Tag Archives: Barbecue

Harder Than It Looks

It’s Foodie Friday and yesterday I took my old beast of a smoker out for a July 4th spin. Of all the things I transported from the wilds of Connecticut to sunny (read that as hotter than blazes) North Carolina, The Beast was probably the most difficult thing to move. It was the subject of a Foodie Friday post all on its own a couple of years back. As I described it at the time:

Photo by Jaden Hatch

The Beast is made of heavy steel that’s quite thick and it weighs well over 100 pounds even without my usual load of meats inside. As I was cleaning up the old Rancho Deluxe to get ready for its sale, the smoker was one of the very few things that I was adamant about saving for the move.

Yesterday I fired it up and did some racks of ribs, some chicken and some sausage. They came out quite well, thanks. What also came out was a reminder that something so simple – putting meat into a box and letting it cook slowly – is way harder and less simple than it looks.

First, prepping the meat. One might just salt and pepper the ribs and toss them in. Yes, one COULD do that, but it would be a disservice to the ribs and your palate. What’s less easy is removing the membrane and assembling a nice dry rub of several spices to bring out the flavor of the wood smoke and the pork. Similarly, you COULD just plop the whole chicken on a rack and let it smoke or you could halve it, brine it, season it properly and then proceed.

Next is cooking. Good BBQ is NOT a passive activity. Don’t let the guy sitting next to his cooker sucking down a beer mislead you. He’s there to keep a watchful eye on the on temperature, adjusting the air intake to raise or lower the temperature in the box and to add fuel when needed. I find that checking every 30 minutes or so at a minimum is critical.

Wood chips are a must. You can’t toss them on the fire – they won’t smoke, they’ll burn. You need to soak them after you think about what kind of wood chips to use. Hickory? Mesquite? Fruitwood like apple or peach?

The point I’m trying to make here is that something as simple as smoking a piece of meat is much harder than it looks if you’re going to do it right. So are many things in business. Assembling a team and keeping it functioning at a high level. Handling customer service issues.  Managing capital and cash flow. Every one of those things as well as many others as much harder than they might appear. What each of us needs to do is never underestimate the difficulty of anything until we’ve mastered it. That mindset makes us read, learn, and stay humble.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under food, Reality checks, Thinking Aloud

Posts Of The Year – 2015 – Foodie Edition

This will be our last post of 2015, and it’s the most-read Foodie Friday post from this year.  Since writing this post, I’ve actually met Big Al himself.  He enjoyed the post almost as much as I enjoyed his food.  Have a happy and safe New Year and we’ll see you on the other side of December!

 

Foodie Friday, and our food fun this week comes from a restaurant in which I’ve never eaten but of which I am a customer. A very happy customer, actually, and my happiness is all due to an excellent lesson in customer care.

Big Al’s BBQ & Catering is located in Raleigh. As Al’s website proclaims:

We aren’t the cheapest Carolina BBQ vendor, but we guarantee freshness and award-winning flavors you can’t find anywhere. Period. Come eat with us, or call in and order out! We’ll pack your plate just fine.

Honestly, I’ve not done that. What I have done is to order merchandise from him. You see, my Dad is also called Big Al and I thought it would be a fun surprise to send him a shirt and a hat bearing the Big Al name and logo.  I placed an online order and entered my parents’ address for shipping.  After a week when I hadn’t received an excited call from Florida I began to wonder about the status of my order.  It was then that I noticed the receipt said “local pickup” meaning they were waiting for me to walk into their store and grab the goods.

I emailed the address from which the receipt came explaining that there had been a mix-up.  Within 20 minutes I had a note back from Al himself explaining that he had tried to text me (I had used a land line on the order) to ask about shirt color and was glad I had sent the note.  Here is where the lesson begins.

A quick exchange of emails to furnish the correct shipping address concluded with Al saying “I’ll get that out to you.”  No long explanation, no haggling over if the error was on my end or on his.  Just “I’ll get that out to you. ”  This morning, I received a text – “Going to ship your Dad’s package this morning priority mail…I am picking up the freight for all your troubles.”

