Day 18: 5 Simple Ways to Upgrade Your Product Demonstration Booth

Over the past three years it has been apparent to us that your presentation game must be on-point if you want to boost sales in local and regional grocery stores and specialty shops. As we’ve grown over that time, we’ve begun to see other local barbecue sauce companies take notice and follow our lead. Going from coolers and the ever so familiar off-white, light pink, and greige (gray-beige) crockpots with the little flowers on the side to mirror finish serving dishes shows just how important it is for barbecue sauce startups to stay relevant, appetizing, and approachable. Without anymore delay, here are five things you can do today to stay relevant in your local grocery stores and marketplaces.

 

5. Boast the Benefits, Don’t Baffle With Bullshit

Early on in our demonstrations at grocery stores there were two idealogies about how to best approach potential customers to try the product. As it turns out, most customers are smarter than the average bear and can smell bullshit a mile away. Who knew? You can boast and brag visually using trophies and/or banners without constantly reminding the customer how good you really think you are. No one likes a braggart and they especially don’t like one that initially approaches them with a loud and abrasive claim regardless of merit. Rather than asking the customer if they’ve heard about your recent accolades or publications, ask them if they’d like to try a free sample of the goods. That is what you’re there to do after all; sell your products.

 

Pro-tip: set up a table with a trophy or two (if you have them) but don’t focus on the trophies. Focus on the customer and the sample.

Let the products speak for themselves. No one’s ever heard of “Meatwave Magazine.”

 

4. Interact on a Personal Level.

So many of your customers will remember you and unfortunately you may not remember all of them. It’s a tough line to walk because you don’t want to offend anyone, but you have to interact on a personal level that engages. Talk with the customer as they’re trying the product. Ask them what they like or dislike most about your product while they’re tasting it. You’ll create a level of respect and integrity with them and it will help you create lasting bonds with your customers. It also serves well for feedback. Customers that are comfortable will be candidly honest with you.

Pro-tip: Check the contents of the customer’s cart. See some kind of meat? Offer the right product for it. Start a conversation and then offer a sample.

Thank you for coming by our demonstration today. Let us know how we did. If you are on Facebook, be sure to search for us and like our page. You can leave feedback there as well.

3. Conserve But Don’t Go Skimpy on Samples.

When’s the last time you ate a cracker with barbecue sauce on it and thought to yourself, “I really need to get a pack of saltines to go with this sauce. It is soooo good! I can’t wait to get home and drizzle this on some crunchy crackers!” I would venture a guess that you probably haven’t ever knocked down the grocery store door to get to some crackers when you’re thinking about barbecue. Your customers aren’t thinking that either. Serve them up some pulled pork cooked and served with your products. Get the taste in their mouth and the sale will follow.

Pro-tip: Use restaurant squeeze bottles with nozzles for accurate and conserved application of the sauces.

Save the crackers for a last ditch effort if you’ve run out of meat.

2. Vegans, Vegetarians, and Hipsters OH MY!

We never wish to alienate anyone during a demo, but as the old saying goes, you can’t please everyone. Now that being said, some folks are spending time and money on crackers, kale, jack fruit, and other substitutes for meat. We encourage all people to try our products and for the most part are fairly friendly to special dietary needs, but we never lose sight of our industry and that is barbecue; smoked, flavorful, and delicious meats with a sweet and tangy flavor profile. When you start chasing niche markets while losing sight of your bread and butter customers it becomes a slippery slope that can be hard to overcome. We welcome all people to use our products, but it is difficult for us to begin tracking all of the dietary needs and fads as they come and go. Expect pulled pork, sauce, and rub at our demos.

Pro-tip: Avoid confrontation with PETA and other activists by offering fruit as an alternative. If that doesn’t work, refer to the store manager for assistance.

A quick upgrade is to offer a fruit such as an apple slice instead of crackers. It is juicy and accents barbecue seasons and sauces quite well for those who won’t eat meat.

1. Presentation is 9/10 of The Law

No one wants to eat BBQ from your grandma’s crockpot and they especially don’t want to eat it from your tailgating cooler. While these are great for tailgating and making things portable, you’re here to make a first impression that lasts. We were guilty of using aluminum pans in coolers to keep the meat somewhat warm, but after you open the lid a few times the heat is gone and the condensation starts to dry out the meat.

 

The logical solution is to get a warm dish that will keep the meat moist, warm, and tender. So get a crockpot right? Well that can work, and it does in a pinch, but what if you’re outside or yards away from a power outlet? What if your crockpot looks like something that should be on “The Antiques Roadshow?” What if you have bright orange extension cords looking like a construction site? Are you sending the right visual message? Probably not. Ditch the crockpot for a professional chafing dish with portable fuel burners, some silver flatware, and while you’re at it, throw in a fitted table cloth with your logo on it. We’ve seen other demo booths follow in our footsteps to give a professional “you got your shit together” look with a simple fitted table cloth and some silver flatware.

