Georgia Barbecue Association 2016 Banquet

The Georgia Barbecue Association closes another season with its year end banquet for 2016

IMG_1849As some of you may know, Doug and I relocated to South Carolina last fall.  Because of the distance and Doug opening a new branch, Smokin J’s Barbeque was only able to participate in three competitions this year.  The level of competition is so high in the GBA, only participating in three competitions doesn’t really give you a good shot of the top 10 in the Team of The Year challenge.

However, we really enjoy the family atmosphere the GBA provides and we felt obligated to return to the end of the year banquet to greet and see our GBA cousins.

Good Food and Good Friends

Guests. Guest 2.It was great to see our friends and fellow competitors.  Repeating as the banquet host was Healy Point Country Club.  They provided us with good food and an incredible chocolate cake!  Cocktails and conversation, which any good pit master would enjoy, kicked off the evening before everyone was seated for the actual awards.

Jim Sewell did a great job as master of ceremony and the GBA President Danny Meadows distributed door prizes, banners and of course checks to the top teams.

Rescue Smokers Dominates the 2015-2016 Season

Rescue Smokers winsPit Master Robbie Royal’s team, Rescue Smokers cooked in 14 contests during the season racking up:

  • 36 top ten finishes
  • 9 First place finishes
  • 3 Reserve Grand Championships

That is DOMINATION.  Robbie Royal stated he was “humbled,” by the accolades and is looking forward to the season about to begin.  Competitors had better be ready because Rescue Smokers doesn’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon.

Smokin J’s Barbeque looks forward to cooking in at least 3 competitions this season, 2016-2017, and judging a few as well.


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Anatomy of a Big Green Egg

eggsDespite the wide range of shapes, sizes and configurations, most smokers are similar in construction.  If you understand the various parts and its function, your are well on your way to being a pit master.

The Big Green Egg design is a modern take on the clay kamado style cookers from the Chinese Qin Dynasty. Entrepreneur Ed Fisher discovered the domed clay cooker while overseas. His determination, state-of-the-art ceramic design, along with a patented draft door and vent cap have allowed the Big Green Egg company to be the world’s largest producer and international distributor of the ceramic kamado style cooker.

Big Green Egg Dimensions

model grill diameter height width weight turkey capacity
Extra Large 24″ 27 ¼” 26 ½” 205 lbs. 20 lbs. x2
Large 18 ¼” 30″ 21″ 140 lbs. 15+ lbs.
Medium 15″ 26″ 18″ 95 lbs. 12-15 lbs.
Small 13″ 22″ 16″ 65 lbs. 10-12 lbs.
Mini 9.5″ 15″ 12″ 30 lbs. n/a


Components of a Big Green Egg

egg_componentsAt the bottom of the Big Green Egg is the fire box.  This is where you burn wood or a wood product to generate the smoke.  The bottom draft door allows you to control the amount of fresh air entering the fire box for temperature control.

The bottom ceramic grate separates the ash from the actual lump charcoal burning.  The bottom draft door can be opened to clear away residual ash.

The fire ring sits inside the egg, on top of the fire box. The fire ring creates a void where the charcoal can burn. Usually the charcoal is placed in the fire box up to the fire ring, any higher and the combustion chamber for the charcoal would be limited and would prevent even burning causing the fire to burn out, or not get hot enough. Both the fire box and fire ring create an interior lining for the Egg where it gets the hottest. Never use the Big Green Egg without the fire box and fire ring in place.

On top of the fire ring sits a grid for direct cooking or a plate setter for indirect cooking.  For direct cooking, Big Green Egg offers a cast iron grate.  It retains heat when cold foods are placed on it, creating good sear marks.

plate_setter__91189.1392398944.120.120The Plate Setter is used for indirect cooking on the Big Green Egg, providing a barrier between the food and the fire and turning your EGG into an outdoor convection oven. The design of the Plate Setter allows heat to radiate within the dome while preventing the flames and direct heat of the fire from reaching the food. Nothing will contribute greater versatility to your outdoor cooking than adding a Plate Setter to your accessories collection.

The dual function metal top, also known as the chimney vent, regulates the escape of hot air and smoke.  It is a rotating disks to control airflow, as a result controls the heat in the smoker.

  • Greater airflow equals higher heat
  • Reduced airflow equals lower heat

Close and open the vents to control the airflow and the heat.