If you take one thing away from the roughly 1,700 screeds I’ve written I hope it’s the rock-solid focus on the customer Al demonstrated.  Heck, I’m some schlub from out-of-state that ordered a shirt and hat.  I’m not going to be coming in weekly for food.  Al treated me as I assume he does everyone – with respect, an assumption that the customer is right, and a willingness to go the extra mile.

If you are ever near Raleigh I hope you’ll hit Big Al’s for a meal.  Order out if you can.  Tell your friends to go. Even if you have other dining plans, do me a favor and swing by and let him know you admire his customer-centric focus.  I sure do. I wonder if he can ship ribs to Connecticut?

Leave a comment

Filed under food, Helpful Hints

Meatheads

It’s the last Foodie Friday of Summer.  Well, officially, at least.  Most of us will be grilling in the warmth for at least another month and then we’ll move the party indoors.  I don’t know what you’re grilling this weekend, but here at Rancho Deluxe some sort of meat will be involved.  While we have vegans and vegetarians in our household, some of us are unabashedly carnivorous.  I thought this might be a good time to put forth a few of the absolute truisms we all know about cooking meat.  There’s a business point too.

Beef and Corn on a Charcoal BBQ grill

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Let me just list a bunch.  These come from the website amazingribs.com which is focused on all meats, not just ribs and is well worth a few moments of your time:

Searing seals in juices. Pink pork is undercooked. If there is red in chicken it is undercooked. If you’re lookin’ you ain’t cookin’. Cooking time depends on the weight of the meat. The bone adds flavor. Oil the grates before putting food on them. Flip burgers only once. The Stall (note: – this is a BBQ term and is the point at which cooking seems to stop for a while) is collagen melting. High heat is the best heat. Whole chicken tastes better than chicken cut into parts. Beer can chicken is the best chicken. Melting fat penetrates the meat. Grilling causes cancer. Grill marks are important. Medium and medium rare are the same thing. Stainless steel grills are better. Cast iron grates are the best. You can rely on your grill’s built in thermometer. Ground beef is the riskiest food for pathogens. Barbecue sauce is always red. Marinades add a lot of moisture to meat.

I’m sure you’ve heard or said one of more of the above.  Here is the thing – none of them are true.  I know – it’s like I just told you the Easter Bunny is made up.  Sorry, but just because you believe it to be true doesn’t make it so.  When food scientists looked into these “truths” and others, they found the facts to be something quite different.  Which is the business point, of course.

We hear “truth” all the time in business.  I wonder how often we actually take the time to look into whether we’re just subscribing to a shared myth.  I think it’s incumbent on each of us to do so.  My guess is that we’ll find, more often than not, that the truth isn’t exactly as it’s been presented.  A word of caution.  You can expect people to react badly when you give them proof that their facts and THE facts aren’t the same.  Be judicious and tactful or do so wearing running shoes.

Enjoy the weekend and use a digital thermometer.  You really can’t tell how done something is my touch, you know…

 

1 Comment

Filed under food, Thinking Aloud

A Lesson From Big Al

Foodie Friday, and our food fun this week comes from a restaurant in which I’ve never eaten but of which I am a customer. A very happy customer, actually, and my happiness is all due to an excellent lesson in customer care.

Big Al’s BBQ & Catering is located in Raleigh. As Al’s website proclaims:

We aren’t the cheapest Carolina BBQ vendor, but we guarantee freshness and award-winning flavors you can’t find anywhere. Period. Come eat with us, or call in and order out! We’ll pack your plate just fine.

Honestly, I’ve not done that. What I have done is to order merchandise from him. You see, my Dad is also called Big Al and I thought it would be a fun surprise to send him a shirt and a hat bearing the Big Al name and logo.  I placed an online order and entered my parents’ address for shipping.  After a week when I hadn’t received an excited call from Florida I began to wonder about the status of my order.  It was then that I noticed the receipt said “local pickup” meaning they were waiting for me to walk into their store and grab the goods.

