Friday, July 2, 2010

Bringing Europe Into The Barbecue Union

We've been off the blog circuit for the past few weeks as we've been focusing on introducing our products to Europe.  We officially kicked off our European tour with travel to Norway where we presented our premium line of Jake's Barbecue Sauce, Dry Rubs and Marinades.  This event was many months in the planning stage focused on taking full advantage of Norway's very limited summer period which amounts to approximately 10 weeks.  Our key entry location Jacobs Markets.  Jacobs is a very high quality market and grocery targeting superior service and support for its customer base.  The market specializes in delicacies we don't normally see in the United States with things such as alligator, buffalo, wild game and including whale meat along with their standard offerings. 

We focused on a two day event just outside the front entrance to the market with a long flat grill chocked full of burning white oak charcoal.  Our faire, country style cut pork ribs, ground beef burgers and Norwegian sausages. 

The crowds were amazing as lines formed around the market. Sales of Jake's Barbecue Sauce moved at a brisk pace simply by way of the extra barbecue emphasis. 

The second day saw even more people come out for the event as well as purchase Jake's fine barbecue sauces.  While there we had the opportunity to talk with customers, chefs, store managers and more.  We also shared our recipes and the great American experience of Barbecue.  Our Burgers were mixed with Jake's Barbecue Sauce, Jake's Dry Rubs and ground beef.  The ribs were marinated in Jake's Barbecue Sauce and sprinkled with our Tri-Tip, Steak and Rib Rub.  The sausages were a wonderful blend of Jake's dry rubs, ground meat, curry and cheese, a really wonderful taste. 

Following the outside barbecue we brought our operations into the market where we met with customers and discussed ways to Barbecue especially in areas where the weather isn't always the best.  As well we discussed distinct barbecue styles, methods and recipes.  The photo at the right is an image of one of the shelves holding Jake's Barbecue sauce.   Note, the pricing of items is a fair bit higher than prices in the United States.  With conversion rates a small 8 oz jar of Jake's BBQ sauce is effectively $8.00 which goes along with their outrageous $10.00 a gallon gasoline.  Now we clearly understand why Europeans prefer their sauces in small containers...simply cost.

In the coming months we plan to visit more European countries and further extend our support for the European market as we truly work to Bring Europe Into The Barbecue Union.


Wednesday, May 12, 2010

How To Use Marinades

Marinating meat can be one of the simplest and easiest ways of bringing flavor to foods. The only real limitation is "time". Planning ahead is crucial to determining the tenderness and impartation of flavor that meats experience. In this article we discuss some suggestions regarding the use of marinades, planning and the do's and don'ts to watch out for when marinating.

Regarding the actual time needed for marinating that time is usually determined by the type of meat to be marinated and the size of the cut. Typically it can take from two hours for chicken, and as long as eight hours for pork or beef. The focus being that the pork or beef has not been sliced into thin strips. When the meat is sliced into strips the marinade can cover and coat more of the surface area of the meat and will require less time to do its job.

There are some basic common sense rules that one can use to ensure that you get the maximum use out of your marinade.
  •  First consider the type of container to be used when marinating. Marinate meat in a glass, heavy plastic or heavy plastic bags. Using metal aluminum and copper containers may cause the marinades' acidity to react with aluminum or copper and cause both the metal and the meat to darken leaving behind a metallic taste.
  • Remove the meat after marinating and discard the leftover liquid.
  • Use about 1/4 cup of marinade per pound of meat. For example, for 2 pounds of beef or chicken strips, use 1/2 cup of marinade.
  • Make extra marinade and set it aside if you want some of the mixture for basting.
  • Planning ahead by starting the marinade in the morning before work or school will ensure that the meat is properly marinated by the end of the day.
  • Once the meat is prepared and covered with the marinade place the meat covered, in the refrigerator.
  • Don't leave meat in marinade longer than 12 hours. Over marinating can make meat mushy.
  • Never allow marinating meat to sit out at room temperature -- even for a short period of time.
  • Discard all marinade that has touched raw meat. Do not use it in cooking.
  • DON'T use marinade from raw meat or fish as a sauce.
  • DON'T reuse leftover marinade for other food.