The temperature gauge helps monitor the internal temperature of the Egg.

  • Lower heat gives you more smoke
  • Higher heat gives you less smoke

Smokin J’s Barbeque competes exclusively with The Big Green Egg.  We receive no sponsorship, nor monitory endorsement for the above article.


Preparing food at home on the Big Green Egg

Pitmaster, Doug cooking ribs

Pit master, Doug cooking ribs

Big Green Egg

Big Green Egg









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Top 5 Criteria For The Most Tender Steak

Originally published on

IMG_1867Steak and potato is probably the most popular comfort food for meat-eating Americans.  My husband and I have steak at least once a week, usually on Friday’s after a long work week.  Steak and baked potatoes are an easy meal, cooked on the grill, with very little clean up required.  Perfect for a Friday evening at home.  Also, cooking steak at home is much, much more economical than dining out for steak.  Lastly, you control your steak, therefore, with practice, you can cook your steak exactly like you want it.

As I promised to my subscribers, earlier this week; Here are my top 5 criteria (no particular order) for GRILLING the most TENDER, juicy steak you will ever have.

1. Choice of steak cut

Relative to the size of a cow, good steak cuts are proportionally small.  The top choices are the following:

Tenderloin or Filet Mignon

  • Boneless, most expensive cut off the cow
  • Located in the short loin or sirloin, under the ribs
  • A whole tenderloin starts out wide, then tapers at the tail, the filet is from the more narrow end
  • Very lean, fine-grained
  • Best if 6-8 ounces for one portion


  • Short loin behind ribs
  • Very little fat content
  • 10 ounce a good size for one portion

T-Bone or Porterhouse          

  • Expensive because it usually includes part filet and part strip
  • Cross section of the un-filleted short loin
  • Can be 16-20 ounces to feed 2 people


  • Upper rib cage area
  • Full of marbling
  • Has the best flavor but not known for being tender

2. Let your steak acclimate

Removing your steak from the refrigerator, putting it on a plate, allowing it to sit out for 30 minutes prior to cooking will help the meat retain moisture and tenderness during the cooking process. Having a dry surface on the meat ensures juices will be retained.  Therefore, never put a COLD steak on the grill, always acclimate your steak.

3. Apply Salt To Your Steak

Prior to grilling, apply salt and gently press into the cut of beef.  Salt has a high affinity for water and your steak is full of moisture, especially on the surface.  The salt will coat the meat, pulling the moisture to the surface, but the liquid will be reabsorbed during the grilling process.  Some may advise you to gently pat dry the surface of your steak, I NEVER do this.  I believe this removes some of the juiciness of the meat.

If you choose to apply a dry rub to the meat, now is the time; however, if you buy high quality beef, such as PRIME or GRASS FED, why in the world would you apply a rub to mask the awesome flavor of the beef itself.  I am a proponent of just salt and light pepper only, on a good steak.

4. Do NOT Overcook Your Steak


Absolutely the most important tool in my kitchen is my instant read thermometer by Thermapen. It is an expensive investment.  I have tried many, many thermometers and Thermapen is worth every penny!

Thermopen 1. Thermopen 2. ThermoWorks Super-Fast Thermapen (Red) Professional Thermocouple Cooking Thermometer



Rare = 120ºF – 125ºF    

Medium Rare =130ºF – 135ºF  

Medium = 140ºF – 145ºF

5. Let Your Steak Rest

After you have grilled your steak to 135º (my ideal temp), remove from the grill, place on a platter and tent with foil.  Some may say “loosely” tent with foil, but I always curl the foil under the plate and secure it, to keep all the heat trapped.  The meat will continue cooking.  Letting the meat rest for 10 minutes will result in a tender, juicy steak.

See more articles on grilling steak at JoAnn’s Food Bites



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Tailgate Fest 2016

Enjoyed a VERY HOT day at the Infinite Energy Center in Duluth, Georgia this weekend with the Dirty Dirty Tailgate Family (aka Rub Shaker’s Que).  They took top prize in Ribs as judged by certified Georgia Barbecue Association judges and placed third in the “onsite tailgate experience.”

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Acclimate for a Good Steak

IMG_1867Steaks: Grain vs. Grass Fed

Some believe throwing a steak on a grill, searing it and then immediately eating it will make for a good meal, I disagree.  Because steak is one of the items I will pay a little extra, for good quality, I take particular steps to ensure I am getting the best flavor, juiciness and tenderness for my money.  I will spend more for grain fed meat, when I can find it.

