great butts, uneventful cook, beautiful box and some real stinker scores on taste.  Can’t put my finger on exactly what the judges reacted to, but I have an idea and I’m going to make some changes to one of the primary ingredients going into the pork to simplify the taste.

Brisket: 5th out of 28 (160.0002)

The only change I made to our brisket after last week’s 2nd place finish was to put it on the Fatboy earlier.  But even with the earlier start time, the brisket still finished very late.  Flavor was better off the smoker this week, so I didn’t have to make many adjustments at all.  And after worrying all morning about finish time, when I sliced the flat I found it was actually a touch overdone.  Moving forward, I really need to trust the feel of the brisket a little more and worry less about absolute internal temperature.  Briskets seem to be finishing at a lower temp in the Backwoods than they were in the WSM, so that’s something I’m going to keep an eye on.

This was another successful weekend for Degüello BBQ, but there is always something to be learned.  We’ll make a small adjustment on pork flavor, trust the brisket “feel” more and leave everything else alone.  Next up for Degüello BBQ is a dreaded excursion north of the Mason-Dixon Line for The BBQ Skirmish in Gettysburg PA on July 13-14.  As I have told every person willing to listen, my great great grandfather William Elias Rudd was captured at Little Round Top on July 2, 1863, which just happens to be 149 years ago today.  I intend to improve on the Rudd family’s somewhat spotty record up north.  Although William Elias had to sit out the rest of the Civil War in a POW camp in New Jersey, at least he didn’t face “humiliation by apple and cream cheese” in Pennsylvania like his great great grandson.


Backwoods, Kingsford Competition Briquettes and Wagshal’s Meats is a winning combination! 

John has promised me this spot for next year

A/C worked pretty dang good

Our 4th place ribs trophy 

Published in: on July 3, 2012 at 8:55 am  Comments (3)  

Some Mighty Fine Swine (and Chicken and Brisket) – GC at Swinetastic for Degüello BBQ


On June 15-16, Degüello BBQ competed in the second annual Swinestastic BBQ Festival in Frederick MD and it’s funny how our mindset coming in to this event was virtually identical to last year.  After a second consecutive disappointing finish at the Middletown Barbeque Cook-off in Middletown DE we were looking to Frederick for redemption.  69  teams competed in this event, and Degüello BBQ took 2nd place in chicken, 4th place in pork and 2nd place in brisket.  And that was good enough for us to win our second career Grand Championship, punching our ticket to the American Royal and securing a spot in the Maryland draw for the Jack Daniel’s World Invitational Barbecue.  Huge congrats to Fred Bernardo and Tasty Licks BBQ for their first career RGC.

We had a key addition to our team this weekend, and he brought it big time. Thanks to Mason-Dixon BBQ Services for delivering our new Backwoods Fatboy to the fairgrounds on Thursday.  I was able to burn it in on Thursday night, and I liked the way it cooked so much I made a decision that Dan Hixon characterized as a “gutsy move” to cook on it in the competition.  In retrospect I’d say it was a good decision.

Here’s the contest rundown:

Chicken: 2nd out of 69 (172.0002)

Wagshal’s has been providing us with outstanding chicken, and we’ve been very happy with our finished product.  Unfortunately the judges haven’t been quite as happy, but that changed this weekend.  After two non-calls in chicken this spring, I got some key advice from my neighbor and friend Brad Bender and it really paid off.  And for the first time in competition, and the second time ever, I cooked my chicken in the Backwoods Extended Party.  The box was beautiful, the taste and tenderness were superb, and we were thrilled with the call, our second consecutive 2nd place chicken call at Swinetastic.

Ribs:  37th out of 69 (154.2856)

These were good ribs, or so I thought.  We cooked the ribs in the Extended Party with the chicken, and I liked them.   I think “ouch” sums up my feeling on this category.  Moving on……

Pork: 4th out of 69 (168.0000)

We are cooking a completely new pork recipe for 2012, and I really like the flavor profile.   Unfortunately, we’ve had a few cooking mishaps with this category, not to mention learning the hard way about the top rack of the Backwoods (or as I call it “The Incinerator”).  This week, however, everything came together.    Some fabulous butts from Wagshal’s, a good flavor profile and a solid cook got us us our first pork call of 2012.

Brisket: 2nd out of 69 (170.2858)

2012 has been “Year of the Brisket” for Degüello BBQ.  We’ve had success in this category, so I was hesitant to make changes.  But one thing I’ve always thought was missing in our brisket was a more pronounced “umami” flavor component.  I experimented with some different cooking techniques (anyone interested  a 1000′ roll of 36″ wide red kraft paper?  Anyone?  Anyone?), rubs and injections, and two weeks before our first 2012 KCBS comp I hit the jackpot. The rub, injection and sauce combo we’ve been using this year has a much more well-rounded flavor profile, and the judges are really responding to it.  The only near mishap of the weekend was totally related to unfamiliarity with cooking times on the new Fatboy. I didn’t get my big meats on until almost midnight, and as a result the brisket we turned in was still on the Fatboy at 12:30 PM.  I would think the brisket would’ve benefited from a longer rest time, but it didn’t seem to have much of a negative effect.  The brisket was a little less full-flavored than weeks past, and I suspect that had something to do with its placement in the Fatboy.  We punched it up with some extra rub and that seemed to help as well.

