A Perfect Burger Bun?

I’ve always found a brioche bun to be a perfect compliment to pulled pork. Getting good brioche buns has always been a problem though. An excellent recipe may well have solved that.

We came across a YouTube post mentioned by Bunch of Swines on their Facebook page. It’s a bit different than most brioche recipes. Much less butter and the addition of Tangzhong.

Tangzhong is a Japanese technique where you cook a small portion of the flour and liquid (water or milk) briefly before combining the resulting thick paste with the remaining bread ingredients.

This technique breaks down the starches in the flour allowing them to absorb more water. It can allow the flour to absorb twice as much hot water or milk as yeast dough normally does. And it is able to hold on to the extra liquid throughout the kneading and baking processes. This means:

  • The dough is less sticky and easier to knead;
  • The dough is likely to rise higher, due to more water creating more internal steam;
  • And since it retains more moisture during baking, the bread is moister and stays soft and fresh for longer.

The YouTube post is well done and very informative, but doesn’t give you an actual recipe to follow — you’ve just got to watch the post. I’ve put together this recipe from the post by Joshua Weissman :

https://youtu.be/gTGSUYMu6Ns

Best Burger Buns Ever

These light, buttery buns are a perfect match for burgers, pulled pork or for the best ever bacon roll.

Course Bread
Prep Time 4 hours
Cook Time 14 minutes
Servings 6 rolls
Author Bruce Heck

Ingredients

Tangzhong

  • 2 tbsp bread flour
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 4 tbsp whole milk

Brioche dough

  • 1/2 cup whole milk at 95° F
  • 1 tbsp instant yeast 9 gm
  • 2 ½ cups bread flour
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt
  • 2 ½ tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1 whole egg at room temperature
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter softened

Egg wash

  • 1 egg
  • splash whole milk
  • 1 tbsp water

Instructions

Tangzhong

  1. Put the ingredients into a sauce pan and whisk together.  Put on a medium heat and whisk constantly until it reaches a thick paste. Only takes a few seconds to reach a choux pastry-like consistency. Put into a bowl for use later.

Brioche dough

  1. Heat the milk to 95° F and stir in your yeast. Let stand for about 8 minutes.

  2. Combine the flour, sugar and salt in the mixer bowl and give a good mix.  Put on your dough hook and put the bowl on the mixer.  Put the mixer on a low speed and add the yeast mixture letting it mix for a few seconds.

  3. Now add the tangzhong paste followed by the egg and egg yolk (best if at room temperature, not chilled).  Increase the mixer speed slightly (remain below medium) and mix until thoroughly incorporated. Scrape down the sides as required.

  4. Add the softened butter one tablespoon at a time allowing it to incorporate before adding the next tablespoon.  Continue to let the mixer knead the dough until all of the butter is incorporated and the dough is nicely smooth. Expect this to take about 10 minutes.

  5. Take the dough from the mixer bowl put it on a lightly floured board. Gently stretch and fold it in from each edge to make a nice ball.  Pull from one edge and then rotate 90 degrees and continue for two rotations. Turn the dough over and gently pull the dough toward you keeping it in constant contact with the board to fold it into itself. Rotate 90 degrees and keep doing this until you have worked it into a nice ball shape.

  6. Put into a bowl lined with lightly greased baking parchment and cover with a damp towel. Place in a warm area for 1 to 1½ hours to rise, until doubled in size.

  7. Punch the dough down and put in on a lightly floured board.  Divide the dough into six even pieces using a scraper.  Each piece should weight about 105gm.

  8. As before, gently pull and fold each piece of dough into the center creating a ball.  Put onto the board and pull the dough across the board (keeping the dough in contact with the board always), turn 90 degrees and repeating.  Do this four times until you have a nice tight ball of dough.

  9. Place the dough on a lightly greased baking parchment in a baking tray giving plenty of distance between each ball (at least 2 – 2½ inches).

  10. Place a lightly greased piece of baking parchment over the top and cover with a damp, warm towel. Allow the dough to rise in a warm location for 1-2 hours until doubled in size again. 

  11. Brush the dough lightly with the egg wash. Bake at 350° F for 16-18 minutes until a deep golden brown. If the tops start to become too brown, then covert with foil.

  12. Place on a wire rack to until completely cool and then wrap in cling film or foil to keep fresh. Use within two days or freeze immediately.

