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The trick is to smoke the meat and not make the meat smoke
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Low & Slow BBQ at Home - Pt. 2

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Part 1 of this blog: LOW & SLOW BBQ AT HOME - Part 1 discussed Craftsy. the service that provided the class and the user experience viewing their courses via the iPad App. As I mentioned before it can also be viewed on a Mac or Windows PC or an iPhone. Part 2, which you are reading now will discuss the class itself and what I thought of it. I must also add that this is a beginners level class. It assumes you know little to nothing about low and slow BBQ and are looking to get headed down the right path.

MY MOTIVATION FOR BUYING THIS COURSE:
I have been smoking since 2005 and have many hours under my belt. So why did I bother taking a class I knew was intended for beginners?
  • First and foremost I feel that a good beginners class or cookbook still can contain valuable information, even for a more advanced user.
  • I learned a lot about smoking from reading, not watching. When I got serious about grilling I loved watching Steven Raichlen’s shows on PBS. He is not about the BAM and Flash and the cult of his personality. The shows were long on valuable information and short on ego. Unfortunately his shows of that time were confined to grilling. Most of the other shows on the various food channels seem to be more about the flash, who they know, posing, stare downs, trash talk etc. and very little useful information. I won’t watch a 30 minute show to get a minute or two of possible useful information. So a no-nonsense video that allowed me to get back to the basics, allowed me to see if I was doing things right.
  • Dr. BBQ is a BGE spokesman, so I knew he would be doing some of this cooking on a Big Green Egg. While I am not so new to low and slow, I am still somewhat new to doing it on the BGE. I figured there would be lots to learn from this series.
  • Some of the lessons included the right way to trim various cuts of meat. Again I wanted to see if I was doing it right and if there were some ways I might do things better.
  • I learned quite a bit from Dr. BBQ’s recent cookbook: SLOW FIRE - The Beginner’s Guide to BBQ and made some great food with it. So I had zero worries that I wouldn’t learn some more good things from this beginners class.
  • In this small little way wanted to support Dr. BBQ. I own 5 of his cookbooks. I have met him twice and he is a really nice down to earth person. He is a wonderful spokesperson for the BGE company. By paying to take this class I hope it helps make this venture successful for him. If he earns some money on the venture, so he does more videos for Craftsy. I will certainly take any more classes of this type he chooses to offer.
  • The introductory price was low enough it made this a no-brainer.

THE INSTRUCTOR:
I will discuss the lessons in general terms and mention some of the useful tips I picked up in a general way too. After all if some one is going to benefit from the material, they should buy the course. The first thing I will mention is I think Ray Lampe (Dr. BBQ) is a great teacher. He was one of the people who was there at the start of the competition BBQ circuit, so he is very experienced and knows what he is doing. But this class is intended for people who are new to Low and Slow cooking. I find he is able to break things down in a way that makes them easy to understand for beginners too. Also he doesn’t take himself too seriously like some well know chef’s seem to do. Several times when doing some task, he would remove some of the mystery or stress by saying: “This ain’t rocket science.” He also doesn’t pretend that he has all of the answers or that his way is the only way to do something. He will often offer his opinion on something, say what he likes and why he likes it, but then will turn around and say but if you like it this other way then do it. He also tries to give people a solid foundation from which to start, and then encourages them to experiment to suit their own tastes.

THE COURSE:
The course is divided into seven lessons, which are further divided into various sub-sections. The sub-sections are sometimes referred to as “Projects” when they refer to making a specific item. The organization is as follows:

LESSON:
Firing Up the BBQ:
  • Setting Up
  • Fuel & Smokers
  • Kettle Grills
  • Ceramic Grills
  • Pellet Cookers & More
After a brief introduction Dr. BBQ covers the three types of items used to fuel or flavor BBQ cookers: Lump (natural) charcoal, wood pellets and smoking woods in chunk or chip form. He also discusses why he left briquettes and wood logs off the list. He moves on to 3 types of grills/smokers that are suitable for use in backyard BBQ. He starts off describing the kettle grill (Weber kettles), then moves on to ceramic grills (Big Green Egg or other Kamado style grills) and finally moves onto pellet style smokers. Dr BBQ uses a Fast Eddie 100 pellet smoker which is a bit big for the typical backyard cook, but he gives some alternatives. The focus remains on grills suitable for the typical backyard BBQ cook. He also touches briefly on remote read thermometers and pit controllers. As he describes each of the grills/smokers he shows how each of these model are set up for indirect cooking. This is how low and slow BBQ is cooked on these units. He also shows the lighting process for each one. The 3 types of grills/smokers are all used at various times throughout the course. Where they would be used somewhat differently to cook an item Dr. BBQ explains the difference during that particular project.

LESSON: 2:
Seasoning the Meat:
  • Flavors of Wood
  • Making a Dry Rub
  • Dry Rub Variations
The second lesson starts off with a discussion on smoking woods, the various species and how their usage once used to vary by region. He discusses the various intensities of the smoke flavor and the typical pairings with certain foods. But he also encourages the user to experiment and see what they like. Next he covers dry rubs and discusses the foundation of dry rubs and how they are a balance of sweet and salty at theri heart. He discusses additional spices that can be used to alter the flavor balance to achieve certain effects. He makes a general purpose BBQ rubs as part of the lesson and provides recipes for making two other variations: A sweet rub and a hot rub. He also discusses adding an unexpected ingredient or two into the mix to help bring everything together.

LESSON: 3:
Making Sauce:
  • Traditional BBQ Sauce
  • North Carolina Vinegar Sauce
  • To Sauce or Not
This lesson discusses the two most popular styles of BBQ sauces: traditional sweet tomato-based BBQ sauces and vinegar based BBQ sauces. There is a brief discussion of some different regional style sauces. He makes both types of sauce and the recipe for each is provided with the recipes included with the course. As he is making the sauces he discusses the roles some of the ingredients play. Once again, as with the rubs, he likes to add an unusual ingredient to help bring the various flavors together so they act as a unified whole and not a series of separate flavors. Lastly there is a brief discussion of when to sauce and when not to sauce. As always he maintains the attitude that whatever works best for you is what you should do.

LESSON: 4:
Pulled Pork
  • Cuts of Pork & Regional Differences
  • Flavors and Techniques
  • Trimming the Pork
  • Applying the Rub
  • Cooking Methods & Handling Tips
  • Checking Doneness and Serving
The course on pulled pork goes into great detail. It discusses the two cuts used for pulled pork: butt and picnic. Dr. BBQ discusses how different regions of the country favor the different cuts. He discusses methods for serving pulled pork (pulled, shredded, chopped and sliced) and how this often used to vary by region. He also covers the regional variations in smoking wood used for pulled pork. He shows how to trim a pork butt both for backyard use and then he trims a second butt to show how a competition team might do things differently. He discusses the so-called “money muscle” that competition teams often use to get slices from for their turn-in boxes. He talks about whether to use an injection or not and whether to mop or not. He rubs the pork about an hour before cooking. Then he smokes the two butts he just trimmed up in two different ways. He does use a foil wrap when the brisket hits around 170, but he does it only to speed up the cooking and not add additions flavors. The one he prepared competition style has the “money muscle sliced” and he shows how to pull, shred and chop the meat. I did learn some valuable information from this Lesson and it was good to see him actually trim two pork butts while describing what to keep and what to trim off and why.