Pro-tip: Chafing dishes are an expensive but necessary tool that will give your game some much appreciated next-level respect from customers. It will speak for itself. People can’t help but look into it like a mirror. If you’re serious about your groundgame in local grocery stores, you’ll buy a chafing dish right now and keep the crockpot in your kitchen.

Day 17: So… We Found Another World Championship That Dad Won? Who Knew?

Upon doing a ton of research lately on the history and origins of 1980’s pioneering barbecue championships, we found out a few things that even we didn’t know about Dad’s past wins. Unfortunately back in the late 80’s or maybe early 90’s, Dad’s trophies were on display at a buddy’s restaurant and it burned completely to the ground. It included several top place wins at Memphis in May as well as other contests around the mid-south. (I’ll do more research on that later to establish the what, when, and where of the restaurant). All of our lives, we were told that Dad was a two-time champion, receiving top honors of the 3rd and 5th International Cooking Competition in Lisdoonvarna, Ireland. While this is a true statement it seems that we all, including my mother, let one slip through the cracks that was a much more recent victory, and from Memphis in May to boot.

 

Through research online, it became apparent that Dad won the World Championship in Ribs either in 1993 or 1994 at Memphis in May. The book, “Down Home Cooking” by Reader’s Digest (ISBN 0-89577-646-4) lists a recipe and excerpt from an interview with Dad called “Arkansas Slabs of Ribs” which states “Jim Quessenberry, grand prize winner in the Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest, slowly smokes pork ribs on a barbecue for several hours. For faster cooking, roast them in the oven then finish them on the grill.”

EDIT: To my knowledge, Dad’s biggest win at MIM was a 2nd place win in whole-hog sometime in the 1980’s, but this sheds new light on a trophy that may have been lost to time and or a fire. According to my mother, Dad won Grand Prize in a ham cooking contest and this may have been what the article alluded to without expressly mentioning ribs. I have seen one website claiming that Memphis in May was won by Apple City Smokers in 1994 with ribs, but another team took shoulders in 1993 which could lead to the possibility that there was a place win in 1993. One thing’s for certain, he won a category in Memphis in May with top honors and that’s a feat in and of itself.

Day 12: Five Common Myths About Internal Temperatures.

What does anyone know about cooking to temp these days? That’s a tough question depending on the crowd. There are lots of myths and facts around cook temperatures that you should know.

Pork Doesn’t Have to Be 165 Degrees

Most if not all poultry should never be consumed prior to reaching an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Most people are familiar with this as Poultry is often a carrier of Salmonella and when undercooked can lead to extreme illness or even death, but Pork is a different story. Pork on the other hand has a minimum safe temperature of 145 degrees. Pork that is reheated needs only 140 degrees.

Safe Temperatures aren’t always “Done” Temperatures

A big misconception is that the safe temperatures are when the meat is done. This is technically true when avoiding food-borne illnesses but is often lacking in tenderness if the temperature has just arrived. For instance, we cook our Boston Butts to an internal temperature of 190 degrees before allowing them to rest and continue retaining warmth in a cooler. At 190 the bone will slide right out and the pork is at maximum tenderness and moisture. This is just before it rests and we pull and serve.

Chicken Cooked Medium Rare?

No. Just no. This is dangerous and can kill you. Never ever for any circumstance think this is a good idea. Yes there are lots of dumbass people sharing images of “medium rare” chicken on Instagram but this is absolutely careless and dangerous. Never ever do this.

Pink Meat Is Always Undercooked

This is not always a simple yes or no, but for steaks, burgers, and even pork chops, this can be misleading, especially when you’re slow-cooking with smoke. Because smoked meats can turn pink with the permeated smoke in the meat, some people think the pink meat is raw when it is in fact cooked. Just don’t do this with chicken.

Last but Not Least, Rest Times Allow Meat to Cool

In most cases this is simply not true. Resting is a technique that actually allows the warming center of the meat to continue increasing temperature for a few minutes while the outside cools. This is done with steaks, pork loins, and more to reach a desired temperature thus creating an ideal first cut or bite that is cooked evenly and is very juicy.

Day 8: 5 Ways To Improve Your Indirect Heat Cooking Skills On A Small Grill.

So, you wanna improve your skills on cooking indirectly, but you don’t have a fancy offset smoker, no worries. There are a couple of tools and tricks you can use to get the desired results of indirect heat.