Grain-fed Beef

  • Pasture-raised, grazes on grass
  • Later, fed hearty, rich-in-nutrients grain
  • The most flavorful and highest quality beef available, with superior marbling and texture
  • Top chefs agree, grain-fed beef tastes better and is the preferred choice of steak-lovers everywhere

Chart courtesy of Omaha Steaks

Grass-fed Beef

  • Pasture-raised, grazes on grass
  • May or may not be certified “organic,” depending on the use of fertilizers, herbicides or pesticides where they grazed
  • Conflicting scientific studies suggest grass-fed may or may not be healthier
  • Has been known to be firmer and not as rich in flavor due to the lack of marbling

steak cuts.Choose the right cut

Not all cuts of beef are the same.  You will need to decide which cut is your favorite.

Tenderloin – Known to be tender. Found on the back of the cow, has very little marbling (fat). Expensive compared to other cuts. Also known as the filet-Mignon.

Ribeye – Usually has the most marbling than other cuts.  Found under the ribs, on the upper back of the cow.  Known to be a very juicy, if cooked properly.

New York Strip – Is usually a larger cut of steak because it is cut from the short loin of the cow, lower back.  Usually has very little fat content, can be tender but not as tender as the tenderloin.

T-Bone or Porterhouse – cut from the rear end of the short loin and thus include more tenderloin steak, along with (on the other side of the bone) a large strip steak.

Acclimate your steak

Opinions vary about whether or not to bring your steak to room temperature before cooking – I ALWAYS sit out a thawed steak on the counter approximately 20-30 minutes before cooking. You are doing this NOT to increase the internal temperature of the steak, but are doing it, so the surface of the steak becomes dry.  Sprinkle salt on both sides of your steak when you sit it out to acclimate.  The salt draws out liquid and then the liquid will be reabsorb, leaving a dry surface.  Once on grill, the dry surface will brown and cause the interior to become more juicy.

Dry-aged steaks are so popular because a dry skin is forming on the steak, allowing it to brown in record time upon searing.  The drier the meat is to start, the more moist it will be at the end.

Flavor with a rub?

There are many options on the market for “seasoning” a steak.  Honestly, the best seasoning is salt and pepper.  Using Kosher salt is the best option. The coarse crystals will really grab onto the meat.

Once the grill is hot, dip a small portion of paper towel in some good olive oil, then rub on the grill surface using some tongs.  Not only will this help prevent the steak from sticking to the grill grate, but also will provide some flavor to the meat as well.  Also, you may want to brush some melted butter onto the steak’s surface before searing.  Just do not apply oil or butter to heavy, as it could start a fire in the grill.

Time to Grill

The key to a perfect steak is cooking it at a high temperature for a short amount of time. The colder the steak is when it hits the grill, the longer it will take to cook it. And the more time it spends over the heat, the tougher it gets.
Click the image to buy your own Thermopen.

Use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature of the steak.  This will ensure a properly cooked steak, instead of relying on the poking or prodding method.  I disagree with some that say, to only flip your steak once during cooking.  In my experience, flipping the steak several times allows for a more evenly cooked steak and a better crust.  However, I never mash the steak or cause the delicious juices to seep out of the meat.

Good rule of temperature is:

Rare 120 to 125 degrees F
49 to 51 degrees C
center is bright red, pinkish toward the exterior portion, and warm throughout
Medium Rare 130 to 135 degrees F
55 to 57 degrees C
center is very pink, slightly brown toward the exterior portion, and slightly hot
Medium 140 to 145 degrees F
60 to 63 degrees C
center is light pink, outer portion is brown, and hot throughout
Medium Well 150 to 155 degrees F
65 to 69 degrees C
mostly gray-brown throughout with a hint of pink in the center
Well Done 160 degrees F and above
71 degrees C
uniformly brown or grey throughout

Do you have a great steak procedure?  Share in the comments….





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University Students Developing the Meatmaster

Meatmaster-Team200HOUSTON – Five Rice University seniors are trying to make sure grill masters never undercook or overcook their steaks again.

The team, Five Guys & Ribeyes, has designed and constructed a functional prototype seven-sensor meat thermometer for the students’ senior engineering design project.

