Fast out of the gate

Now that the dust of the first two weeks of the 2014 BBQ season is over the Aporkalypse Now Crew gets a two week rest before a 3 out of 4 week competition schedule in May. And what a 2 week opener it was.

We had planned a couple of practice cooks and tastings but the snowy winter / spring thwarted us at every turn, so a couple of blind tweeks here and there and we were off to the races.

We started with a new event in Southern Virginia, The Rockahock Pickin and Pullin Festival in Lanexa Virginia. This was held at the Rockahock campground and as such the cooks wanted for nothing; large sites; electric, water, and facilities and showers.

When the smoke cleared we were called for 3rd chicken, 20th ribs, 2nd pork and 1st brisket. Before announcing the overall winners they announced People’s choice and for the first time we were called as the People’s choice favorite. Back to the Overall winners and we claimed our first Grand Championship of 2014!
Grand-champ_Rockahock-2014

The very next weekend we attended another (sort of) new Competition  organized by long time friend and organizer Sandy Fulton: The Delaware Triple Threat at the Delaware State Fairgrounds in Harrington Delaware. This event had special meaning for us since we were the Grand Champion at Hogs and Hops at the same location back in September. With the unfortunate cancellation of the Middletown Delaware competition this year this meant that winning Triple Threat meant a free ride to the 2014 Jack Daniels World BBQ Championships in October.
Jack-2014-logoBut what a hill to climb. 109 of the best teams from around the country. 28 Grand Champions, 8 hungry Reserve Grand champions, 3 former Jack Daniels winners and not a weak team in the bunch; all looking for a 50/50 shot at the Jack.

The weather was perfect all weekend and our cook went smoothly. When the smoke cleared awards did not start off well for us, no chicken call. An 11th place rib call followed along with a 5th place pork call. Once again it all came down to brisket we’ve been there many times before. This time…….1st place brisket!! But was it enough? It was! Grand Champion for the second week in a row and a trip to Lynchburg Tennessee!
Triple_Threat_14_63Next up for is will be the Naptown BaybQ in Annapolis MD the 3rd and 4th of May followed by the BBQ Jamboree in Fredericksburg, VA the following weekend. Come out and say hi!

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2014 BBQ Season – and here. we. go.

Once more into the breech for the Aprokalypse now team. We had a pretty good 2013 but are hoping for even more in 2014. Some new recipes, some tweaks,  and mod or two and we’ll be off and running.

Check the Upcoming Events Page for more details

Our Current 2014 Schedule:

APRIL

Rockahock’s Pickin’ and Pullin’ Festival

Delaware’s Triple Threat BBQ Festival at the Fair

May

Naptown barBAYq Contest & Music Festival

BBQ Jamboree

Roc City Rib Fest

June

Beltway BBQ Showdown

Safeway National Capital Barbecue Battle

Hogging Up Virginia Bluegrass BBQ Festival

July

Gettysburg Chili-Brew and BBQ 2

August

Southern Maryland Brew & BBQ

MD State BBQ Bash

Sam’s Club National BBQ Tour

New Holland Summerfest

Sam’s Club National BBQ Tour (Regional) - Tentative

September

Hogs and Hops BBQ Festival

October

4TH Annual High Point BBQ

 

 

 

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Holiday Gift Guide

Looking for that unique something for the outdoor cook in your life? We’ve put together a list of 12 of our favorites for your outdoor / BBQ addict. Look at it this way – BBQ is cheaper than golf and, even if it isn’t, you can’t eat golf balls!

