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Having seen a pig cooked in a La Caja China roasting box, I decide to see if it was simple as it seemed. I started out with a 64.9 lb pig from McReynolds Farm.

Pig in a bag

There was very little to do to prepare the pig for roasting. I just had to split the breast bone.

Splitting the breast

Then split the backbone so that the pig would lay flat.

Cutting the backbone

I loaded up the injector with Louisiana hot sauce and apple juice.

Competition injector

Next I injected all the meaty portions of the pig.

Injecting the pig

Lastly I gave it a good coat of BBQ rub. It was then re-bagged and put on ice overnight.

Injected and seasoned pig

I had to transport the La Caja China to a vineyard to roast the pig. Set up and breakdown was a breeze. All I had to do was reattach the handles. I had removed them so it would fit better in the back of my SUV. After a few minutes of leveling the roaster, I put the hog into the roaster skin side down and added the first batch of charcoal. I started it in a chimney and then mixed in the lit pieces with the rest. Once they were all burning I spread them about across the charcoal tray.

First batch of charcoal

After adding the next three batches of charcoal, it was time to flip the pig. Mitch helped me out by scoring the skin with Xs so that the skin would get nice and crisp. So far I had only spent about 15 minutes setting up the roaster and adding charcoal. The whole roasting process took very little effort.

Cutting the skin of the pig

While the pig was finishing roasting I went down and watched the ceremony.

The wedding

Dana was very excited that the pig was done and that she just got married.

Yay the pig is done

The pig was done right on time and turned out wonderfully. The La Caja China worked fantastic. I would strongly recommend a La Caja China roasting box to anyone who wants to roast a pig or other food with little effort and great results.

La Caja China roasted pig

The crowd descended on the pig like pigeons on bread crumbs. The entire pig was picked clean within 30 minutes.

I have never really been a fan of ham until recently. I always thought it was a bland, tough, watery meat. Well I found out just how good a ham can really be. The trick is to buy one that is cured and smoke it yourself. You basically smoke it like you would a pork shoulder. The rub is a bit different, but other than that the process is the same.

This is my friends recipe (Mikki and Mikey).

Cook time: About 30 minutes per pound.

Ingredients (rub):

  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup Fast Eddies steak seasoning
  • 1/4 Pork Shop rub
  • 3 1/2 teaspoons ground chipotle chili
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 cup fresh oregano minced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh sage minced
  • 1 teaspoon fresh chives minced
  • yellow mustard
  1. Combine all the ingredients except for the mustard in a medium sized bowl.
  2. Cut rind off of the ham.
  3. Liberally rub the ham with mustard and apply the rub to all sides. Wrap tightly in saran wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.
  4. Light charcoal and put on smoke wood (we used pecan)
  5. Place ham on smoker. Set smoker to 225 degrees.
  6. Remove ham once it’s internal temperature reaches 165 degrees.
  7. Let the ham rest for 20 minutes. I put mine in a cold oven.

Ingredients (root vegetables):

  • 2 yellow carrots
  • 1 purple carrot
  • 3 orange carrots
  • 3 golden beets
  • 3 baby beets
  • 3 pink turnips
  • 2 parsnips
  • fresh rosemary
  • fresh parley
  • 18 fingerling potatoes
  • olive oil
  • black pepper

The ham they started with was almost 16 pounds.

Ham on the smoker

It came with part of the rind still on it.

Ham on the smoker

This is what it looked like after the rind was removed.

Ham on the smoker

Mikey went pretty heavy with the mustard.

Ham on the smoker

He covered all sides liberally.

Ham on the smoker

He coated the entire ham with the rub and then tightly wrapped it in saran wrap. It was then refrigerated overnight.

Ham on the smoker

The next day it went on to the smoker. Hot damn that looks good!

Ham on the smoker

Their cat getting some sleep.

Ham on the smoker

Here is what it looked like when it came off of the smoker.

Ham on the smoker

Here are the root vegetables that Mikki started with. About an hour before the ham is done cooking start preparing the vegetables.

Ham on the smoker

Peeled and cut everything but the potatoes. Tossed them in some foil and drizzled them with olive oil. Use the rosemary, parsley, salt and pepper to season them. Seal the double foil pouch and place it on the grill at a medium heat.
Ham on the smoker

Slice that ham. It was so moist and tender.

