Sunday, July 3, 2016

Barbecue Secret Number 16: Preparing Brown Sugar for Use in Rubs

If you make your own rubs and use brown sugar as an ingredient in them, you know that it can be problematic because the molasses in the sugar introduced moisture which can cause lumps of sugar coated in other ingredients and other unwelcome problems. Here is a barbecue secret to avoid the problems associated with using brown sugar in barbecue rubs. Before mixing your barbecue rub that includes brown sugar, dry the sugar first. Here is how I do it.

I preheat my oven to 180 degrees F. I line a baking sheet with parchment paper. I then put a layer of brown sugar on the paper that is about 1/4" thick.

Next, I place the baking sheet with the paper and sugar in the oven and let it dry for about 20 to 30 minutes. I remove the sugar laden baking sheet from the oven and let it cool. The result is a brittle sheet of dried brown sugar.

I break the sheet of dried brown sugar into pieces that will fit in a gallon sized plastic bag. I seal the bag being careful to remove as much of the excess air in it as possible. Then, I crush the pieces of sugar by gently pounding it with a rolling pin. I tried using a food processor and a spice grinder but both of those created something more akin to powdered sugar than granulated sugar.

The final step is to sift the crushed sugar through a fine strainer. That larger pieces that don't pass through the strainer go back into the plastic bag to be crushed. I continue this process until all of the sugar is back to the state of granulated sugar.

The resulting dried brown sugar maintains the flavor and sweetness of brown sugar but it will no longer clump up or introduce unwanted moisture to my barbecue rubs.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Virginia Barbecue: A History - Pre-orders Being Taken Now!

After many years of research and hard work, my book Virginia Barbecue: A History is being published by the good folks at The History Press. It is available for pre-order now on and It will ship and be on bookstore shelves on September 12, 2016.

You can pre-order from here

You can pre-order from here.

With more than four hundred years of history, Virginians lay claim to the invention of southern barbecue. Native Virginian Powhatan tribes slow roasted meat on wooden hurdles or grills. James Madison hosted grand barbecue parties during the colonial and federal eras. The unique combination of vinegar, salt, pepper, oils and various spices forms the mouthwatering barbecue sauce that was first used by colonists in Virginia and then spread throughout the country. Today, authentic Virginia barbecue is regionally diverse and remains culturally vital. Drawing on hundreds of historical and contemporary sources, author, competition barbecue judge and award-winning barbecue cook Joe Haynes documents the delectable history of barbecue in the Old Dominion.

There are eight chapters in the book as follows:

1. “Real” American Barbecue
2. Barbecue: A "Virginian Word”
3. Barbecuing “in the Indian Manner”
4. Virginia’s Rich Barbecue Tradition
5. Barbecuing in the Virginian Manner
6. Virginia’s Nineteenth-Century Barbecue Men
7. Virginia: The Mother of Southern Barbecue
8. Authentic Virginia Barbecue Recipes

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Barbecue Secret Number 15 - Ignore the Stall

I ignore porous bed free expansion cooling when I cook BBQ. You should too. "Porous bed free expansion cooling" is the geeky name for what causes the dreaded stall. If you have barbecued a pork butt or a brisket, you know that once it reaches around 160 degrees internal that it can stay at that temperature for hours before the internal temperature begins to rise again. That's called the stall. As the temperature of the moisure in the meat rises, it evaporates and cools the meat. The process repeats itself for hours as the moisture that causes the stall dissipates. When it's gone, the stall ends. That's why the stall lasts so long.

So many BBQ "experts" tell us that barbecuing meat shouldn't be wrapped in foil until it reaches the stall. However, the truth is, the stall is irrelevant and can be ignored. The point is this. If you wrap meat that you are barbecuing at some point during the cook, do it at a time that is right for the kind of meat that you are cooking. Don't go by some standard "rule" that is often repeated but never justified with facts.

Here is an example, a select brisket will turn out better if it's wrapped at a point sooner in the cook than a choice or prime brisket. Remember, the only meaningful reasons for wrapping are to preserve exterior color, preserve moisture, and speed up cook time. Select briskets don't have as much moisture content from fat as a choice or prime cut. Therefore, they should be wrapped sooner than the higher quality cuts. Less moisture and fat content means that you have to wrap sooner in order to preserve what little moisture there is in the meat.

If you are concerned about the possibility of too little smoke getting into the meat, use
more wood chunks, or use green wood, or run your fire a little cooler so more smoke is
generated. Compensate less time in smoke with more smoke while the meat is in it.

