Hard 8 BBQ – Coppell TX

Hard 8 BBQ – Coppell TX

http://www.hardeightbbq.com/

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Whether it’s the fact that I’m jaded about really good BBQ – I have lived in Dallas, TX / Charlotte, NC and several stops in Florida as well as have extensive travel under my belt which leads me to try BBQ from many different regions and genre’s it takes a lot for me to get excited about a new stop.

I was at a work function and one of my the guys that works for me as well as our customer wanted to go for BBQ – I will say my customer was every knowledge about competition as well as home cooking (found out later he has won 5 Grands) so as we were talking I said sure I’m coming. I always pick a place to try anyway and if you guys are recommending it let’s go.

One caveat to this is I was already full from appetizers and a few Shiners while we were having this conversation so I didn’t expect to order much … I also will say I wasn’t expecting this so I didn’t have a good camera with me only a camera phone so they are not the greatest pictures in the world.

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Hard 8 – it’s funny because I lived very close to this location but never had heard of it before. The Coppell location is in the middle of an industrial park so if your setting your GPS to get there don’t get too concerned you will see the smoke after the last turn…
Well, its Texas so it’s a big building with lots of parking around back and jeeps and trucks everywhere there is a piece of grass….

There two lines and for good reason – open air pits with various menu items. All the staples plus a few more things you don’t see everyday.

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After waiting in line, which you could have, grab drinks from the front you weave through to see the fireboxes, cast iron grills and pans as well as an all of the beautiful BBQ.
As I said I was stuffed which I thought everyone else was so I figured that there would be some left over when everyone got done. Don’t get me wrong I’m not cheap at all I just don’t like to waste food and while staying in a hotel it’s hard to bring back a big plate of BBQ ☺
I opted for the Brisket (hey I’m in TX) and a chicken wrapped in bacon. As you know from my other reviews I normally go with Ribs but I just wasn’t feeling ribs although that turned out to be a mistake.

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We all ordered and walked through the line that your food is weighed by lbs then you grab fixen’s and deserts. (Cherry Cobbler for me☺)
Well, the brisket was out of this world – I asked for some bark and point sections that I got and it was moist, tender, and had just enough seasoning. This chicken wrapped in bacon was just amazing with a smoky taste… then since everyone was stuffed I started to have things thrown on my plate – Ribs were one. Now I know pork ribs aren’t Texas staple but these were really good spares. It was clear they were cooked perfectly and just enough spice. The one thing that was really surprising to me was the smoked sausage – I am not a fan normally but I have to tell you it might have been the best thing I ate. The smoky flavor and perfect cooking make this something that I will go back just to order. This is not to say that the brisket wasn’t a home run but I was completely surprised about the sausage this was out of this world.

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Overall – I have heard that this was one of the best Dallas BBQ restaurants and it didn’t disappoint. I would say that the brisket and sausage were some of the best I have every tasted in my life. I will go back and I recommend you do as well. Next time I head there I will have a better camera and go for more items on the menu. Hard 8 is a Dallas Stop! I would recommend it at the highest level!

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Kojak’s House of Ribs Review – Tampa, FL

Kojaks House of Ribs
http://kojaksbbq.net
Address:
2808 Gandy Blvd.
Tampa, FL, US 33611
Phone: 813-837-3774

March 3rd - 365 - RIBS

While on vacation this past week one of my quests was to spend some time at Spring Training games here in Florida the only challenge was that I had a few things I wanted to get done around the house as well as it was unseasonably cold here and I know to most 40-50s sound like a head wave to me its not ☺

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I looked at the schedule each morning and everyday I had been to the stadiums already for the games I was semi interested in. So instead I worked on my list of projects at home and decided I would do some Tampa BBQ tasting. I had several places I wanted to try but Kojak’s had been calling me for some time. I had driven past it one day by accident turning off of Bayshore onto Gandy and whenever I see a sign for RIBs my heart always flutters a little. My favorite order on BBQ menus is Spareribs.