 Try teriyaki marinade for an Asian dish, a red-wine based marinade for steak or a yogurt-based marinade for a Middle-Eastern dish.


Tuesday, May 4, 2010

How Do BBQ Grill Vents Really Work?

Although there are millions of kettle type grills in the world very few people actually know what the air vents are for or how to use them.  Here's a short primer on just what they do and how to use them. 

With a charcoal grill, air circulation keeps the coals burning. Even the largest pieces of food can be cooked just the way you like, because you control the fire temperature by opening and closing the top and bottom vents. Fire needs oxygen to burn and thus cook your food.  Opening the vents will allow more oxygen availability to be drawn into the kettle for cooking.  Managing the amount of flame and heat is relatively easy.  If the food is cooking too fast, lower the heat by closing the vents a bit. To raise the heat, open the vents to let in more air. While preheating the grill, keep the bottom vents open to help start the fire. Many charcoal grills are equipped with a lever that can be pushed to sweep the bottom vents clear of ashes, which should be done occasionally throughout the cooking period. Enough can't be said about keeping the bottom of the grill clean.  The amount of air flow and thus the amount of even cooking is determine by an even amount of air into the grill.  If the bottom grill vents are blocked by debris this may cause poorly burned charcoal and worse yet unevenly cooked food.  

When you're finished cooking, close the vents completely to snuff out the fire (do not pour water into the grill).

With a gas grill, leave the lid closed at all times in order to maintain temperature. Gas grills work best with the lid closed during cooking, so that the heat circulates around the food. 

Keep in mind that a windy day will make a charcoal grill a bit hotter (because it will oxygenate the coals), while a gas grill will run slightly cooler. Choosing a location that's sheltered from strong winds can help maintain grill temperature. 

Ensure that there is reasonable clearance between the back of the grill and any volatile surfaces like houses, plastic tables, plants and animals.  

It's also a good idea to test the vents in different positions when grilling.  Keep in mind the settings may need to be changed depending on the type of meat to be cooked and the time it takes to cook it. 

Happy Grilling!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Buying BBQ Sauce Online - What To Look For and What To Watch Out For........

There are literally hundreds and thousands of people if not more who claim to have made a super duper, mouth smacking, slap your mama, kiss the dog, bend over twice and hop, head splitting, nose burning, award winning barbecue sauce. I could go on but you get the point. The great majority better than 95% have gleaned a recipe from someone they know, gone home and transcribed it, made a couple of minor changes and call it their own. How do I know this? Because, about 20 years ago that was what we did back home. The initial recipe was handed to someone, who handed it to someone else and so on. In fact having been in this business for so long I've actually seen people take recipes off say Betty Crocker or and even and twist those just a hair then marshal their forces, contact friends and actually sell those same copyrighted works of art in stores. Some of the most famous brands you use have actually come by way of this very process.

In this article I'm going to show you how to determine what a good barbecue sauce is made of and also what you should look out for. The field of Barbecue Sauce is vast and interpreting the field takes time. Anyone can make a recipe but blending in the right ingredients and creating a consistent product that will expand well for mass sales takes know how and patience.

Here are the top ten things to look for in a Great BBQ Sauce.

Keep in mind when I say Great I'm talking about a BBQ sauce that focuses on taste and quality and further doesn't leave you feeling bloated or with headaches or complications.

1. Ingredient mix: State and Federal requirements demand that food producers display their contents in a specific way. Disclosure means that the item that is carried in the highest volume is displayed first. For example a good recipe Barbecue sauce like will display something other than water as the first ingredient. Water is typically the most common ingredient in recipes and is used in multiple ways, primarily to thin the product and also to allow the product to move easily during mixing. Water has no real intrinsic value for anything other than those purposes. In most cases the water that is added may or may not be filtered for processing.

2. Thinness or thickness: The viscosity of the sauce will ultimately determine how well the sauce covers your meat or can be used as a dip. Food processors use a device that measures flow and viscosity and will give a rating for BBQ sauces. Typical viscosity ratings are not disclosed as part of the labeling practice. But for the average consumer the best way to determine viscosity depending on whether the container is clear or not is by tilting the container from one side to the other. The way in which the contents move from side to side will give you your best hint of flow and clinginess when in use. It's also a good idea to hold two containers side by side tilting as you go to determine viscosity. Online though, viscosity is very difficult to determine. The best way is through the descriptive content. Words like Southern style or Texas style will give some hint as to its thickness. Also, if you hear the words mop, just think of mopping floors. Typically, mopping is done with thin liquids which require a great deal of effort (basting) during use so be prepared to spend time with products like this.

