“Hava NaGrilla” – Philadelphia Kosher Smoke BBQ Festival recap!

Philly, here we come!

On this 4th of July, America’s Independence Day, it feels appropriate to share my recap of the Philadelphia Kosher BBQ “Hava Nagrilla” festival from just nearly 2 weeks ago, where your fav team, “5 Dudes & A Vegetarian” competed! So here you go, ‘Murica – Happy Birthday!

But really, what isn’t more American than BBQ? 🙂

Let’s take this back to Friday, June 21st.  Peikes, Ellie and I boarded a very early flight from Midway. Got the rental car, ran a few errands (thank you Dollar Tree for selling KOSHER hot dog buns), picked up Debbie, and headed to the neighborhood of Bala Cynwyd, where we stayed for Shabbat.

Welcome to Philadelphia.  The city of brotherly love, cheesesteaks (if they’re kosher, even better), the Fresh Prince, and Rocky Balboa.

The Italian Stallion

Our lovely hosts (thank you Charlotte & Mordy) had everything prepped for our stay, so we had a few hours to kill.  What’s one of my bucket list places to visit in Philly?  Sadly, no, we didn’t have time to go see the Liberty Bell, or Congressional Hall, or any Art Museums (next trip though…).  No, this time, it was the Rocky Statue (cue the theme music), albeit the line to take photos in front was crazy-long.

But then it was time for the “Rocky steps” right beside the statue. Peikes and Ellie raced, while I decided to run up behind them, all while capturing this on video.  But, didn’t quote go as planned. When you’re “vertically challenged” and you decide to try and run those steps 2 at a time, it’s not the best idea.  It started out great, all hyped up, but I just ended up tripping over myself (sigh…). Oh well, it was funny (if you want to see that video, check us out at @meatyourvegetables on Instagram and click the Philly BBQ highlights)!

Fast forward to a lovely Shabbat, PERFECT weather and before we knew it, time to head over to the venue to start our smokers!

Teams, start your smokers!

The event was held in the parking lot of Temple Beth Hillel – Beth El.  The space was great (and it’s always good to have the synagogue available all night.  I mean, who really wants to use porta-potties).  There were 20 teams at the festival – one of the largest!  Some are good friends of ours who we have competed with a lot over the last few years.  It’s always good competition when you’re competing against the best of the best, right?

And now for the fun part.  Fast forward a few hours. The brisket and ribs are trimmed. The chicken thighs prepped. Turkey wings?  Well that threw us for a loop at the get-go, but we ended up using the drumette, so either way, we got those prepared too!  Proteins are rubbed, and the meat injected.

Time for a quick commercial break…

In the meantime, a few mishaps along the way.  A team just a few yards away from us had some stuff stolen (iPads, wallets) – the jury is still out on if they got anything back.  Debbie unfortunately had a quick bout of sickness (sorry, Debs), so I stepped in to help finish the chicken prep.  I must say, it’s not the sexiest job for a vegetarian. I mean, cutting through bone, cleaning the skin, it’s pretty gross, BUT our chicken thighs turn out so darn cute when they’re all rolled up and ready go to bathe in margarine (I know, I know), chicken stock and BBQ seasoning.

The last thing on the list to complete?  Chili.  There were 25 people chosen to sample each team’s chili.  Most of the teams were not thrilled with this, since it wasn’t part of the KCBS judging, we didn’t put in as much time and love as the 4 proteins that were being judged and truthfully, it wasn’t our shining moment.  Our chili was a tomato-based chili with salsa, leftover burnt ends, and garlic sausages that came all the way from Romanian Kosher Sausage in Chicago.  Nonetheless, we didn’t win that category.  Oh well.

Time to announce the winners!

After all was said and done, we were VERY happy with how we placed – especially in the company of 20 teams!  Our team, 5 Dudes & A Vegetarian placed 3rd in Turkey, 3rd in Chicken, and 7th place overall (and a $100 cash prize)!  We didn’t do as well in the Ribs and Brisket categories, but we have some ideas how to improve for the next BBQ competition (which is uh, next weekend)!

Needless to say, we are definitely proud of our performance at the first BBQ competition of 2019.  1 down, 2 more to go!  See you in Cincinnati July 14th, and Dallas, October 27th!

And no… we cannot promise we’ll have any leftovers to bring home. 🙂

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Destination: Dallas Kosher BBQ Championship and Cookbook Giveaway


Before we get to the dish on Dallas Kosher BBQ Championship, don’t forget to enter our giveaway for the new cookbook
Perfect Flavors: Creative, easy-to-prepare recipes inspired by my family and travels by Naomi Nachman:

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Destination: Dallas

About 3 weeks ago Rachel, Elliott (Rachel’s husband) and I headed down to the Lone Star State for the Dallas Kosher BBQ Championship. We compete under the team name of Five Dudes and Vegetarian. Thanks to my awesome wife Ronit for holding down the fort while I was off having fun.

A Little Bit About Kosher KCBS Competitions

I am going to pause here and provide a little background on the format of kosher BBQ competitions established by the Kansas City BBQ Society (KCBS):

Teams compete in four categories: chicken, beef ribs, turkey, and brisket. They are judged by six judges on taste, tenderness, and presentation. Judges score entries on a scale of 2-9, with the lowest judge’s score dropped. The scores are then tallied and the winners are announced.

In order to keep everything kosher, the competition provides all of the equipment, meat, and ingredients.  Usually, there is prep time Thursday night or Friday morning ahead of the event. At this point meat, ingredients, and utensils are given out and access to a kosher kitchen is provided.  The event swings into full gear Saturday night, where the teams are provided a smoker and a grill. They then start cooking, drinking, and having an all around good time.  The teams’ pit-masters tend their fires throughout the night until it is time to turn their hard work in to the judges.

Getting Going

We headed out to the airport at about 3:30 AM with what seamed like the slowest Uber driver ever. We made it in plenty of time for our 5 AM flight.  After an uneventful flight we grabbed a rental car and headed to Benny’s Bagels where we grabbed breakfast.  Rachel and I got omelets, which to our surprise, they make in the microwave, and Elliott had a bagel and cream cheese.  The food was decent for a small bagel joint, but nothing to write home about.