Recipe Notes

In my first effort with this recipe I found the buns browned too quickly.  I’ve watered down the egg wash slightly and reduced the oven temperature by 25 degrees.  I covered them with foil at 11 minutes to stop them browning further.

A little trip to Turkey

As we reach the end of week three in lockdown, we’ve decided we just have to get away. We’ve been needing a holiday for a while now and just cannot wait any longer. So tonight we headed to Turkey!

Ok, don’t start screaming or talking about violation of lockdown and unnecessary travel. This will be a virtual journey, though we plan to make it real as we can.

It starts with setting the mood — lots of lanterns and candles, colurful plates and a low table. We had some fabric we brought back from an earlier trip and used that to cover the loveseat and chair.

Our first night in Turkey.

So like always, we arrived late so we’ll get the rest of the lanterns and lights out tomorrow. But for tonight we have a dinner of lamb kafta, roasted peppers and onion, tzatziki and flat bread.

… next morning

It’s a bright sunny morning so we’re going to have breakfast on the deck. I went to the market this morning (that’s the fridge by the way) for some fresh produce. We’re having a lovely meza of tomatoes, cucumber, melon, cheese, sliced ham, butter, fresh bagette and strong coffee.

It’s our first full day on holiday so we’re planning to just relax a bit. Perhaps read a book in the desk chair, have a beer before lunch–nothing too strenuous today. Maybe dip our feet in the pool — that would be washing up bowl with water in it. Might have to go out to the shops — our spare room — and see what we can find for dinner.

After a relaxing day of reading in the desk chair and lounging by the pool with a nice glass of wine, its time for dinner.

Tonight we’re starting with herbed goats cheese crustini with a fresh blackberry coulis.

We had big plans for a lemon chicken tagine but after our exhausting day of lounging, having the lamb chops we didn’t finish last night sounded a better plan. I made up some lemon-cumin rice and a simple tomato cucumber salad.

Day two

A quick breakfast of melon and yoghurt today and we are out to explore (the 10 blocks around our house). We head to the nearby forest (that would be the trees and trails around Tooting Bec Athletics Track) to check out the local wildlife.

We head back for some lunch after our hike. Angela is looking forward to her tuna salad – something she always has on holiday. I went for a rice dish with grilled chicken. Its a beautiful, sunny day so we’re going to spend it on the balcony reading this afternoon. It really is great to finally be on holiday!!

As the day winds down we decide on a roast lamb dinner and a night by the fire. We’re headed home tomorrow so its early to bed. It’s been a good trip. More fun than we thought it would be actually. We reminisced about previous trips and what we enjoyed most and used those memories to set scenes for the weekend. Its not the same as being on a proper holiday, but it is better than just vegging out in front of the television.

Our first fence party!

You’re in lockdown thanks to the coronavirus. Restrictions are in place making groups of larger than two (unless living together) illegal. So how do you have a party? Well if you live in London with a small garden you have a fence party!

We proposed it to our neighbors last week and everyone seems up for it. We’ve got three neighbors we can just about chat to over the fence (with the help of ladders and mini-scaffolds). And a couple more just down from them we can wave to.

The plan is to distribute a package of BBQ to everyone, knocking on the doors and leaving them on the doorstep. We’ve got a great soundtrack lined up thanks to my boss, Jen, on Spotify. We’ll be piping that through our bluetooth-connected Bose speaker loud enough for everyone to hear. We’re not quite sure how it’s going to work but it’s worth a try.

Time to assemble the BBQ packs. Angela has created some amazing covers for them that match the theme of the invites we sent out yesterday.

We’ve got two packs for each family. The first pack has the meats: 1/2 rack of pork ribs, 1/2 kg of pulled pork and a few slices of the Wagyu brisket. The second pack has potato salad, baked beans (American-style), some dinner rolls for the pulled pork, some dill pickle slices and a jar of my hickory-smoked BBQ sauce and a small jar of my southern-style mustard BBQ sauce.

…So packs are distributed and music is playing. Time to eat and mingle (well, sort of). Party time!

First run

The weekend has finally arrived, so it’s time to fire up the smoker for the first time. There is some prep work to be done before smoking meat for the first time. The smoker needs to be run through a ‘seasoning’ cycle.

This takes about two hours in total including auger priming, warm-up and cool-down cycles. This process is key though as it makes sure the auger and all the other components are working properly and burns off any oils left from the manufacturing process. It does burn through a fair number of pellets when running at 500°F!