Ignore the stall. It's irrelevant. Think through what you are trying to accomplish and time
things based on those goals.

Friday, March 25, 2016

All Cows are Grass Fed

When I was a youngster, my Dad used to raise cows and steers all the time. I remember one particular steer that my sister and I named Lemon. We knew that Lemon's ultimate destinations were the freezer and the stove, but we treated him as much like a pet as we could.

My Dad kept Lemon in a pasture where he grazed all day on green grass. We would keep his barn filled with hay and straw. During the summer, we fed him the leaves, shucks, and stalks from the corn we picked out of the garden. He also got watermelon rinds and every other bit of veggies from the gardens that we didn't eat. Starting in September, my Dad would take my brothers and I out to large corn fields where we would glean left over corn from stalks that the farmers couldn't reap. We would take the corn back home, shuck it in a hand cranked corn shucker and use it to feed Lemon, the cow and our hogs.

I remember eating a steak from Lemon that my Dad cooked on a wood stove that he used to keep in the basement. It was a T-bone. It was pretty good. I suppose one could say that Lemon was grass fed. But, we never worried about such things.

Here is an interesting article that fellow beef lovers might find interesting.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Four Hundred Year Old Virginia Barbecue Recipe

Virginians have been cooking southern style barbecued pork longer than people in any other state. The oldest recorded recipes used in Virginia barbecue call for hickory wood for fuel and a seasoning made of vinegar, butter, salt, and cayenne pepper. Here is how it's done in a modern, upright barbecue smoker such as the Chargriller Akorn or the Weber Bullet.
1 pork butt approximately 8 pounds
1/8 cup of apple cider vinegar
2 pats of butter, softened
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
pinch of red pepper flakes
Mix the vinegar, butter, salt, and peppers and apply the mixture all over the pork. Barbecue at 275 to 300 degrees for 3 hours. Wrap the pork in foil and continue to cook until the meat is pull tender which should be about 3 to 4 more hours of cook time. When done, remove the meat from the smoker and let it rest for 1 hour. Pull the meat and serve. It can also be chopped.
What about the sauce recipe? Try this old Virginia sauce named in honor of a great Virginia barbecue cook named Shack -
The recipes for the Tangy Virginia Brown and Sweet Virginia Red sauces will be in my upcoming book. Stay tuned for details.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Texas Barbecue Dope

This is a recipe for a Texas barbecue sauce that was very famous in and around the Fort Worth area in the late 1800s to early 1900s. It was created by two men (J. R. Hawley and George C. Battles) who were members of the Panther Club that met at Hermann's Park. The sauce was known as  "Panther Club Dope."

In a pot, bring the following to a boil:

2 quarts of cold water
1 15 ounce can of tomatoes
1 sliced onion

Then add:

1 cup vinegar
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
1 TBS table salt
1 Tsp of cayenne pepper

Let the dope simmer until the tomatoes and onion are thoroughly cooked. Then add 1/2 pound of butter. When the butter has melted into the sauce, thicken it by whisking in a slurry made of cornstarch and water until it is at the desired thickness.

Just before serving, strain through a colander and add a pint of sherry and the juice of two lemons. Serve hot.

Friday, July 3, 2015

1808 Independence Day Barbecue in Virginia

In 1808, a barbecue was held in Charlottesville, Virginia, for the Independence Day celebration. President Jefferson chose to remain at the Whitehouse. His youngest sister, Anne Scott Jefferson, attended in his stead. The following details of the Fourth of July barbecue were reported in a local newspaper.

The citizens of Albemarle county convened in Charlottesville to celebrate the 4th of July. The Declaration of American Independence was read to a large assembly in the Courthouse. At three o'clock the company animated by the presence of many of the most accomplished ladies in the vicinity, sat down to a handsome barbecue provided by Mr. Elijah Garth. After dinner, on the retiring of the ladies, the gentlemen drank the following toasts in the republican [spirit] of their own country.

1.) The 4th of July 1776 - May the principles it consecrated animate us in every crisis to defend the blessings it bequeathed.

2.) The People - The only legitimate source of power. May they ever beware of those insidious friends who would protect them from "their worst enemies, themselves."

3.) The Constitution of the U.S. - The solar central point of the Federative system; may its mild and beneficent attraction harmonise in their respective orbits the planets that compose it.

4.) America - The world's best hope; the last asylum of persecuted freedom. She has strangled the serpents in her cradle - she need not feat their hisses now.