Prep Party

We then headed to Congregation Beth Torah, the organization that was hosting the the Dallas Kosher BBQ Championship to start prepping for the competition. Most of the local teams had prepped the night before, so it was a pretty light crowd. Shortly after we arrived, our friend and kosher BBQ legend Mendel Segal of Backyard BBQ and Brew in South Florida showed up. He joined us at our Airbnb for Shabbat.  It was great to hang out with him for the weekend.

Rachel got started on blending our rubs and simmering our sauce, I started trimming the brisket, and I think Elliott made some phone calls when he wasn’t schmoozing with his mohel (he was born in Dallas) who also happened to be the mashgiach for the event.

Once I was done trimming the brisket, I rubbed it will our classified combination of spices and injected it with our secret elixir (If I ever obtain a 1st place prize in brisket I’ll publish my recipe). Then it was on to the turkey.  We decided to spatchcock the turkey, which involves removing the back bone and pressing down on the breasts to flatten to bird so it cooks evenly. I then injected the turkey with another concoction, and placed a compound margarine under the skin.  Finally we let the bird bathe in broth until we were ready to cook it on Sunday.

We intentionally deferred chicken prep until Saturday night.  It was was Rachel’s call, as it fell to her to do chicken prep as Debbie, our teammate that usually handles the chicken, did not make the trip. The ribs were not available yet, so we cleaned up and headed out.

Run Around Town

The next stop was Dollar Tree. There is no place better for all the bits and pieces you need to compete in a BBQ competition, or host a Shabbat in a converted garage Airbnb. While we were out we checked out Boot Barn where I bought myself a belt buckle, as well as a Penzey Spices where I went for the free smells.

Then it was off to the new kosher grocery and deli Kosher Palate to pick up some lunch and our Shabbat food.  I was able to pick up pretty much everything I needed for Shabbat from grape juice to dessert and everything in between. They have some solid food.  I especially liked their Ali’s (named for the chef) chicken, a roast chicken with Mediterranean flavors. We did a little more running around and checked out the local big box grocery store with a large kosher section and then headed to the Airbnb to get ready for Shabbat.

Sabbatical Suds

We got to the Airbnb and after some confusion about how to get in, we started to unload the car and unpack. The Airbnb was small but cozy. Perfect for a quiet Shabbat before the all the excitement of a an overnight BBQ competition.  About 45 minutes before Shabbat was to begin Mendel Segal showed up.  Friday afternoons with Mendel means one thing, “Beer Before Shabbos”. Beer before Shabbos is short video Mendel does most weeks where he picks a beer to taste and briefly talk about.  Elliott and I got our 15 seconds of fame as guests on that week’s episode.

Shabbat was fairly uneventful.  We went to shul, ate, and tried to get as much sleep as possible. We knew we needed all the rest we could get before the competition.  The Shabbat meals were nice and the company was excellent.  The food from Kosher Palate was tasty and spending time with Mendel, Elliott, and Rachel is always enjoyable.

BBQ Bonanza

After Shabbat we quickly packed up and checked out of the Airbnb and headed to the contest grounds to get set up.  With this contest being later in the year, Shabbat was over fairly early, allowing us plenty of time to get organized and relax before the brisket needed to go on the smoker.

Once we got to the contest it was the prefect example of organized chaos.  A lot of stuff going on all at once, but all in near-perfect harmony.  The organizers seemed to have a perfect handle on everything going on and the volunteers worked diligently to make sure everything went off without a hitch.  Special thanks to Brian Rubenstein and Sandy Dorf. They bent over backwards to make sure all the teams that traveled in from out of state were well taken care of.

Rolling Smoke

After getting set up and having a few shots we threw a few hot dogs on the grill for dinner and waited for the time to come to put the brisket on.  Eventually 1 AM came around and it was time get the brisket to get started.  I don’t know why, but I had the hardest time getting my smoker up to 250°F.  We were using a Weber Smokey Mountain* which is a model I am very familiar with and is quickly becoming the standard for Kosher BBQ competitions, but something just wasn’t clicking.

My theory is the issue was with the charcoal I was using.  I was using a brand that I was not used to and it created a lot of ash. The other possibility was I was just not getting a good seal and my smoker was leaking heat.  The lid to my smoker didn’t fit quite right which likely was contributing to the issue.

Size Does Matter

Soon after setting up we received our ribs, which were huge!  This created a space issue.  Usually kosher competitions provide a 22″ Weber Smokey Mountain* and a 22″ Weber Kettle*. When we have smaller ribs, and a turkey breast as opposed to whole bird, we are generally able to fit everything on the smoker without the use of the Weber kettle.  Due to the volume of meat we had to cook I ended up doing the turkey on the kettle. The kettle was bit hotter than I wanted and the dark meat got a little dry.

Here Comes the Sun

The ribs went on around 6 AM, a little earlier than usual due to their large size.Shachris Selfie We then managed to pull together a minyan for Shacharit  followed by a Kosher BBQ Competition Shacharit selfie with Mendel Segal, which has become a standing tradition.

Breakfast, featuring bagels and coffee provided by the contest organizers along with shakshuka and french toast that Rachel made were soon to follow. That’s right Rachel managed to make french toast in a foil pan on a charcoal grill.

After breakfast the chicken and turkey went on and the event opened to public.  There were all sorts of vendors and activities. I can’t reiterate enough how well this event was organized.

Time for Turn-Ins

A little bit before noon was when the real fun began. Turn-ins were every half hour starting at noon.  The energy of the teams putting together their boxes to be presented to the judges is one of those things that defies words.  You really need to experience it. (That is an invitation for all of you to visit us at the next competition.)


The first category was chicken which came out decently. It is hard to get the pieces to be perfectly uniform when using kosher thighs, as they can vary in size and come with rib bones attached. I can’t complain too much about the chicken though, as we scored better than expected.


While the ribs were very large and didn’t lay out well in the pan (we used foil pans instead of the standard foam boxes due to the size), they were excellent quality plate ribs, which are meatier than the back ribs we usually use. Our ribs came out pretty good, not sure why we didn’t score better.  I can only theorize that in Texas they like their ribs a little less sweet than we make them.


The turkey breast came out pretty moist, but I need to work on my presentation for it. As I mentioned earlier the dark meat came out a bit dry so I didn’t end up putting any in my box.