I’ve managed to get some ribs from Costco and some amazing pork butt and brisket from one of our competition butchers, Bob’s Family Butchers in Hatfield. I’ve got a couple of 6 kg pork butts and an amazing full packer cut Wagyu beef brisket from New Zealand.

First batch…pork ribs!

So first up is a batch of four racks of pork ribs. I’ve chosen ribs first because they take far less time than pork butt or brisket. The first step with the ribs is stripping off the membrane and then applying the dry rub. They will go straight into the smoker as soon as it gets to the proper temperature of 225°F.

With the ribs are in the smoker I’ve got some time (a good three hours) to get on with some other key prep work. Next up is a small batch of barbeque sauce — just about 5 litres worth.

With the BBQ sauce done, it’s on to prepping the pork butt and the brisket. The meat Bob’s Butchers have supplied are great looking cuts of meat and I really can’t wait to get them in the smoker. The pork butt has nice marbling so I’m trimming off more of the fat cap along the top before covering it in dry rub.

But it’s the Wagyu beef brisket is what I’m really looking forward to. I hadn’t planned to get Wagyu brisket — it’s more expensive than we would normally smoke in competition. Unfortunately ( 😀 ), this was the only full packer cut piece of brisket I could get on short notice. So sad.

Wagyu beef is far more marbled than a typical brisket. Wagyu fat melts at a lower temperature than other beef, resulting in a rich, buttery flavor not present in other types of beef. Given the marbling, I’m trimming most of the fat off.

A heavy dusting of our beef rub and the brisket it ready. It’s back in the fridge with the meat now until the ribs come off.

The ribs are now off and they are looking pretty good for a first run — pretty happy with this. They’ve got a nice gloss and smell amazing. But they’re not done yet. Next step is to wrap and then back in for another two hours.

It’s just after midnight, and we are about three hours into the smoke. Just making a quick check to see how it’s looking so far — and I’m pretty happy.

It’s 07:15 and time to wrap the brisket and pork butt for the final phase of smoking. There’s another five hours or so to go to get to that magic temperature of 196° F. Once the meat is wrapped and back in the smoker, it’s time for a bit of breakfast…

Tic, tock, tic, tock…

13:30 – It’s time to pull the pork butt and brisket out of the smoker. They’ve been resting for about three hours now. I’m going to tackle the pork first.

I pull it out of the butcher paper wrapping and find a wonderful dark bark. I snip off the twine and begin the process of pulling the meat.

The meat has a nice bark and a there’s decent smoke ring. And it’s surprising how little waste there is. The fat has fully rendered leaving the meat moist and there is very little cartilage. I’ve ended up with about 3 1/2 kg of meat out of a 6 kg pork butt. That’s better than the 50% average you get from a bone-in pork butt.

But, of course, it’s all about the taste. And I have to say, despite this being the very first pork butt out of the smoker, this is one I’d be happy to put into competition.

Let’s see how the brisket has come out! Have a look at this:

It’s official — I’ll be buying Wagyu beef brisket in the future! This thing is awesome. The bark is amazing. The fat has rendered perfectly. It’s juicy and amazingly tender with just the right bite. This is hands down the best brisket I’ve ever cooked!

The next test is what other people think of it. I’m not expecting any complaints from this batch of BBQ. I’ll find out soon enough. We’re having a lockdown fence party today. I’ve got about an hour to get this all packaged up and dropped off to the neighbors. I better get on with it!

Just add some smoke…

With all public gatherings banned this summer, there are no BBQ competitions this season. And of course, Adrian and I cannot get together for practice sessions either. Up to now, we’ve used Adrian’s Green Mountain Grill pellet smoker together with my homemade barrel smoker. With the Covid-19 lockdown restrictions, that’s not going to be an option this summer.

Some extra work over the past few months meant a bit of unexpected money and I managed to convince my wife to let me use part of the money to invest in a new smoker. We agreed a budget of £1,500.

There are a lot of great smokers out there. I’ve used a Bradley smoker for years and have been very happy with the results. Unfortunately, we can’t use the Bradley for competition because it has an electric heat element. So my choice is a pellet smoker or a stick burner (one that uses just wood logs). The good stick burners are way out of reach of my budget, costing well over £4,000. So given the budget, and the competition requirements, it’s going to be a pellet smoker.