I emailed the address from which the receipt came explaining that there had been a mix-up.  Within 20 minutes I had a note back from Al himself explaining that he had tried to text me (I had used a land line on the order) to ask about shirt color and was glad I had sent the note.  Here is where the lesson begins.

A quick exchange of emails to furnish the correct shipping address concluded with Al saying “I’ll get that out to you.”  No long explanation, no haggling over if the error was on my end or on his.  Just “I’ll get that out to you. ”  This morning, I received a text – “Going to ship your Dad’s package this morning priority mail…I am picking up the freight for all your troubles.”

If you take one thing away from the roughly 1,700 screeds I’ve written I hope it’s the rock-solid focus on the customer Al demonstrated.  Heck, I’m some schlub from out-of-state that ordered a shirt and hat.  I’m not going to be coming in weekly for food.  Al treated me as I assume he does everyone – with respect, an assumption that the customer is right, and a willingness to go the extra mile.

If you are ever near Raleigh I hope you’ll hit Big Al’s for a meal.  Order out if you can.  Tell your friends to go. Even if you have other dining plans, do me a favor and swing by and let him know you admire his customer-centric focus.  I sure do. I wonder if he can ship ribs to Connecticut?

1 Comment

Filed under food, Helpful Hints

What Do You Mean, BBQ?

Our Foodie Friday Fun this week is about barbecue. I mean, we’ve reached late summer and I haven’t posted anything about one of my favorite foods. Then again, I can spend the next few hundred words writing about it and we might be thinking about two completely different things since “barbecue” means different things to different people. Therein lies today’s business point as well.

English: Central Texas Style BBQ from Pearland...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

First, when some people hear the term (BBQ for short), they think it means food cooked on a grill, as in “fire up the BBQ and let’s get the steaks on.”  That is NOT what I mean.  The term in my mind always refers to food cooked low and slow in the smoke from a wood fire.  Notice I didn’t say “over” a fire since BBQ is indirect heat cooking at its finest.

Second, there are many different types of BBQ.  Pull into a BBQ joint in Raleigh and you’ll be getting whole hog chopped up with a vinegar and pepper sauce.  Go further west and you get just pork shoulder chopped with a tomato-based sauce.  Kentucky serves up mutton barbecue served with “dip,” a Worcestershire-based sauce, in the western part of the state but pork in the east.  An order in Tennessee will get you a Memphis style dry rub on ribs.  The whole hog in South Carolina adds mustard to the sauce while in Texas you’ll get beef brisket.  Finally, in Kansas City you might get any or all of the above.  One order, many potential results.  Which is, of course, the business point.

How many presentations have you seen in which fairly generic terms are used?  How many times have you been shopping on the web and come across a product page that has lots of flowery language that sells the product but very little specific information as to how the product is differentiated from anything else?  One mistake we all make in marketing from time to time is assuming our audience knows what we mean.  While we all know our products inside and out, the consumer might not.  Even worse, by using common terms without making sure we’re putting them into the correct context, we run the risk of having the consumer pass on ordering since they might assume something that’s not true.  Even worse, they might order and be very unhappy with what they receive.

We can’t be in the business of selling “BBQ.”  We need to sell “chopped whole hog in a vinegar and pepper sauce.”  We want to use language that puts an indelible image into the consumer’s mind while making clear what exactly it is we’re selling.  Don’t assume everyone knows what BBQ or anything else means.  Have a great weekend – that’s clear, right?