Our brisket took forever to get to temp, but eventually got there.  I let some other teams taste my brisket and received positive feedback, but I think the pieces that went to the judges just weren’t the best.  In the future I plan to cut the whole brisket and then decide what to put in our box for the judges.

Celebrity Judges

We also provided small portions of all four categories for a panel of celebrity judges, as well as turkey and brisket for the spectators for the People’s Choice award. The celebrity judges included some serious BBQ royalty including Jill Grobowsky Bergus, owner of Lockhart Smokehouse in Dallas, one of the oldest and well known BBQ joints in Texas. Along side her was Daniel Vaughn who has my dream job, the BBQ editor for Texas Monthly Magazine and Gabe Boxer AKA The Kosher Guru.


Smokey DanielWe took fifth overall. If you take into account the fact that second, third, and fourth place were separated by less than a point, and the guy who took first has his own BBQ restaurant, I think we did pretty well. After the awards we headed to a local heath club to grab a quick shower. We then headed to the airport for a fairly uneventful flight followed my an Uber home. As soon as I got home I passed out. It was a whirlwind trip, but a lot of fun.  We are hoping to return next year, and hope to see you all there!

Don’t forget to check out Rachel’s take on the contest: 2 Dudes & a Vegetarian Do Dallas and Cookbook Giveaway!

*This post contains affiliate links. We at MYV earn a small commission if you purchase an item through one of those links, which allows us to continue bringing you great tasting food.

2 Dudes (& a Vegetarian) Do Dallas…oh, and Cookbook Giveaway!


Before I get to the “dish” on the Dallas Kosher BBQ Championship, don’t forget to enter our giveaway for the new cookbook Perfect Flavors: Creative, easy-to-prepare recipes inspired by my family and travels by Naomi Nachman!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


The Dish on Dallas

Debbie didn’t do Dallas.  At least not this year. 🙂  Debbie IS one of our beloved teammates on the Kosher BBQ competition circuit, but alas, I couldn’t avoid that joke… #sorrynotsorry.

Let’s travel back to 2 weeks ago, Friday October 26th.  Our BBQ team “5 Dudes and a Vegetarian” (only 2 dudes this time), hopped on a 5 AM flight (gross, I know) and made our way to the Lone Star state! Tired, hungry, but full of adrenaline, we made it to the shul in time for prep.  And let me say, as someone who is very organized, I was thrilled to be part of the most organized BBQ prep I’ve ever seen!  The table of ingredients had rows of spices, herbs and sauces lined up oh-so perfectly.  It made finding our spices to make the base rub so much easier!  This Dallas Kosher BBQ competition is shaping up to be pretty great!

2 hours later, the brisket has been trimmed, the rubs and sauce are made, the turkey spatchcocked, injected and rubbed and we’re finished for now.  The ribs weren’t available until Saturday night and chicken?  Well, we can wait on that too.

Next, we headed to the semi-new Kosher market and take-out BBQ place, Kosher Palate.  We ordered ahead and picked up food for Shabbat, including chicken, green bean salad, cucumber salad, & chicken fingers (we did an Airbnb for Shabbat, and the one and only Mendel Segal of RaBBi-Q joined us)!  And we had JUST enough time to fit in a “Beer Before Shabbos” video!  Check it out here!

Shabbat was restful and relaxing – even in our tiny garage home for the night. It was the perfect set-up for a BBQ competition weekend.  Nothing fancy needed here – just good food and good company.

Let the Battle Begin

Saturday night the fun begins!  Tents, tables, equipment are being set up.  Proteins arrive.  Our station is organized (you’re welcome). Of course, the moment I turned on my phone, I heard about the horrible tragedy in Pittsburgh. The atmosphere became a bit more somber.  Just remember to hug and kiss your loved ones and keep them safe. Ultimately, I cannot thank the police enough for being at the event all night and all day and for keeping us safe!  Thank you Blue!

Midnight rolls around and I’m up!  It’s time for me to prep the chicken!  I honestly don’t know why I volunteer to do the least-appealing (pretty gross) job in this competition. I mean, chopping off knuckles, pulling out tendons, and thinning skin is not exactly a vegetarian’s paradise, but those chicken thighs looked mighty adorable when they were all done if I say so myself.

A long night ahead.  I probably fell asleep for about 10 minutes, but as usual, I caught a second wind.

The sun has risen and the men are davening Shacharit.  That’s my cue to make breakfast! As always, bfast consists of shakshuka on the grill. This time we added French Toast, made with a leftover challah from Shabbat!  #breakfastFTW

And now the REAL fun begins.  Countdown to turn-in times.

Feeding BBQ Aficionados

But first – let’s introduce the celebrity panel!  This is just pure fun, bringing some meat selections from each team to this very talented group of chefs and foodies!  They ate, chatted with the crowd and ultimately gave out judges’ favorites awards!

Let me introduce you to…

  • Vicki Nivens – owner of Hard Eight BBQ for over 15 years and has overseen the growth to over 4 locations across North Texas with a 5th on its way!
  • Jody Dean – longtime host of 98.7 FM KLUV morning drive and BBQ aficionado (returned to the event for his 4th year in a row!)
  • Jill Grobowsky Bergus – born into BBQ royalty and owner of Lockhart Smokehouse in Dallas (where NO forks and NO sauce are apparently the norm)
  • Daniel Vaughn – one of, if not THE most well-known and recognizable BBQ aficionados throughout Texas, he recently won a national magazine award for Texas Monthly’s 2017 Top 50 BBQ issue and published his first book The Prophets of Smoked Meat: A Journey Through Texas Barbecue in 2013
  • John Tesar – executive chef and partner of the renowned Knife Dallas (named “Best Steakhouse” by Dallas Magazine in 2015 AND 2016), 4-time James Beard “Best Southwest Chef” semifinalist and contestant on the hit Bravo show “Top Chef”
  • Gabriel Boxer – known as the “Kosher Guru”, is a leading expert in the kosher food industry and restaurant consultant and runs one of the largest kosher foodie Facebook groups “Kosher Guru’s Kosher Nation”

Sadly, we didn’t get a chance to chat with the celeb panel, but it looked like they were having a great time!  And how could they NOT?  Free BBQ!

