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Fire Up the Pit: My Brisket Can Burn Yours“Plenty of people have come up to me and said: ‘Really? You think you can do Texas barbecue and you’re from New Jersey?’ ” said Mr. Reid, who is co-owner with his wife, Maria, of Texas Smoke B.B.Q., a restaurant and catering business in Jefferson Township.

He enjoys converting skeptics, he said, especially Texans. “They’ll go off with our ribs or a pulled-pork sandwich, and they’ll usually come back and say, ‘You know, that was really pretty good.’ ”

Mr. Reid, 51, of Denville, N.J., was working behind a barbecue pit on a Sunday afternoon last month at the third annual Rock, Ribs and Ridges Festival at the Hidden Valley Club ski resort here — one of about a half-dozen competitive barbecue events his team will enter this summer and among about a dozen held each year in New Jersey.

He is the pit master for one of about 260 teams from New Jersey registered with the Kansas City Barbeque Society, the organization that governs the most contests on the national competitive barbecue circuit, including the New Jersey State Barbecue Championship, to be held July 13 to 15 in North Wildwood.

At such events, teams — which vary widely in size — are typically confined to 20-foot-by-20-foot stations, where one or more members often camp out overnight in chairs while monitoring slow-cooking meats. They are given 10-minute windows to present judges with their chicken, ribs, pulled pork and brisket.

In addition to the state championship, three other New Jersey competitions will be sanctioned by the Kansas City Barbeque Society this year: Sam’s Club National B.B.Q. Tour, to be held at the Sam’s Club store in Pleasantville on Aug. 25; B.B.Q. and Blues in the Park, Sept. 8 and 9 in Mount Holly; and Que-by-the-Sea, Sept. 21 to 23 in Seaside Heights.

At these events, which also include live music and an open-air market, various laws prevent all but a few competitors from selling their barbecue to the public, because “most cooks have not gone through the hoops — permits, sales tax license, et cetera,” according to Carolyn Wells, a co-founder and the executive director of the Kansas City Barbeque Society. The barbecue-hungry masses can, however, buy ribs and brisket from noncompeting vendors at the contests.

Last year, 72,000 people attended the state championship in North Wildwood, according to Eric Shenkus, its chairman. Mr. Shenkus, 40, a criminal defense lawyer from Northfield, co-founded the event in 1999 as a way to raise money for the Anglesea Volunteer Fire Company, of which he is a member. (The event, which is free to the public, is run by the company, part of the North Wildwood Fire Department, in conjunction with the Anglesea Blues Festival.)

“Our first year we probably had 500 people,” Mr. Shenkus said. Now the competition is so popular that organizers run a lottery to determine which teams will be allowed to enter. This year, 150 teams from throughout the East Coast applied to fill 68 spots, with 46 New Jersey teams making the cut. Winners — in categories including chicken, pulled pork, brisket and ribs, as well as Grand Champion — are decided based on taste, tenderness and appearance by 100 judges certified by the society. Cash prizes totaling $10,000 are awarded.

The Grand Champion qualifies to compete in national championships like the American Royal World Series of Barbecue, to be held in Kansas City in October.

Compared with the state championship, the Rock, Ribs and Ridges contest in Vernon, in which four teams competed — three from New Jersey and one from New York — was a low-key event. Ticketholders, many of whom were there mainly for the rock concerts by acts including Dickey Betts and Molly Hatchet, cast ballots to judge the barbecue competitors. Mr. Reid’s team came in third and took home $200, an admittedly disappointing outcome, he said.

He entered the event mostly as practice for the state championship in North Wildwood, he said. Though he has not won a prize there in three previous tries, he is optimistic about his chances this year. “I have a game plan,” he said.

Competitive barbecue teams — sometimes restaurateurs and caterers like Mr. Reid, sometimes backyard barbecue enthusiasts, sometimes old college buddies looking for an excuse to get together on the weekends, Mr. Shenkus said — liken their pastime to a sport.

