Monday, June 11, 2012

Barbecue Interview with the Grill Girl Cyndi Allison

Grill Girl & Barbecue Master Cyndi Allison
Cyndi Allison "The Grill Girl & Barbecue Master"

Your Name, Occupation
Hi. I’m Cyndi Allison. You may know me as Barbecue Master from my blog or Grill Girl from my web site. I’m a freelance writer and write all kinds of articles. You aren’t as likely to see my technical and grant articles and likely would not enjoy those pieces, unless they are in your field.

Grilling was my hobby, and I started the blog to help home grillers, but I’ve been hired to do professional writing about grilling and barbecue. This summer I’m blogging about grilling for Sears and McCormick. I also wrote the grill pieces for Consumers Digest in 2006 and 2011 and the hotel coffee table book piece on North Carolina Barbecue for the RTP area (editor’s pick for that edition).

City/Metro Area, State
Right now I live in North Carolina which is where I’ve spent the bulk of my years. I’ve also called Virginia and Texas home as well as Greece and Japan. Living in different areas has influenced my grilling, so I mix flavors in various ways based on what I’ve seen and eaten across the world.

Rig/Cooking Gear:
I have between 20 and 30 grills and smokers, and I’m too lazy to walk around the house, porches, and garage and count at the moment. I rotate on different types of outdoor cookers, so I can help most people who ask questions. Family members borrow the grills, so the number varies from month to month. 

How long have you been barbequing?
My Dad put me out to grill when I was about 12 years old. You could do the math if I gave you more information. Let’s just say that I’ve been grilling a really long time. After I caught Pop Tarts on fire in the toaster, I was assigned dish washing inside and could play with fire outside.

Do you cook for: Family/Friends, Competition/Festivals, and/or Catering? If Competition: Which one(s), Year, list any awards.
I’m kind of an odd bird in barbecue. I don’t do competitions or cater, and I don’t want to be a chef. I’m a writer. That’s what I do. I can share the experiences and can give detailed and careful directions so that others are successful on the grill.

I grill and smoke for my family and friends and small groups, although I’ve done tailgates standing at the grill for six hours straight. When I’m on the grill for extended times like that, then I can’t get the stories and the photos. Also, I hate sleeping outside and using Port-a-Johns, so I would be a cranky competition player. I’ll stay up late getting information at competitions and spotlighting other smokers, but after about 1 am, I want a bed and then a hot shower in the morning.

Is there another BBQer that has inspired you or, gone out of their way to help? Who was it and what happened?
My Dad got me started grilling. I’d seen him grill. When I asked to grill, he just gave me some meat and sent me outside to grill. That was when I learned that when you shoot lighter fluid at the fire, it runs up the liquid squirt and burns your hair and eyelashes. Then, you throw the lighter fluid bottle like a football down the driveway and impress the neighbors. You don’t make that mistake again. (Actually, I never use lighter fluid now. I use a chimney starter.)

As you can gather, my Dad was not a “hands on” kind of teacher. He was an engineer, and he would tell you the basics in very technical terms and assume that you understood what he said. I was the cussed kind of kid who would nod my head like I got it all and then say I must have been standing too close to the grill when I fried the ends of my hair.

We both mellowed with age and stopped butting heads by the time I was thirty or so. He was a fabulous grandfather to my boys. We made our peace and were close and grilled and did lots of other things before his death six years ago in a truck wreck on I-77. I share that, because I’m sure others out there may not see eye to eye on everything with family. I’m just fortunate that we both came to accept our differences and to cherish each other and a common love of some things like grilling.  

What do you like most about cooking barbeque?

I really like everything about cooking outside – whether it’s barbecue or just burgers and hot dogs. It feels like a party when you fire up the grill, and the boys are more likely to help if  it’s outdoor cooking. When my stove went out, we ate off the grill for six months before I replaced it. No big deal. We could make it outside, so we did. I do have a stove inside again now.

Your favorite cut of meat to cook, Why?
It’s hard to pick a favorite cut of meat, because if it’s done well, I can’t think of any cut I don’t like. I suppose if I had to pick one last meal grilled, then I’d go with rib eye steaks. That was my Dad’s specialty, and he would do those on my birthday.

Favorite side dish(es)
My favorites on the side depend on whether I’m doing a full meal on the grill or if I’m rotating in and out of the kitchen. On the grill, it’s hard to beat corn on the cob or summer vegetables in the wok with a spicy marinade. Inside, I love my Grandma’s chilled broccoli salad (which I can’t get the boys to eat) and meaty baked beans with Frank Corriher sausage (which is local).