Our 12 days of BBQ list

12. Dizzy Pig Cow lick Seasoning

Cowlick

Not just for BBQ! Cow lick is as at home on steaks, burgers, chops, beef soups, and even chili as it is on Brisket. It’s our go to beef seasoning both inside and outside.
Dizzy Pig Cowlick

11. Savannah Jean’s BBQ Sauce

317ff65c8568381a7e5fdf34a3a065ce_uxn1
New this year from our teammate Todd, Savannah Jean’s is a sweet spicy blend with just the right amount of heat and bite. Look for this to make big inroads in the BBQ world in 2014. Get in on the ground floor!
Savannah Jean’s BBQ

10.  Deep bottle measuring Spoons

Deep_Spoons
BBQ cooks tend to purchase rubs and spices in larger than average containers and there are few thing more frustrating than having your measuring spoon wider than the mouth of the spice jar or not being able to reach into the contents. These spoons solve both problems.
Sur la Table

9.  Stainless Steel Pan Rack

20038_wire_grateNo more rust, no more crust with these 100% 18-8 stainless steel wire racks. They measure 10″ x 18″ x 3/4 so they fit both disposable aluminum pans as well as stainless hotel pans. Completely dish washer safe. No more rust or chrome flakes on your turn ins.
SS Cooking racks

8. 5cc Power Injector

5cc-draw-injectorNot just for competitors! High volume meat injector system that can push up to 5ml of injection with a single squeeze of the handle. Spring loaded to automatically refill reservoir dramatically cutting your injection time.
5cc Injector

7. MAC 10.5 inch Black Ceramic Honing Rod

Mac_black_ceramicThis is the best ceramic honing rod on the market for keeping your knives in razor sharp condition.  The Mac Black Ceramic Honing Rod is an extremely hard 81° Rockwell compared to metal rods (“steels”) at 62° and white ceramic rods at 76°. The rod must be significantly harder than the steel blade so that the softer blade hones when rubbed against the harder rod.
MAC Ceramic honing rod

6. Thermoworks ChefAlarm ®

chefalarm_green_z_aIt seems this one is on everyone’s gift guide this year and with good reason.  Features include: Splash-proof design for commercial kitchens; Uses Pro-Series® temperature probes; Includes Pro-Series High Temp Cooking Probe with cable to 700°F max temp: Optional Pro-Series Needle Probe for thin cuts and Sous Vide: Adjustable high and low alarms; Always-on Min & Max temperatures; Adjustable volume to 92dB (4 settings); Includes count-down and count-up timer; Really big digits and a backlight!;  Available in 9 colors.

Make sure you order the needle probe too – your chicken and fish will thank you.
Thermoworks ChefAlarm ®

5. Wusthof 6inch flexible trim knife

 

4550-FlexThis is our go to trim blade.  This Wusthof Flexible Fillet Knife features a 6-inch blade which is perfect for working fat and silver skin off of briskets, pork butts, and ribs. The blade of this knife is thin and extremely flexible but wider than a traditional boning knife making it easy to work in small areas producing clean cuts.
6inch Trim Knife

 4.  Niedner ECONOFLO FORESTRY FIRE HOSE, 3/4 Inch x 50 Ft.,

Forest_fire_hose

At this point you’re going whuuuut? Fire hose? More people ask us about this at comps than anything else. It’s a flat portable 3/4″ fire hose designed for smoke jumpers.  Here’s why it’s great for BBQ cooks that travel – 50 feet of this hose rolls up into an 8 inch coil and weighs 24 ounces. No more huge coils of rubber hose. Don’t confuse this with the cheap expand-o hose you get at Home Depot or Lowes. This hose is rated for 300 psi service with a burst pressure of 600 psi. More than enough to handle the high water pressure found at a lot of fairgrounds.
FORESTRY FIRE HOSE

3. BBQ Guru CyberQ Wifi

Cyber-wifi-no-adaptorAnother item that’s in everyone’s 2013 gift guide with good reason. Not only does the CyberQ maintain your pit temperature, It also can broadcast the info and control info to your PC, smart phone or tablet via wi-fi.  ANYTHING that lets you get more sleep at contests is a good thing!
BBQ Guru CyberQ