#1: Charcoal Basket and Drip Pan:

I often use this method on my Weber kettle grill. The basic idea here is to partition your fire to one side of the kettle using a charcoal basket. Then place a foil pan or sheet fashioned into a pan on the charcoal grate at the other side of the kettle. This will not only catch the drippings of the meat above, but it will also shield direct heat from hitting the meat by providing a buffer between it and the burning charcoal. This method is great for slow cooking ribs without a true smoker. Water can be added to the pan to make the cook chamber atmosphere more humid to aid in keeping the meat moist while cooking.

#2 Build a Brick Wall:

Let’s say you don’t have a charcoal basket for your kettle grill, or you have a different type of grill. No worries the same idea can be applied by setting the coals up at one side of the grill, and building a wall up to the cooking grate with bricks. The wall will provide the buffer between the meat and fire that is desired, and also once the bricks are warm, they will provide consistent heat as it slowly permeates through.

#3: Ring of Charcoal or The Snake Method:

This method is some what new to my bag of tricks, but i have found it to be very useful when I want to smoke a Boston Butt, but don’t want to break out the huge smoker or don’t wanna spend lots of money on tons of charcoal to smoke one butt on a larger smoker. If you have a small smoker you won’t need this method, but again if you have a Weber kettle grill or even a cheap burger and hotdog cooking tailgater, you can use this method and put some delicious slow smoke on a Boston butt or turkey or any thing that can fit in your small grill. So here is how you set it up. Take charcoal brickets and neatly stack them around the perimeter of the charcoal grate where it meets the side of the kettle. Leave space between the start and end of the ring so you don’t accidentally burn both ways at the same time. Start your fire on one end and it will slowly burn around the perimeter for many hours, at a nice low and slow pace. You can also sprinkle your favorite wood chips over the ring of charcoal to keep a steady regimen of smokey goodness cooking into the meat. I like to start my fire so that it burns clockwise, it helps indicate what hour of cooking I’m in. After you start your fire. place the cooking grate over it and place your meat in the center of the cooking surface. I like to place Boston Butts it in an aluminum pan, but leave the pan uncovered. It lets the Butt get the flavorful smoke, stay moist because it cooks in it’s own juices, and it acts as a buffer between the fire and the meat.

#4 The Stack Add-On:

There are a few different extensions you can add on to Weber kettles that move the cooking surface higher above the coals for a slower cook. In this type of situation the coals are still under the cooking surface, but not close enough to flame kiss a steak. If you are like me you like the idea of having the versatility of an add-on like that, but never think to buy one. I think it’s funner to create indirect heat using the methods mentioned above.

#5 Electric Smoker:

If you have access to electricity this is one of the easiest and consistent ways of smoking and using indirect heat. The heat is provided from a heating element much like an electric oven, and the smoke is typically created by feeding wood pellets or pucks via an auger or conveyor into the heating element creating smoke. These smokers are nice to have when cooking at home, but are generally not permitted in BBQ contests, as they make things way to easy and consistent. Taking the skill out of it.

I hope you enjoyed this article, as you can see the basic idea is to move the food away from direct heat to slow down your cooking process, and add that wonderful flavor we all love. Come back tomorrow for more BBQ tips, tricks, and stories!

-Michael Q

Day 5: The Ultimate Glossary of Terms About Barbecue

Lots of things have happened lately in our little part of the world of barbecue, but it’s been such a busy day that I haven’t had time to tell you all a story. Instead, I have challenged myself to think of as many slang, jargon, and technical terms about barbecue so that you can have a laugh or become more knowledgeable or both.

Texas Crutch – This is a technique where simply wrapping the entire cut of meat, whether pork or beef, in aluminum foil to speed up the cook time and tenderize the meat. It allows very little moisture to escape and significantly decreases the time it takes to reach a desired internal temerature. Some frown upon it, but we use it in many different cases for a variety of simple and effective reasons.

Indirect Heat – Cooking a piece of meat that is offset from the heat of the grill or firebox. The heat is transferred through convection to the meat for a slow and juicy cook. When mixed with smoking techniques you get a juicy and delightfully smoky flavor.

Direct Heat – Just like it sounds. Steaks, burgers, and pork chops are mostly cooked on a hit grill or surface directly over the source of heat. Think conductive heat.

Cold Smoking – It’s not quite what it sounds, but cold smoking is when you cook meat slowly, and I mean s-l-o-w-l-y over a reduced amount of heat. Think of a smokehouse that makes smoked jerky. The cooking is done at temperatures often in the 100-200 degree range and over several hours to days. It’s a unique and traditional form of cooking where meat is often hung up in closet sized sheds and smoke is flowed through the chamber from a very indirect heat source.

Temps – Slang for checking the temperatures of both the meat and your smoker or grill.

Whole Hog – Literally a whole pig that is roasted over a fire or indirect heat.

Babyback Ribs – Ribs from the back near the loin of a pig.

Spare Ribs – Ribs from the bottom or stomach area of the pig.