Ham on the smoker

The vegetables took about 40 minutes. Fork test them to make sure they are done.

Ham on the smoker

She served olive ciabatta bread with the meal. It was fantastic.

Ham on the smoker

We received this awesome BBQ tool a few weeks ago, but it has been to hot for me to take it out for a test run. The weather has been a bit forgiving lately and is in the low 70′s in the morning. I took advantage of this and smoked some sharp cheddar cheese with the A-Maze-N-Pellet-Smoker. Cold smoking is a different beast than hot smoking, and the end results are very different. I was looking forward to testing this unit out. It almost sounded to good to be true. 10+ hours of smoke on a few handfuls of pellets. Well I was about to find out.

a-maze-n-pellet-smoker

I was impressed with the quality of this smoker box. It is heavy for it’s size and is very well constructed.

Lighting hole detail

The bottom has two bars welded to it to allow air flow underneath the box. In addition this helps make the box very rigid.

Bottom of smoker

It takes less than 1 1/4 lbs of pellets to fill the smoker box.

Filled with pellets

The MAPP gas torch worked really well for lighting a small area at the end of the smoker box.

Lighting the pellets with a MAPP gas torch

In under a minute both ends were properly lit and burning.

Both ends are lit

About 10 minutes later the flames had gone out and the pellets started smoking. It is important to let them burn out on their own. I found that if you blow them out prematurely the pellets will go out.

Smoking after about 10 minutes

As you can see the smoker temperature was barely above the ambient temperature.

Internal and external temperatures

I decided to smoke 1 lb block of Tillamook sharp cheddar cheese.

1 lb block of sharp cheddar cheese

I put the cheese on at 8:30 am. Look how much smoke that little box is pumping out. Incredible.

Cheese is on the smoker

After 1 1/2 hours I decided to take the cheese off. The smoker box had been putting out great smoke and I did not want to over smoke the cheese. It smelled terrific. I wish I did not have to wait for the better part of a week before I can use it. I am thinking grilled cheese sandwiches with green chilies or maybe macaroni and cheese. What do you think would be a good use for it?

Smoked cheddar cheese

I vacuum sealed it and put it in the refrigerator for the next 5 days. I will let you know how it turned out.

Vacuum sealed cheese

After1 1/2 hours the pellets are only burned half way on each side. So each row will burn for approximately 3 hours. This give you 9+  hours of smoke from less than 1.25 lbs of pellets if you only light one side.

Only half burned on each end

As you can see, even when lit at both ends, it had little effect on the smoker temperature. It never added more than 10 degrees to the ambient temperature. I am sure that if I filled my water pan with ice it would probably zero out the additional heat altogether. Come November, I should be able to run this all night and never break 60 degrees inside the smoker. I am definitely going to try smoking bacon and salmon with this once it cools off a bit more.

Temperature chart

All in all I found the A-Maze-N-Pellet-Smoker to be an effective, well built, unique BBQ accessory that almost anyone with a grill or smoker could make good use of.

The view from my bed.

My bed

Smoots started snipping parsley pretty early in the morning. It was good to get it out of the way, before everything got hot and heavy..

Cutting parsley

The schedule of the event. Turn in times were

  • 12:00 pm : Chicken
  • 12:30 pm : Ribs
  • 1:00 pm : Pork
  • 1:30 pm : Brisket

Turn in Schedule

Wrapping the butts up with a bit of brown sugar.

Wrapping the butts

Wrapping the butts in foil to protect the saran wrap.

Wrapping the butts in foil

Once the chicken thighs were on a bit more rub was applied to them.

Putting on the chicken

Here is the chicken box we turned in.

Chicken Turn in box

Chris and Mike put the finishing glaze on the ribs.

Glazing the ribs

It almost looks like meat candy.

Ribs are ready

The huge smoke ring penetrated almost 100%

Great smoke ring

This is the rib box we turned in.

Ribs turn in box

Opening up the briskets so the bark can firm up.

Cutting open the brisket

After the briskets were opened up they were left on the smoker for another hour or so. They are looking really good at his point.

Briskets are looking good

This is the brisket box we turned in.

Brisket turn in box

Team picture. Everybody was there except Mike because he had to catch an earlier flight.