This was a huge weekend for Degüello BBQ.  We faced a real “Murderers Row” of  mid-Atlantic heavy hitters, not to mention the one and only Scottie Johnson.  Scottie was the very first person to congratulate us, but that is only because he elbowed Dan Hixon out of the way (go to the video of the GC announcement for proof of this).  They’re both Chicago guys, so go figure.  I’m trying to figure out how to best incorporate the Holy Grail, Massive Chalice, or whatever it shall be named, into our living room decor.  Sharon suggested putting a piece of glass on top and making it into a side table for the recliner she got me for Father’s Day, but it’s about three feet tall so she may have to rethink that.  Another nice job by Chris and Jess Carter organizing this event, and we will of course be back in 2013.  Next up for Degüello BBQ is BBQ Bands & Brews in Palmyra VA on June 22-23.

The first butt on the new Fatboy

Brisket looked good at 6:30 AM

A pork call at last!

I’ve always wanted one of these giant checks.  The real one was pretty nice as well!  

Celebrating with a margarita at Austin Grill 

The GC Trophy. Soon to be repurposed into a coffee table?

Published in: on June 24, 2012 at 8:28 am  Comments (3)  

Middletown? More like “Middle of the Pack”


On May 18-19, Degüello BBQ competed in the third annual Middletown BBQ Cook Off in Middletown DE.  For 2012 the event was moved from parking lot of the Dutch Country Farmers Market to Frightland Amusement Park on the outskirts of town.  Unfortunately, our performance this year was not particularly amusing.

After our strong showing in the inaugural event in 2010 (see here for the writeup on that day) we were looking to bounce back from a disappointing 2011 MIddletown finish.  That was not to be on this day, though.  With 52 teams competing, Degüello BBQ finished 18th place chicken, 22nd place ribs, 18th place pork and 18th place brisket for an overall 14th place.

Somedays you know you didn’t cook your best, and when that happens it’s a little easier to take.  But I was really disappointed with our results on this day as I felt we had a good, solid cook.  Days like this happen, so we look at what we did, try to fix anything that didn’t go well and move on.  Congrats to Paul Huff of Gone Hoggin’ for getting this GC and punching his ticket to the Jack.  He was so tweaked at Middletown in 2010 he shaved off his beard, and I’m not sure what he did in 2011 (but I know it wasn’t celebrating because we both finished in the teens last year).  I guess they won’t have to rename that highway out in Tennessee for another year buddy:


And huge thanks to Wagshal’s for providing us with some incredible meats for MIddletown.  We wish we’d done a better job for you guys the first time out, but I am confident you’ll be hearing our names again soon.

Here’s the contest rundown:

Chicken: 18th out of 52 (162.8572)

This was the absolute biggest disappointment of the day.  I know when we cook good chicken, and this was some really good chicken.  Appearance, was, well, take a look on the WSM and judge for yourself:


Taste and tenderness were a cut above our Naptown chicken, too.  But like I said in Naptown after turn-in it’s in the judges’ hands, and I have to live with that.  I am still very confident in our recipe and preparation, so no changes there.  I got some good feedback on our box presentation and garnish, and after giving it some thought I believe we’re leaving appearance points on the table, which may be affecting out taste and tenderness scores in turn.

Ribs:  22nd out of 52 (153.1428)

Another batch of good, not great, ribs this weekend.  If I had to compare these to our 9th place Naptown ribs I’d say they were about the same, which isn’t what I’ve come to expect in this category.  I felt I actually had a few more choices this weekend, but we didn’t fare as well I’d hoped.  No changes moving forward.

Pork: 22nd out of 52 (152.5712)

This was the one category that worried me this weekend.  For the first time in my competition BBQ career, after sorting through our pork I was really worried we might not have enough acceptable pieces to fill the box.  This was very surprising, as all our pork was right on temp and felt good going into the Carlisle.  After a lot of sorting and some creative placement we got an acceptable amount for our box.  It actually wasn’t too bad, but not my best pork either.  In my opinion this score most closely matched my assessment.  I’ll keep a much closer eye on the pork moving forward to insure we have enough well-done pork for pulled/chunks.

Brisket: 18th out of 52 (156.0000)

Another puzzling finish.  After we nailed brisket two weeks ago at Naptown I didn’t change a thing in recipe or prep, but we used a different brisket source.  As in Naptown, I felt our brisket was perfectly cooked, looked great and it tasted like beef.  Actually, it had a slightly more intense beefy flavor than two weeks before.  I had trimmed our flats to make sure they fit the boxes, and I felt this was a much better looking presentation.  But my assessment and the judges did not agree, so we didn’t have finish we’d hoped for.  I’m wondering if I need to dial back the “intensity”of flavor to account for our new beef.  We’re very happy with the tenderness and flavor of the beef itself,so maybe a little less rub and injection flavor is a better fit.

After a hot start to 2012, we cooled off a little in Middletown.  That’s OK though.  We’ll make some adjustments and come back strong.  Next up for Degüello BBQ is the Swinetastic BBQ Festival on June 15-16 in Frederick MD.


Prime Brisket from Wagshal’s- it doesn’t get any better than this!


Pork at 6:30 AM
Published in: on June 2, 2012 at 1:55 pm  Leave a Comment  

Welcome Wagshal’s to the Degüello BBQ Team!