2. Wusthof 14″ Grand Slicer

451736You know it was going to to be on here. We designed it! 36cm (14 inch) radial curved Grand Brisket slicer by Wusthof – A MABA original. This knife is designed for both the professional and hobbyist cook. A 2mm wide blade with a razor sharp 16.5 degree beveled blade effortlessly slices through the softest meats without tearing. The radial curve of the blade and incorporated scallops will cut blemish free slices with ease.
14″ Grand Slicer

1. Remote Tire pressure Monitor System (TPMS)

 

TST_TPMSAnother off the beaten path gift for BBQ cooks that travel and tow trailers. Remotely monitors both the pressure and temperature  of your trailer tires (or any tires really. The system can monitor up to 24 tires simultaneously). Alerts you when either exceed or drop below defined limits so you can take action before you experience a blow out or a hub freeze.
TST 510 TPMS System

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Mid Season Schedule Update.

It’s July so it’s time for the Aporkalypse Now competition schedule update. Here’s the list of events and place where we’ll be:
July
7/12 – 7/13    The Gettysburg Cook-off North vs South, Gettysburg, PA
7/20-7/21     Wakefield Rotary Campus CookOff & State BBQ Championships, Kingston RI.

August
8/10 – 8/11   MD State BBQ Bash, Belair, MD
8/16 – 8/17   Sam’s Club National BBQ Tour, Laurel, MD
8/23 – 8/24   New Holland Summerfest, New Holland, PA

September
9/6 – 9/7    Sam’s Club Regional, Chesapeake, VA (tentative)
9/20 – 9/21   Hogs and Hops BBQ Festival, Dover, DE

October

10/5 – 10/6     Smoke on the Water Jersey Shore BBQ Championship, Atlantic City, NJ
10/11 – 10/12  3rd Annual High Point BBQ, Clarksburg, MD

Hope to see some of you at some of our events!

 

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Sweet Success at Swinetastic

Welcome to Frederick

Swinetastic_2013_020

Welcome to Frederick

If you’ve been following our chronicles you know that we’ve finished in the top 10 in 5 out of 6 contests this year yet we always seemed just on the cusp of a high finish with the brass ring being slightly out of our grasp. I decided Friday that we were either going to be “Zeros or Heroes” at Frederick; read on.

Arrival and setup went without incident.  Dennis and Don were onsite to get us in with Hillary and Todd due later. One of the nice things about Swinetastic is the large sites. The organizer was kind enough to switch our site assignment back close to where we were last year; up against the fence line where the tree line would afford us some protection.

Set up and cooking in Frederick

Set up and cooking in Frederick

As we were prepping and trimming I outlined my Zero or Hero plan to the team. Reactions were,,,,,interesting but everyone agreed that change was needed. We prepped, we trimmed and wondered where Todd was. Turns out that Todd hit the Friday traffic gremlin and what should have been a 4 hour drive turned into a 13 hour one!

Zero hour arrived and it was time to light the fires and do final prep. I was worried that the jet blast might wake the neighbors but the snoring from the next site almost overpowered the fire starter.

It's go time

It’s go time

Swinetastic_2013_015

Early morning prep

Chicken
Hillary had tinkered with the recipes a bit after Middletown and wanted to go a step further after our 170+ score at Beltway. While the taste was fine, I wasn’t really happy with the final chicken itself and the judges agreed with a score of 163.4286 and 23rd place. Not a good start.

Ribs
We’ve struggled with ribs all year always hovering in 150-160 score range. Zero to Hero time. A couple of major changes and poof! 4th place with a score of 169.7144 for our first call.

Swinetastic_2013_079

Ribs ready for slicing

Pork
We didn’t change the pork around but I struggled in the boxing phase. Let’s face it, the box was a hot mess. 18th place with and a score of  164.5712.

Brisket
Here we are again, with 63 teams anything was possible at this point but we needed a big brisket call. I was nervous because the point only yielded 8 good burnt ends and we had to eat one of these as a test. We took a big risk, boxed it up and sent it in.  Hero time! 1st place with a score of 176.0000Swinetastic_2013_106_creekstone

Brisket Trophy dressed in spiffy Creekstone Farms gear.

