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Headin out to Edenton yeahhhhh, brother

Headin out to Edenton yeahhhhh, brother
We decided to triple up this year and cook the double contest in Edenton, NC the week after Salisbury. After a strong start we were looking for a little redemption and were curious how our food would fair in the South.

Dale and I headed out to Edenton (yeah,,, brother) on Thursday as to not miss the Seafood dinner put on by the organizer and to get a little jump on prep for the 1st event.  This is a very nice contest in a picturesque town right on the water. We setup, went to dinner and headed off to our accommodation for the night.

Friday came, and the contest was under way. We prepped and headed out in search of dinner and some rest before the early morning call. We found a great little local place – the Waterman’s grill; Great food and atmosphere, in fact so good we went back Saturday night. Don’t miss this if you’re in Edenton.

Hogfest I
Saturday came and we had a pretty good cook. We still weren’t real happy with the ribs, and the chicken was a little on the large side.

The meats

We were coming off 5 top three calls in the last 5 events so we though the chicken was spot on.  The judges disagreed as we ended up 11th with a 163.4284. It’s interesting how very small changes yield big swings in scores.

After our disappointing finish in Salisbury I went back to my original flavor profile. We cooked and once again we were disappointed with the overall texture and coloration of the ribs.  A score of a 158.8568 resulted in 15th place.

Pork was our only bright spot and our only call – 7th place with a score of 161.7142.

After difficulty procuring briskets in March  we secured a large supply of decent sized briskets in time for this trip. We had a good brisket cook but it fell a little short at the judge’s table as we only managed a 162.8570 which came in at 11th.

Anyway after all was said and done we finished with a combined score of 646.8564 with was good enough for 8th place out of  33 teams, our worst showing since July of last year.

Hogfest II
On to Sunday after a furious prep Saturday after awards. The rain abated and it looked like Sunday was going to be a better day. Since we were back to back in the same location with a number of judges sure to return for day 2 I was determined to make some adjustments .

The meats

I went with a different box arrangement and some seasoning changes for chicken looking for improvement but when we tasted it our faces fell. It was terrible. So terrible Dale threw the rest of it out while I walked the box. At this point we knew we were just cooking for categories but this is why the judges eat the food. We were stunned with a score of 172.0000 and a 2nd place chicken award.

This time I went completely off the rails deciding to use a technique that I had thought about but never actually tried. The ribs came out picture perfect but we were still disappointed with the texture. I decided then that we would be switching rib brands after this event. All in all it was an improvement resulting in a 4th place call with a score of 166.8568

We did a rub change to the pork and basically turned in the same box as Saturday. The results were a slip to 12th pork with a 160.5714

We did’nt change our brisket cook at all and finished close to the same spot with a 162.8572 resulting in an 8th place call.

With all the changes we only moved up one spot overall to 7th with a combined score of 662.2854. While our overall placement only changed a little. we were only 12 points off the leader pace on Sunday vs the 30 we were off on Saturday.

After finding another jewel of a restaurant right under the Rt 17 overpass we heading back home on Monday, tired but wiser.


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Porked in the Park

A new season, a new team member, new shirts, some new tweeks and some interesting results at Pork in the Park in Salisbury MD this past weekend.

First let me welcome Dale Lucas formerly of Pigs in Blankets as the newest member of the Aporkalypse Now crew. Dale has cooked with us on several occasions in the past and I look forward to his presence on the team this year.

2012 got off to an interesting start with the Friday festivities. We were planning on entering the Anything But category but I discovered that the butcher has miss-cut our short ribs on the bias so instead of 12 nice big ribs we had 12 little medallions. We decided to cook them anyway and if we got 6 good looking ones we’d turn them in, if not we’d have dinner: We had a really nice dinner.

The 4 meat event brought few changes from last year since we didn’t want to disturb the hot hand we ended 2011 on. One change I did make was to try and even out the rib sauce as it had exhibited some extreme heat on occasions – more about that later.

Saturday came and we had a good cook. We hit all the marks and were generally happy with everything. Not ecstatic with anything but not unhappy with anything either.

The meats

Chicken was very good to us in 2011 finishing in the top three 7 out of 10 events and it didn’t disappoint us here. We scored 169.1428 points out of 180 possible which was good enough for 3rd place.

After a strong start in 2011 with a winning rib entry at this event our ribs were a little on the inconsistent side, in fact our 6th place finish in ribs cost us the Grand Championship at Raystown. This year I decided to tone the intense flavor down just a bit by using a more middle of the road sauce. I made it, I field tested it and went with it. The Pork in the Park Judges HATED it, well, hate is a strong word but in an efforts to make our ribs more middle of the road I may have taken the exceptional right out of them as we received average marks in taste and ended up with a score of 145.7138 for 81st place. It’s back to what was a consistent top 10 flavor profile in ribs for us – If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

Our pork entry followed our 2011 methodology despite a couple of hiccups and we were rewarded with a 168.5714, good enough for another 3rd place trophy.