We are happy to announce that Wagshal’s of Washington DC will be Degüello BBQ’s exclusive meat supplier for the 2012 season.  Wagshal’s has been in the business of fine food for over 85 years and is the home of the best meats, deli items, catering and superior service in the metro DC area.  Huge thanks to the Fuchs family for putting their confidence in us, and with Wagshal’s on the Degüello BBQ team we look forward to a successful year of competition!

Check out Wagshal’s here.


4855 Massachusetts Ave NW
Washington DC 20016
Hours of Operation:
Mon-Fri 8:00am-8:00pm
Sat 9:00am-8:00pm
Sun 9:00am-5:00pm
Kenzig Rufino:
Wine & Spirits Manager/Assistant Manager:
Kate Chrisman:


4845 Massachusetts Ave NW
Washington DC 20016
Hours of Operation:
Mon-Fri 10:00am-8:00pm
Sat 10:00am-7:00pm
Sun 10:00am-6:00pm April through October
Sun 10:00am-5:00pm November through March

Spring Valley Catering

330-A Rear 48th St. NW
Washington DC 20016
Hours of Operation:
Mon-Fri 8:00am-5:00pm
Sat 8:00am-4:00pm
Sun 9:00am-3:00pm
Phone 202-363-8807
Director of Catering: Howard
Manager:Silvia Alexander:

Business Office

4330-A Rear 48th St. NW
Washington DC 20016
Hours of Operation:
Mon-Fri 9:00am-11:00am
Phone 202-363-0884
Fax 202-363-0893
Executive Vice President:
Aaron Fuchs:
Vice President of Operations:
Brian Fuchs:
Owner/President: Bill Fuchs:
Published in: on May 11, 2012 at 6:58 am  Comments (1)  

Naptown barBAYq 2012 Recap

On May 4-5, Degüello BBQ competed in the second annual Naptown barBAYq in Annapolis MD.  For 2012 the event was moved to the Anne Arundel County Fairgrounds in Crownsville, a nice upgrade from last year’s venue.  This was our first full KCBS competition for 2012, and it was the first chance to see how our off-season changes would work.  Over the winter I worked on adapting WSM cooking techniques for our new Backwoods Extended Party smoker, scoped out some new meat suppliers,  and made several recipe changes.  Unfortunately, on Sunday night I cut a bad gash in my hand trying to stuff a grill pan inside a cooler.  After a visit to the ER in Fairfax, I came home with five stitches right along the first joint of my left index finger.

Since I’m left-handed, I was not looking forward to cooking Naptown with a hand that was swollen, painful and not particularly functional.  And to top it off, I was scheduled to cook for judges’ school on Thursday before the comp so I’d basically be doing back to back four-category cooks with about one and a half hands.  If you’re wondering how bad it was, here’s a photo:

Going into the weekend, we had lots of new things that could work to our advantage (or go horribly wrong), and I had to be careful not to re-injure my hand.  For the most part, though, things went right.  With 41 teams competing, Degüello BBQ took 2nd place in brisket, 9th place in ribs and 5th place overall.  Congratulations to Chix Swine & Bovine  on their GC.  And a special thanks to Mike for lending a huge hand in cooking for judges’ school on Thursday.  If he hadn’t brought the Lang 60 and pitched in on the chicken and ribs I’d have been in trouble.  And a big shout out to Jeff Burkett and Smokis Porkis for their 3rd place overall finish.  I know you guys have been working really hard, and it was great to see all your efforts paying off.

Here’s the contest rundown:

Chicken: 13th out of 41 (160.0000)

For 2012 I’ve tweaked my recipe, cooking process and decided to try a new chicken source.  My only complaint about the chicken is that the pieces we on the small side.  I liked the taste and tenderness and it looked dynamite as well.  After turn-in it’s in the judges’ hands, so I can live with that.  I am confident in our recipe and presentation, so no changes moving forward.

Ribs:  9th out of 41 (164.0000)

I was actually a little disappointed with our ribs.  There is “good”, “great” and “OMG” and these were probably in the “good” category.  Tenderness was not quite where I wanted it, but taste and appearance were spot-on.  Happy to get a call as it guaranteed we would not get shut out.

Pork: 23rd out of 41 (150.8572)

Ah “schizophrenic pork” I have missed you!  I had two butts on the top and bottom racks of the BWS and two on the top rack of my 18″ WSM.  I noticed my WSM was running unusually hot, and after checking to insure the barrel was properly seated in the base I chalked it up to a full load of charcoal and turned in.  When I checked the WSM at 6:00 AM, I found two butts that looked more like meteorites than tasty pork.  When I picked one up it peeled away and left a layer of blackened crust on the grate.  Hey no problem; I still had butts in the BWS.  Except when I opened the BWS the top rack pork was shriveled and black as well.  If I had been less tired I would’ve made our box from the pork on the bottom rack of the BWS.  I didn’t, of course, and the dark appearance, concentrated (i.e. salty) taste and not tender pork landed mid-pack.  I later found I’d knocked the WSM water pan off its tabs, and instead of indirect smoking I’d direct grilled.  As for the BWS, I got advice to never use the very top rack due to the refractive and concentrated smoke in that space.  I can fix these issues and I will for our next comp.