3. Sugar content: Measuring sugar contents takes some real effort. The FDA requires that all labels contain a standard nutrition panel which discloses the amount of sugar contained in a product among other things. Sugar is also one of the best ways to define a product by region. Products that are higher in sugar are typically focused in the western half of the United States. Those with less sugar typically come from the South, South East and North through Memphis all the way up through Carolina. Diabetics and those with particular sensitivities to amounts of sugar really are focusing on the total amount of sugar that can be consumed during the course of their day. It is often misleading to look at a sugar level and presume that this represents the total amount in which you will consume. The best way to determine actual consumption rates is to look at the term: Serving Size. Once you determine the serving size and consider what the product will be used for i.e., beef, pork, ribs., etc., then consider that if you cook with the Barbecue sauce that 20% of that sugar will be burned off in the cooking process. Using the Barbecue Sauce as a dip or ladling it on will increase the amount of sugar you may ingest.

4. Fat Content: Fat is in some ways a mysterious part of the Barbecue world. You would not normally think that there would be fat in Barbecue sauce. But much to the contrary fat is contained in some of the key ingredients. What matters in the case of fat is whether or not the fat is saturated or not. In 2005 the Federal Government mandated that all products identify themselves as to whether they contain fat or not and at what levels and also if that fat is saturated or not. Compliant Barbecue sauces will be quick to disclose on the label the following terms: "Not a significant source of saturated fat, cholesterol, dietary fiber and calcium". Note this representation is based on the FDA standard Percent of Daily Values for a 2000 calorie diet. A good Barbecue sauce will indicate things like olive oil or some other oil combination. Bad Barbecue sauces may not fully disclose where their fat comes from. I knew a company once that actually captured the drippings from pork ribs and bottled that with their sauce. They say they loved the taste but the fat content was so high the sauce barely moved in the jar when it was cold. Best bet, consider a healthy focus on minimizing your fat intake.

5. Salt and Sodium: Just like Sugar the same can be said for Salt intake. Keep in mind where the term salt is placed on the ingredient label. Count the number of lines down before you get to the word salt. If salt appears in the first three words of the formula think seriously before buying the product if it is a barbecue sauce. In some products like dry rubs salt may be one of 5 components that make up the product so in that case the focus should be more on use as to why the product is being selected. Salt intake is easy to overlook. You'll find it in cereal and mayonnaise, and popcorn and bread and everything else we eat. Keeping tabs on the 2000 calorie diet and what percentage salt should play can be difficult. The FDA says that for a healthy 25 year old sodium intake should not exceed 1500 mg per day. Think twice if you see Sodium levels displayed at greater than 10% of your daily volume. The lower the better, but good sodium levels for Barbecue Sauce range in the 4-8% levels.

6. Chemical additives: This is a key are of concern for many Barbecue shoppers. Unknowingly buyers will select a product based on their "catchy" name thinking that the contents will some how be glorified by that name. We are a visual society and fancy, catchy names tend to drive sales. But go beyond the catchy names and labels and look deeply into the ingredient listing. Look for words like MSG (Monosodium Glutamate), Dextrose (a simple sugar derived from grains like corn, wheat and rice), Xanthan Gum (A natural carbohydrate gum used as a thickener and emulsion stabilizer), Sodium Benzoate (a white crystalline salt used as a food preservative and antiseptic), Modified Food Starch (a food additive which is prepared by treating starch or starch granules, causing the starch to be partially degraded) and others. These items not only indentify the make up of the product but can help you quickly determine the lack of creativity used to create a product. In cases where High Fructose Corn Syrup (malt dextrin), sodium benzoate, msg, and modified food starch are used these signal the desire of the manufacture to use the least amount of ingredients to expand their sales. Selling barbecue sauce is a balancing act like many products and manufacturers have to decide if they want to sell something great and natural which costs more and may not sell as fast or if they want to sell something cheap which sells more quickly. Attraction and return purchases are appealed to by increased uses of salt, liquid smoke, sugar and msg. I know two very large providers of Barbecue sauce who started with really great recipes, but when they expanded their products for mass markets they found that could not compete against cheaper products. They got those sales by thinning out the product, adding chemical sugars and food enhancers and stepping up the amounts of liquid smoke to simulate a hickory taste. Bad barbecue sauces will seek to hide those ingredients with attempts at high degrees of advertising to redirect the ingredient focus and sell their products.