Brisket is going to be a challenge this year as it’s apparent that good competition briskets are going to be hard to come by.  Despite that we earned a 161.1428 score and 13th place. I know we left points on the table  and we’ll correct that post haste.

First a small rant. I hate the new trend of organizers announcing all the results of a category except 1st place then holding the first place awards until the end. They think its suspenseful but in my opinion it’s just mean to the cooks.

Anyway after all was said and done we finished with a combined score of 644.5708 with was good enough for 4th place out of  113 teams.

This week it’s off to Edenton North Carolina for 2 full contests in one weekend (Friday / Saturday and Saturday/Sunday) we haven’t done that since the Royal and there will only be two of us so it’s going to be a marathon of will. After that, 3 weeks off (We’re skipping Naptown) and then off to Middletown Deleware.

Stop by and see us if you’re going to be in the area.





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The Aporkalypse Now 2012 Competition Schedule is Here

After spending the weekend looking at events in the region I’ve finally narrowed it down to a (semi) workable competition schedule.  A few may come and go, but for now this looks to be our route to 7 wins this year. As competitions and other events are confirmed they will be loaded to the calendar page.  Hope to see a few of our readers on the BBQ trail in 2012.

Competitions for 2012


20-21 Pork in the Park Salisbury, MD

27-29 Hog Fest in Historic Edenton I & II Edenton, NC


04-05 Naptown barBAYq Annapolis, MD

18-19 Middletown BBQ Cook-Off Middletown, DE


01-02 Beltway BBQ Showdown Upper Marlboro, MD (tentative)

15-16 Central MD Swinetastic BBQ Festival Frederick, MD

29-30 Covington Cork and Pork Festival Covington, VA (tentative)


27-28 Bluemont BBQ Bash & Blackberry Bonanza Bluemont, VA


10-11 MD State BBQ Bash Bel Air , MD (tentative)

17-19 Mountain Maryland Barbeque Cumberland, MD


07-08 Sam’s Club National BBQ Tour Laurel, MD

14-15 Sam’s Club National BBQ Tour (Regional) Chesapeake, VA (hopefully!)


05-06 Keystone Classic Barbeque Harrisburg, PA

12-13 Sam’s Club National BBQ Tour National Championship Bentonville, AR (with luck!)

26-27 Jack Daniel’s World Championship Invitational Barbecue Lynchburg, TN (hopefully!)

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The year in review

Where to begin? 2011 started slow but somehow I ended up cooking the last 14 weekends either as Aporkalypse Now or with friends. Some of the highlights:

  • Winning the Bel-Air competition as part of Jack’s Old South
  • Following up  with a 3rd place finish as the lead cook for Back Porch BBQ at The New Holland Summerfest
  • Winning Smokin on the Bay in Deale MD, again as part of Jack’s Old South
  • Teaming up with sometimes Aporkalypse Now teammate Dale to take the Grand at Shrewsburry, PA
  • Getting 4 calls at Raystown PA to take Reserve Grand Champion
  • Going to the Royal as part of Jack’s Old South
  • Winning the Grand Championship at Harrisburg, PA
  • Going to the Jack Daniels Invitational as part of Jack’s Old South

It’s been an interesting 1st full year as a BBQ team, many lessons have been learned as well as mental plans made for 2012.

Wusthof has the brisket slicer in full production (watch this space to order) and first customer ship is estimated around the 10th of December. Two other knives have been developed and we’ll be bringing up the online store shortly to facilitate acquiring these plus some other items I’ve found useful on the BBQ trail (not to mention Aporkalypse Now wearables !)



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It’s Slicing time!

After 5 months of back and forth development, the prototype of the long slicer I envisioned and designed is here thanks to my friends at Wusthof Cutlery

The new slicer prototype

The knife is a 34cm (14inch) long thin bladed slider 54mm deep at the heel with a radiused cutting edge hollow ground to reduce drag.  The advantage to the radius is that the whole blade edge isn’t engaging the object to be sliced at the same time allowing for even less drag, yet still making a continuous cut with no “saw marking”.

The other plus to the radius design on the blade is that when you make a draw cut (pull the blade toward you) the physiology of  your arm causes your elbow to lift up, causing you to change the angle of attack of the blade. On a straight traditional slicer you either end up cutting with the very tip of the blade or break your wrist to allow the blade to remain flat, reducing your leverage. The radius blade allows you to maintain maximum leverage by not having to break your wrist while the cutting edge still tracks parallel to the food.