Brisket: 2nd out of 41 (169.7144)

Brisket was totally on, and I’m very happy about that.  This was a new recipe, cooking technique and meat source, so lots of variables in play.  My goal this year is to strive for cleaner flavors across four categories, and my brisket has undergone the biggest change from last year.  It was perfectly cooked, looked great and it tasted like beef.  If anything, I left appearance points on the table as I decided against trimming my slices to fit the box and I had to scrunch them in.  I was glad the judges liked the taste and tenderness and didn’t punish us too much for appearance.

This was a great way to start the 2012 season, and Don Chomas did another outstanding job organizing a superb event.  Keep the comps coming and we’ll be back Don!  Next up for Degüello BBQ is the Middletown BBQ Cook-off on May 18-19 in Middletown DE.

That’s 96 thighs, 24 drumsticks and six whole breasts in the Lang 60!

6:30 AM brisket

Scary Pig!

Published in: on May 9, 2012 at 5:05 pm  Comments (8)  

King Ranch Casserole

I’m always glad when February comes around.  February means I’ve gotten through the post-holiday blues of January, and March and better times are just around the corner. That said, February is the month I usually spend trying out “new to me ” recipes, and this week I made a King Ranch Casserole.

Despite the claim in Cook’s Illustrated that this was a healthy alternative to the traditional recipe which uses condensed cream of mushroom and cream of chicken soup, don’t get your hopes up.  When a casserole contain two pounds of shredded Cojack cheese and almost an entire bag of crushed Fritos it will be many things  (tasty and heavy as a cinder block) but healthy/calorie conscious is not one of them.

I placed a link to the recipe below so you can try it yourself, but here’s a few photos of and comments on my own casserole prep.

Two finely chopped onions, two minced jalapenos, a tablespoon of unsalted butter, two teaspoons of freshly ground cumin and two cans of Ro-tel tomatoes.  I cored and seeded the jalapenos to reduce the heat quotient.  Next time I am going to include the core and seeds of one of the jalapenos to bump up the heat.

Next I added chicken stock, boneless skinless chicken breast, heavy cream and flour.  I used King Arthur’s Unbleached All Purpose flour and it gave the roux a nice color.

I added two pounds of shredded Cojack cheese to the casserole and lined a 9″ x 13″ casserole dish with oven-crisped corn tortillas.  I then poured half of the casserole filling over the tortillas.

I then added a second layer of corn tortillas on top of the first filling layer and poured the remaining filling on top.

I covered the casserole with foil and baked in the oven at 450F.  After 30 minutes I removed the foil, covered the casserole with crushed Fritos and baked an additional 10 minutes.

Here’s the finished casserole.  As good as it was the evening I made it, it was as good if not better reheated over the next few days.  It took us three days to finish off the entire dish.

Here’s a link to the recipe for King Ranch Casserole.  Hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

Published in: on February 18, 2012 at 10:47 am  Comments (1)  

2011 Recap: The Mostly Good, The Occasionally Bad and a Few Really Uglies

At the end of last year, I reflected on the progress our fledgling BBQ team made over the course of our first season.  With a year of competition in the books, I wondered how 2011 would unfold.  I figured we’d do OK, but I also wondered if we could actually improve on 2010.   Never in my most optimistic forecast would I have anticipated what 2011 would bring Degüello BBQ.

I will look back on on 2011 as the year we really found our footing.  The few miscues we pitched and obstacles we dealt with have actually made us a better team.  So when I tried to think of a phrase that encapsulated the season, the title of a certain Sergio Leone spaghetti western came to mind. Hope you enjoy reading Degüello BBQ’s version of The Good, The Bad and the Ugly.


Really there’s enough for  several blog entries here.  The year started off with our receiving the Mid-Atlantic BBQ Association 2010 Rookie Team of the Year at the MABA annual meeting in Downington PA.  Our friend Mike Fay presented us with a nice banner and unique blown glass trophy that now resides prominently on the wine cabinet/trophy case.  Come on over and I’ll show it to you, whether you want to see it or not.

Our first competition of the year was the Go Naked BBQ Showdown on the grounds of Mason-Dixon BBQ Services in  Greencastle PA.  Degüello BBQ took 3rd place in ribs and tied for 2nd place in the People’s Choice Wing competition in this one-day chicken and ribs event.  Aside from the handsome framed tightie whities and a $100 bill, we took two things away from this competition.  First, I reconfirmed that I can cook “naked”, as in no temperature control devices (OK put down the bleach you were about to wash your eyes out with).

But even better, I met two new friends at this event, Alex Covrljan and Al Do.  These two rolled up about 7:30 AM in steady rain and temperature in the mid-30s, pulled a brand-new canopy out of its box, set up a UDS and proceeded to destroy the rest of the competition, taking 1st place in chicken and ribs.  Great job guys!

Our first full KCBS competition of the year, the Lexington NC BBQ Capital Cook-off was good, bad and ugly all in one.  The good came as a direct result of dealing with a real setback.  On Friday morning I opened up our chicken and found it was spoiled.  Every single piece.  Sharon immediately stepped up and began looking for somewhere to buy more chicken.  She found Conrad & Hinkle’s Market in downtown Lexington, which was literally a three-minute walk away.  We bought 16 whole legs, which I broke down into thighs and legs.  Prior to awards I was talking to several other teams about our chicken challenge, and  the consensus was “you’ll get a call for sure”.  Guess I should listen to my friends, as we took 3rd place!  Many thanks to Conrad & Hinkle and to Sharon for finding them.