Now if you don’t know my qualifications and found this article on Google or Bing you could search my other pages but needless to say I’m a KCBS and FL BBQ Judge as well as have attended several cooking schools (Myron Mixon’s being the most famous). I have judged 30-40 contests including Grilling in Mesquite, NV and the Lakeland, FL Pigfest to name just a couple you might have heard of. I have three smokers at my house, cook almost every weekend and I know BBQ ☺

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Enough about me – on to Kojak’s House of Ribs….

So first of all pulling up to Kojak’s the parking lot is full of cars, which to me is always a good sign. It’s is an old white South Tampa style house with a great wrap around porch. Very cool looking building with old school picnic tables and fans above. Very clean, very retro looking just a cool environment outside – for me again it was a little cold so I opted to eat inside.

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Inside could be even a cooler experience – older house with great old hard wood floors and small tables in each room. I went to the left into the small room with the fireplace, which I assumed was a dinning or living room at one time. I told the lady at the front where you could either order your togo or grab a table it was my first time and she gave me a menu. Since I normally bring a camera and I am snapping a few pictures of the place I suspect they know I am writing about the BBQ or the experience but who knows.

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Looking over the menu I of course was going to order ribs since I mean that is the name of the place and was trying to figure out a 2 or 3 item combination. I went for 3 what the heck I’m on vacation – Spareribs, Chopped Pork (their most popular I was told) and Chopped Beef. The Chopped came in their special blend of sauces so I assumed a rub and light sauce which was fine. The waitress – and let me say the service as wonderful. Oh I forgot – a Sweet Tea to get started as well… Their Sweet Tea was really nice – not overpowering sweet but enough you could taste the tea and the sweet… really nice.

Sides I always forget about looking at because I’m so ready for BBQ but I also consider that having a great BBQ restaurant you must have great sides… you are ordering a plate of food while when I’m judging at a contest I’m only judging meat… restaurant to me is a little different. The food, the venue, the service and the overall experience to me are important. In a contest I’m in a big room that is normally used for something else and is setup with tables just for this one day (or two) but a restaurant is setup for me to want to come back over and over.

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Back to the food ☺ Getting sidetracked a lot this morning while writing this post.

Choose from Cole Slaw, Baked Beans, Green Beans, Apple Sauce, Macaroni Salad, Potato Salad or Parsley Potatoes… Again I was so interested in the BBQ I forgot to look. So the waitress was nice enough to help me her recommendations were the Parsley Potatoes and the Baked Beans which both sounded wonderful to me.

One other side note about the venue is you are very close to McDill Air Force Base so you get a lot of soldiers in camo in the restaurant – that tells me two things one is it must be good because soldiers know food and I am quite sure they will keep it safe from any issues that might arise. Thank you to all our military for your service!

So almost 800 words and now my food comes ☺

Now this is a plate full of food – exactly what I would expect large amount of sides and large amount of BBQ. There were three sauce options on the table, regular, sweet and hot. I couldn’t take it any longer so I dug into the ribs – first bite was to check tenderness and it was a clean bit with just the perfect amount of tug to know that they knew where they were doing so a second bite leads me to my tasting of the ribs, which were great. Nice smooth rub not over spiced or over rubbed and they were dry ribs (moist of course dry) so no sauce or glaze but that is just fine. Ribs were spot on and very happy…

The Pork and Beef were the mystery to me… now this could just be me but they were way over sauced. They were covered and then sitting in a pool of sauce. I was surprised by how much sauce there was and wondered why you would even put more on the table… but I tired both. Honestly at the beginning I had to look to see which was pork and which was beef – it was hard to tell at first. To me – I want my BBQ to taste like what it is – is it pork? It should taste like pork first and the same with beef. I was a little disappointed in these two meats and I did scrape off the sauce and tried them both and they were cooked great but so hard to tell flavor at that point.

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The sides – outstanding I cleared both of them like it was nothing. The baked beans had a perfect snap to them and there was a flavor added to them that I couldn’t figure out but whatever it was it worked great!! I loved it and them. The Parsley Potatoes were highly recommended so I tried them and what appeared to be Red Potatoes with oil, parsley and garlic was a perfect combination.