Leave a comment

Filed under Consulting, food, Helpful Hints

Low & Slow On The Fifth

It’s Friday and so time for Foodie Friday Fun.  However, it’s also one of those weird days which follow a holiday and precede a weekend.  Most folks I know aren’t working – they’re by the pool or at the beach and cooking is something that happens outdoors – on a grill or in a smoker.  Because I’m as lazy as the next guy continuing to celebrate our nation’s birth, I thought I’d repost a food piece centered around another summer holiday.  It was called “Low And Slow” and was written way back in May of 2008.  I think it’s relevant – hopefully you do as well.  Enjoy the weekend and see you Monday.

English: Image of a propane smoker in use. Dia...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This weekend is sees the celebration of the Memorial Day holiday here is the US. Traditionally, this weekend marks the start of Summer (OK, maybe that’s July 4th but I love Summer, so…) and that means it’s time to fire up the smoker. While one can achieve great BBQ on everything from a Weber kettle to rigs costing thousands, my preferred weapon of choice is the Bandera, which used to be made by The New Braunfels Company.

We had a bunch of folks over to enjoy ribs, smoked turkey, beer can chicken, the odd bit of smoked bratwurst (I couldn’t find a Hebrew National baloney to smoke which, as an aside, is the closest thing I know of to meat candy when spiced and smoked). The thing they all were wondering about was why does good “Q” take so long. Those of you with a love of smoked meat know that “low and slow is the way to go” and that getting the temperature in the smoker above 225 F is a formula for shoe leather.

Which, of course, got me thinking about how many people seem to do business today. Just as one cannot make BBQ in the microwave, fixing problems via the proverbial microwave for a quick fix is, in my mind, not getting you where you need to go. Now, some folks insist on cooking ribs for 8 hours; I think I’ve proven you can have damn good results in 3.5 – 4. However, I am talking about using the right tools, taking the right amount of time, and, if you can, using the guidance of someone who has been there before (I ruined a lot of racks and quite a few briskets in my day until I got it figured out).

There is a Slow food Movement of which you may be aware and I love what they have to say. However, sometimes you’re late for work and DO need to toast that Pop-Tart (eeew) and go. Sometimes problems won’t wait. But I think many operations would be a lot better off if they made the quick fix the exception rather than the rule.

And now I’m off to enjoy some leftovers!

Enhanced by Zemanta

Leave a comment

Filed under food, Thinking Aloud

The Charcoal Experience

Foodie Friday Fun time! With the start of daylight saving time last weekend, my thoughts turn to a food-related topic: grilling. It’s hard to go outside in the winter to fire up the grill when it’s dark by the time you need to cook dinner. While I own a little miner’s lamp I can wear to see the grill surface in the dim light, it’s certainly not as easy as when the sun is till shining. Then there is the fact that it’s 35 degrees…

English: Preparing grill for grilling, grill w...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We have an indoor gas grill and we put it to use over the winter, but there’s nothing like grilling over hot coals. Which spurred a thought about technology, of course.

Lots of people I know own gas grills they use outdoors. There’s no question that this little bit of technology has made their lives easier, just as the high-powered vents that allow us to use our indoor gas grill do. But the technology hasn’t made the food any better. In fact, I think most things cooked on a gas grill taste flat – they lack the grilled flavor that charcoal imparts. Or worse – they have an artificial taste that comes from the gas.  Better technology but a worse experience.

Think about how that same principle translates into other things. There’s no question email has made communication easier in business but I think the “flavor” of the communication is worse. It lacks nuance and a personal touch.  Like the gas grill it’s faster, easier, and more convenient.  But better?  I don’t think so.

Getting lost in the “newness” of something can blind us to the fact that it’s delivering a lesser experience.   There’s new technology every day, it seems, and I worry that a good deal of it will just pull us further apart from reality even as it enhances our ability to communicate what’s going on around us.  The next time you’re at a concert or a school play, take note of how many people are “experiencing” the moment through a video screen instead of paying attention to the reality that’s in front of them.   They’re keeping a better record of the experience thanks to the technology but do they have a better memory?

Give me charcoal – a technology that’s been around for centuries – any time.  You?

Enhanced by Zemanta

Leave a comment

Filed under food, Thinking Aloud