Monthly Archives: August 2010

Competitive ‘Q’

BBQ is a sacred endeavour in our household.

Originally our love affair with charcoal began years ago in our first apartment. Mr. Spock and I had completely gutted our entire living space and decided to embark upon an ambitious kitchen reno which rendered our cooking space unusable for several months. Finding a little hibachi out on the patio left by the previous owners, we began our foray into the world of charcoal grilling and BBQ. It’s amazing but you actually are able to cook three meals a day on a hibachi! By the time our kitchen was once again in working order we had become quite creative with our BBQ culinary efforts, producing tasty egg dishes for breakfast, various warm salad concoctions and even dessert.

We were hooked. The taste from charcoal is just so much more appealing – the flavour is incredible! In comparison, gas BBQs seem to make everything taste like propane. Now you’ll notice that I keep saying “we” when referring to our BBQ efforts. Let me set the record straight and say that it is the royal “we” I am using! The Spock man is the genius behind the grill in our house and I quickly became relegated to sous chef, a position I am quite happy to fill.  (Hey – I know where my strengths lie!)

Given our love for BBQ we recently jumped at the opportunity to register for a course in order to become certified Pacific Northwest BBQ Judges. In fact, that is how we celebrated our wedding anniversary! (Doesn’t everyone?!)

Over at Well Seasoned in Langley, owner Angie Quuale hosted a BBQ competition judging class on behalf of the Pacific Northwest BBQ Association (PNBA).  Throughout the evening our group of BBQ lovers learnt all about good “Q” and what to look for during a competition. At the end of the course we emerged as certified BBQ judges, able to participate in any PNWBA sanctioned contests.

It was great to hear Angie’s stories of BBQ successes and failures, along with other interesting anecdotes about what it’s like to be on the BBQ competition trail. We also learnt the difference between grilling (cooking directly over flames) and traditional American BBQ (meat cooked over indirect heat within a closed pit, using low heat and smoke from a charcoal or wood fire). It is the method of low and slow that allows the connective tissues of the meat to break down and turn what would have been tough cuts into delicious, tender morsels.

The old school style of BBQ has its roots in the American south, although the popularity of this style of cooking has since expanded across the globe. That being said, each state still tends to have its own style of BBQ. For example in Eastern North Carolina the ‘Q’ traditionally involves pork shoulder (or whole pig) cooked with hickory smoke that is pulled and mixed with a vinegar based BBQ sauce and served on a bun with slaw. In Western North Carolina it is all about the pork butt, seasoned with a tomato based vinegar sauce. Texas prefers beef brisket smoked with mesquite or oak, in Kansas City it is all about the sauce, and in Memphis ribs and shredded pork rule (wet or dry).

Pictured above are the four competitive food categories for BBQ competitions: (left to right) pork ribs, pork butt, chicken, beef brisket

I must admit that it felt a little strange critiquing BBQ that may not have been up to its original grand championship standards, but was still pretty darn tasty and nothing we would ever be ashamed to pull off our grill. Taking the judging course has definitely given me a new appreciation for good BBQ and the amount of energy (and money) that goes into preparing championship worthy dishes. Hopefully my hubby and I will get a chance to flash our new shiny judging badges at an upcoming competition!

For more information on the PNWBA or Well Seasond’s upcoming BBQ on the Bypass event, please visit and

Bon Appétit Magazine: July Cover Recipe

Caveman Porterhouse with Poblano Pan-Fry

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 (tasty & dramatic!)

Initial Thoughts:
Holy Crap.

The Test:
When it comes to steaks Mr. Spock and I tend to be fillet/rib eye type people, and in fact prior to testing this recipe neither one of us had ever had a porterhouse cut. Being food geeks, we immediately became fascinated by the gigantic hunk of meat the butcher handed over to us.

The porterhouse cut consists of a T-shaped bone with meat on either side, the larger side from the strip loin and the smaller side from the tenderloin. While similar to the T-bone cut, porterhouse steaks differ in that they contain a larger section of tenderloin (and are therefore more expensive).

Because it was just the four of us, we opted for just one (rather than four) 1 ¼ inch-thick porterhouse steak which ended up being more than enough for us and the kids. I must admit it felt almost sacrilegious to just throw such a gorgeous (not to mention expensive!) steak directly on the coals. This technique is called a ‘dirty steak’. Apparently US President Dwight Eisenhower was a fan of having his steaks cooked in this manner.

WARNING: be careful when removing the cast iron skillet with pepper mixture off of the coals… we burnt a hole through a welder’s glove!

The Results:
Right off the bat this recipe scored points with Mr. Spock as it requires the use of a charcoal BBQ…the only way to BBQ in our household. My hubby has always been partial to charcoal over gas, and even back when we moved into our first apartment he had a little hibachi which we lived off during our kitchen reno. The flavour from charcoal is incredible, and over the years Mr. Spock has truly mastered the technique of perfect grilling.

Amazingly enough there was hardly any ash to brush off when we removed the steak from the coals.  And the flavour? Oh my the flavour! Delicious. The steak was cooked perfectly and the pepper mixture was a wonderful addition. The cilantro was an unexpected yet welcome taste, giving the dish a real southwest flair. We have made the peppers subsequent to testing this recipe; they make a wonderful addition for fajitas.

I am so happy that this dish was chosen as a cover recipe as I doubt I would have attempted it otherwise. Well done Bon Appétit – it’s a keeper!

(For a copy of July’s cover recipe, please click here)

As part of my culinary new years resolutions, I have committed to creating each month’s cover recipe from Bon Appétit Magazine. Inspired by a New York restaurant owner who has been making the magazine’s cover recipes each month for the last 25 years, I decided to attempt to do the same while blogging about my monthly experiences along the way.

NOTE: If any of you would like to follow along with me and join in on the fun, I’d love to compare notes! So pick-up a copy of the latest issue of Bon Appétit and get cooking. Be sure to send your comments and photos to

Bon Appétit celebrates the world of great food and the pleasure of sharing it with others. Every issue invites readers into a hands-on experience, engaging them in all aspects of the epicurean lifestyle—cooking, dining, travel, entertaining, shopping and design. For more information please visit