“The American Royal is the Super Bowl of competitive barbecue,” said Mr. Shenkus. The Jack Daniel’s World Championship Invitational Barbecue, held in October in Lynchburg, Tenn., and open to only those teams that have won a championship in certain categories, is “the Super Bowl, World Series and Stanley Cup all in one,” according to Marc Mangano, one of two pit masters for Three Men and a Baby Back, a Montvale-based team that formed in 2009. It will compete in the state championship for a second time this year and has already earned a spot at this year’s American Royal Invitational; that is the more exclusive of the two prongs of the American Royal contest in Kansas City, the other being the American Royal Open.

Three Men and a Baby Back qualified for the American Royal Invitational after winning the Grand Champion title at last year’s Que-by-the-Sea event in Seaside Heights. Mr. Mangano, 39, of Hillsdale, who studied at the Culinary Institute of America but currently works as an insurance broker, said his team had its eye on a prize in North Wildwood this year.

“We were maybe a little cocky our first time there — we were coming off a big win” at a 2009 competition in Rochester, N.Y., Mr. Mangano said. “Wildwood was our second contest ever.”

What the three-year-old team learned, said Dana Reed, 39, of Montvale, the other pit master and a nurse practitioner, was that “we needed to fine-tune our recipes.”

“There were some really exceptional teams; it was humbling.” Now, he said, “we expect to do well.”

Experience may be half the battle, according to Doug Keiles, the pit master of Hillsborough-based Ribs Within.

During his first competition in 2003, which happened to be the state championship — it was easier to get into then — “I stayed up all night with the other cooks, learning about pork and brisket,” he said. Instead of smoking his own pork and brisket that year, Mr. Keiles, 48, cooked only ribs and chicken. “Then I went home and bought another smoker and practiced all year.”

By 2007, Mr. Keiles and his team were winning; they placed eighth that year in chicken and fifth in pork. He has since had top-10 showings in several individual categories, and last year won 10th overall. This year marks his team’s 10th consecutive year at the contest.

Mr. Keiles runs Ribs Within as a catering business when he is not competing, and also has a day job making maps and tracking delivery data for newspapers.

He concedes that New Jersey still flies slightly under the radar on the national barbecue circuit. “People will say, What do Northeasterners know about barbecue? They think we’re not truly steeped in the traditions,” he said. “But it’s just not the truth.”

Every year, teams from the Northeast rank among the top in the country, he said, something Ms. Wells, of the Kansas City Barbecue Society, confirmed.

Some of those same teams can be counted on to show up behind pits in North Wildwood.

“I have to face these guys that are ridiculously strong,” Mr. Keiles said. “It’s nothing but pressure.”

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Playing with the BBQ fireThe portrait of Kiwi summer bliss around the barbecue has always been painted as a babble of blokes standing around the grill with a beer and tongs, while women toil in the kitchen, tossing salads and peeling spuds.

But the barbecue scene as we know it is being skewed. Men are shopping for the meat; snarlers and sirloin are being pushed aside by spare ribs and spicy chorizo. Cooking styles are changing and so are the cooks: women are stepping up to the hotplate.

Take Leigh Baddeley, an Auckland property manager and mother of three, who’s not afraid to share the grilling duties with husband Grant.

“I’m totally comfortable with it,” she says. “Grant likes doing the barbecue, but he knows there’s no point being precious about it. If he doesn’t feel like doing it, then I will.”

But there is a line drawn in the coals. “When we have a group of friends round including a lot of blokes, I don’t think he’d be so comfortable relinquishing the barbecue duties to me,” Baddeley says.

A survey of 1,000 New Zealand backyard chefs by international barbecue maker BeefEater found two thirds of Kiwis think women are as good as men at getting the best out of the barbie.

Only a third of the men questioned thought they were better at the task than their partners.

As one who does not barbecue – for fear of the gas bottle (the memory of the infamous New Zealand House barbecue explosion at last year’s Olympics is still fresh) – I carried out a straw poll of female friends.

“The last time I did it, I singed my eyebrows,” said one. “I could if necessary, but along with changing car tyres and putting out the rubbish, I try to maintain my distance,” answered another. Then there are those who gladly take over the tongs – even some who favour their barbecue over an oven.

In the Baddeleys’ Westmere backyard, Leigh is the more adventurous cook. This summer she “took a risk” with a large eye fillet. “When I explained to Grant I wanted to just sear it, he was really dubious about it.” So she took it to the grill and served the bloody-centred meat with wasabi cream. The undisputed verdict: “divine”.