Enough with the techno babble — how does it cut?
Like a dream. I had a chance to try it on a few competition briskets and pork butts the other weekend at Que and Cruz and it exceeded all my expectations. It cut hot brisket slices cleanly on one draw without tearing the slice. I was able to separate and slice pork “money muscle” with no stringing.  We even went so far as to cut some already sliced brisket slices in half on the bias cleanly.

The slicer in action

All in all I think it’s a winner. It’s hard enough to hold an aggressive edge yet retains some flexibility in the blade. It’s considerably lighter and thinner than my 14 inch scimitar so it’s less fatiguing if you’re cutting a lot of briskets to boot.

I’ll be talking to the factory about a few final minor tweeks  soon but as of this point I don’t have a price point or release date. I’ll post them as soon as I have them.

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Me and Myron in DC

This past weekend I was invited to cook with Myron Mixon’s team Jack’s Old South (including sometimes Aporkalypse Now team member Dale)  at the DC BBQ battle. It’s an interesting sight to see BBQ teams lined up on Pennsylvania Avenue with the Capital Dome in the background.

Pennsylvania Ave BBQ

With the scrapping of the  Memphis in May portion of the event this year (it’s to return next year) they opted to stretch the KCBS portion out over two days with chicken and brisket turned in on Saturday evening and Ribs and pork turned in on Sunday. An odd schedule to be sure.

Anyway we came, we saw, we cooked on one of the best June weekends in DC in several years, finishing 3rd in Chicken, 9th in Ribs, 5th in pork and 9th in brisket for 4th overall. Not a bad cook.  No discussion on scoring would be complete without a huge shout out and congratulations to our friends at  Pork Barrel BBQ who won their first Grand Championship in their home town. Way to go Heath, Brett & crew!

A note on Myron
Myron Mixon has more or less become the face of BBQ with the success of the BBQ Pitmasters show last year on TLC coupled with his long track record of wins in both KCBS and MIM competitions.  Myron also has a reputation as a bit of a jerk based on the villain edit that he got on season one of BBQ Pitmasters. Let me tell you first hand, it was just that – an edit. Myron not only cooked this event at the last minute, but he also met and interacted with fans, posed for pictures  and graciously signed books for people all weekend. I never once saw him refuse anyone.

Myron - "The Boss"

Anyway, I picked up a ton of tips from Myron (that people will be seeing at Bluemont) and had a blast as one of Myron’s merry minions; although as good as the event was I suspect that next year we’ll be facing off instead of cooking together.

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We’ve got 2,500 pounds of brisket,,,,,,,

48 hours to go, it’s dark outside and we’re cooking the Big Apple BBQ Block Party in New York City……

Welcome to the Big Apple BBQ

What a weekend. I got invited to go help Myron Mixon’s team Jack’s Old South vend this huge charity event in Madison Park in New Your City. My sometimes teammate and Jack’s Old South regular Dale and I headed up to NYC on Friday afternoon to join Myron, his Wife Faye, their son David and a few others for this pressure cooker event.

We were set up right on Madison Avenue in front of the landmark New York Life building and got to work right away.

Cooking brisket on Madison Avenue in NYC

We knew it was going to be a cruncher but we didn’t quite realize how much. Our spot was directly in front of a bus stop and the MTA wouldn’t let us load in until after 7pm, so we were under the gun from the get go. We did take advantage of the bus stop and stuffed it with most of our supplies and charcoal since the weather was threatening when was the last time you saw a bus stop full of charcoal in downtown Manhattan?

The stuffed bus stop

Myron had calculated that we could do 1250 pounds per day in the hog cooker so we loaded up day one – 1250 lbs translates into about 85 briskets. so we did a lot of rubbing, then loaded up the cooker.

1250 lbs on the cooker

12 hours later we had a cooker full of beefy goodness.

Done briskets ready to be cut

Now the fun could begin, all those briskets had to be trimmed, separated and sliced before they could be served, so away we went. Even with electric knives and two of us slicing in shifts, it still took 4 hours to cut them all down

Slicing Station

Then the crowds arrived…

Queing for Que

And kept coming

Still queing

and poof! it was gone, we sold out in 3 hours. Then it was time to clean up, set up and do it again Saturday night for the Sunday Crowd. All in all we cooked 2,500 pounds of Brisket and a pallet of peach baked beans. We estimate we served almost 10,000 plates in a little over 7 hours total. What a weekend. Hats off to Myron Mixon and his family and crew for making me welcome in his camp.

The most amusing thing over the weekend was all the people that mistook me for Myron, and the disappointed look and little sigh when I told them “I’m not Myron”. Here we are together just for comparison.