When the waitress came back she could see what I enjoyed and what I didn’t which is the sign of good service and knowing a customer she brought my bill back and a small stainless restaurant serving cup of their new pulled pork. She said I wanted you to try this and I did… Out of this world. Perfectly cooked, pulled, taste, texture all spot on… I wish I had known and would have ordered that ☺

My overall experience is that I would say Kojak’s Ribs is a great place that I will try again – The Ribs were perfect and I did try the sauces which were all good – but you will have to find the taste your looking for the sweet was the best to me.  The pulled pork that was brought to me at the end was again perfectly done but the I just wish they didn’t over sauce the chopped… maybe it’s what their customer bases wants and I could be wrong which I have been before but to me too much sauce.  Sides were perfect and unique as well as the venue and wait staff were perfect. I will return.

Stamey’s Old Fashioned Barbecue BBQ Review – I guess….

Stamey’s Old Fashioned Barbecue – I guess….

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One of the great things I get to do while traveling is try new restaurants and especially with my love for BBQ I normally try to find at least one on a trip to check out. While doing some research on a trip to Greensboro, NC all indications from my web searching was that Stamey’s was the place to go.

I was in a training class while on this trip and asked the teacher who was a native of the area the same question and without hesitation he said the same thing… Stamey’s… he also told me that you had to go to the original one, which was by the Greensboro Coliseum and that one of their claim to fame, is that George W. Bush ate there while he was President. Well – I figured good enough for W. good enough for me ☺

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The building was a cool old building with old fashion stools and a counter top bar and it was pretty full for a Tuesday night. Not overall full but full enough for me to think I was getting some good food.

Sat down an asked the waitress for some ribs and a diet coke which as you could tell by my pictures is one of the best things I cook as well as a way I judge BBQ restaurants. To my dismay… No ribs at all and diet Pepsi only… That started my questions about Stamey’s… if you are at all a soda drinker you have your favorite and if its one brand other the other… you really don’t like the other and are disappointed when that’s all they have. No matter – I’m in North Carolina and I lived in the state before what else but Sweet Tea to order… perfect. Still – I couldn’t get over no ribs at a BBQ joint that is suppose to be the best in the city…. One side note about the sweat tea – in NC it’s normally so sweat that you’re filling hurt… in a good way. This wasn’t… in fact I was wondering if I had to add more sugar but I digress.

 

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Well – I figured I was there what the heck. Waitress what is the best thing on the menu I asked? She said the sliced with hushpuppies. Perfect send me an order!

So – my disappointment continued. This was the smallest plate of BBQ I think I have ever gotten. I mean a McRib was bigger:

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I was there and I was hungry – so I dug in. The sliced was ok… a little dry but I tried some of their Stamey’s sauce which helped. Of course vinegar based NC sauce. Nothing out of the ordinary just your average sauce.

Best part of the small plate of food was the Hushpuppies – were golden on the inside and crispy on the outside. I finished them all!

With really good service – and I am serious about that the wait staff was as nice as they could be… she asked if I saved room for desert (their peach cobbler was supposed to be awesome I was told by the teacher). I didn’t have the heart to tell her I didn’t have to save room so without being a wise guy I placed an order of cobbler.

It was December and I’m a Florida boy right now so it was really cold outside and I didn’t order with ice cream. The cobbler was simply amazing it was worth the drive and the dry sliced. If you order one thing at Stamey’s… Order the cobbler!

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Overall – my first night in Greensboro BBQ was disappointing. No Ribs, No Diet Coke, weak Sweet Tea and a very small pate of food…. I hate to give bad reviews because maybe it was a one-time thing, I got there at the wrong time or something but I was disappointed. I now wonder what W. thought! ☺

Jack’s Old South Cook School Review – My weekend at Myron Mixon’s House

What's in the Glass Miron?!?

While I will do my best to keep this a short story and give you the facts there is a lot involved in this story and you will read.

First of all – I am from the Northeast and to be more specific Connecticut if you haven’t learned that from my other posts and while growing up when we talked about having a BBQ that consisted of having Hot Dogs and Hamburgers on a grill to me that was living well. Ribs and Chicken were normally grilled too but smoking meat was not something we did or at least I didn’t remember. Rubs for sure where not something I can recall the most marinate I could think of is Italian Dressing that my mom would put on Steak Cubes for kabobs.