Yard Bird – Chicken.

Marinading the Chef – Drinking beer, booze, or spirits while you wait on a large cut of meat to cook.

Dry Ribs – Ribs that are often associated with Tennessee characterized by an abundance of chili powder, paprika, red pepper, or other spices to form a dry texture on the surface of the ribs. Traditionally served without barbecue sauce on them.

Wet Ribs – Ribs served with an abundance of barbecue sauce slathered onto the surface of the ribs.

Well Done Steak – To plead with the chef or grillmaster requesting that you’d like to be punched directly in the face for being a giant moron with terrible taste.

Turbinado Sugar – Raw sugar from the cane.

Red, White, and Black – A commonly used rub recipe consisting of chili powder, salt, and black pepper.

White Sauce – Something Big something Gibson something something Alabama tradition… We sell our own. You can buy it here.

Table Sauce – A sauce like Heinz 57, A1, Worcestershire, etc.

Serving Sauce – A sauce you would serve your BBQ dish with or prepare the dish with near the end of the cook or just after when you’re ready to serve. Could be considered a finishing sauce.

Thermometer – A fancy heat measuring device that nearly always goes missing.

Hickory – God’s gift to mankind so fire would have purpose.

Gas Grill – Something you take to a metal recycling facility for pocket change.

Have any others you’d like to add? Send us a comment below.

Day 3: Why We Love Smoked Pork (And You Should, Too!)

There are many delicious forms of barbecue, but our favorite is very obviously pork. There are a lot of good reasons for this and you will probably agree that they are all worthy of your attention.

Whole Hog

One of the most ambitious cooks you will ever try is the whole hog. It is a lesson in patience, skill, and technique that few have experienced, but it is worth every minute of experience. When you smoke a whole hog, you better set aside at least 2 days of going nowhere and staying on top of your assignment.

The whole hog is very rewarding and will feed dozens of people. The meat is very tender throughout the shoulders, ribs, and ham areas. When cooking a whole hog it is good to remember that you have time to get it done right. Always set aside 24 – 30 hours of time including prep and serving so that you can enjoy the fruits of your labor.

The whole hog has a distinct and mouthwatering flavor that is unlike any portion of the hog that you might have otherwise cooked separately. You haven’t lived until you’ve eaten a baby-back rib cut directly from the animal. It is absolutely the freshest, juiciest, and most flavorful way to eat baby-back ribs. Follow Michael’s instructions here for an experience that is like none other. Be sure to pick up a few bottles of sauce or rub beautiful to go with the hog.

As a child I remember seeing my first whole hog cook at a BBQ competition. To me it looked like something you would see a tribe cook on some island far away from Arkansas.

Michael Quessenberry
https://jimquessenberry.com/going-whole-hog/

Ribs

My favorite barbecue dish has to be baby-back ribs. Sure there are spare ribs and St. Louis style ribs, but my favorite are baby-back ribs hands down. Let’s break it down. Spare ribs are from the belly and are meatier, larger in size, and often times tougher than baby-back ribs which come from closer to the loin. Because of this, baby-back ribs are more tender and take less preparation and cooking to get a wonderful and flavorful entree. St. Louis ribs are basically just trimmed and squared spare ribs. They’re uniform in appearance and have less grissel on them, but don’t be fooled, they aren’t “back” ribs.

Some folks like “dry” ribs, which when done properly, I LOVE, and some folks like to get messy with saucy wet ribs. I like something a bit more in the middle. My ribs tend to have the chew of a dry rib with a glazy candy shell similar to my shoulders or butts. Using Rub Beautiful and Sauce Beautiful as a glaze, the ribs come off the smoker with a very thick and satisfying bark that will leave you wanting more even if you’re full.

For more information on how I prepare ribs, see Lock and Load Ribs.

Pulled Pork

Ah the classic pulled pork sandwich, an American staple. Although the best sandwiches are often a mix of pulled pork from a whole hog, the traditional pulled pork sandwich is made from the shoulder, butt, or picnic ham portion of the hog cooked on its own, pulled and/or chopped, and placed between two buns with a dollop of homemade coleslaw topped with a squirt of Sauce Beautiful to complete the perfect BBQ sandwich.

 

When cooking a butt or shoulder, I generally season and coat the meat with a very liberal amount of Rub Beautiful and place the meat with the fat side down (to prevent bitterness and greasy meat) on the grate with an indirect heat source. Then I smoke the meat about 4-5 hours to get a good smoke ring in the meat. I do this at about 225-250 degrees. After 4-5 hours, wrap the shoulder or butt in aluminum foil and finish it off to about 195 internally. The bone should wiggle free without hassle when the temp hits 195 to 200.

Pull the meat and/or chop it and serve on sandwiched. Your mouth and friends will thank you.