The first annual Naptown barBAYQ was another successful outing.  I got to spend some time with organizer Don Chomas, who has become a good friend and occasional BBQ collaborator.  And we took 2nd place for ribs and finished in 10th place overall.

Although the 2nd annual Middletown DE  BBQ Cook-off didn’t go quite as planned for us, we did get to see our good friends Pork Barrel BBQ win their first ever Reserve Grand Championship.  Heath, Brett and Rex worked extremely hard to refine their competition ‘cue over the previous year, and it was awesome to be there when it paid off.

The first annual Swinetastic BBQ Festival in Frederick MD was another good finish for Degüello BBQ.  Along with our 2nd place chicken, we finished 3rd overall in a field of 53.  I also want to mention the really nice words of encouragement from Paul Hess of PA Midnite Smokers.  Paul and Brenda set the bar for class as well as success on the competition trail, and Paul told me to keep working hard and that we’d get our first GC soon.  Turns out Paul was right…..

The 2nd annual Holy Smoke Barbeque Championship in Easton, MD gave Degüello BBQ our first-ever four call performance.  Despite that result, we still finished out of the running for the GC at 3rd overall.  And once again, one of the classiest competitors out there gave me a little pep talk.  Mark Breen of Serial Griller advised me to keep on cooking consistent and the GC would come.  Little did I know we’d only have to wait a week…..

The inaugural Bluemont BBQ Bash in Bluemont VA saw Degüello BBQ’s first career Grand Championship. It was sweet to get the first GC so close to home and even more so when we were surrounded by several teams who’d just nipped us out several times.   There is never an easy week out here.  The funny thing is, the downstream implications of our GC never occurred to me until someone said “hey now you’re in the draw for the Jack!!”  Like we’d actually get a chance to go to the Jack in our second year of competition.

Our first participation in New Holland PA Summerfest didn’t exactly set records, but we did keep our ribs call string alive with a 9th place while keeping an eye on the approaching Hurricane Irene.

The 3rd annual Southern York County BBQ Cook-Off in Glen Rock PA was another first, as we had our  first-ever two 1st place call competition with top results in brisket and ribs.  Unfortunately, our chicken and pork didn’t come out so well which spoiled our chance at a second GC in six weeks.

The inaugural Sam’s Club Series local qualifier in Chesapeake VA was a miserable experience from a weather perspective.  Our manic-depressive pork was definitely on the manic side this weekend as we took 2nd in the category after two disappointing pork finishes in a row.  Coupled with an 8th place chicken call we moved on to the Sam’s regional final in Laurel MD.  But just as quickly as it was near the top, our 2nd place pork in Chesapeake became 27th place pork in Laurel and our run in the series came to an end with a 17th place overall finish.

Aside from seeing friends, Smoketoberfest at the Grove was a bad way to go into the Jack.  For details see “bad” and “ugly”.

And then there was the Jack Daniel’s World Invitational Barbecue.  In September, we were fortunate enough to win the Virginia state draw for the Jack.  I told Sharon that the opportunity to cook one of the signature events in competitive BBQ in our second year was really enough for me, and I meant it.  After a year full of good results, getting to Lynchburg was the perfect way to end the season.  And getting not one but two calls (10th place chicken and 10th place ribs) was more than we could’ve ever hoped for.


There were a few bad things in 2011.  The funny thing is bad things often seemed to lead to good things.

On the way back from Middletown, we had a blowout on our trailer on I-495 less than five miles from home.  Most importantly we didn’t have an accident, and thanks to Fairfax County Motor Patrol we got our spare on the trailer and made it home in once piece. The next day, I found that the inner treads on both tires of our single axle trailer were completely worn down, which indicated we had an axle issue of some sort.  And imagine my unhappiness when I drove down to our dealer and learned that our trailer was three days out of warranty.

But like I said, in 2011 bad things seemed to lead to good.  We’d been disappointed with our trailer’s suitability for carrying our equipment and its general durability, and on a lark I decided to take a look at toy haulers.  By the end of the day we’d traded in our single axle trailer on a tandem axle Forest River Work and Play that has made our life a lot easier.

I already mentioned our spoiled chicken in Lexington.  However, having to find new chicken introduced us to Conrad & Hinkle’s fabulous pimento cheese.  That pimento cheese is really calling me to back to Lexington for 2012.  And thanks to Conrad & Hinkle we learned that we can cook winning chicken, just as long as we have good product to work with.

Consistent results across the four categories was occasionally a problem in 2011. But nothing could have prepared me for the gut punch of a 44th place finish in chicken at Smoketoberfest.  That was out of 47, but #47 was a DQ for late turn in.  I was cooking Eric’s event as a dress rehearsal for the Jack the following week, so a rock-bottom chicken result was tough to take.  But once again, something good came out of this experience.  I got advice from too many people to count saying to shake it off and cook the Jack just like it was another comp.  And seven days later, Degüello BBQ received the first call in the four major categories with a 10th place chicken in Lynchburg.  I am certain that the advice and words of encouragement were a part of our success at the Jack.