Favorite sauce
I’ve had the glory of trying so many wonder barbecue sauces that it’s hard to call one out. I must admit that I’m partial to Nephew’s out of Raleigh, NC. The Cherry'potle BBQ Sauce is fabulous on ribs. It’s sweet but not overly so and has a little heat but not eye watering. That punch of cherry just puts it at the top of my list, and my boys ask for that one specifically. I try to stay neutral and do love many of the small batch sauces I’ve tried, but Nephew’s does top my list. 

Favorite rub
With rubs, I also find there are a huge number of great ones and especially the small batch makers who usually just sell online for now. If I could only have one barbecue rub in the house, it would be Dizzy Pig. The basic Dizzy Dust is excellent on meat or vegetables, and I love the variations like the Red Eye Express Rub Spice which has a hint of coffee infusion.

Favorite charcoal
When it comes to charcoal, I go against the current grain and prefer briquettes. The lighter flavor of natural lump and pellets are nice, but I grew up with that Kingsford flavor and crave it. I’m not too happy that Kingsford made their charcoal burn hotter though, so I often use store brand briquettes now.

Favorite smoking wood
If I don’t have my own wood (which I usually do), I think Baxter’s wood is the best. I love the faint zing of the pecan and fruit tree woods, but they do burn up fast. So, I use hardwoods too. It really depends on what I’m smoking. With fish, I go with a fainter smoke flavor while heavier on butts or ribs.

A funny story related to barbeque?
I was hired to test and rate barbecue grills. I live in a small town of 820 people with little roads. The first 18 wheeler around my block knocked down the cable line (not a good thing in a town with no entertainment). After that I’d tell the drivers to call at the corner. Then, I’d get the kitchen stool and broom and go stand on the stool and hold the cable line high enough with the kitchen broom for the trucks to pass under. The neighbors still don’t know I write about barbecue and grilling, so I’m sure they wondered about that and also about all these grills on my porch.

Any advice for people new to barbeque?
Read up on grills and smokers and get one that matches your style. If you want “quick and easy,” then get a gas grill or convection style grill. If you like to putter outside and work with the food and crave flavor, then you’re going to be happier with charcoal and/or a smoker or a combo type. It’s like picking a vehicle. Some people want a truck and others want a sports car. Or, a four-door sedan may be the ticket. If you get the right outdoor cooker, you will have hours of fun. Don’t just walk in and buy a grill off the floor, or you may have a Harley on the porch when you actually needed and wanted a SUV.  

Barbecue Master blog

Yes You Can Grill web site

Facebook Grill Girl

Twitter Cyndi Allison

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Barbeque Interview with Tom Simon, Raleigh, NC

We are firing up our virtual barbeque and rolling out another barbeque interview. This time around the ole pit we'd like you to meet Tom Simon, Marketing Manager at Geomagic out of Raleigh, NC

How long have you been barbequing?
– 14 years (first year on the smoker)

Do you cook for:
Family friends

Is there another BBQer that has inspired you or, gone out of their way to help? Who was it and what happened?
My father is a big inspiration.  I used to spend time with him out on the deck, watching his techniques.  My good friend John Leffler has recently emerged as my smoker mentor as well.

What do you like most about cooking barbeque?
– It’s my time to be creative, away from email and all my other distractions.  From preparation to execution, I’m completely relaxed.

Your favorite cut of meat to cook, Why?
– Tough question, but I’d have to say NY Strip.  Great cut of meat, and if well-seasoned and cooked well it’s one of the best things I’ll create on the grill.

Favorite side dish(es)
– grilled corn, green beans with garlic and butter, baked beans, Syracuse Potatoes

Favorite sauce
– I make my own bbq sauce that I’ve perfected over time, but out of the bottle I’d have to say it’s a close tie between Peter Luger’s and Dinosaur BBQ (every variety).

Favorite rub
– The Spice House has a lot of great rubs.  Their King Creole is fantastic.  I’ve got a rub on the way from The Salt Lick that I tried during SXSW this year.  That’s headed straight for the smoker!

Favorite charcoal
Royal Oak Lump Charcoal

Favorite smoking wood
– don’t have one yet, but I will by the end of the season!

A funny story related to barbeque?
– My wife and I lived in a small apartment in Hoboken, NJ.  We got an inexpensive Coleman Camping Grill that we used on the fire escape.  I had to be quick since it was a pretty big fire code violation.  One night I was struggling to get it going, took one last shot, and boom out came the fireball.  Goodbye eyebrows, eyelashes, and at the time I had “Eddie Vedder” hair which got a pretty nice singe as well.
Any advice for people new to barbeque? – Practice and patience.  There are lots of great resources on the web you can use, and some great BBQ books out there as well.  If you’re an iPhone/iPad user, get the Weber app.  Lots of great recipes, techniques and built in timers.  This will help you on your quest to become a BBQ master help you challenge yourself as well! 

