Welcome back to Uncle Tom’s Corner.

At last report there wasn’t a huge rush of revelers at Bruce’s in Severance so apparently Rocky Mountain Oyster Day went largely unobserved. Not to belabor the point but if you’d like some humorous reading check out the YouTube clip of Baxter Black reciting his poem “Oysters”.

Since you missed the other largely-unheralded occasion perhaps you’d be more inclined to opt for Breakfast Burrito Day which is October 14th. To the more squeamish that might be a bit more palatable. Since we’ve obviously missed it this year that might be something you’d want to put in your calendar for next year…along with Ground Hog Day, Blood Sausage Day and a few others.

I have a long-held belief that breakfast burritos should have their own section on the food pyramid. If you want to cauterize your trachea there’s Santiago’s or green chili from Brewery Bar; vanilla from McDonald’s; humongo from Big City Burrito and everything in between. My personal favorite…if anyone cares…is Jus’ Burritos in Broomfield. And that concludes my dissertation on breakfast burritos.

When Michelle notified me that it was time for another article I really struggled with it. It isn’t often that I’m at a loss for words but I was having a heck of a time coming up with anything. Then it hit me…I haven’t been anywhere or interacted with anyone on the barbecue circuit lately so I don’t have any new stories to tell.

With the ending of summer and the onset of fall comes several things. There’s the changing of the aspen leaves that compels us to make trips to the mountains to view the kaleidoscope of foliage. Somewhere in there is the eeriness of the elk bugling in Estes Park if you’re fortunate enough to witness it. There’s the anticipation of the first snowfall and the closure of Trail Ridge Road and there is the end of the competition barbecue season so maybe its time to shut down Uncle Tom’s Corner for the season. That certainly doesn’t mean its time to put away the smoker or the grill…there are Holidays to prepare for.

As I’ve told you one of the real benefits of being a barbecue judge is having access to all these great cooks…most of whom are ever-so-ready to dispense advice regarding the mastery of outdoor cooking. With that in mind the next few months Uncle Tom’s Corner will contain some barbecue tips, maybe some recipes and whatever else comes to mind.

First of all, barbecue and grill are frequently interchanged and regarded as synonymous. They are not. Barbecue is low (temperature) and slow (think slow smoked pork butts or beef briskets). Grilling is hot and fast (think seared steaks and grilled vegetables).

When I embarked on this I used to bill myself as a barbecue chef. Then I started thinking about the title “chef”. Those who can legitimately call themselves a chef have had extensive culinary training, served an apprenticeship under a chef, probably opted for some kind of specialty (pastry chef, etc.). I’ve done none of that. So I called the Kansas City Barbecue Society about the requirements for becoming a pit master. They said all that was required to be a pit master is to wear an apron and cook with something other than gas or electricity. Wood, wood pellets, charcoal, lump charcoal, maybe coal but that would taste kinda nasty I’m thinking. Buffalo chips (may be substituted with cow pies. Actually, I made that up.

Now that we have the titles figured out its time to get down to business. One of the first things I had to come to grips with is that the suggested cooking times are merely that…a suggestion. There are so many factors that can affect the cooking time…ambient temperature, wind velocity, humidity to name a few.

One of the first things I learned from the “real” pit masters” is that the thermometers I’d been using are basically worthless. Invest in an instant-read digital thermometer. There are some available that can scan (without touching) the cooking surface and give an accurate read on that. There are some that have up to a dozen probes that you insert into the thickest part of the meat and the temperatures are “Blue-Toothed” to your cell phone. You can set an alarm on your phone and when the meat approaches the optimal temperature the alarm goes off. That takes “set-it-and-forget-it” to a whole new level.

Since barbecue has officially been dubbed a sport I can now legitimately say “That’s all for this time, Sportsfans”. Until our next get together I’ll share a frequent parting salutation among the contestants and judges at the competitions goes “See you through the smoke”.


Uncle Tom