The Team

We had a great time. Thank you Chris for giving us this opportunity, we are already looking forward to next year.

Cheers!

Squeal of approval had a great looking smoker.

Squeal of approval smoker

We stopped and listened to Fast Eddy describe his new pellet smoker grill. Highlights on the new unit  were; pellet drop, digital controls, 600 degree charbroiler with cast iron grate, large indirect smoking side, warming rack, and an integrated warming drawer. Price TBD, but we know it’s going to be under $1400.

Fast Eddy's new pellet grill smokers

The kids competition was great. All the kids were busy plating there foods while the parents sat close by and helped out.

American Royal Kids Competition

This thing had to be the most bizarre inflatable kids toy I have ever laid eyes on. They would squeeze out of the vertical split in the gray end. It reminded me of the Ace Ventura movie where Jim Carey squeezes out of the Rhino.

Weird kids toy

When we got back to the booth, Chris was giving a short speech to one of the BBQ tours.  He finished his talk by feeding the group some of the whole chickens we smoked that morning.

Chirs Marks talking BBQ

We still had some time to kill, so we went next door and played some washer toss. Mike is a natural. If you look close you can see the washer homing in on the PVC.

Washer Toss

The guys relaxing a bit before the storm hits. Shelton’s no shoe idea was great. My dogs were barking, so I followed suit.

Taking a break

It was time to get powered up for the over night haul. Nothing gets you going like more meat. This time it was copious amounts of sausage. I had been on a diet of mostly meat and beer for roughly two days now. I was starting to smell worse than our dog after she got into the deviled eggs.

Smoked Sausage

Mike Smoots and Shelton saying, ” Bring it on, it’s time to light the pits and get this train rolling.”

Smoots and Shelton

At 10 pm we lit the pits with propane and wax fire starters. Game on. This particular fire burned until 2 pm the next day.

Lighting the pits

The fireworks were awesome and great way to start the long night.

American Royal fireworks

Smoots, Shelton and I kept an eye on the smokers while everyone else got some rest. It was pretty chilly but the fire box kept us warm.

Watching the smokers

On the way to the event Christopher asked his Dad if we could stop by the store and get some snacks for the day. Chris responded, “Well we have sausages.” Fortunately we stopped by the store and picked up a few things to break up the all day only sausage diet.

I am still a bit uncomfortable with KC small hoodie fashion trend, but the kids seem to love it. I guess it is better than saggy pants.

Getting ready to get the sausages on the smoker

Prepping the sausage fatties for the smoker.

Prepping the sausage

After you do this for awhile you can sleep anywhere.

Getting some shut eye

KCBS Officials checking the coolers for the competition. Everything checked out.

Checking the ice chests

Time to go on a walkabout. The area of the competition was under the freeway. There’s an eerie feeling late at night with the sound of cars, and lingering clouds of smoke.

Under the bridge

After we got back from our walk I powered up on some cold milk.

Powering up on milk

The sausage logs are well on their way to being finished. We temped them just to be safe.

It was going to be a meat only day again. However our buddy Mike Smoots pulled through with some biscuits and all was right with the world again.

Smoots' biscuits

After a glutinous breakfast of giant sausage slabs and smoked biscuits we started prepping the meats. The brisket was first on the list. Shelton breathed deep as he realized the gravity of the moment. This is the turn in brisket for the Three Little Pigs team, gulp!

Trimming a brisket

Jaccarding the brisket. Mike Smoots had to show Shelton the “mad man technique” when it came to Jaccarding the briskets. This involved hitting the meat so hard the table bounced.(that is a bbq statement, please do not take it out of context.)

Jaccarding the brisket

Wrapped and seasoned briskets ready for the ice chest.

Wrapping the brisket

Our neighbor took an early morning rip of Kentucky go juice.

Liquid courage

Smoots and Mike worked together to get all the butts injected.

Injecting the pork butts

Smoots and Mike applied the rub to the butts.

Putting rub on the butts

Once again Christopher demonstrated his amazing ability to sleep virtually anywhere.

Christopher sleeping on the ground

The smoked spatchcock chicken made for a great mid afternoon snack. Yep, you got it. More meat. Just meat. That is all you eat. meat, meat, meat, meat.