Miron Mixon Prepping a Whole Hog

Now to be completely fair to my mom and my up bringing we are Italian and for the most part we didn’t really grill out. My mom was the cook and we had a lot of cold weather so grilling only happened for a few months out of the summer, which we only had a little hibachi grill so it was not really large enough to do more than a steak or some burgers.

Once I started cooking I really got into grilling so I invested in several grills along the way and fell in love with my TEC infrared grill but after several moves and getting dropped down a set of stairs in a move from Redmond Washington back to Florida.

Jack's Old South Rib Prep

So – in the mid nineties I moved to Charlotte, NC and I was in early 20’s I was on my first adventure on my own. Meeting a whole bunch of people at a growing and younger company, I was having so much fun learning and working I got invited to my first PIG PICKEN. I said I have no idea but what the heck let’s give it a try…. I would say I had BBQ before in a BBQ Pork Sandwiches, Ribs at restaurants but never saw a whole hog in the ground being slow cooked. I was fascinated!!!

So my love affair started with true southern BBQ. Yes – maybe I’m a DAMN Yankee for coming to the south and ever leaving! Charlotte, NC, Dallas, TX, several spots in Florida which is the south and I will have another post on that someday.

Miron and son

Charlotte was a great place to learn as I will tell you they take it very serious there – Charlotte being right on the border of South Carolina also give me the ability to try the mustard based delicacies as well. Then spending time in Texas I had the opportunity to start another love of brisket and beef! There are so many things to try from sausage, pork, beef, ribs, butts, and briskets… I could go on! Whenever I travel, I always try to find the best places in town to give a try…

Team getting ready to wrap

I will say that all my experimenting and everything else really didn’t pan out as well as once I started to watch BBQ Pitmasters on TLC… I’m sure many of us didn’t know as much as we do since the introduction of that show or at least I’m willing to admit it!! I have had an electric smoker and then purchased a Big Green Egg when I started trying to get more serious. I wanted to learn a little more about controlling a fire and getting the amount of smoke into my meat that I wanted which with an electric smoker is much easier and since I will never compete I will tell you that a really good electric smoker could be in my future. I really like the Jack’s Old South line and I would invest and was most likely going to do it until I really just thought about the costs and space commitment that it will require for me. I don’t have enough space or need for the size that is but who knows…. with me I could end up getting one someday. My main problem with the egg is cook space… I have the large and even considered getting an extra large as well but the problem really is just the cook space… I know there are several ways to extend and so forth… this is not a story about the egg.

Nick with all the Pans of Butts, Shoulders and Brisket

I became a KCBS Certified BBQ judge and have traveled all over the country including Mesquite, NV for Grilling in Mesquite, which was a highlight for me. I was hopping my mug would get on TV but not sure I ever saw it. Having the ability to meet Myron, Johnny, Tuffy and many others on the show and some that aren’t including Ray Lampe / DR. BBQ is always a treat and I will tell you that they are not what they seem on TV at all. Some are nicer and some aren’t at all! Myron is nothing like his TV persona or at least not as you would think from an approachability perspective – he is very approachable, takes pictures with everyone, and talks to anyone and laughs and jokes. Sure he wants to win and his cocky about it but heck when you have won as much as him and you continue to… WHY NOT BE!

I was a fan of Myron Mixon because as a Miami Hurricane I love Swagger, but I also loved Johnny Trigg since Ribs are my favorite and he really is the rib master. My wife doesn’t like the show as much as I do and she was never really a fan of rubs but since watching the show I have found a great balance of what she wanted and what I could create so …. she likes my Johnny Trigg type ribs. Now, I haven’t said this along the way… my wife is really really … really!!! Understanding of my hobbies and the fact that some are very expensive and time consuming like my Ham Radios, Cameras and Grills… with that said she is amazingly supportive of me and really as much as she makes fun of me likes to see me happy!

Jack's Old South - Pork it's not just for breakfast

She couldn’t figure out what to get me for our anniversary and ended up purchasing me a seat at Jack’s Old South Cook School in Unadilla Georgia, which I’m sure you have never heard of outside of Myron’s House. I never heard of it so when I did some quick mapping it’s really close to Perry, GA which has some decent hotels and places to eat… with that said you won’t be eating much outside of his class as meals are provided.