The range of smokers available today is immense ranging from simple units of under £500 to commercial products costing thousands. The £1,500 budget reduces the choices significantly. I’m after competition quality and features so the top brands available in the UK came down to these:

We’ve been using a Green Mountain Grills Daniel Boone smoker with good success taking 10th place on brisket and 1st in bread in our first competition. So first thought was to get the latest version of the GMG. Adrian and I talked it over and spent weeks looking at the options. A good mate of ours, Stretch, from Kansas City who is a regular on the BBQ competition circuit suggested we look at Traeger. After sizing up all the options in my budget, I decided to go with the Traeger.

Joe Traeger is credited with creating the first pellet smoker back in 1985. It was an offshoot of his family-owned heating company in Oregon, USA. Patented in 1986, it would be 20 years before anyone else would make a pellet smoker.

I selected the Traeger Ironwood 885. It features 885 square inches of cooking space over two racks. It has a 20-pound pellet hopper giving more than 15 hours of cooking time (depending upon conditions). The digital controller makes it easy to set a temperature and be confident it will held steady.

I got the order placed in mid-March hoping for delivery before it any lockdown hit the UK. But coming from a European distribution facility meant shipping delays, so it didn’t arrive in two days as expected. Finally I got notice it was arriving on April 1st — would this be an April Fool’s joke??

But arrive it did — though social distancing requirements made the delivery a bit more challenging than expected.

The delivery truck arrived and dropped the pallet on the pavement in front of the house. And they delivered a new gas grill we had ordered at the same time quite unexpectedly!

Unfortunately, it was delivered about 3:00 pm so I was still working! Given the massive size of the packaging and the fact it was strapped to a pallet, I wasn’t too concerned. But Angela, a Glasgow native, spent the next two hours looking out the window at every sound! She was convinced someone would come along and carry it off.

Finally about 5:00 pm I got the chance to get it off the street. I got it unpackaged and unstrapped from the pallet and got Angela down to help me carry it inside. But at just under 200 lbs, that just wasn’t happening. So on to Plan B — assemble it on the pavement and roll it inside!

It took about 30 minutes to get it assembled — mostly due to the time it took to unpackage it; Traeger REALLY like cardboard! Assembly itself was less than 15 minutes. We got it inside and parked it in the kitchen so I could get back to work. A couple of hours later and it’s in place on the deck along with the new gas grill.

The next challenge is to get some meat to smoke! That’s proving a bit more challenging than usual!

Lockdown lunches

Well the Covid-19 lockdown has begun. We’re a few days in and already we we are feeling the impact. Working from home has brought its own challenges, but adding the restriction of staying home except for essential shopping brings the isolation to a new level.

We are lucky to have a good stock of food but knowing this is likely to last a while, we are already looking for ways to make use of everything we have. We’ve dug into the freezer to see what we have and are trying to make interesting dishes for lunch to get a break from work — it’s proving too easy to be stuck in front of a computer monitor all day without stopping. So we are setting appointments in our calendar to have lunch.

Angela is a big fan of pho so yesterday we pulled some stock and shredded chicken out of the freezer and added some pho paste and fresh vegetables for an amazing soup.

Today, we’re having nachos. We’ve pulled some taco-spiced mince from the freezer and sprinkled it across tortilla chips with salsa, sour cream and jalapenos. We’re working today so it has to be without the margaritas unfortunately!

Both of these dishes took under 15 minutes to make. Make a point of stopping and having lunch — get a break from that monitor!

BBQ Discovery – the wrap up

Our road trip is now complete. It has been an amazing time and we have tried some really good barbecue — but I don’t think I’ll be able to stomach any red meat for the next couple of months! Vegetarian is even starting to sound interesting.

We’ve gotten to try some of the best of Texas BBQ, deep south style at H.B.’s, transition zone (part Texas, part KC) in City Butcher and Sugarfoot and some of the best KC has to offer. There were many spots we wanted to get to but there just was not enough time (or stomach room) for any more.

Adrian was supposed to be headed back today while I was staying a few days longer to visit with family. Unfortunately, we didn’t count on the weather. The Kansas City airport is closed today due to ice and snow so Adrian is not going to be leaving today. We’ve got to return the rental car anyway so we organise dropping it off in downtown Kansas City instead of the airport and stop in to meet our friend, Stretch, at his restaurant Grinders.

I used to work with Stretch back in my days of virtual reality with my good friend, Eric Lewis. He was a wacky artist with unique ideas back then. Not much has changed except applying his talents to a new art form — cooking.