Time For Turn-Ins

All the while the crowd was enjoying the fantastic event (lots of kids activities and local vendors), the teams were getting their turn-in boxes prepped perfectly for the judges.  Chicken, ribs, turkey and brisket.  Each turn-in a half hour apart.  Meat sliced to perfection (or so we thought, fingers crossed). 7 portions laid out on the folded piece of foil inside a white Styrofoam container – very fancy here.  Spills wiped up and time checked.  All 4 proteins submitted to the judges successfully!

Amazing Organizers

Before I get into HOW we placed in each category, I personally want to thank Brian Rubenstein and Sandy Dorf for their hard work on running this amazing event.  I have never seen such incredible organization. Even though little glitches popped up (it happens in any event, right) I can speak for our entire that team that we were so overwhelmed by the love and support and for you and Sandy truly going above and beyond to help us, especially as we traveled for the event.  Brian – I know you REALLY wanted us to be there and we are so thrilled that we got the chance to come!  It’s been so much fun getting to know you over the years and we would LOVE to come back next year.

Ready for the Results

So how did we place?  Well, we won 4th place in chicken, 4th place in turkey, 5th place in ribs and 5th overall!  Not bad considering we competed against some serious BBQ veterans!  And the 2nd, 3rd and 4th places were only separated by less than 1 point!  So I’d say we did pretty well!

Well, we’ve already marked our calendars for next year’s event – October 27th, 2019!

Check out some pix from the big event!

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*This post contains affiliate links. We at MYV (Meat Your Vegetables) earn a small commission if you purchase an item through one of those links, which allows us to continue bringing you great tasting food.

Smoke on the Water: Organizing a BBQ Competition In the Rain and Award Winning Ribs

Hang on folks because this one is a bit long (at least for my posts). If you like BBQ I promise it is worth it.  If you make it to the end your patience will be rewarded with an award-winning rib recipe (or you could just scroll down to the recipe, I won’t tell).

Back Where (Kosher Competitive) BBQ (In Chicago) All Began

What you may or may not know is that Rachel and I have a competitive kosher BBQ team called 5 Dudes and a Vegetarian.  Here is a little history how that came to be. In 2014, I competed in my first kosher BBQ competition at Anshe Emet Synagogue in the Lakeview neighborhood of Chicago. I assembled a team, developed some recipes, watched some YouTube videos, and came up with a plan.

Kosher BBQ Competitions KCBS Style5 Dudes and a Vegetarian

I am going to pause here and provide a little background on the format of kosher BBQ competitions established by the Kansas City BBQ Society (KCBS):

Teams compete in four categories, chicken, beef ribs, turkey, and brisket. They are judged by six judges on taste, tenderness, and presentation. Judges score entries on a scale of 2-9, with the lowest judge’s score dropped. The scores are then tallied and the winners are announced. In order to keep everything kosher the competition provides all of the equipment, meat, and ingredients.  Usually, there is prep time Thursday night or Friday morning ahead of the event. At this point meat, ingredients, and utensils are given out and access to a kosher kitchen is provided.  The event swings in to full gear Saturday night, where the teams are provided a smoker and a grill, and start cooking, drinking, and having an all around good time.  The teams pit-masters tend their fires throughout the night until it is time to turn their hard work in to the judges.

Now back to Our Regularly Scheduled Program

Prep was on Friday afternoon at Milt’s BBQ for the Perplexed, who was co-hosting the event.  My teammates and I spent a good few hours blending a myriad of spices, trimming meats, and simmering sauces.  We had a different rub and sauce for each meat, which I have since learned is definitely NOT the way to go, but that is a story for another time.  There were close to 20 teams, which made for some close quarters, while working on little 4-top restaurant tables.   While this wasn’t ideal it did make for great camaraderie between the teams.

If I had to pick the thing I like the most about competing in kosher BBQ competitions, it is relationships I have developed over the years with other teams.  I have met a lot of awesome people and made some great friends.  I want to call out one specific person who I met on my BBQ odyssey, Mendel Segal. Mendel Segal, currently the pit-master at Backyard BBQ and Brew in Surfside, FL, was helping organize the event.  At the time he was the executive director of the Vaad Hakashruth of Kansas City, and is responsible for bringing competitive BBQ to the kosher world.  He has encouraged me to indulge my BBQ obsession, and guided me along the way.

Time to Kick the Tires and Light the Fires

Now let’s fast forward about thirty hours. We showed up Saturday night at Anshe Emet  to cook (and drink) through the night. To be honest, despite all of the planning and research I had done, I made lots of rookie mistakes, but again that is a story for another time. The weather was perfect, the crowd was great, and a good time was had all around. To be honest I don’t remember how we did in three of the four categories, but we did take home a third place trophy for our BBQ Baked Beans (this was early on, so they did beans instead of turkey).

From there on I was officially hooked. Since then we have competed in kosher competitions in Kansas City and St. Louis.  This year we are hoping to compete in Dallas, Boca Raton, and Phoenix.  The Chicago competition lasted one more year and then fizzled out, that is until this year.

Bringing BBQ Back to the Windy City

I was determined to bring kosher competition BBQ back to Chicago (and compete in it at the same time), but I knew I could not do it alone.  I reached out to the organizers of the Greater Chicago Jewish Festival.  Back in 2014 their event was the week after the Chicago Kosher BBQ Competition.  Their event has been running for decades. They have large outdoor event logistics down to a science. When I approached the organizers about incorporating the Kosher BBQ Competition in to the Jewish Festival they were very excited about it.

BBQ SmokersTo be honest, I don’t know how I could have done it with them.  The festival took care of the fundraising and logistics such as tents, lighting, water, refrigeration, and port-o-potties.  I was also able to obtain ten smokers and ten grills from the organizers of the original Chicago Kosher BBQ Competition. That helped us over the major hurdle of finding equipment, but at the same time that became our maximum number of teams.

Help! I Need Somebody, Help!

Having someone else worrying about logistics freed me up to concentrate on the BBQ competition and its culinary related tasks. One thing I learned the hard way is that putting on a BBQ competition is way more work than you could possibly imagine. Only attempt this if it is truly your passion.  If you just think it will be something fun to do, or if you are on the fence, do not attempt it.  Also, get trusted help, and more of it than you think you need.  Even with the help of the fine folks from the Greater Chicago Jewish Festival and some occasional help from friends* this was still way more work than I expected.