DISCLAIMER – if you are expecting me to provide you any of his recipes or tricks you could forget it! There are two reasons I won’t – the first is he asks you not to take any video, tape audio or put them on the Internet. Second is – no matter what! Integrity is a core value of this and mine is something that this man does for a living, provide an opportunity to learn,, and charges very fair price once you hear everything you get. Also, it’s just not classy and if I saw someone posting these things I would tell him so he could have them removed. I wouldn’t want someone stealing my work and I don’t think it’s fair to share his without permission. Ok I’m off my soapbox.

It was a 5 or so hour drive for me from Florida so I packed up and got in the car – and started my drive. I will say that if you have never been through North Florida and Southern Georgia there is some pretty country through there.

Whole Hog Cooker - Jacks Old South

I stayed in Perry, GA where you could find several reasonable priced hotels, which were clean and safe. I stayed in a Ramada Inn for somewhere around $64 with free breakfast and Internet.

So Myron you do receive several communications from the cook school the night before (and week) and they ask you very clearly not to show up early Friday night as they are trying to get setup with all the tents, cooking and check-in. Honestly, there were a lot of people in the driveway waiting and if I knew now that there would be the rush that there was as well as the wait to check in I will tell you this… wait 15-20 mines. You will get checked in just fine and there is NO LACK of Food or anything if you’re a little later. TRUST ME! ☺

I’ll go into each day a little more detail but here is the layout of the weekend:

The Venue – Myron’s house. He has several (12) tables setup for standing and prep work where you work with a team on each category (Chicken, Shoulder, Ham, Brisket, Spare, and Baby Back Ribs. He also has a venue with one long table down the middle and about 8 on each side pointing at his perch, which has a mirror on top of the table for all to see. Many flock for the front but I will also say that Myron at all times stops and let’s you come up and look, will ask for questions and answers any and all in his way (Yes, if you don’t like adult language remember it is Myron ☺). There are a men and women’s bathroom and tons of parking. They also had several versions of his (Tom the maker was there as well) Water Cookers for sale which if I had more space for I would have gotten one we are just in a small backyard spot right now. Overall, the location gets an A+. One small thing I will point out – trains fascinate me and he had a rail line that goes through Unadilla in his back yard. It’s a working track for sure as there are several LONG trains that go by over the weekend. The only reason I mention that is because of my affection for the sound and the view… it means nothing to the class but I liked it ☺

Nick with all the Pans of Butts, Shoulders and Brisket

Friday – Low Country Boil with all the fixins. Kegs setup with beer, soda, and some great sweet tea. I ate so much – Hushpuppies were my fav☺ I don’t eat Catfish but the Fried Chicken was amazing. Myron and all his staff are setup to answer any questions as well as all the equipment you see on TV is setup to walk around on and take pictures on/in. You also get to talk to a bunch of people that range from serious competition to backyard as well as people like me that just love BBQ and want to learn. There isn’t much learning the first night more of just getting ready for what you’re going to learn and a great party.

Saturday – Early start 7am. Coffee, Sweat Tea, Sodas as breakfast Danish, and other stuff. Trust me eating isn’t a problem – like I said I had free breakfast at my hotel so I did have a bite there but still had some great stuff while at JOS.

Saturday morning is all about Whole Hog. How to prep the hog in detail starting with prepping the ribs, cleaning up fat, how to cut, what to look for in a hog. Then you go through all the injecting making which is the one that Myron uses in competition… How to inject, where to inject and why… how to rub and how much to use and why. How to wrap – why to use props to keep the hog in certain positions and so forth. Timing of when to put on and what temperatures to expect in different areas of the hog.

Hands on portion of the class

Saturday lunch was hotdogs and hamburgers with all the sides you could ask for – I will tell you that his twice baked potato salad that is in his book was so good that I am going to have to make it at home.