Her father would have been mortified: “I’ve never seen my mum cook on a barbecue, and my dad burns everything until it’s black all over. He swears you have to do that to get it cooked in the middle. It’s a generational thing.”

That’s part of the reason Hawkes Bay restaurateur Raymond van Rijk travels the country, running courses in the art of barbecuing.

“I have taught more than 5,000 people in Hawkes Bay, where there may be only one woman in every class of 24. But my best student, after all these years, is still a woman,” says van Rijk, who recently closed the doors of his Peak House Restaurant in Havelock North to concentrate on the barbecue business.

“A barbecue shouldn’t been seen as just a men’s thing. There are a lot of guys who want to take over the grill and they make a lot of stuff-ups. I tell them unless they do something other than meat, I wouldn’t call them a barbecuer.”

More women are braving the barbie (“the ratio on my courses in the cities is 60-40 men to women”), but it’s still the guys who need help, van Rijk says.

“A lot of men have never cooked in their lives. They get married to someone who’s very good in the kitchen, but when the barbecue comes out, they think they know it all. Fathers have probably taught their sons badly,” he says. “They have no idea about temperature – pork and chicken should never be cooked on high heat – or different cooking times. They put everything on to cook at once.

“I’m totally anti-plate – I cook everything on the grill. But some guys want to cook everything on the hotplate. That’s not barbecuing is it? You might as well stay in the kitchen.”

The kitchen, though, is being taken outdoors. Infrared burners – dubbed the “microwave” of outdoor cooking – produce superheat and are becoming the norm on gas barbecues.

And more people are cooking under a hood; like the old kettle grills, they work better if the lid is down, letting the smoke circulate around the meat. And there’s a definite move back to fuelling with charcoal.

“Charcoal is more romantic; it gives real flavour. Some of the gas companies will tell you that you can’t taste the difference, but you can,” van Rijk says. “Yes, it’s harder to do, but it’s a matter of experience.”

Backyard chefs are also venturing beyond steak and sausages. At Grey Lynn Butchers, Eddie Rodrigues prepared for a rush on beef short ribs and pork spare ribs this summer.

“People are getting more adventurous with meat. They also want lamb racks and butterflied whole chickens for the barbecue,” the award-winning butcher says.

But sausages are still his biggest seller. Not those pre-cooked imposters, but homemade varieties like pork and chardonnay, or spicy chorizo.

Rodrigues, originally from the Indian state of Goa with its own tradition of barbecuing, has noticed a lot more men coming in to buy the meat. “Especially in Grey Lynn, there are plenty of young men doing the shopping,” he says.

“We’re also seeing a lot of new cultures coming in and buying different meat. The Brazilians buy picanha, the cap of the rump, which they rub with rock salt and cook over charcoal. And Argentinians love their ribs.”

While barbecuers get more creative, it comes at a cost – the price of a Kiwi barbecue dinner is rising with the smoke. Based on the November 2012 food price index, a barbecue meal for a family of four (including steak, chicken, salad, pavlova and nibbles) costs, on average, $64.74.

Over the past decade, the cost has increased by $1 a year. The biggest price leap since 2002 – when a family barbecue cost $53 – has been in meat and sparkling wine. Strawberries and capsicums, though, have come down in price.

Thank goodness for small mercies.

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Dickey's Barbecue

Fast-casual restaurant chain Dickey’s Barbecue of Dallas plans to open five new restaurants in Arkansas within the next two years.

Two of the restaurants should open this summer, according to spokeswoman Jami Zimmerman. One will open in a leased space at 4024 W. Green Acres in Rogers.

The other, to open in Searcy, doesn’t have a lease executed yet.

Franchisees are also lined up for restaurants in Bentonville, Fayetteville and Little Rock.

The company’s existing Arkansas restaurants are at 105 S. Dixieland Road in Lowell and 1951 E. U.S. Highway 412 in Siloam Springs.

The restaurants feature free ice cream everyday for dine-in guests and free kids meals on Sundays.

“We feel like Arkansas is our neighbor and it’s a natural fit for Dickey’s,” Zimmerman said. “This year, we’d like to see an explosion of barbecue in Arkansas.”