8. Shelf life: It is a good idea to pay specific attention to the shelf life of the product. A good barbecue sauce will have shelf life in excess of 12 months. This is important primarily for opening and usage. A sauce may identify its use as 12 months but because of the ingredients contained may only last 3 months after opening. Most labeled sauces have either the address or website on the container. On the internet one can send an email to the website host to question not only the longevity of the sauce but its lividity as well. If a Barbecue sauce has been opened the product should remain usable for ½ the overall shelf life. This of course depends on the conditions in which the product is stored, i.e, room temperature, not over 75 degrees F, or in overly moist area that can promote mold. As for coding, there are a number of ways to identify the shelf life date on containers. Some containers will identify the date with Useby011012 which is interpreted as the product is "best" used by January 10, 2012. Note the term best does not mean that the product automatically spoils once it reaches that date. Instead the term is meant to identify that the greatest or highest flavor of the product is achieved prior to that date and will decrease over time following that date. Further some manufacturers will use lot numbers such as 8095B1618 to identify their product dates. This information requires the sales location or the producer to identify the production date and the shelf life.

9. Label Combinations: Over the years manufacturers have used many, many combinations of ingredients to create products. With the increase is copyright violations and trademark infringements lawyers and corporations began cracking down on manufacturers who knowingly use trademark terms in their labels. Terms such as Tobasco, or Dr. Pepper or Best Foods or other may open up manufacturers to lawsuits. These corporations want to be paid for their specific naming use and certainly are happy to have their products used in the sauce but of course they will allow usage of their names at a price. Manufacturers got around this by hiring Food Scientists and Food Developers that are trained in the art of food chemical make up and reactions. Working with these individuals, manufacturers are able to mimic certain shelf products. The FDA requires that mimicked products be identified. Two very common mimicked products are Ketchup and Tobasco. Ketchup uses a formulation similar to (tomato concentrate, distilled vinegar, high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, salt, onion powder, spice and natural flavoring). Tobasco will be indentified in a similar way but serves to recreate the taste of the product without having to identify the trademark maker.

10. Price: This is usually the best identifier for determining whether you'll end up with a quality Barbecue Sauce. Producers who focus on price as opposed to quality have a lower threshold to meet in order to break even on the sale of their products. Their overall belief is that by selling in quantity they will make back their initial investment in a faster way and will outsell the competition. I can tell you in no uncertain terms that is so very far from the truth. Our experience has always been that people will pay for what they believe to be quality Barbecue Sauce, as long as the producer is up front and honest with the consumer. A quality product need not be flashy or have some comical name that promotes something audacious. A quality product need only identify itself plainly, outline its true reason for existing as well as exulting the benefits for the consumer which that person will undoubtedly determine once they use the product. In addition highly regulated testing organizations which can test and review products and hold their reputations in high esteem are integral in determining whether Barbecue products are good and a good value.

This list represents 10 of the most common things to look for when selecting a great versus bad barbecue sauce. Sauce tastes are objective and the only way for most people to truly differentiate quality from commonness is by the products' makeup. We have presumed here that most consumers would rather have products which are wholesome, healthy and great tasting, leaving behind the sodium, sugar, and chemicals that make up so many products nowadays. We will in the coming days identify more ways to determine quality barbecue sauces and hope that this information has been helpful to you toward making your buying decisions.

We look forward to providing more information soon.

Jake, and Jake's BBQ Sauce Company ( maker of all natural barbecue sauce, dry rub seasonings and marinades.

How to Clean Pork BBQ Ribs

Clean ribs is a primary requirement prior to barbecue.  But before you add dry rubs, marinades and seasoning, we'll need to spend some t...