Grinder – Crossroads, 417 E 18th St, Kansas City, Missouri

Stretch has three restaurant in the KC area (featured on Guy Fieri’s Diner, Drive-Ins and Dives more than once), offers up his talents to cook for the military regularly and manages to compete in more than 25 competitions a year — it must be exhausting. All while making sure he spends time with his amazing wife Becca and his mugwamps (that’s his kids).

Check out his sites:
https://www.facebook.com/GrindersBBQ/
https://grinderspizza.com/
https://www.facebook.com/STRETCHartist/

We spent some time talking to Stretch about his experience on the competition BBQ circuit. As expected of Stretch, he doesn’t do anything the normal way. He has designed his own tools for the work — okay, he cheats a bit here having a plasma cutter and 35,000 square foot workshop at his disposal.

We got some good tips on how to improve our efforts and we are anxious to try a few of them out.

Well its the end of the road for this trip — back to real life now.

BBQ Discovery – Day Six

Well its our final day on this BBQ road trip. We have two final places queued up: Joe’s Kansas City BBQ and Jones BBQ, both in Kansas City, Kansas.

Joe’s Kansas City BBQ

https://www.joeskc.com/

We’re headed out early as this place stays open until they run out. We want to be at the head of the queue so we are out the door by 09:30 planning to be in line at 10:00 for the 11:00 opening.

Joe’s started out life as Oklahoma Joe’s with many people still knowing it under that name. It was started by Jeff and Joy Stehney and Joe Don Davidson (founder of Oklahoma Joe’s Smoker Company), thus the original name. Joe is no longer part of the team, but Jeff and Joy still run the place. And they have quite some pedigree in the BBQ world having taken Grand Champion or 1st place at the American Royal nine times, four trophies at Jack Daniel’s World BBQ Championship, KCBS Team of the Year and many more. We’re excited to try this place!

There are already a few people in the parking lot when we arrive a bit after our planned 10:00 arrival. After about 20 minutes of waiting, a few people are venturing out of their cars to head to the door. We get out of the car to join them expecting to wait in a queue at the door, but the door opens and the manager says, “come on in, we’re open.” It’s actually only about 10:45 but I think he takes pity on us given the cold (15° F / -9° C).

There is one couple in front of us as we go in, but before we even get a chance to order there is a line from the counter all the way out the door. Within 20 minutes the restaurant is completely full with a line out the door. This is the most popular of the spots we’ve been to in KC so far.

This is not a game day, so it’s a bit surprising to see such at crowd at 11:00 on a Thursday. Let’s hope the food is worth it!

We order up a range of items as has become our norm — brisket, pork, ham, burnt ends and ribs. We got to our booth and settled in for the tasting. I pull out my notebook and we start taking notes. This catches the attention of people around us quite quickly. We have a lovely conversation with a couple that is up from Whiteman Air Force Base (about an hour out of KC) talking about our trip and the blog.

After we finish up our tasting — we’ve learned never to eat like its a meal now — I head over to the manager to see if we can get a look in back. His first response was his pitmaster wasn’t in and they were quite busy (both true) but I persist telling him about our trip. Suddenly he says, “wait just a minute”, and he brings back Doug Worgul, Director of Marketing at Joe’s and a bit of a barbecue legend himself.

Doug takes us on a full tour giving us the history of Joe’s along the way.

These guys use the typical low ‘n slow method cooking ribs for 4-5 hours and brisket and pork butt for around 15 hours. They use Ole Hickory (made in Cape Girardeau, Missouri) and Southern Pride smokers. They are gas assisted wood-burning smokers, pretty typical in the BBQ restaurant world.

We didn’t talk quantity, but with the quantity of pits they have and the number of ribs we saw them preparing, it’s clear they churn out a lot of BBQ every day.

They use exclusively Missouri White Oak, a bit of a departure from most KC BBQ joints that use hickory as well. They have a different approach on the brisket as well separating the tip and the flat and cooking the tip along with the pork butts to use for their burnt ends.

We struggle to get briskets as big and marbled as these. That marbling is essential to getting good burnt ends.

They use a complex mix of spices in their rubs with different rubs for each meat. This is very much the KC-style. Their sauce is definitely a KC-style sauce with strong molasses flavour and a sweetness to go with the heat.

Doug has been great taking us through virtually every aspect of their operation. We’re going to have to pick up a couple of his books (he has written several).

We’re off to a unique little place in Kansas City, Kansas that is not much bigger than a trucking container.