Overall
With only two calls and considering the competition we were figuring another top 10, maybe top five finish. This was driven home when Mark Gibbs of Checkered Flag 500 was called for reserve with 3 calls. We were stunned and thrilled when we were called as Grand Champion with a score of  673.7142.

Swinetastic_2013_094

Grand Champions – 2013 Swinetastic Festival

No. Todd and Dennis didn’t have “the operation” both had to depart due to pressing Father’s day commitments . Two of the Ravens cheerleaders stepped in for them. It felt great to finally break through the “top 5″ barrier and be back in the Jack draw. A week off next week and then on to Winchester.

 

Swinetastic_2013_099

The Swag

 

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Beltway Bake-off

Beltway BBQ Showdown, 5/31- 6/1

Hot, damm hot. All weekend long the temps hovered just south of 100 degrees but at least it wasn’t raining sideways 1 inch / hour like last year. You can always tell the Hobo teams at a comp, they’re the ones that look like someone pushed them in a pool from June – August. At least we all had our cool vented gear from Under Armor and Happy Chef  to help combat the heat.

I arrived early to a) Beat the heat and b) get the same spot we had last year  and had most of the Death Star set up before Don and Dennis arrived.  Turned out I didn’t really need to get there all that early since they only had 25 teams this year.

This is one of those contests that gets no love. It’s a pretty well run event, the reps are top notch, the money is good and the current facility is very nice yet they struggle to get teams year after year. Granted the communication from the organizer isn’t the best and it was a gypsy event for a couple of years but it’s really settled down into a good time.

Set up at Beltway
Set up at Beltway

After a late cook’s meeting and getting all set up to do the “buck-a-bone” extra ribs, we all turn in and were ready to go in the morning.

 

The MABA Shot

The MABA Shot

Chicken
Our chicken seems to have fallen out of favor with the judges this year. Hillary tinkered with the recipes a bit after Middletown (yes, she’s been bitten by the bug) and we came out with our first 170+ in chicken this year with a score of 170.8572. Even with this score our chicken still finished out of the money with a 6th place call.

Ribs
This week we changed up our box presentation a bit going back to what was working last year. I thought we had a good rib cook and most of the judges agreed except for 2. We ended up 8th with a score of 164.0000 for our second call.

Beltway_BBQ_2013_032

Pork
Pork started out strong this year but has since been struggling, we eeked out an 11th finish with a score of  161.7142.

Butts ready to be pulled


Brisket


Here we are again, we need a big brisket call. This was the first of our hand selected Creekstones. and we were very pleased, The judges, not so much; 15th place with a score of 156.5712. Clearly something is missing from our brisket

Our sliced Creekstone Brisket

Our sliced Creekstone Brisket

Overall
Our efforts rewarded us with our  forth top 10 finish in as many weeks with a 8th place overall and a score of 653.1426, 28 points off the pace against a tough field. We’re cooking good but for some reason we just can’t get over the hump. It’s time to make a left turn.

 

 

 

 

 

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Mayhem in Middletown

Middletown Delaware, 5/17 – 5/18
We finished 4th here last year and seeing how it’s an auto draw to the Jack Daniels Invitational you know we’d come back (winning the free entry at the MABA annual meeting didn’t hurt), as did everyone else, so here we are all spiffy and ready to go.

The Whole Aporkalypse Now Crew
The Whole Aporkalypse Now Crew

Moss and crew run a flawless event so setting up and getting ready to cook were painless.

The view from the Ferris Wheel
The overview from the Ferris Wheel

We were in the same spot from last year close to all the amenities and the judge’s tent. How close were we? Well….

Nice being right next to the Judge's tent
Nice being right next to the Judge’s tent

Before we get to the meat of the matter I want to extend a special thank you and welcome to the newest full time Aporkalypser – My wife Hillary. She’s tolerated these events for the past couple of years but has now decided to jump in with both feet and I’m looking forward to her contribution.