Below is just a small list of things I needed to attend to:

Building a website (www.chicagokosherbbqcompetition.com)

Promoting the event on social media

Registering teams

Purchasing equipment

Buying ingredients

Ordering meat

Coordinating with KCBS

Coordinating with the festival

and so much more…..

One day I’ll write a book about organizing a BBQ competition but suffice it to say it is a lot of work.

Who’BBQ Prepll Stop the Rain

While most things went fairly smoothly, but there were some minor issues and one big one. Prep went well Thursday night and the logistics came together nicely on Friday.  The teams arrived fairly promptly on Saturday night and started cooking. All was going well until about 3:00 AM when it started raining buckets.  Luckily we were under a tent, but we definitely were not on high ground and the tent flooded.  It rained on and off through the night and the next morning, leaving the grounds a muddy mess.

As I stated earlier, the greatest thing about competition BBQ are the relationships you make.  When you have less than ideal conditions, like crummy weather, it serves to strengthen those relationships.  Teams help each other out and everyone just tries to laugh it off together. My team was in the area that was flooded the worst and the team next to us went out of their way to help us move our smoker out of the mud.  To be honest, most of the cooking was a bit of a blur but the overall camaraderie really did make an impression on me.BBQ Rain

At the end of the day my team took home a first place trophy for our ribs (see recipe below), and third overall.  I would be happy with those results at any competition. The fact that I spent most of my energy organizing the event and not competing, made those results that much sweeter.

Check out Rachel’s take on the competition here: 2018 Chicago Kosher BBQ Competition!

BBQ Ribs Trophy

*Thank you to  Robert Feiger, Ryan Gottesman, and Elliott Fliegelman for all your help with the manual labor. Thanks to Debbie and Dennis Burg for the use of you power washer. Thanks to Eli “Moose” Greenberg for help with the refrigeration situation. Thanks to all the teams for coming out and staying even when the weather got rough. Thanks to the fine folks of the Greater Chicago Jewish Festival for welcoming us in to their event. Finally, thanks to Steven Weinberger for everything.





4.5 from 2 votes
BBQ Beef Ribs
Award Winning Ribs with Pomegranate BBQ Sauce
Prep Time
5 mins
Cook Time
4 hrs
Coal Lighting
15 mins
Total Time
4 hrs 5 mins

This is my award winning rib recipe that took first place in the 2018 Chicago Kosher BBQ competition. The recipe includes instructions for cooking on a smoker or in an oven.

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: BBQ
Keyword: BBQ
Servings: 5 Bones
Author: Daniel Peikes
  • 1 Rack Beef Back Ribs 5 Bones
  • 2 Cups Apple Juice In a spray bottle
Spice Rub
  • 1/2 Cup Kosher Salt
  • 1/2 Cup Black Pepper
  • 1/2 Cup Dark Brown Sugar
  • 1/4 Cup Granulated Galic
  • 1/4 Cup Granulated Onion
  • 1/4 Cup Paprika Smoked if you have it
  • 1/4 Cup Celery Seed
Pomegranate BBQ Sauce
  • 2 Cups Ketchup
  • 1/2 Cup Pomegranate Molasses
  • 1/2 Cup Dark Brown Sugar
  • 1/2 Cup Honey
  • 1/2 Cup Apple Cider Vinager
  • 1/2 Cup Spice Rub
  • 1/2 Cup Apple Juice
Optional Special Equipment if You are Smoking Your Ribs
  • 1 Smoker
  • 2 Logs Apple Wood For flavor
  • 2 Logs Cherry Wood For flavor
  • Charcoal/Propane/Electricity/Wood For fueling your smoker
Spice Rub
  1. Add the kosher salt, pepper, granulated garlic, granulated onion, paprika and celery seed to a large mixing bowl and stir until thoroughly combined. Reserve a 1/2 cup of the spice rub for the sauce.

Rib Preparation
  1. Start by removing the membrane from the back of the ribs.  This isn't 100% necessary but makes for a more tender rib and allows for better smoke penetration, if you decide to smoke the ribs. Then trim any loose bits of meat and fat as they will just burn during cooking.

  2. Sprinkle the ribs liberally with the spice rub on both sides.

Smoking Instructions
  1. If you are going to smoke the ribs, fire up your smoker to 250°F and put in a log each of apple and cherry wood. Place the ribs on the rack concave side down. 

  2. After about an hour add the other 2 logs. If you see spots on the ribs that start to look dry spray with the apple juice.

  3. Cook until the tender, about 3 hours. A skewer should slide through the meat with almost no resistance.

Oven Instructions
  1. Preheat your oven to to 250°F and the put the ribs on a foil lined sheet pan.

  2. Bake until the tender, about 3 hours. A skewer should slide through the meat with almost no resistance.

Pomegranate BBQ Sauce
  1. Add the ketchup, pomegranate molasses, brown sugar, honey, apple cider vinegar, apple juice, and spice rub to a medium pot. Place the pot over medium heat and simmer, stirring constantly until all the solids are are dissolved.

  2. Lightly brush the ribs with the sauce and place back on the smoker or in the oven  for 5 minutes to set the sauce.  Slice and serve immediately.

2018 Chicago Kosher BBQ Competition!

Go team!!

The rain boots are dry, the stench of smoke has dissipated and showers and laundry and done. This could only mean one thing – the BBQ competition has wrapped up!  This year, we had the unforeseen pleasure of working in muddy, and VERY swampy conditions (the giant puddle was affectionately known as “Lake Q”).

It’s been 3 years since there was a Chicago Kosher BBQ competition and this year, with the incredible help and organizing (and kick-off, I should say) from our very own Daniel Peikes, the ‘Q became part of the Greater Chicago Jewish Arts Festival!  And it made sense – why not include it into a Jewish arts fair, where you know you’re going to get lots of people coming by to check it out.  Granted, it wasn’t a total wash out, but the rain did prevent a lot of people from showing up, but needless to say, the BBQ event is NEVER cancelled – this is a “rain or shine” event!  We don’t stop because of monsoon conditions.  BRING IT ON!