Jones Bar-B-Q

https://www.jonesbbqkc.com/

Jones Bar-B-Q is owned and operated by Deborah and Mary Jones. This is a tiny spot, originally a taco stand. It has no indoor dining space, just a few picnic tables in the parking lot of Woody’s Happy Foods West in an industrial section of town next to the railroad tracks. These gals have been involved with BBQ since they were little girls, helping out their father at Hezekiah’s on 10th Street in Kansas City, Kansas.

They’ve been in their current location since 2015. They recently had a makeover as part of Netflix’s Queer Eye show who helped them with outfits, branding and getting their sauce manufactured (as well as personal makeovers to boost their confidence). This place is certainly unique as are the gals running it.

As soon as Adrian walked up to the window to order, they came running out from inside with their phone saying they had to have a selfie. These gals are amazingly friendly and clearly love what they do.

This place is definitely old school. They have a single upright wood-fired smoker that they bought second-hand at A-Lotta-Stuff, a thrift store nearby. They’ve done a bit of retrofitting to make it work for them.

The food they serve up here is simple. The ribs are untrimmed and the meat is cooked by eye and feel, not temperature. Doug Worgul, who wrote about Jones in his book “The Grand Barbecue” says, “Our pitmasters are not pitmasters in the sense Deborah and Mary are. What our pitmasters do — which is critical to our operation — is really far less creative. Basically, they follow a procedure. It’s not mastering barbecue; it’s fulfilling that specific technique.”

It’s far too cold to even consider eating here today, so we are back to the car to unthaw and head back to mom’s for the sampling.

BBQ Discovery – Day Five

It’s our last two days of this road trip.  We are now in Kansas City – my hometown and the arguably the spiritual home of barbecue.  With more than 100 BBQ spots, there just may be more BBQ joints per capita than anywhere in America.  And this is also the home of the barbecue competition sanctioning body, the Kansas City Barbecue Society (KCBS).

Picking the best to visit is a challenge.  Our goal here is to sample a variety of different styles within the spectrum of Kansas City BBQ.  We’ve chosen some of the founding fathers along with some of the newer boys (and girls) on the block.  First up, Arthur Bryant’s.

Arthur Bryant’s

https://www.arthurbryantsbbq.com/

This institution of BBQ traces it roots back to Henry Perry who began serving smoked meats to garment workers in 1908.  Charlie Bryant worked for Henry, taking over the place when he died in 1940.  Arthur came to visit his brother not long after and never left, ultimately taking over in 1946.  Arthur moved the restaurant to its current location at 18th and Brooklyn in 1958, a short distance from the Municipal stadium that was home to the Kansas City Blues and Kansas City Athletics.  As people passed through town, they tried out the barbecue and a reputation was launched.  It has since seen celebrities (Tom Watson, Steven Speilberg, Harrison Ford, James Spader) and presidents (Harry Truman, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, Barak Obama to name a few).

Arthur “created” the burnt ends Kansas City is famous for when he put out chunks of the brisket trimmings for customers to munch on while they waited in line to order.  He was a regular sight at the place right up until his death.

From the moment you enter you see this place just oozes history.  From the old photographs and signs to the worn Formica tables, it is easy to tell this there is a long tradition here.  There is a high menu over the old-fashioned walk-up counter where you watch them preparing your order.

We’ve gotten to this place early, it’s only 11:00, and it is already busy.  There are a number of people already eating in the two dining areas.  As with all KC BBQ joints, you have a range of sandwiches to choose from as well as plain sliced meats, ribs and a bunch of sides.  We place what has become our standard order of ‘everything’ and take a massive tray of meat to our table.

After we finish our sampling and scoring, we ask if we can have a look in the back.  Kristea is happy to show us around.  We head straight to the smokers, a pair of in-direct wood-fired rotisserie Old Hickory Pits smokers.  Kristea says they burn a random mix of hardwoods including oak, hickory and ‘whatever else is sitting there’.

They start their prep at about 18:30, trimming and rubbing down the meats.  These rest until about 18:30 when they finally get put in the smoker.  They cook the briskets and pork butts until about 07:00 (about 12 ½ hours) when they take them out to rest until opening at 11:00.

We’ve got a number of spots to hit today so we are off to the next one, Rosedale BBQ.