The idea for the new product came from one of the team’s faculty co-advisers, Gary Woods; as a grilling enthusiast, Woods has had the idea for the thermometer for about 10 years. He challenged the students to create a digital thermometer with multiple, closely placed sensors.

The Five Guys team is made up of four mechanical engineering students — David Cooper, Michael Fleming, Will Firth and Harry Sagel — and one electrical engineering student, Rico Marquez.

“We are using a food-safe multimaterial sheath primarily made of plastic, but with horizontally placed gold-plated copper casings every quarter inch,” Marquez said. “Inside each of these casings, we have placed a small thermistor to measure the temperature. The thermistors are wired to a printed circuit board and Arduino microcontroller, which displays the multiple temperatures on an LCD screen.

“When inserted into the meat, the array of sensors will provide a temperature profile throughout the depth of the steak. This will enable error-free grilling,” he said.

By using a multi-material sheath instead of solely stainless steel, the team eliminated any unwanted vertical heat flow along the length of the probe but still allowed for fast heat conduction between the meat and sensor. The probe was 3-D printed using PEEK plastic and holds thermistors enclosed in copper casings along the length of the probe; the thermistors then provide fast, accurate and discrete temperature readings.

Current meat thermometers have only one sensor, and it’s difficult to know where that sensor is within the probe, Marquez said. That also makes it difficult to know where in the steak the sensor is taking the temperature reading.

So far the team said the thermometer is working great, and they’ve received a lot of positive feedback at the demos they’ve given, including presentations at Rice’s annual George R. Brown Engineering Design Showcase, which was held in April.

“A lot of people have been interested in the project,” Marquez said. “People would like to see us move forward with this and make it a consumer product that they can pick up at a local grilling store, and we really would like to do that.

“Since this was the first year of this project, it’s also possible more team members could be added here at Rice in the future to carry it on,” he said.

To that, Five Guys’ other faculty co-adviser, Gene Frantz, said one part of his involvement included asking questions of reality.

“I asked them, ‘What is this going to cost in volume production?’” Frantz said. “In my role, I could explain the different rules of thumb of how you determine what it is going to cost and what it should cost based on market and distribution to high volume.”

Both Frantz and Woods think this could be a project-to-market product.

Woods, who has been teaching capstone projects at Rice for seven years, is impressed with what the team has done.

“These guys have exceeded my expectations,” he said. “Rice students are really smart, and they’re very creative. They came up with ideas that I had never thought of for making this a more viable project. They took it and ran with it.”

“The whole idea of a senior project like this is so vital to preparing for the real world,” Frantz said. “There were several times they would come to a meeting and say, ‘Oh, I didn’t know this,’ and I’d tell them that’s a great lesson to learn.”

Article originally from Carolina Epicurean May 12, 2016


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Cooking at Three Rivers Festival at Towns Bluff

Entry to Towns Bluff Park

Entry to Towns Bluff Park

Enjoyed a beautiful weekend at Towns Bluff Park and Heritage Center in Hazlehurst, Georgia.  Mother nature was wonderful to 28 GBA professional cook teams as they battled it out for the best in pork loin, pulled pork and pork ribs.  The RV park/campground is a comfortable location for the teams, large enough to accommodate cooking rigs but intimate enough to enjoy fellowship among competitors.  I give thanks for all the friendships we (Smokin J’s Barbeque) have acquired through the Georgia Barbecue Association.

Comfort at Towns Bluff RV Park

Fire rings at each campsite

Fire rings at each campsite

On the Altamaha River and the Bullard Creek Wildlife Management Area, the Heritage Center has a small wildlife museum representing native animals and culture of the area.   The Altamaha River, designated by the Nature Conservancy as one of the 75 “Last Great Places in the World,” has a boat launch right behind the Heritage Center for those campers who bring along their fishing pole.  Quiet and tranquil, campers will love the peaceful nature and spacious campsites.  Those who prefer to use a tent, a full service bath house with showers is available in the center of the campground.  Picnic tables and fire rings are available at every reasonably priced site.  A dump station and 50 amp power is available for larger RV’s.

Competition Tough…

Although Smokin J’s Barbeque did not receive any award accolades for our barbecue, we felt we had a good cook.  No major issues with the Big Green Egg family, cook times were accurate and flavor was appealing; nevertheless, the competition was tough and several competitive teams were not in the top three for the competition.  Our loin was judged the best on the table by one judge and our pulled pork was judged the best on the table by one judge.  However, Rescue Smokers was 3rd best; Bull Rush was 2nd; and Budmeisters was first place.