Me and Myron Mixon (Myron's on the right)


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Hanger Steaks

Mmmm Hangers… – Anthony Bourdain constantly praises them, they are starting to pop up on the menus of better steak houses, they are starting to show up in butcher counters, and recently they were a featured item on Food Network’s “Best in Smoke” competition show. With all the publicity lately I though I’d republish this tutorial I wrote a while back.

Personally I think they are one of the best, most flavorful beef cuts out there. Not only that they are inexpensive – whole “packer” hangers can be had for under $2 a pound.

From Wiki: A hanger steak is a cut of beef steak which is said to “hang” from the diaphragm of the steer. (Anatomically the diaphragm is one
muscle, but it is commonly cut into two separate cuts of meat: the “hanger steak” traditionally considered more flavorful due to its proximity to the kidneys, and the outer skirt steak which is composed of tougher muscle within the diaphragm.) The hanger is attached to the last rib and the spine near the kidneys. It resembles flank steak, and is a vaguely V-shaped pair of muscles with a long, inedible membrane down the middle. The hanger steak is not really tender, but has a lot of flavor, and is best marinated and cooked quickly over high heat (grilled or broiled) and served rare or medium-rare, to avoid toughness. Chefs with experience preparing beef kidneys report that the hanger steak’s aroma preserves a trace of kidney.
There is only one hanger steak per animal, and the entire cut typically weighs about 1 to 1.5 lbs (450 to 675g). It is prized for its flavor, and was sometimes known as “butcher’s steak” because butchers would often keep it for themselves rather than offer it for sale. That may just be because there was never demand for it due to the finicky cut (which may take experience to cook). If no one else will purchase it, the business-minded butcher would take the cut home himself.
The hanger steak has traditionally been more popular in Europe. In French, it is known as the onglet, in Italian the lombatello, and in Spanish the solomillo de pulmon. In the United States, it is slowly starting to become popular; formerly, it was not separated as an individual cut. Even today it is usually ground into hamburger in the US.
It is also known as the “hanging tender”, and occasionally is seen on menus as a “bistro steak”.
Its U.S. meat-cutting classification is NAMP 140.

A lot of custom butchers will sell you trimmed hangers for around $5 – $7 per pound, but with a little effort, some know how, and some practice, you can trim whole primal hangers down into really flavorful meat treats in just a few minutes: Here’s how to butcher a whole hanger:

You will need a sharp flexible boning knife and possibly a chef’s knife to butcher a primal hanger. Here’s how a “packer” hanger comes from the butcher: Note the heavy membrane that sits on top.
Top view

Bottom View:

Take your boning knife and work it ( and your fingers) under the heavy membrane to get down to the silver skin and hard fat underneath

You want to remove as much of the membrane and hard fat as possible:

Once all the membrane and most of the hard fat is gone (you won’t get it all) you can start on the outside sliver skin. Silver skin is the shiny inedible membrane. This is much like trimming a whole tenderloin, you want to poke your boning knife under the silver skin, then lift and push the blade at the same time so it slices the sliver skin off the meat removing as little meat as possible:

Close up:

Whole hangers have a thick inedible membrane that runs down the center of the cut. You need to separate the primal into 2 individual steaks along this membrane. Depending on how the primal has been cut, this membrane may run down the center or off to one side. On some primal hangers you will get two complete steaks. On others you’ll end up with one nice steak and one or two smaller pieces; Don’t throw these away! Stir fry, fajitas, burritos and lots of other dishes can be made from these bits .

On this primal, we have the membrane in the center for 2 nice steaks.
Center membrane:

Cutting down the center membrane: You want to try and follow the membrane as it runs through the meat.


Once the two steaks are separated, you want to trim the remaining silver skin and the hard fat. Again, you want to work this like a whole tenderloin poking your boning knife under the silver skin and sliding it along the meat with a slight upward pressure.

Removing hard fat:

When you are finished you should have two nice, lean, steaks like this:


Once you’re done, hangers can be pan seared, grilled, or prepared with any fast, high heat method. In this case we were going to grill them, but Mother Nature intervened and I ended up seasoning them with salt, pepper and a little worcestershire powder, then pan roasting them and making a red wine/shallot reduction sauce. I served them with fresh green beans and corn on the cob.

Hope this helps, Hangers are an tremendous value and an extremely flavorful cut of beef. Give them a try!

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Aporkalypse Now takes 1st in Ribs at Sailsbury

FIrst place in Ribs - Pork in the Park 2011

It was quite a weekend between work slowing down my arrival, traffic, and of course the winds blowing through the fairgrounds at 40mph plus. After all that, we managed to come back from a disappointing 92nd place finish in Chicken to win 1st in Ribs against a very strong field of 116 teams.  We then returned to mediocrity by finishing 52nd in Pork and 39th in Brisket for a 40th place finish overall.