Rosedale

http://www.rosedalebarbeque.com

We cross downtown to the Kansas side to a joint that started up just as prohibition ended.  They wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to sell beer and opened up a beer and hotdog stand in 1934.  There was a BBQ place a bit down the road and they knew offering up BBQ would increase their beer sales.  They set up a small tin shack and Rosedale BBQ was born.

It has expanded quite a bit now offering take-away, counter and sit down service.  They also gone from a bit of smoked meat to a full menu with a wide range of sides.

This spot is a proper home-town BBQ joint with an old diner feel. They open early on game days (football and baseball) for take-away. You’ve got proper counter service as well as tables and you have your food within minutes of ordering. They have expanded the building several times over the past few years but have maintained their charm.

We’re a bit short on time today so we get our food, take our notes and score them. There is no time for a tour and these guys are swamped anyway as we arrived during lunch rush so its not a good time to ask. We do have a quick chat and mention what we are doing. They are excited to hear about our road trip and quite proud we stopped by.

L.C.’s

http://www.lcsbarbq.com/

This spot is not on the list of top 50 BBQ joints in American, but it certainly is a Kansas City institution. It opened in 1986 in its current location. Around Kansas City they are arguably best known for their sponsorship of the Kansas City Chiefs football team. You cannot listen to a game and not hear a commercial for these guys. And they live up to this by opening early every game day to allow people to get BBQ for their tailgate parties.

This is a tiny place that looks like it was last decorated, well, in 1960 — a bit odd since it opened in 1986. Their pit is front and centre in the restaurant and you get to see all the magic happening every time someone orders.

Unfortunately, the pit (and the grease hood in front of it) looks like it hasn’t been cleaned since it was opened. The rest of the place seems clean, but the pit is a mess. And outside is even worse.

But we’re here and we going to give it a go. The staff are friendly and happy to talk to us. The owner is there and we’re told to have a chat with him while we wait for our order — he’s watching a football game on the TV in the corner of the restaurant.

We order up a plate of brisket, ham, pork and ribs. We’re short on time so we get it all to go — we’ll taste it all later.

Gates

https://gatesbbq.com/

It’s pushing 17:00 and we are on to our next stop — Gates BBQ. This is another KC institution with bags of history. This spot has close ties with Arthur Bryants. Gates opened in 1946 and like Arthur Bryant’s can trace itself back to Henry Perry, the founder of KC barbecue. Arthur Pinkard, who learned barbecue from Henry Perry himself, was working at Ol’ Kentuck when it was purchased by George and Ollie Gates. He stayed on to run the pits and taught them everything he knew.  

Gates has moved about a bit in KC over the years but it has settled now near its historic location at Linwood and Main. This is the location we are headed to today.

Inside you find not just BBQ but history of the site itself. It’s original trolley car site is inside the building and still taking orders. This site is a restaurant, event site and headquarters for the company as well.

Gates original trolley car site – still present inside their headquarters location

From the moment you walk in it almost feels more like a museum than a restaurant. But their trademark greeting — Hi may I help you? — brings you back quickly. This is not a spot to dawdle. You’re here to order food and get down to eating!

We order up a three-meat platter (brisket, pork and ham) plus some ribs and toss in a side of beans.

We’re late for dinner — yeah, this isn’t dinner believe it or not — so we take it all to go and we’ll sample it all at mom’s. I have high hopes of this impressing Adrian.

Finishing off Day 4; Osceola and KC

Headed north now to central Missouri to make a stop at Sugarfoot BBQ in Osceola. This place is a bit unique as its part of a gas station (petrol station for the Brits). We’ve arrived about 15:30 so it definitely a slow time. Only a handful of people having a late lunch.

It might be a gas station, but its clean and bright. It’s far enough away from the pumps there is no lingering smell of gasoline. None of the grease and dirt you might think of when you think gas station either.

We stopped here to check out the sides on offer as much as the meats. The horseradish coleslaw is definitely one to try. Finely chopped cabbage in a light sauce with a hint of sweetness. The horseradish adds an interesting note with a slight kick. Definitely one of the best slaws we have had. They also offer hand-cut fries which are chunky bits of skin-on baked potato that are deep fried until crunchy and then coated in a rub with a touch of sugar and heat. And their Texas toast is prepared on the griddle giving a really nice flavour.

But what you don’t want to miss from this spot are their pies. They have a wide range of them and they are amazing. We got the blackberry pie (the whole pie!) and it was definitely one of the best I’ve had in quite some time. It took me back to the days of the roadside diner.