And then there was the weather.  After getting really lucky for the most part in 2010, we fared much worse in 2011 when it came to the elements.  From near-freezing temp with an accompany steady downpour to begin the season, riding out a really intense hailstorm  in Frederick, cooking New Holland in the teeth of an approaching hurricane, and thinking we’d have to purchase an ark at the Sam’s Club events, it was an adventurous year.  But the biggest challenge was the extreme heat in July.  We hit 105F in Easton with a heat index somewhere north of 120F, and the high temps taxed the onsite power to the max and beyond.  From that event we learned that it was imperative to be self-sufficient as much as possible, and our Honda dual-generator setup carried the day in Bluemont and the Jack.


Nothing uglier than the sight of the KCBS rep approaching your site with a box in hand.  And although it hurt a lot to get disqualified for having a foreign object in our brisket box in Lexington, the experience taught us a valuable lesson about the importance of keeping foil away from the cutting board.

Oh and NEVER put cream cheese in an apple and smoke it, even if Steve Raichlen does say it’ll be a taste sensation.

So 2011 is in the books, and now it’s on to 2012.  We enter this year with a wealth of experience and a goal to cook more consistently across all four categories.

To that end, we’ve added a new piece of equipment to our arsenal.  We are looking forward to competing with our new Backwoods Extended Party purchased from Mason-Dixon BBQ Services in 2012.  The WSMs will still be in the mix, but we hope the Backwoods will help us achieve the goal of smoking consistently superior products.

As always, thanks for reading and we hope you’ll keep checking in!

Published in: on January 6, 2012 at 1:18 pm  Comments (6)  

Pork Barrel BBQ Restaurant Review

Decent BBQ in a restaurant setting is hard to find in the DC/NoVA area, due in large part to purveyors who don’t know how truly great smoked meat should look, smell and taste.  Heath and Brett know great BBQ, and together with their partners Mike Anderson and Bill Blackburn they’ve done an excellent job of translating their award winning products into a commercial establishment.


Good BBQ is about properly smoked meat, and this is where Pork Barrel BBQ really stands apart from would-be competitors.  Brisket was moist, with a nice smoke ring and just tender enough that it holds together without crumbling (a sure sign of overcooking).  Pork was also tender and moist.  But my favorite meat offering was the smoked sausage, which had just the right amount of spice and was very juicy.  I understand it’s made especially for Pork Barrel by a local sausage maker, so you can enjoy a tasty link and support a small business at the same time.  All of Pork Barrel’s meats are seasoned with their own All-American Spice Rub, and if you want to try their rubs and sauces at home, they are available at many local area supermarkets.

Sides are also excellent.  Mac and cheese is a BBQ side staple, but I’ve yet to find a really tasty take on this dish in any area BBQ establishment until now.  My mac and cheese was smoky and a little spicy with a nice crust on top.  Another standout was the Redneck Ratatouille, which actually allowed me to eat and enjoy some vegetables alongside my smoked meat entrees.


Ice filled tubs with retro/vintage sodas is a nice touch and provides an alternative to mainstream Coke/Pepsi products.  The bar has an excellent selection of draft beers.  If you must have the standard offerings they’re on tap, but do yourself a favor and try the Tallgrass Buffalo Sweat Porter or Alexandria’s own Port City Monumental IPA.   Bar staff is competent, attentive and very friendly.


I grew up in Texas, and for us BBQ is as much about community and getting to know your neighbors as it is enjoying a meal.  Pork Barrel BBQ must have had this idea in mind when they designed the restaurant dining area.  The setup is open, with a number of large booths, a community table and ample bar space.  If you’re looking for a cozy, intimate dining spot there are alternatives.  If you want to have a great BBQ dinner, enjoy the company of others and maybe meet someone new, then you will be happy.

Bottom line, Pork Barrel BBQ not only met but exceeded my expectations.  At last, I can have great BBQ in an open and inviting dining space without having to drive hours.  Thanks guys and look forward to the next visit!


Pork Barrel BBQ on Urbanspoon

Published in: on December 11, 2011 at 9:57 am  Comments (3)  

Fig-stuffed Roast Pork Loin and Potatoes Pavé


Every year for Thanksgiving we try to make something new (for us, anyway), and this year we decided to try a few recipes from Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc At Home cookbook.  With this book, Chef Keller wanted to share his recipes for American comfort food that us mere mortals can make any or every day.  Based on the outcome of our Thanksgiving dinner, we’ll be revisiting this book often over the winter.

For the past two years, Sharon and I cooked an entire turkey as the centerpiece of our Thanksgiving meal, but this year we decided to go with a half turkey breast and add another meat.  Fig-stuffed Roast Pork Loin recipe sounded different, yet familiar so we decided to go with it.



The centerpiece of this recipe is a fig and balsamic vinegar jam.  It was super easy to make, and I prepped it on Wednesday evening.  On Wednesday evening I placed my pork loin roast in a savory brine for an overnight soak.


On Thursday morning I added browned ciabatta bread, garlic, shallots, and fresh fennel to the jam and set aside to cool.