This year was no different.  Same 4 categories – brisket, ribs, chicken thighs and turkey.  Sanctioned by the KCBS (Kansas City Barbecue Society).  Yes, it’s a thing.  Prep on Thursday night at Congregation KINS went well – I was in autopilot, making the rubs and sauces (and of course, through a bit of miscommunication, I added 1 CUP of cayenne to our brisket rub, instead of 1 TBSP.  Yup, it was spicy, but we mellowed it out with some more brown sugar and apple juice).  Almost-major crisis averted.

Although this was my 6th Kosher BBQ competition, I felt a bit anxious knowing that one of our teammates was out for the BBQ season, due to a broken foot (get better soon, Debbie)!  And she’s our “chicken queen”, so I felt a good amount of pressure to take her place on that task.  And it’s been a few years since I’ve prepped the chicken.  But once I got back into the rhythm of trimming off the knuckles, removing the rib bones and cleaning the skin, I ended up with 12 beautifully portioned (and all equal in size I might add) chicken thighs.  So that’s what I did for 2 hours that Saturday night – what were you all up to? 🙂

The next few hours were a bit of a blur.  A few zzzz’s (maybe a half hour), thunder, lightning, rain, mud, MORE rain, driving home to get my rain boots (best decision I made that day, so yay for dry feet), smoke, more drizzle, and finally…it’s time for turn-ins.

The brisket smoked for 10 hours, and rested.  The ribs and turkey smoked for 3 hours, and chicken smoked for less than that, with rub and sauce.  The ribs were looking good – nice smoke ring and adding Mendel’s sweet BBQ sauce really made the difference.  Tender, juicy, sweet, smokey and a bit spicy (so I’m told, since obviously I didn’t taste any of the meat, haha).  7 portions are plated, spills and drills were wiped away carefully, and brought to the judges.

Now, we sit and wait.  And by sitting and waiting, I mean, getting as much of our stuff packed up as we can.  Oh I love being efficient!  And here we go – results are in!

As much as we just hoped to get everything cooked and submitted on time, results were…

#1 in RIBS!


Honestly, it was shocking.  This is the best we’ve ever placed and with a good group of competition around us (and even though the ribs weren’t great quality), hey, this is our first, first place win!

Overall, it was a good competition with great company.  Sure, it wasn’t perfect and sure there are some things that could have been tweaked or organized better (not Daniel’s fault, just a lot of details to work out with the Arts Festival on it), but my favorite part of these BBQ competitions are the camaraderie and friendships that come out of this.  I’ve made some close friends through these events and it becomes a big family and feels like a family reunion when we all get together every summer.  There’s no ego here, always great sportsmanship and everyone helps each other out.  I offered my friend Mordy (who came here last minute by himself and of course swept the competition), with any help he needed, even though my team was short a person too, so I made his foil squares for his turn-in boxes.  It’s easy, I know, but something that you can easily forget!  We all give each other advice and truly, we all want each other to do well.  The congratulatory hugs at the end are honest and heartfelt.  THAT’s why I love doing it.  This underground world of Kosher BBQ, a level playing field competition where everyone’s a winner (yea, yea, so cliche, but so true).

Who knows…maybe you’ll see our team, 5 Dudes and a Vegetarian at the Dallas BBQ competition in October!

Until next time… this is Rachel signing off!

Check out some highlights from the event!

Daniel’s Recap of the 2nd Annual St. Louis Kosher BBQ Competition

I have been meaning to get this post out for a while, but it was a pretty crazy summer and life got in the way. Back on June 25th, 2017, Rachel and I competed in the 2nd Annual St. Louis Kosher BBQ competition hosted by Nusach Hari B’nai Zion (NHBZ) under the banner of our kosher BBQ team “5 Dudes and a Vegetarian”. It was a whirlwind trip that included kosher BBQ, Indian food, and doughnuts. Rachel’s husband Elliott picked me and Rachel up from her office Thursday afternoon and of course it began to rain just as we were leaving. Lucky for us, the rain didn’t last long.  We hit a little traffic leaving Chicago but still made decent time, getting to St. Louis at about 9:30PM and crashed for the night.

The next morning, after some coffee and Krispy Kreme doughnuts provided by our awesome BBQ teammate, Debbie Burg, we got down to work prepping for the competition at NHBZ. The competition was sanctioned by the Kansas city BBQ Society (KCBS).  Their are several organizations that certify BBQ conceptions but the KCBS is probably the largest.  They started sanctioning kosher competitions about five years ago and about 2 years ago released an official set rules for kosher BBQ competitions.  In kosher BBQ competitions there are generally four categories:

  1. Chicken
  2. Turkey
  3. Beef Ribs
  4. Brisket

There was trimming of meats, mixing of rubs, simmering of sauces, and one or two spills, but it was all good fun. We prepped pretty much everything except the chicken, which we left up to Debbie to do Saturday night. Rachel’s Aunt Sue (pictured below) joined us for the prep and was stuck with the unenviable task of doing the dishes.

After we finished prep we headed to Schnucks, a local grocery with a decent kosher selection, although it pales in comparison to Chicago’s Jewel-Osco.  I was particularly discouraged to find out all their cakes were dairy, as it was Debbie’s birthday and we hoping to bring a pareve (non-dairy) cake to the competition.  As the competition was obviously fleshig (meat), the rules as well as biblical kosher requirements forbid (among other things) the mixing of milk and meat.  We picked up some snacks, beer, and last minute supplies for the competition.

Then it was time for lunch at Gokul Indian restaurant.  Definitely go for the buffet if they are offering it when you visit.  I way over ordered, as I almost never get to eat Indian.  Unfortunately, my family members aren’t as culinarily adventurous as I am, and there are no kosher Indian joints in Chicago.  I ordered the combo appetizer plate of Miorchi Bhajia, Samosa, Bataka Vada, and Vegetable Pakora to split with Elliott, but ended eating most of it myself, followed by the buffet where I had a little bit of everything on the menu, and side of puffy flat bread known as Puri and washed it all down with a mango lassi.  Needless to say, I was stuffed.

I then spend a relaxing Shabbat (sabbath) with the Freund family who were very gracious hosts, proving me with excellent food, company, and some much needed rest ahead of long night of cooking and drinking.  As a bonus, they invited a long time friend of mine, Judy Haber, for lunch.