Allen West Threw a Goodbye Barbecue for His SupportersAbout 300 or so Allen West supporters gathered on Monday night for the Allen West Goodbye and Thanks for All the Crazy BBQ.

It was apparently a night of BBQ, thank yous, and obscure military references at his campaign headquarters in Stuart.

West, who finally conceded to Patrick Murphy when he realized that the recount he insisted on actually gave him an even larger margin of defeat, addressed his loyal supporters as only West knows how: by referencing American battles and shoehorning a Revolution-era quote to express… something.

Either way, West won’t stop talking. Because real American leaders have voices that never disappear.

“Leaders don’t need a title to be able to lead,” West told the crowd. “They can continue to stand up for the principles and values that make this the longest-running constitutional republic that the world has ever known. So you will not see my voice disappearing.”

West also quoted Thomas Paine’s “These are the times that try men’s souls” line from his revolutionary American Crisis pamphlets of 1776. Because losing a race in a Florida district and having a president you disagree with win reelection is the same thing the Founding Fathers fought and bled for.

“We will overcome this fiscal crisis,” West said to his supporters. “We will overcome this energy independence crisis. We will defeat the enemies that want to destroy us and our best ally in the world that is Israel. We will be triumphant. The harder the conflict, the greater the triumph will be.”

Truly inspiring words from a guy who did absolutely nothing in his one and only term as congressman. Unless you count him calling Obama a Socialist, Muslims evil, Debbie Wasserman Schultz “vile,” women a hindrance to men, Obama supporters dumb, and people who live off government programs “slaves,” then he totally did a lot, and Thomas Paine would seriously be impressed.

“So don’t come here tonight crying over your barbecue,” he continued. “Come here tonight and understand that at this place at this time, there will be an awakening that will go forth all across the United States of America, and you can tell your children that on the 26th of November 2012 that you stood here right where it began.”

The awakening starts right here at our barbecue! Just as soon as I’m done with these corn niblets, we’re totally going to revolution all up in this place!

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Oklahoma barbecue team takes top prizes in World Food ChampionshipsButcher BBQ of Chandler was named the first-ever World Barbecue Champion in early November at the World Food Championships, hosted by Adam Richman in Las Vegas.

That placing earned the team $10,000 and one of seven seats at the final table, where the team took fourth and another $2,500.

The seven categories included barbecue, chili, burger, side dish and an online recipe, and the event attracted more than 300 competitors.

A combination of beef brisket, pork shoulder, pork ribs and sauce positioned Butcher BBQ at the top of its category, and it took its ribs and brisket to the final table. where they were judged by Richman, Robin Leach, Todd Pearson, Myron Mixon, Antonia Lofaso, Tim Love, Ben Vaughn and Colman Andrew

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Barbeques Galore BuyoutBankrupt Barbeques Galore has been purchased by Taiwanese Gas Grill manufacturer Grand Hall. The newly formed Grand Home Holdings division of Grand Hall will continue operation of at least 42 of the Barbeques Galore stores in Texas, California and Arizona.

Barbeques Galore which declared bankruptcy on August 15th was forced to sell off all assets to cover the nearly $40 million dollars in debt the company had acquired in recent months.

Grand Hall has spent $15 million dollars to purchase most of the remaining assets of the company. While Barbeques Galore has blamed the housing crises for its faltering business, Grand Hall has expressed optimizing that it can turn the company around and make the remaining stores into an outlet for its Gas Grills.

Grand Hall has been a supplier of many of the Barbeques Galore brand grills including the large Grand Turbo Grills. Grand Hall is also the maker of grills available in Sears, Sam’s Club and Fortunoff stores with brand names like Kenmore, Perfect Flame, The Source, and Strathwood.

Australian Barbeque’s Galore originally came to the United States on a franchising business model but began buying back many independently owned franchises several years ago.

The remaining independent franchises that are still in business have been asked to change their names so if your local store suddenly has a new name you know that it is an independent store.

The future product lines of Barbeques Galore stores are still unknown but with Grand Hall being their primary supplier of store brand products I doubt much will change in that direction.

The new company promises to be leaner after many of the money loosing stores have already been shut down.

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