Hillary cranking out turn in boxes
Hillary cranking out turn in boxes

Chicken
In an effort to boost our chicken score I decided to slightly alter our tried and true sauce recipe.  Sooner or later I’ll learn the “if it ain’t broke” rule. We came out with a score of 161.1428 and 14th place, not the best start.

Ribs
We thought the ribs were pretty much spot on this week. I ran into some issues with curved bones so we ended up with what I thought wasn’t the best looking box. We ended up 9th with a score of 162.2856 for our first call of the day

 

Working the Ribs

Working the Ribs

 

Pork
Pork continues to be up and down this year and this event was the wrong week for the bottom of the sine curve. 19th placewith a score of  159.4286.

Brisket
We haven’t had a brisket call all year and this time was no exception -  16th place with a score of 157.1430.

Overall
Our efforts rewarded us with our third top 10 finish in as many weeks with a 10th place overall and a score of 640.0000, 25 points off the pace against a tough field.

We seem to be sitting on the cusp of high finishes but just can’t quite get over the edge for some reason this year. We were all looking forward to the Memorial Day weekend off  then on to the Beltway BBQ Showdown in Ft. Washington, MD.

 

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Fredricksburg Follies

BBQ Jamboree in Fredricksburg, VA 5/10 – 5/11
Another first time at the event for us. I won free entries to this event twice, once in Kansas City and at the MABA meeting so I figured it was karma. Karma can be a cruel date. This was the first event for the “Deathstar” as it was deemed; our new 10×20 and 10×10 black Ez-Up setup

Deathstar_Fredricksburg

It’s so nice now working under a full width 10×20 and a 10×10 canopy. No more center seams to deal with.  Only down side; with all the sides on it’s really dark on the inside. Clearly some additional lighting is needed.

After pulling in and getting set up we had to deal with the local health department over the people’s choice category which was to be served onsite. Even though the health department can be overzealous at times I really enjoy doing and serving people’s choice food out of our site as it give us the opportunity to interact with the public and talk about us and our food. We as teams need to remember that part of what the public pays admission for at these events is the chance to see the BBQ teams that they see on TV or read about online. Teams need to step up a bit and help the organizers by being BBQ ambassadors not only for our selves, but to help these events continue. On to the competition.

Chicken
After our 15th place finish in Naptown I wanted to take a little more time and make sure that the chicken was cut and prepped with the precision that I thought got away from us in Naptown. This extra effort was rewarded by our score dropping one point to 165.1426. Even with this drop our chicken came in 10th and we were rewarded with our first call of the day.

Ribs
Our ribs had been doing pretty well but for some reason that wasn’t the case this week. In the cold light of day our ribs were probably a little overcooked. We ended up 16th with a score of 159.4286.

Pork
Still nervous from Salisbury but with a good call at Naptown we left the pork alone and were rewarded with a 7th place call and a score of  162.2858.

Brisket
Once again our hopes for a big finish were dependent on a big brisket call. Due to a shipping snafu our our competition Creekstones had still not arrived so I elected to cook a CAB brisket that I’d had kicking around in the freezer since October. We changed a few things up for this event and we clearly moved in the wrong direction. 24th place with a score of 153.7142.

Overall
Our efforts rewarded us with our second top 10 finish in as many weeks with a 9th place overall and a score of 640.5712, 20 points off the pace against a tough field. But wait, what happened with people’s choice?

People’s Choice
We had 4 butts ready to go for the people’s choice . A big thanks to Bill Petersen and Ed Clark who stopped down and pitched in to help serve the incredibly long line we developed.  We had two lines running and ended up serving out 50 lbs of pork in just under 45 minutes. It all happened so fast we didn’t even punch vote cards for the first 20 minutes. When we ran out of pork we still had a line over 100 yards long!

Anyway the bottom line was that we missed winning people’s choice by less than 15 votes coming in third.  At awards we discovered that the people’s choice wasn’t the usual $100 or $200 prize but $1,000!!! That’ll teach me to read the competitor’s package. Be warned for next year. We have the Beast and for $1,000 we’ll fill one side with pork butts.