Right after Shabbat we headed to the competition grounds and to set up.  We needed to build our own tent which was a surprise to me as this was has always been something that was done by organizers in my previous experiences. When you get to a competition, any extra work can throw you off your game when all you want to do is get set up, and start cooking (and drinking).  Lucky our final teammate, Rob Feiger, got there ahead of us and had already put up the tent.

There were a few familiar faces there, including David Horesh and his family who make up team SephardiQ and Mordechai Stricks of team Uncle Mordy and Meatzvah Girls.  A few other teams showed up late, that had not done any prep earlier.  These teams needed to choose their meat, which in a kosher competition is provided by the organizers, but they were a little short on ribs.  At one point, the organizers came around to reclaim one of three racks of ribs they had issued to the teams to redistribute them to the other teams that were shorted.

In order to keep things kosher, most of the kosher competitions supply all needed ingredients and equipment.  This event did provide a grill and a smoker as well as a basic set of culinary tools.  I have to be honest though, the knives were fairly dull and the ingredient pantry was basically non-existent.  I did reach out the organizers ahead of time and learned that it would be slim pickings for supplies so I brought most of what I needed with me from Chicago.

BBQ Ingredients


Mendel Segel
Mendel Segel


Sometime in the early morning hours the wind picked up.  This makes tending the fire a bit tricky, but we managed to keep our temperature fairly stable.  The real problem was the fact that tents, which are essentially giant sails, were fairly light weight and were not sufficiently staked down, and started to fly away.  After the tents to left and the right of me blew over, I got smart and tied mine down to our two tables, which managed to hold it for the remainder of the event.

Rachel and Her Mother
Rachel and Her Mother


The spectators showed up around 11:00 AM.  The competition sold tasting tickets so the spectators could get a “taste” of the action. I had a fewfriends stop including my co-worker Brian Kinney who was in town visiting his father, my grade school friend Nathan Waldman who moved to St. Louis for college and never left, and Judy Haber’s daughter Aliza, who at one point was Rachel’s roommate. Rachel’s parents also came down, making the drive from Kansas City and bringing bagels.

To be honest all of our food came out mediocre and our scores reflected it.  Our ribs were overcooked, the turkey wasn’t the prettiest, and brisket was a bit tough.  I have tendency to rush and end up slicing my meat a little too early. We ended up placing fifth overall.  All four teams that beat us were more experienced than us, and deserved to beat us.  Of course team RaBBi-Q took top honors.  Only Mendel Segal could roll in late having done no prep and take overall grand champion. Despite a few bumps, all in all it was a great time.

Check out Rachel’s take on the trip here: St. Louis Kosher BBQ Competition Re-cap By Rachel

BBQ Ribs BBQ Turkey BBQ Chicken Brisket

Rachel’s Recap: 2017 Kansas City Kosher BBQ competition

3rd place in brisket! And yes, those are my parents! (Avi was MIA in this photo b/c she was taking it)

It’s been a little over a month since our team “Five Dudes and a Vegetarian” competed once again in this year’s (6th annual) Kansas City Kosher BBQ competition!  This year was a little bit different as the competition was part of the Kansas City Jewish Arts Festival at the Jewish Community Center, so the PR for the event was a little bit different.  So granted there were LOTS of people that came by the event, but since the BBQ event was sort of tucked away on the side, we didn’t get as many passersby asking to try our food (which, may have been a good thing, since we only had some tasting samples – the priority is for the judges and the rest, well, we take home for family). 🙂

The BBQ event itself was smaller – only 12 teams this year, instead of the usual 20-25, so our team kept thinking positively that it’ll give us better odds at winning big this year.  We competed against some of the best.  Some regulars, like Sephardic-Q, DWF Kosher Q Crew (shoutout to my buddy Brian!!) and Dukes of Chazzer (and they won Grand Champ, 2 years in a row now, SUPER impressive – congrats to Andy and the team). We also had the opportunity to have our booth right next to some legit professional BBQers and when I say legit, I mean, they’ve competed in the MASSIVE, “American Royal” BBQ competition (let’s just say, over 400 teams at that one – cue jaw drop).  Dan from Chop’s BBQ basically just swept the entire competition, so much so, that he was having a hard time juggling all of his trophies, while carrying them to his car. #sorrynotsorry.  But so well deserved.  On the other side of Dan was Andy from Smoke on Wheels, who also won big that day.  I felt a huge honor just to be competing in the same space as these dudes and wanting to learn from the best.

Same shpiel here – we did prep Thursday night (I made the rubs, cooked the sauces and helped pack up and keep us organized), and the rest we tackled Saturday night, motzei Shabbat.  We had 2 new members of our team, Joyce (from KC!!) and my other sister, Avi!  It’s become such a family affair and I love it!  Saturday night turned out to be great weather, no major hiccups for us and… I quite possibly slept on top of a piece of cardboard underneath a table, and there may or may not have been spooning with my husband involved (it was COLD, okay?!).

Homemade shakshuka for breakfast – my permanent role in the morning hours.  It was delish.  Added some beef fry on the grill and breakfast sausage (I heard it was delish, but what do I know?).  All of our proteins looks pretty darn good if I must say so, and we all felt REALLY good about it.

12 o’clock NOON – time for the first turn-in.  Boxes are complete with perfectly folded tin foil on the bottom and drips have been wiped up (yes, I’m a bit of a stickler for the perfect-looking turn-in box, but believe me, that’s a good thing).  Chicken, ribs, turkey and brisket.  All the work pays off, everything is turned in to the judges and now we start cleaning up and it’s time to wait.

Judging time is here.  Fingers are crossed, waiting for our team name to be called for something…anything!  And lo and behold, we placed the EXACT same as last year – THIRD place in BRISKET!  I know we all want to do better (looking at you, Daniel)! And though I agree, I’m still happy we won, especially a trophy.  But there are always things to learn from our experiences and ways to improve so we can get a second or FIRST place trophy maybe next year.

A couple takeaways – one thing we have to work on is our timing, though I think we have the cooking timing down, we just have to be more careful about the resting of the meat and plating and so forth.  Always a work in progress but we’re getting there, and learning from mistakes.