Smoked spatchcock chicken

After the fueling up, we went for for another wander. I took a peek at the judges meeting. It was interesting to see who was going to judging our food.

American Royal Judges Meeting

Chris and Shelton were both super stoked about competing in the 2011 American Royal.

Chris Marks and Shelton getting stoked about the event

Chris showing us how to remove the membrane on the beef ribs (brisket on a stick). One and done. If you have never done this before, just use paper towels to grip the membrane and pull. As always, Chris makes it look simple.

Chris showing us how to remove the membrane

Shelton is using a fork to poke holes in the lower membrane. You do this between each rib. This helps break down the connective tissue, making the ribs easier to cut and allows the smoke to penetrate deeper.

Prepping the ribs

Shelton is lightly sprinkling Memphis rub on a rack of beef ribs. Just like with Brisket, we try to stick with a rub that accents the beef flavor. Memphis rub does just that.

Putting rub on the beef ribs

Finally 32 racks of beef and pork ribs are on the smokers. Time to relax before the Ace of Hearts party starts. Since The Good One smokers hold their temperature perfectly, we decided to take the time to go walk around and check out the event.

We ran into Johnny Trigg. He is a really down to earth guy. When Johnny bumped into Chris Marks he asked him how many Royals he had won. Pretty cool.  Hopefully we can get Johnny out to the store to do a class or two.

Johnny Trigg

We got a chance to check out the new Fast Eddys pellet grill smoker. Check out the suicide doors, they’re pretty sweet.

The new Cookshack  Grill smoker

The new Fast Eddy’s smoker is something to behold. The left third is a 600+ degree pellet open flame grill and the right side is a low and slow pellet smoker. They have also incorporated a warming drawer that can double as a cold smoker. (It’s on the bottom right, and the drawer on the left is the ash pan.)

Open Fast Eddys pellet grill/smoker

We saw this custom ice chest rack that Tuffy built for his motor home. It was designed to be high enough to clear their trailer smoker.

Custom ice chest  rack

These were everywhere. I am no electrician, but this does not look like it is up to code. I don’t usually see bungie cords used with electrical boxes.

Electrical Box

After we got back from our walk the guys from Old World Spices prepared over 600 jalapeno poppers! All three of the fillings they used were fantastic.

Jalapeno cores

Cored, stuffed and on the smoker. We were ready for the party. 32 racks of beef and pork ribs and 600+ jalapeno poppers. The Good One Trail Boss is an unbelievable pit smoker!

Jalapeno poppers on the smoker

An American Royal tradition. The Three Little Pigs team getting the event kicked off with a round of whiskey shots.

Event kick off shots

Setting them up.

Pouring the kickoff shots

Chris is cutting up ribs for his guests.

Cutting up ribs for our guests

The Ace of Hearts ladies! Perry (in the background) explaining the features of The Good One smokers.

Perry educating a visitor.

Uh oh, the party just got kicked up a notch. Our Arizona friends Jeff Caler & crew are in the house.

The party finally starts

The meat and whiskey lifestyle caught up to a few people.
Clearing out the casualties

After a long night of food and drink we went to bed, getting some much needed rest.

Welcome to the Super Bowl of BBQ! When Chris was out here doing his last class, he invited us to come help cook on his team. It was an opportunity we could not pass up. Not only were we going to the Royal but we were going to be cooking with the nine time winner Chris Marks!

Welcom to the American Royal

On the way to the American Royal. We crossed over the Christopher S. Bond Bridge. Not only is the bridge functional, it is a work of art. It opened in 2007 and was built to replace the Paseo Bridge. You can read the full Wiki article here if you are interested in learning more about it.

Cool Bridge in Kansas City

We stopped at the the SmokeHouse BBQ restaurant for some lunch. It was pretty ordinary BBQ, however our waitress was really nice and went out of her way to make our visit enjoyable.

The Smokehouse BBQ

While Chris drove us to the event he explained how the weekend would unfold. He was truly a generous Southern host.

Chris explaning the event to us

Pulling into the parking lot we saw this awesome old Kansas City Live Stock Exchange building. The inside has been completely renovated and is used as office space these days. The official website has some good information about it’s history.

Kansas City Live Stock Exchange

The BBQ Legend Chris Marks and his son Christopher. Second and third generation KCBS competitors.
.
Chris and Christopher Marks

The American Royal Banner

The American Royal

The Awards Arena. This is where it all ends.