Our three week marathon continued the next week at Middletown DE.

 

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Knocked around in Naptown

This was our first time at the Naptown Bar-B-Que and it’s a nice family friendly event held at the Ann Arundle  County Fairgrounds just outside of Annapolis. Work held me up a bit so the trailer didn’t roll in until after 4pm on Friday making us scramble a bit from the start. Even though it was May it was quite chilly overnight into Saturday morning.

DSC_0745

Chilly Don at Naptown

Chicken
After Salisbury we made a couple of small tweaks to the chicken but the results were almost the same; a score of 166.2856 which was only good for 15th place

Colleen Liked it!

Colleen Liked it!

Ribs
We were pretty happy with our ribs in Salisbury so in the best definition of insanity we changed nothing and hoped for different results. We were rewarded with a score of 163.4286 and an 8th place walk.

8th Place Ribs

8th Place Ribs

Pork
We had nowhere to go but up after our 98th place pork in Salisbury. We won pork in Young Harris so we elected to view Salisbury as an anomaly and keep thing where they were. This turned out to be the right move as we scored a 164.5716 and our second walk with an 8th place award.

8th Place Pork

8th Place Pork

Brisket
At this point we were hoping for a big brisket call to push us into the top 5 but alas, it was not to be. The judges clearly scoffed at our beefy effort with a score of 159.4282 good only for 21st place.

Overall
We ended up 9th overall out of 55 teams. Respectable, but clearly some things need to be adjusted.

The Next Day
If all this wasn’t enough we teamed up with Kit Rudd from Deguello BBQ to cook the judging class for 95 students. I was waxing a little nostalgic about missing the Big Apple BBQ this year but cooking for the judging class quickly cured me of that. Many thanks to my wife Hillary and the Nuse’s for helping out since we had every rack in The Beast full.

Next up up; Fredricksburg VA

 

 

 

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Slaughtered in Salisbury (almost drowned too)

“Sometimes you’re the windshield, sometimes you’re the bug” – Mark Knopfler

Before we get to the gruesome bits I’d like to thank and welcome our sponsors for 2013:
AN-2013-banner

Wusthof Trident of North America and Creekstone Farms. They have been very generous with us in pursuing the BBQ trail and I thank them.

Salisbury

What can I say: It rained, the wind howled and blew and it was COLD. It was all we could do to keep the shelters up and ourselves warm but we managed. Overall we thought we had a pretty good cook. Many thanks to new Aporkalypse Now Team member Don Wooten and the reliable Todd Sessa who traveled all the way from Long Island.

Our chicken continued to perform well for us as we gathered a 9th overall for our one and only call.
9th_Chicken_Salisbury_2013We all decided that the ribs were some of the better ribs we’ve turned in. Most of the judges agreed except for 2; one who gave us a 7 in taste and the other who gave us a 9-4-4! No comment card was provided so we have no idea what this judge found objectionable.

After finishing 1st in pork in Youngharris, GA.
1st_pork_Young_harris_2013I thought the pork was pretty well dialed in. A lot of the pork boxing issues  from last year had been resolved and I was looking forward to a continued strong score from that category. Not  today. The judges clearly found it lacking and told us so in no uncertain terms – 98th place. Again no comment cards so we’ll proceed as normal this week in Annapolis and hope that this anomaly doesn’t become a trend.
We had a monster (non-Creekstone) brisket that looked good yet when we cut the finished product was strangely lacking in flavor and had a bit of an odd texture.  The judges wavered around a bit and we ended up 29th in a very close field. Now that our Creekstones have arrived I’m looking forward to having the best beef to start with.

Thanks to our 98th place pork we ended up a middle of the pack 43rd overall. Not the best beginning to 2013 in the Mid Atlantic but there’s nothing to do but push on to the next event in Annapolis MD. Hope to see some of you there!

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