Find Tom online in the following places and spaces:
: @tbsimon

Friday, October 22, 2010

BBQ Interview with Pitmaster Jim Martin

Jim Martin
1. Your Name & Occupation
Jim Martin, Former Pilot, Now an Aviation Safety Inspector

2.City/Metro Area, State
Indianapolis, IN

3. BBQ Rigs/Cooking Gear:     
A Masterbuilt  propane smoker, a Bradley 6 rack digital smoker, and a Fast Eddie by Coolshack

4.   How long have you been barbequing?
Somewhere in the 7 or 8 year range

5. Do you cook for: Family/Friends, Competition/Festivals, and/or Catering?
I mainly cook for myself, family, and friends. I have entered a few amateur competitions and did pretty well, but don’t really care for it. I find competitions boring and a lot more work than I care to do. I don’t mean this to sound as harsh as it does but I don’t really care what a bunch of judges think, I’m more interested in what the people I know and care for think.

6. Is there another BBQer that has inspired you or, gone out of their way to help? Who was it and what happened?      
Almost every one I’ve met has taught me something. Also lots of books and TV shows.

7. What do you like most about cooking barbeque?    
I really enjoy the amount of time it takes to get good Q. Spending a whole day with family and good friends while waiting for some great food is the best.

8. Your favorite cut of meat to cook, Why?     
Ribs of course. They are what most people think of when they thing BBQ and really is there anything better?  Pork shoulder and salmon are great too.

9. Favorite side dish(es)      
Wow, there are too many to count, but I really like a good slaw. Sweet Potato Jalapeno soup is a favorite also.

10. Favorite sauce
That would be Smokin Monkey Spicy sauce.

11. Favorite rub   
Same thing goes for the rub…Smokin Monkey BBQ rub.

12. Favorite charcoal  
Plain old Kingsford is good.

13. Favorite smoking wood 
I use a lot of Apple, Pecan, and Hickory. I don’t care for Mesquite.

14. A funny story related to barbeque?
Most things I think are funny now have to do with me ruining a good piece of meat. Like the time I turned chicken thighs into lumps of chicken charcoal.

15. Any advice for people new to barbeque?  
Two things. Pay close attention to your smoke chamber temperatures and be very patient. We’ve all heard it at least a hundred times, “if you’re looking you’re not cooking”

16. Jim's Web site:   Facebook page:

Sunday, October 3, 2010

BBQ Interview with Rick Wilson

Rick Wilson - BBQ Cook
Rick Wilson
IT Professional, Mainframe Computer Operator

City/Metro Area, State
St Paul, MN

BBQ Rig/Cooking Gear:
Weber Smokey Mountain (WSM) and Weber Kettle Grill

How long have you been barbequing?
Rick: Barbecuing 15 years, Grilling 40 years

Do you cook for: Family/Friends, Competition/Festivals, and/or Catering? If Competition: Which one(s), Year, list any awards.
Rick: Mostly for myself. Occasionally, family/friends.  Participated in a Non-Sanctioned contest.

Is there another BBQer that has inspired you or, gone out of their way to help? Who was it and what happened?
Rick: The AFB group has been a great resource for learning.  Several individuals.  Too many to list..
What do you like most about cooking barbeque?
Rick: If the weather is nice, like relaxing around the house, putzing around the house/yard working on small projects.

Your favorite cut of meat to cook, Why?
Rick: Boston Butts and Spare ribs.  Very easy to do.  Hard to NOT do them good/right..

Favorite side dishes, sauce, rub, charcoal, and smoking wood:
Rick: Grilled Sweet Corn, barbecue beans.  Sauce, Rubs, nothing in particular for a favorite.
Royal Oak lump for charcoal.  Applewood and Hickory for smoking wood..

A funny story related to barbeque?
Rick: No funny stories..

Any advice for people new to barbeque?
Rick: Be patient. Be flexible.  Many meats can be barbecued at 250° - 300° or little more.

Biographic information about you. Include any links to your blogs, Website, Twitter,LinkedIn, etc. Please include a picture of yourself for inclusion.
Rick: No blogs, etc now.

This photo is from a contest at a local outdoor cooking supply store.  Appropriately named Outdoor Cooking Store.  Sadly, it closed down.  They called it a barbecue contest, but really it was a grilling contest.  We were required to use a weber smoky joe as our cooker.  We got to keep it afterwards.  I imagine Weber donated the Smoky Joe's.  At least I hope so...
This was a fun contest because it was local and though there were prizes for the top 3, it was more for fun.  I was told I finished 5th out of 15 for my pork tenderloin. Not my greatest effort, but it was all in fun.  Would be nice to see more of these types of contests for us hobbiests that are serious, but not so serious we're working towards the biggy contests like the American Royal or Jack Daniels World Championship contests..

