IF YOU GO
WHAT: Smokin’ Eagles Championship ’08 National Barbecue Festival
WHEN: Aug. 15-16
WHERE: The Summit, 6929 Williams Road, Wheatfield n MORE INFORMATION: Cal Roy Gregory at 695-3755 or e-mail email@example.com
When Roy Gregory cooks barbecue, you can smell it all over his neighborhood.
“We draw a crowd when we fire up the barbecue,” he said.
As if to prove him right, a car pulls into the driveway and a friend steps out to say hello. The timing may have been a coincidence, though, because Gregory cooks barbecue a lot.
He loves it so much that he’s hosting the Smokin’ Eagles Championship ‘08 National Barbecue Festival later this month at The Summit mall. There will be chefs competing with secret recipes for barbecued chicken, brisket, pork and pork ribs, and there will also be music and vendors selling barbecue-related items from grills to world-class ribs.
Gregory, a retired truck driver, built a huge smoker in his spare time and has barbecued for fundraisers and for friends who stop by with their holiday meats, he said.
Recently, while preparing a dozen or so pork shoulders for pulled pork sandwiches for a fundraiser at his Eagles Club on Ward Road, he took some time to give grilling tips for would be competitors:
n WHAT TO COOK THE MEAT IN: If you have a regular gas grill instead of a smoker, light the flame on one side of the grill and cook the meat on the other. For those with a home smoker, Gregory likes to use oak and cherry wood for his offset firebox. For fail-safe barbecue, purchase a water can smoker. He has seen them on sale for $49, but noted “you can pick one up at a garage sale for around $20.”
n SMOKE FLAVORING: In one of his first attempts, he found he had used way too much smoke flavor. You’ve got to learn to regulate smoke flavor, he said. If you use a gas grill, you have to use liquid smoke or try wetting a few wood chips (his favorite barbecue book recommends mesquite or hickory) and wrapping them in tin foil, then poking four or five holes in the foil. When the chips start to smolder, throw the meat on. The meat only takes so much flavor for the first four hours or so before it sears. After that, the meat bakes inside of itself.
n RUBS: Every chef has a favorite meat rub, and it often makes all the difference. Gregory recommends a cookbook for rub suggestions, but noted that his winning rub last year included turbinado sugar (organic sugar with a molasses taste), cumin, thyme, nutmeg, dried onions, garlic and brown sugar. He often serves a store-bought barbecue sauce for those who like that on their cooked meat.
HOW MUCH TO COOK: Figure a quarter-pound to a half-pound per person “with meat like this,” said Gregory, gesturing to his smoker, where the pork shoulders were cooking for pulled pork sandwiches. This day, he was cooking 124 pounds for an expected 150 people at the fundraiser. For a party of 12, he might cook two or three pork shoulders and save the leftovers.
n WHEN TO TELL THE MEAT’S DONE: Bring meat to a temperature of 180 to 200 degrees. In those 20 degrees, the texture changes a whole lot. At 200 degrees, it just falls apart, and that’s good for pulled pork. Gregory cooks his barbecue for 10 to 12 hours, low and slow. He says his most important piece of barbecue equipment is his hammock because “if you’re looking, it ain’t cooking.”
The winner of the Wheatfield barbecue festival will compete at the National Best-of-the-Best Barbecue competition Oct. 31 in Georgia. Those interested in judging the local competition are invited to apply for judging school to be held Aug. 15.
Part of the proceeds from the local competition will go to a fund created in the memory of Sgt. Daniel Shaw, who died in November 2007 in Iraq.
Contact editor Michele DeLucaat 693-1000, ext. 157.
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