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Smokin J’s Barbeque at Canton’s Innagural Competition


Smokin J’s Barbeque at BBQ & Brews

Smokin J’s Barbeque enjoyed Canton’s inaugural Georgia Barbecue Association sanctioned BBQ & Brews Festival.  Competing were 22 professional teams and 19 cooking for fun teams battling for cash money and recognition. Downtown Main Street featured live music, local craft beer, food trucks and our sanctioned BBQ event.  Proceeds benefit #ForCanton, a non-profit organization dedicated to fighting poverty, homelessness, and hunger in the city of Canton.  Gary Lamb, Pastor of Action Church, did an incredible job keeping all the competing teams satisfied and fed.  The hospitality of Gary and Sarah Gregorcyk made all the teams feel welcomed.  Free food, beer and massages Friday night;  then sausage biscuits with coffee Saturday morning exclusively for the cook teams were very much appreciated.

Smokin J's BBQ gift bucket

Smokin J’s Barbeque gift bucket

Smokin J’s BBQ was recognized for being the first cooking application registered for the event with a gift bucket full of local beer, glasses and gadgets.

Smokin J’s BBQ Ranks…

The top 10 teams received a cash prize and a call to the stage in each professional category.

We finished 16th for loin but learned a lot about cooking this difficult piece of meat.  Will make some slight adjustments for next week. Trying a different style of rib this week did not prove to be a good move, only placing 20th.  Will go back to our original game plan.  However, a 9th place walk to the stage in pulled pork was a relief.  We received perfect scores from 3 judges for our pulled pork, so we know we are on the right track.  Two judges loved our ribs, but we know we can do better.  Overall, Smokin J’s BBQ learned alot about our flavor and technique.

Rescue Smokers wins Grand Champion

Rescue Smokers wins Grand Champion

Congratulations to Robbie Royal and Rescue Smoker’s for yet another Grand Championship.  Winning in the ribs and pulled pork categories, significantly prove they are the team to beat for the Team of the Year.  Congratulations to Just Blowing Smoke, who impressed everyone as they scored almost perfect in loin and pulled pork reserve calculations.



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Walton County BBQ Festival

Enjoyed beautiful weather and a tremendous turnout for the 2nd annual Walton County Barbecue Festival to benefit the “Communities in School,” program.  Held at the Walton County Agricultural Education Center, 30 professional barbecue teams lit their fires and competed for over an $8,000 purse.  Sanctioned by the Georgia Barbecue Association, this was a double team points event for the registered teams, which has made a significant difference in their “Team of The Year,” race.  Jimmy Hogg, the festival chairman was very grateful to all attendees and barbecue competitors for surpassing last years attendance record.


Several of the professional barbecue competitors were vendors of their great tasting pork.  Bouncy houses, jewelry vendors, gourmet foods and other local businesses were also available to peruse.  Admission was free for attendees.  The barbecue competition raised funds for the “Communities in School,” which provides support and advocates students staying in school while being successful in life.  They have made a significant reduction in county drop out rates.


Although the cook teams could not have asked for better weather, the exertion to be the best in pork loin, pork shoulder and pork ribs was finally over Saturday afternoon when the top 10 teams in each category was revealed.  An unprecedented THREE cook teams scored a PERFECT 600 in the pork loin   preliminary round.  Boys Cooking Dangerously, Rescue Smokers and Smokin The Good Stuff had the best pork loins.  Smokin The Good Stuff edged out the perfect scores for top prize in the loin category.  The recent sudden loss of one team member, Scooter Fields was honored by his team and their “in memorandum,” t-shirts.


Rescue Smokers double-finaled by also appearing in 3rd place for the pulled pork category.  Real South BBQ and Bubba Grills were second and first respectfully.  Although Southern Hogs and The Porkinator teams prepared impressive pork ribs, Swineholio had dominating ribs, not only taking first in the category, but also Grand Champion, with a trophy and a check for $1500.  Robbie Royal and Rescue Smokers continued their domination of the season by taking Reserve Grand Champion, having the highest score in the preliminary round.  Rescue Smokers left Walton County retaining their commanding lead in the Team of The Year race.


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17th Overall!

Inching out way up the GBA rankings, we finished the 2014-2015 season 17th.  Look out top 10, here we come!

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