5.) Virginia - In the 'war of the revolution' she led the van. In the dark period of the reign of terror, she fanned the decaying flame, and cheered the drooping sons of freedom. she will never tarnish the lustre of her fame.

6.) George Washington - His meritorious services will consecrate to his memory the "fairest page in the volume of faithful history."

7.) The President of the United States - Useful and illustrious is the consciousness of having faithfully devoted his best efforts to his country's service, will constitute the happiness of his retirement.

8.) The Judiciary of our State - Wise, republican and independent. A shield to the virtuous and a terror to evil doers.

9.) The Governor of Virginia - May his country remember his services, and his successors emulate his virtues.

10.) Wilson C. Nichols, our representative in Congress. Wisdom to discern; and firmness and independence to pursue the best interests of his country.

11.) The Embargo - A weapon of more effective hostility than the canon or the sword. It promises the advantages of war without its waste of blood and treasure.

12.) The Manufacturing spirit now moving over the face of our land. May it grow strong, may it be general and permanent; then shall we be indeed an independent nation.

13.) The Patriots of '76 - Should their descendants be called upon to defend the independence they established, their spirit will support, and their example will animate and inspire them.

14.) The Militia - The rights of the nation are their rights; they will know how to defend them. The best source of political reformation - the scourge of those who would destroy, and the support of those who cherish true republicanism.

15.) The freedom of the Press.

16.) The Minority in Congress, and the friends of that minority - "Monuments of the safety with which error of opinion may be tolerated, where reason is left free to combat it."

17.) The state of Massachusetts - A caution against the security, and a call upon the vigilance of republicanism.

Friday, June 5, 2015

2015 Gordonsville Chicken Festival

Here is yours truly hosting the Central Virginia Public Access Television's special about the 2015 Gordonsville, Virginia Fried Chicken Festival.

For over 100 years before the Colonel introduced the country to his chicken, some resourceful and energetic African American women in Gordonsville, Virginia were nationally known for their delicious fried chicken. Learn more of their story here.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Green Fire Steak

Green Fire Steak! This is a deliciously spicy way to trick out that steak. Just slice some fresh jalapeno peppers and sauté them in a little olive oil, butter, garlic, salt and pepper. Server over grilled steak. So delicious! This recipe can be very spicy for some people, so, if you are sensitive to hot peppers, you might want to skip this one.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Now for Something Decadently Different - Smoke Roasted Avocado

Smoke roasted avocado with creamy eggs! Here is how I did it.

1.) Fire up the smoker/grill.
2.) Fry bacon in an iron skillet.
3.) Remove bacon and sauté chopped onion and chopped chili pepper.
4.) Remove onions/peppers and set aside.
5.) Reserve bacon fat.
6.) Slice avocado in half, remove pit, slice a thin slither off the "bottom" to make a sturdy base.
7.) Add a teaspoon of bacon fat to the pit cavity of each avocado half.
8.) Season with salt and pepper to taste.
9.) Crack an egg into each pit cavity.
10.) Put a teaspoon of bacon fat over each egg.
11.) Top with the sautéed onions and peppers and jack cheese.
12.) Cook indirect at around 350 degrees F until the egg reaches desired level of safe doneness.

That's it. Serve with the bacon and some Indian hoe cake on the side. Smokers like the Big Green Egg and Chargriller Akorn make this kind of thing easy. Just fire up with direct heat for the frying part. Then, put in the diffuser for the smoking part.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Stone Boilers

Assiniboine Warrior
The Assiniboine people, also known as the Nakota and originally from the Northern Great Plains, used to boil stews using stones. In fact, the name of Assinaboine means "Stone Boilers" or "those who cook with stones." They had no technology of making earthen pots so to boil water and make stews they would dig a hole in the ground and line it with the hide of an animal making a water tight basin. They would fill it with water, add the meat and to boil it they would put red hot stones in the water. They added stones as needed to maintain a simmer.

At some point, the Stone Boilers learned to make earthen vessels and also traded with Europeans for metal pots and gave up the practice of boiling stews with hot stones. But, the most interesting part of their story is, much like is done nowadays with Brunswick stew and Burgoo, for a long time the Assiniboin preserved their tradition of boiling stews with hot rocks at public festivals where they took pleasure in cherishing and perpetuating their ancient customs.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Struttin' with some Barbecue

Written by Louis Armstrong's wife in about 1927, this tune entitled "Struttin' with some Barbecue" isn't about food. The word barbecue in the jazz musician slang of that era meant pretty girl. Pay attention to the notes Armstrong hits playing that horn. It's quite amazing.