And the biggest takeaway from this year’s event, was how much we (and by “we”, I mean everyone competing) miss Mendel Segal – who singlehandedly organized this event with the Va’ad 6 years ago and made it the incredible event it is today. Though since he moved to South Florida, it just didn’t have that “Mendel-esque” touch as it could have.  Those of you who were there, you know what I mean.  It was a great event, don’t get me wrong, just was missing that something extra – those details that Mendel can control in his sleep, he’s such a master.  So, yes, Mendel, we all miss you. But we’re excited to check out your restaurant in Miami, and maybe…a BBQ competition there soon??

Check out some picts from the event!

Brisket and the rub!


Chicken prep!






Making breakfast and running on an hour of sleep!


Shakshuka for bfast




Morning selfie


Final touches for the chicken


Honey, baby!


Ellie, with Dave Rogers, from KCBS (Kansas City Barbeque Society – the competition is sanctioned by them)!


Smokin’ it up


Basting those ribs


Final product!


3rd place-winning brisket!




Mendel in his element


Team spirit!!

St. Louis Kosher BBQ Competition Re-cap By Rachel

5 “Dudes” and a Vegetarian (not quite but close enough) wearing our trademark “Meat is murder…tasty, tasty murder” t-shirts!

Well, it’s been 2 weeks since competing in our first kosher bbq competition of the season, and life is finally back to normal (and I’m pretty sure we got all of the bbq stink out of everything).  Our team “5 Dudes and a Vegetarian” (Daniel Peikes, Elliott Fliegelman, Debbie Burg, Robert Feiger and me), competed in the second annual St. Louis Kosher BBQ competition on June 26th! Maybe you caught our Facebook live, as Daniel Peikes, our fearless pitmaster, slathered the base rub (made by yours truly) all over the giant hunk of brisket! Well, if you missed it, be sure to check out our “Meat Your Vegetables” Facebook page!  And in case it wasn’t that obvious, yes I’M the vegetarian on the team.  It definitely gets a lot of laughs and no, I don’t make “vegetarian” food for the judges.  Because that’s not allowed. 🙂  More on that later…

But first, let’s talk Indian food! That’s right…kosher Indian in St. Louis! Stopped there for lunch with (most) of our team to enjoy a relaxing, supper yummy meal at Gokul restaurant on Friday, after the prep.  A cute place with funky colors yet a calming atmosphere, the menu seemed a little overwhelming to me, so I opted for the buffet instead.  Everything was delicious – from the herbed rice, to the vegetable korma (mixed veggies with cashews and raisins in a creamy tomato sauce) to the super spicy spinach and mushroom sauce and beans and lentils cooked with mild Indian spices.  No naan or paneer for me…but it was tasty and full of flavor and spice.

And now, back to our regularly scheduled programming.

For those of you who haven’t experienced the joy of kosher BBQ competitions, here’s a little rundown.

The competition has an entrance fee – anywhere between $350 – $400.  That amount includes all of the protein (typically brisket, ribs, chicken and turkey), the spices and ingredients provided by the competition (like salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, apple juice, olive oil, ketchup, etc…), equipment like knives, cutting boards, tongs, heat-proof gloves, thermometers, AND of course, the smoker and the grill.  So, yes, you are able to bring in other ingredients, as long as they are brand new, sealed and of course they have to be labeled kosher.  Typically, the prep happens either Thursday night or Friday (as the cooking gets underway Saturday night, for a Sunday event).  The prep for our team?  Well, for St. Louis specifically, I made all of the rubs – the base rub, which then was used to make the rub for the brisket, ribs, and turkey (our teammate Debbie, had her own special recipe for the chicken).  I also made the injections (I know, sounds so dirty, right?  Or maybe it sounds medicinal, but whatever the case, yes, I make sauces to then have injected into the meat.  Oh baby).  Meanwhile, Daniel is trimming the fat off the brisket and prepping the ribs.  Debbie is making her sauces, while my husband was the gopher (he’s not allowed in the kitchen, especially with knives). 🙂  Okay, just kidding Ellie!  My aunt who lives in St. Louis also came by to check out our prep and she volunteered to be our dishwasher – such a big help, thank you aunt Sue!

Okay, so by Friday late morning, all of the prep is done.  Saturday night, right after Shabbat, we head over to the shul where the event was happening, get our tent (thanks to our teammate Rob for getting us set up), grab our tables and start rolling.  Rubbing the brisket and getting that baby on the smoker at some point during the night. 🙂  That’s the key here – we stay up ALL NIGHT and essentially babysit the brisket on the smoker.  You really need to keep an eye on that temperature – that can really make or break it!

Fast forward to Noon on Sunday – the competition BEGINS!  Chicken turn-in to the judges is first, followed by ribs, turkey and brisket.  And because this competition is a KCBS sanctioned competition (Kansas City Barbecue Society – yes it’s a real thing, and it’s 2 legit 2 quit, HA), there are MANY rules that are specified through KCBS, rules like no garnish, and sauces with no chunks bigger than a fine dice – are the real deal.  That’s right.  No sprigs of parsley in our turn-in boxes!  Just the meat, in all its smoky glory.

Judging underway, and winners announced at 2:30.  We’re tired, exhausted, sweaty (and reeking of smoke) and most definitely dehydrated – let’s get this thing started.  So, we came in 4th place in ribs, 5th place in brisket, and 5th place overall.  And out of only 10 teams, I was hoping we’d inch out by a wee bit more, but hey, it’s good practice, good experience and it just keeps us fired up for the next one.  What I really love about competing in these events is the camaraderie and the great sportsmanship from everyone!  We compete against novices and professionals, but at the end of the day, no one is here to sabotage one another – everyone helps each other out when needed, like borrowing ingredients, equipment, keeping an eye on other teams smokers and alerting them if they get too hot – we’re all here to win of course, but we’re all here to have fun and enjoy ourselves.

Next on our BBQ competition road trip?  Kansas City in September…here we come!


Check out some highlights from the big event!

Vegetable Korma + delish Indian yumminess = HEAVEN


Ellie, did you enjoy lunch? 🙂


Picture of a picture


Sunday morning breakfast – meat ends, bfast sausage, and my homemade Shakshuka along with Debbie’s homemade mini pitot!


5th place winning brisket and burnt ends!


Savory smoked turkey


Sweet ‘n smoky ribs (sorry the chicken didn’t make it into the photos)!

Check out Daniel’s take on the trip: Recap of the 2nd Annual St. Louis Kosher BBQ Competition