I cut two lengthwise slits into my pork loin roast and piped the stuffing into the roast.  I was a little concerned whether the stuffing would flow enough to fill the roast all the way through, but there was no need to worry.  I used a disposable pastry bag and cut the end off to make the opening about 1/2″ in diameter and the stuffing flowed perfectly.  I filled from both ends and I could see the roast plump up as it flowed to the center.  Then I tied the roast with cooking twine to help it retain its shape and seasoned liberally with sea salt and fresh ground tellicherry peppers.


I browned the stuffed and tied roast on all sides for 2-3 minutes to get a nice crust on the surface.


I placed the browned roast on a rack in a pan to catch the drippings and used our convection oven temp probe to cook the roast to 140F internal temperature.  After the roast was done I wrapped the pan with foil and set it in the oven warming drawer to rest.


I was mildly concerned about the roast drying out during its extended rest.  Turns out I had nothing to worry about.


Here’s a photo of the sliced pork.  The roast sat in the warming drawer for about 90 minutes after cooking.


The second dish we cooked from the Ad Hoc cookbook was Potatoes Pavé.   This is a simple potato recipe from an ingredient perspective (potatoes, heavy cream, butter, garlic, salt, pepper, garlic, thyme and chives).  The most challenging part of the recipe is the preparation of the “pavé”.  Pavé roughly translates as paving stone or cobblestone, and the finished potato pavé looks like a large paving stone you’d find on a cobblestone street.  If, of course, you lived in Mr. Potato Land.


Our pavé was made with very thinly sliced (1/16″) russet potatoes dredged in heavy cream seasoned with salt and pepper.  I layered the slices in a deep baking dish and seasoned with salt, pepper and butter every few layers.


Here’s the pavé under construction.  When finished it was about 2″ tall, 10″ long and 6″ wide.



I baked the pavé in the oven until it was thoroughly cooked and then allowed it to cool completely.  I then weighed it down on top with a foil covered piece of cardboard and refrigerated overnight.  On Thursday afternoon I removed the solidified pavé from the refrigerator and the pan (thanks to the parchment paper lining in the bottom of the pan).   I trimmed the edges of the pavé and cut into twelve  pieces.  I heated and browned the individual pieces in canola oil seasoned with garlic and thyme.


Just before serving, I garnished the individual pieces with a pat of butter and fresh chives.


Despite this being the first time I’d attempted either of these recipes, both came out great.  There was a bit of a learning curve, particularly with the potato slicing on my mandoline and construction of the pavé.  But it will go a lot easier next time around on      both.  And after enjoying both dishes, I believe we will be having both of these again.

Published in: on November 27, 2011 at 10:22 am  Leave a Comment  

23rd Annual Jack Daniel’s World Invitational Barbecue


On October 21-22, Degüello BBQ competed in the  23rd Annual Jack Daniel’s World Invitational Barbecue in Lynchburg TN.  “The Jack” is one of the true signature events in the world of competitive BBQ, and an invite to compete is a both a privilege as well as an accomplishment.  The Jack field is filled via automatic bids awarded to grand champions of a few select events and teams with at least seven grand championships over the previous year, a state by state drawing of teams with at least one grand championship, and selection of international teams.  The selection process yields a formidable field of world-class competitors, so just getting to Lynchburg is a career highlight for many teams.  And since the majority of the teams get their invite via a random draw, there is no guarantee a team will get a future invite.  Bottom line, we were honored to have been selected via the Virginia state draw, and we came to Lynchburg with the intention of cooking the way that got us there in just our second year of competition.  With 89 teams competing, Degüello BBQ was incredibly fortunate to hear our name called twice with a 10th place finish in chicken, 10th place ribs, 74th place pork, 59th place brisket and a 32nd place overall finish.      Huge congrats to Smokin’ Hogz of Abington MA for taking the Grand Championship and Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q of Decatur AL for winning Reserve Grand Champion.  I’d like to think I imparted some karma to Bill when I met him in the elevator at the Holiday Inn on Thursday morning and to Chris on Saturday when I came by to say hello (I told him I wasn’t buying his book because I already a “grease-stained” copy).  But neither of those guys need any help; they’re world-class cooks and nice people too.  Here’s the contest rundown:

Chicken: 10th out of 89 (173.1428)

We arrived at Moorehead Pavilion to find a mass of humanity already in place for the awards ceremony.  As we looked around for a place to put our chairs, I found a stack of hay bales at the back of the pavilion with people sitting on them but open space behind.  We set up there and settled in what we were told would be an incredibly long ceremony.  After the all the ancillary awards, the main category awards began.  By this time, I’d actually gotten a bit distracted with Facebook setting up a post with 10 to 1 that I would fill in with results for each category.  I’d just finished and looked up when the announcer said “10th place chicken!  Now, uh, how do I say this?”  As any of the twenty or so of you that regularly read my blog know, the very first call we got was for chicken in Middletown DE and this is exactly what the announcer said there.  Subsequently it’s become a bit of a running joke and some of our friends will shout out “DO YOU JELLO!!” or some other goofy approximation of our team name when we get a call.  It also works out kind of nice because when an announcer says “How do I pronounce this name?” early in an awards ceremony we’re thinking the next thing we’ll hear is something like “‘deh-GWAY-o”.  Or not.  When I heard it this time, I actually thought “Ha!  An international team’s about to get a call in chicken!  Nice!”  and then the announcer says something like “Dee-gOO-lo”.  I turned to Sharon and said “Surely not….” and then the announcer tried agin and this time got the pronunciation perfect (there must’ve been a Top fan down there somewhere).  Wow, what a feeling.  We spent the next few minutes winding our way through the crowd to the stage and trying to find a gap.  As we walked by Pork Barrel BBQ I gave Heath a man hug and said “I love you man!!”  and we went down to get our ribbon and bottle of Jack.