LESSON: 5:
Brisket:
  • Grades of Beef & How to Trim
  • Seasoning the Brisket
  • Cooking the Brisket
The lesson on brisket was also very informative for me. It started off with a description of the three USDA grades of brisket, including prime which I didn’t realize brisket came in. He described the whole brisket as well as the point and flat portions. He showed how to trim a brisket and described why he was keeping certain things and trimming others. He had a tip for marking the brisket so you know the grain direction for carving purposes after the brisket was cooked. I like this better than the method I used until now. He trimmed two briskets to show some regional variations. He trimmed one as a Texas style brisket where the flat and point sections remain together right up to and through the carving of the brisket. The other brisket had some additional trimming done making it easier to cut off the point section part way through the cook so it could be used for burnt ends. The briskets were rubbed and it was good to see the amount of rub used, which was quite heavy I might add. There was a brief discussion of whether to inject the brisket or not, after which it was out to the smoker for both briskets. The cooking process was the same for both up to the foiling portion of the cook. Going forward the point was cut away from the flat and not foiled for the KC style brisket. The the flat was foiled for the KC style brisket. The point went back into the smoker unfoiled to use for burnt ends. When both briskets were done they were both carved to suit the regional style. I got some useful knowledge and tips from this section, because up until this point I have only made brisket flats and not the whole packer with the flat and point together.

LESSON: 6:
Ribs:
  • Trimming & Seasoning Back Ribs
  • Spare Ribs
  • St. Louis Cut
  • Seasoning the Ribs
  • Cooking the Ribs
This chapter on ribs also had some very useful information for me. Additionally it also showed me I was already doing many things right. It started by talking about the differences between (Baby) Back Ribs and Spare Ribs. It showed how to trim each type of rib and then demonstrated how to make a St. Louis cut rib from a full spare ribs. Once again seeing Dr. BBQ trim the ribs was very helpful to me. I had seen pictures in books showing how the St. Louis cut was done, but seeing it in movie form made it very clear. Dr BBQ foils his ribs but takes a simpler approach than some, adding a little sweetness and juice to the ribs when they go into the foil. He showed several methods of determining when the ribs were cooked and he mentioned that if you are going to overcook the ribs so they are “fall off the bone tender” you should use Baby Backs. Whether the ribs should be taken out of the foil, sauced and cooked a little more was also discussed

LESSON: 7:
BBQ Chicken & Turkey:
  • Prepping the Chicken
  • Food Safety
  • Marinating the Chicken
  • Cooking the Chicken
  • Injecting the Turkey
  • Seasoning the Turkey
  • Cooking the Turkey
The chapter on poultry was very informative to me too. Dr. BBQ showed how to split a chicken into halves and prep them for BBQing. He also showed how to prep chicken parts. He brined the half chickens and marinated the parts. There was a minute or two devoted to safe handling practices and the dangers of cross contamination with uncooked chicken. The chicken was refrigerated in their brine and marinade bags for 4 hours and then cooked at 325 on the grill. The cooking temperature was discussed in terms of crispy skin vs moistness. The use of a BBQ sauce at the end to help firm up the skin was demonstrated. Next Dr. BBQ showed how to make a holiday turkey. While he likes brining for chicken, he is not a fan for big turkeys. He used an injector sauce and had a really slick tip for keeping you from getting squirted with the injector sauce. He also had a “cool” tip for helping the breast portion of the turkey from not reaching 165 before the dark meat portions reached 180. After watching this lesson, I am tempted to try an injected bird this year. I have been brining for a number of years, but it might be interesting to try an injected bird again.

CONCLUSION:
I really enjoyed this online course from Craftsy. I always feel if you’ve learned at least one new thing from a class, lecture, demo etc. than it was worth the money. I learned quite a few things and got to see whether I was doing various techniques correctly. I got this course at an introductory sale price that was hard to beat. But even if I had paid full price, I would be satisfied. I have no doubt this course would be an excellent fit for someone just starting out in backyard BBQ. After all that is the target audience. It is hard to know what to say in general to more experienced low and slow backyard cooks. I think it will depend on your attitude. If you expect the course to be filled with a continuous stream of new (to you) tips, techniques and information, you will be disappointed. An experienced backyard BBQer is not the intended audience. Someone who is a competition cook would probably know all of this material too, or at least they should.

  LOW & SLOW BBQ AT HOME - PT. 1

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