Dean gave us a look in back and talked to us about what they do at Sugarfoot. They use a gas-fired smoker from Southern Pride that can hold about 500 lbs of meat. The gas ignites the wood and keeps the temperature steady. They use nothing but green hickory to smoke their meats giving that typical sweet yet bitter smoke taste.

They have quite an extensive menu at Sugarfoot. They offer pork spare ribs, baby back ribs, pulled pork, turkey, ham, sausage, beef brisket and burnt ends. All are available by the pound, as a meal or as a sandwich (except the ribs, of course).

They have a selection of sides that includes home cut fries, ‘Sugarfoot’ tators, smoked beans, horseradish coleslaw, potato salad, side salad and baked potato. They have a range of items for the non-barbecue lover as well. They also offer some of the lowest prices of anywhere we have been yet.

We opted for a two meat platter with beef brisket and pulled pork and sides of potato salad and ‘Sugarfoot’ tators. We just did not have the energy to tackle ribs and ham as well!

The brisket is served up sliced wafer thin. Its got a very light smoke with a good beef flavour. The pork is shredded a bit too finely, but its got an instant hit of smoke with a nice chew and a slight sweetness to the rub. Their sauce has a strong molasses base and a hint of blackberry.

And I have to say, as other reviewers have noted, make sure you get the sides as they are definitely worth it. Their tators were a great change of pace and the horseradish coleslaw is something I’m going to have to try making myself.

Overall, this was a great stop – and a chance to fill up the gas tank as well. Fueled up (us and the car), we are headed into Kansas City now to check out some of the best from my hometown.

Overall, this was a great stop – and a chance to fill up the gas tank as well. Fueled up (us and the car), we are headed into Kansas City now to check out some of the best from my hometown.

Fiorella’s Jack Stack Barbecue

https://www.jackstackbbq.com/

Our last stop of the day is in Kansas City – well, the KC metro area anyway.
We were headed to the highly acclaimed Harp BBQ in Raytown, but when we arrived we found they were open only on Saturday.

But no matter, this next spot is one we intended to hit on this trip anyway. We are headed to Fiorella’s Jack Stack Barbecue. This is the barbecue I grew up with. My earliest memories of barbecue are of the Jumbo sandwich with brisket and ham and a side of beans — still on the menu 45 years later and still great.

The original Smokestack location, courtesy of Martin City Telegraph, 10 Oct 2019

This restaurant has come a long way from its origin on 71 Highway back in 1957. The original location opened by Russ Fiorella closed in 2006. His son, Jack, opened up the Martin City location in 1974. They now have locations in Martin City, Overland Park, Country Club Plaza and Freight House in KC and Lee’s Summit. It is the Lee’s Summit location we are headed to tonight.

Fiorella’s Jack Stack Barbecue is not what you expect in a barbecue place – this is a what you expect from a proper restaurant. This is a place you’d be happy to take a date or even your in-laws for a great night out. They have all the trimmings of a top restaurant – great décor, good service, extensive menu and more. And despite all of that, they’ve got quite a pedigree in BBQ as well.

This is Adrian’s first taste of proper Kansas City barbecue so I hope it delivers!

After looking over the massive menu, we decide to keep it simple and stick to what we have been sampling the whole trip rather than go off piste with some of the more exotic BBQ options. We go for a two-meat platter (beef and pork), some pork ribs and some burnt ends. And of course some coleslaw and beans.

For me, nobody makes better BBQ beans. They are smoky, meaty, a bit sweet – just the best. Their coleslaw is pretty darn good too. And they have one of the best sauces in KC too.

The restaurant stumbles a bit and manages to bring our starter with the meal. They make up for it though when before we complain the cook comes over to apologise and tell us dessert is on him tonight to make up for it. The beans deliver as expected.

When the food comes out finally it does look good.

We are hungry at this point so we do dig in. There is not a lot left when we’re done. It’s not the absolute best we have eaten so far, but this is good BBQ and this is not a place you would be ashamed to take someone special who likes BBQ – but that’s everyone, right?.

The brisket was the best offering with the burnt ends coming up second. The ribs look great and for a restaurant they were very good — the meat was very tender and fell off the bone, but in the competition world that would be considered overdone so they were scored down a bit for that. And I’ve got to say again — the beans are awesome!

It’s been a long day so we are headed to mom’s and with a bit of luck, quickly to bed! (Yeah, that’s not likely!)