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

BBQ Interview with Frank Fuselier

Welcome to our first BBQ Interview. Our BBQ Interview will profile Barbeque cooks from different backgrounds with different approaches and preferences. We welcome your comments at the end of the interview.

BBQ Interview with Frank Fuselier
Frank Fuselier

Name and Occupation: Frank Fuselier, general counsel of a small energy company headquartered in the New York area.

Location: Harrington Park, NJ (NYC metro area)

Rig/Cooking Gear: Char-Griller Duo w/side firebox

How long have you been barbequing?
Frank: 20 years, more or less, maybe?

Do you cook for: Family/Friends, Competition/Festivals, and/or

Frank: Family/friends

Is there another BBQer that has inspired you or, gone out of their way to help? Who was it and what happend?
Frank: Countless TV shows. :)

What do you like most about cooking barbeque?
Frank: My clothes smell like smoke all day.

Your favorite cut of meat to cook, Why?
Frank: Pork shoulder. Pulled pork is almost foolproof, as long as you can control the fire. And the technique translates to the oven very, very nicely (minus the smoke, of course), so even when there are 2 feet of snow on the ground you can get a reasonable BBQ fix.

Favorite side dishes, sauce, rub, charcoal, and smoking wood:
Frank: I'm not a sauce snob. Bulls-Eye is usually plenty fine. I've never bought it bottled, but I also love the sauce at Rudy's in Austin, Texas. I don't drown my meat in sauce. I prefer sweet tomato sauces over mustard or vinegar sauces.

Favorite side dish is grilled corn on the cob, rubbed with mayo (yes mayo) then, dusted with chili powder and grated parmesan cheese. I learned that recipe from a Rick Bayless TV episode, and it's the best darn corn you will EVER have and you'll never look at corn on the cob the same way again. He says it's an authentic Mexico City recipe.

I follow a typical basic rub recommendation: salt, black pepper, paprika and brown sugar, usually with a splash of onion powder, garlic powder, cumin and thyme (or some combination of those).

I've pretty much settled on the idea that regular Kingsford charcoal is really all you need (NOT Matchlight!) I really can't taste a difference between Kingsford briquettes and lump hardwood charcoal. The lump coal burns faster, hotter and more unevenly, making it harder to maintain a lowwwwww fire.

I'm a woodworker, so I have a constant supply of hardwood offcuts and scrap that I
use for smoke. Any typical American hardwood is fine by me, and I love mesquite smoke a lot so sometimes I'll buy that in bags. I won't use exotic hardwood scraps from the tropics, because those often have really noxious oils in them that are irritating and would taste awful (and who knows if they are healthy).

A funny story related to barbeque?
Frank: You mean, other than yapping into the Twittosphere about my brisket just to hear myself talk, then meeting about 10 other twitter people also cooking brisket that day, then ending up giving an interview to one of them for his blog?

Any advice for people new to barbeque?
Frank: Most important thing is to learn how to control your fire. Any idiot can light a blistering hot high fire. Depending on your gear, it can be more tricky to keep the temp low and slow (225-250) all day. Also, there is such a thing as too much smoke. You'll learn how much your family likes with trial and error. Don't feel obligated to pile hardwood onto the charcoal the entire time.

Some information about Frank:

Twitter: FatBaldFrank
SecondLife: I perform very poor acoustic music in Second Life regularly under the
name TonewoodFrank Unplugged. Come listen to me. Even if you think I suck, the people performing before and after me will probably be pretty good and you might get hooked on the SL music scene.

We welcome your comments below

Friday, July 23, 2010

Barbeque: My Introduction


One of my earliest (and fondest) memories of outdoor cooking/barbecuing is during the Blizzard of '78 when my Mom grilled some steaks for dinner on a second story, unsheltered porch using a Weber Smokey Joe®.

My first grill was a slightly used charcoal grill from my step Father-In-Law. From there, I pursued barbeque..(Texas style like that familiar to by Dear Wife). My equipment then became a New Braunfels Silver Smoker.

My first queing experiences were how to build a fire, how to maintain temperature, brisket, pork butt and ribs.

There were edible and less than edible results that all contributed to a well rounded background to build on.

During the day I work in the Internet Marketing field but, that's not what this blog is about. It's about good food, good times, friends and family all mixed together with a certain amount of craft, pride and creativity.