I’d like to say we did something special with our chicken, but we didn’t.  Aside from putting in seven thighs and some white meat, it was our standard recipe and prep.  When it’s on, it’s pretty good.  And on this day it was on.  Great chicken from Wagshal’s Market in Washington DC was a huge part of our success on this category, and I’d like to give special thanks to Pam at Wagshal’s for hand-selecting and trimming our chicken.

Ribs: 10th out of 89 (174.8572)

After the thrill of getting a call at the Jack, we were standing around behind the pavilion talking with Jen and Jack of Black Cat and feeling really good about our day.  I was only half paying attention again when the announcer began calling ribs.  So imagine my complete surprise when I faintly hear “10th place ribs…..Degüello BBQ!”  The one call had made our day, but two calls?  I was pretty stunned.  I ran from behind the pavilion back to the stage to get our second ribbon and bottle of Jack.

Of the four categories we cooked on the day, this was the one I thought came out best.  I’ve had temp issues cooking ribs on the WSM almost all year, and on Saturday morning I woke to near freezing temperature and a pretty hard frost.  Based on conditions, I made the snap decision to cook less racks and use our WSM blanket from the BBQ Guru.  Turned out to be the two best decisions I made all day as the big WSM held perfect temp for the entire cook.  After the craziness I experienced at Shrewsbury with temp control and a broken door handle, it was odd to be able to sit there calmly instead of fiddling with doors and fans in an attempt to stabilize smoker temp.  We had plenty of good bones to choose from, and I was gratified the judges liked our submission.

Pork: 74th out of 89 (157.7144)

Well, it wasn’t all sunshine and roses at Moorehead Pavilion…..

I’d say I was surprised by the pork results, but I’d be lying.  True to form, schizophrenic pork (actually I think I’m going to start calling it “manic-depressive pork”) was due for a depressing performance after a top ten finish the week before in Chambersburg.   And just like every pork submission of the last four months, I don’t have a clue why it performed the way it did.  When we’ve hit it big (2nd, 2nd, 5th and 8th) I wasn’t overly impressed with the turn ins, and when we’ve gone the other way, I thought things went OK.

I wasn’t thrilled with the result, but I wasn’t exactly crushed either as I have to look at it partly in the context of the level of competition.  My #1 priority in the off-season is to work on cooking consistently moist, tender pork with snappy, well-balanced  flavor.  I feel it’s an achievable goal, especially the consistency part.

Brisket: 59th out of 89 (158.2856)

Middling results for a middling submission.  And like I’ve been saying all year, if you don’t bring it strong you’re not going to be too thrilled with the results.  I was keeping pretty good company down there, though; I counted two 2011 automatic Jack qualifying teams as well as previous winners of the “Big Four” (American Royal, Jack, Memphis in May and the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo) south of where I finished on this day.  Don’t get me wrong; I would never place myself in the category with any of those guys.  I’m just saying it was a tough field when teams of that caliber finish that far down the ranks.  I tasted the brisket of one of those teams, and I now know why he is one of the most-respected cooks in my home state of Texas.  I know it put my entry to shame.  If you’re wondering who I’m talking about, I’ve given you enough clues that it shouldn’t be hard to figure out at all.

Having had some time to process the experience of the Jack, all I can say is wow.  The setting, the ancillary events, and just the honor and thrill of competing against so many incredible teams all made for an experience that may never be surpassed for us.  If this event ever becomes a “grind” then it’s time for us to hang it up and do something else.  Seriously.


The spread at Miss Mary Bobos.  My parents are wanting to go to Nashville and visit Opryland, and when they do I intend to take them down to Lynchburg to experience this place.  Great food and great stories here with Pork Barrel BBQ, Mango Mike, Jen and Nisha.      


Pork Barrel One.  Paul Huff was parked in the shade of the bus, but it didn’t seem to hurt his overall performance!


Mr. Jack at the Visitors Pavilion


Statue of Jack Daniel at the base of the spring where he distilled whiskey and from which the water for all Jack Daniel’s whiskey is still used.  


Our Jack Daniel’s sign courtesy of the organizers!

The parade about to start!


Sharon Peade Rudd, the brains behind Degüello BBQ

Pork Barrel BBQ with the DC flag


Sunset on the Hill


Guy Fieri and the Master Distiller Jeff Arnett


Jasper the Pig.  He was filled with papers containing bad results of the competitors, doused in Jack and then lit on fire.  My paper said “44 DQ”.  

Degüello BBQ is an all-WSM team!


This is how we drink coffee at the Jack (no whiskey in the cup, stirring stick notwithstanding)

The 22″ WSM with BBQ Guru smoker jacket


Judging at the Jack is done out in the open.  It was really interesting to see the process underway!

The chicken ribbon and bottle of Jack.  I was kind of stunned, hence the look on my face.  

The ribs and chicken ribbons.  I was doubly stunned by this time.     


Published in: on November 12, 2011 at 11:14 am  Comments (2)