Saturday afternoon you start with brisket, shoulder and butt training and then break out into teams, which allow you hands on training and experimenting. You have several people from JOS walking around helping with any questions or comments. While getting ready for brisket prep if you know about Myron’s brisket at all and the fact that it is most likely his strongest category outside of whole hog – Myron’s Wagu Brisket is really great. High marbling content and very expensive. He mentioned that he spent over $5000 just on briskets for the class.
Ribs, Chicken and everything else is the exact same way… once you learn all his glazes, marinades and timeframes when, how and why they take your food and cook it all! They have all their competition smokers going and his old staff of “black shirts” is doing everything – cooking, wrapping, panning and then resting. Saturday night has another huge meal of Pork Chops and other food as well as all the fixins – Stuffed again with the great food! So much to eat … and it was all great!!!

Miron getting personal

One thing – Saturday night there is plenty of time to get orders in for any of JOS’s products that Myron is using throughout the weekend. I was surprised on how there was NO hard sell on any products. He mentioned what he was using and it was available. Tom passed out order forms and of course they preferred cash but as Tom said we would find a way to take your money and that was true to course. Honestly – I bought a few things that I really needed. Rib Racks are invaluable, I love the MEAT RUB and I thought the Rib Rub was a little too sweet for my taste but most love it.

Well – Sunday morning has now come around and after breakfast we are finishing up. Whole Hog comes off, and you are invited up with a small basket, and they start pulling for you. Class all comes up and although it’s a little unorganized how could you keep us all in line ☺. They always… I mean always ask did everyone get a first change on everything before seconds. You have a few people in everything in life that just keep cutting in line but overall most people were very cool. I had thirds ☺ Bacon off a whole hog if you have ever had it is like cotton candy and well worth it!

Myron then went though this process of building a whole hog box for turn ins as well as how he setups his area for onsite judging. He didn’t hold anything back and as he was talking through all of the process he answered questions on any topic but specifically on box building. I told tons of pictures again but I will not post just out of respect for his class.

After the whole hog and the other meats were being prepared for serving there was open time to walk around and get your orders from the night before as well as about an hour of just open Q&A about anything. Timelines, temperature, processes, trial and error, back yard and home cooking questions, and whatever other topic you want.

Then the meats start getting passed out from what you cooked Saturday and it keeps coming and coming… WAY TOO MUCH FOOD if that is at all possible ☺

Chicken, Ribs both Spares and Baby’s, Brisket, Shoulder, Butts and you just keep eating while Myron is answering questions and talking openly.

Now during the whole class and breaks and whatever open time there is Myron will take any pictures and sign any books or whatever else you want. Completely approachable and willing to take all the time in the world for interactions – not at all what you would expect from the TV persona… with that said make sure your ears can take it because he does use Adult Language ☺ So – if your someone that gets offended easily you are forewarned.

Myron also pulled out his notebook of his dad recipes and shared them with the class. Taking notes is critical – they provide you a notebook and pen and make sure to write down everything. I had met a husband and wife from Tampa and we sat together and shared notes the whole time to make sure we all got it. We had a blast.

There is sooo much extra food that they bag up all the categories and put them on a table for you to take home with you. I took a bunch as people were flying or other stuff and there was so much extra. Since I was driving I could get it home and we would not let it go to waste.

Miron Mixon and Nick

I’m sure I’m missing a ton of things and please ask any questions you might have and I’m happy to help. My final conclusion on the class is this:

WELL WORTH THE MONEY! So that’s my take on the JOS Cooking School I hope you enjoyed it.

Pros:

• How many times in life do you learn from the best of the best in something

• FOOD – I mean everything from Friday night to leaving on Sunday was great! That alone is worth the price of the class.

• Getting to see it done and ask questions from a true master

• Socialization – so many BBQ people to talk to and meet. I met two people from Tampa and have kept in touch.

• Brisket – I will say that this is the one thing I learned so much about that I will ensure never to get it wrong again

• Ribs – Although I thought his were sweet I made them myself with a few tweaks and my family said the best ever.

• Memories … need I say more?

Cons:

• BUGS! – There are NATs every night and they are the worse. Bring Bug Spray for sure that is the biggest con of the whole event.

• Location – Not the easiest place in the world to get to and find a good hotel but not a huge deal either. I liked the hotels in Perry.

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