The Awards Arena

The guys had set up the tent, lights and football field already. We spent the next 6 hours setting up the rest of it. It was very quiet at this point as everyone was busy getting ready for the onslaught of people that would arrive tomorrow night.

Setting up the tent.

Kabob Ingredients:

  • 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
  • 4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 5 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 heaping fork full of minced garlic
  • 1 pound boneless chicken breast, cut into 1-inch squares
  • 2 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise and cut into slices

Tzatziki Sauce Ingredients:

  • 2 cups greek yogurt
  • 2 medium cucumbers, seeded and diced
  • 4 teaspoons of lemon juice
  • 1 fork full of minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon of dried dill
  • 1 tablespoon of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground black pepper

Toppings:

  • 6 pitas
  • 2 Roma tomatoes thinly wedged
  • 4 cups of shredded lettuce
  • 1/2 red onion thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

 

  • Combine all the tzatziki sauce ingredients in a food processor and blend until nearly smooth. Place mixture in bowl, cover and let it rest for 2 + hours. It will taste much better after resting than when initially mixed.
  • Combine red wine vinegar, lemon juice, oregano, thyme, pepper, olive oil, salt and garlic to bowl and mix thoroughly. Add chicken and zucchini to a large resealable bag and pour in the marinade. Seal the bag and toss tumble until the chicken and zucchini are well covered. Let the chicken rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to 2 hours.
  • Preheat the grill to medium heat. While the grill is preheating, load the kabobs by alternating chicken then zucchini. I try to start and end each kabob with a piece of chicken. It crisps up nicely and takes the heat better than the zucchini.
  • Place kabobs on grill until the chicken is done, turning once. This will take about 10 minutes.
  • While the kabobs are cooking prepare the toppings and preheat a skillet to heat the pitas up with.

  • Heat the pitas up on a the hot skillet flipping once. Top hot pitas with chicken, zucchini and toppings.

I hope enjoy this meal as much as I did!

Ingredients:
  • 3 Jalapenos
  • 3 Shrimp (21-25 count)
  • 1 Teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
  • 3 Hungarian Wax peppers
  • 3 Spicy buffalo wings (I used leftover wings)
  • 1 Tablespoon wing sauce
  • 1/4 lb Queso Fresco
  • 12 strips of thin cut bacon
  • 12 Toothpicks

There are two many peppers in the picture. You only need 3 of each for this recipe.

Jalapeno Popper Ingredients

Directions:

1. Pre-heat grill to medium heat.
2. Cut Jalapenos and Hungarian Wax peppers in half. Remove the seeds and pith.
3. Remove shells from shrimp, devien them, finely chop and toss with Old Bay seasoning
4. Remove meat from wings, finely chop and toss with wing sauce.

5. Fill Jalapenos with shrimp and fill the Hungarian peppers with wing meat.

Jalapenos filled with shrimp

6. Top each pepper with a slice of Queso Fresco. I prefer to use Queso Fresco over cream cheese because it has a pretty high melting temperature for cheese. This helps get the bacon nice and crispy without having your cheese melt out of your poppers.

Peppers topped with Queso Fresco

7. Starting at the small end of the peppers wrap a slice of bacon around the pepper overlapping itself to keep if from falling off. You want to wrap the bacon around the peppers fairly tightly. When you get the final wrap on pin it in place with a toothpick.

Bacon wrapped peppers.

8. Place the peppers cheese side down on the grill for about three minutes or until the bacon is crispy. Flip the peppers and continue grilling for another 3 minutes.
9. Remove the finished peppers from the grill and let rest for a few minutes. The cheese will be VERY hot when they first come off the grill.

Bacon wrapped, shrimp stuffed jalapeno poppers

If you try this recipe, let me know what you think of the wing meat stuffed peppers. I have made them a few times and really enjoy them.

Note: These were cooked on a TEC grill. Because TEC’s have glass directly under the cooking grids they are not as prone to flare up as regular grill. I had zero flare ups allowing me to perfectly cook the bacon. If flare up is a problem for you, just put a sheet of tinfoil under the poppers. They will taste just as good, but won’t have the sexy grill marks.

Cheers!

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