Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Giving Thanks

I have been lax in doing this blog. Just seems like business at the store and whatnot gets in the way sometimes.

I cannot believe 2014 is winding down. Seems to have flown by.

As we approach the holidays, I usually reflect back on the year; my accomplishments (or lack thereof!), my learning opportunities, and taking inventory of my relationships with friends and family.

Daren and I are approaching our third year of business and we have grown each year. I am very, very thankful for all of the support from our family, friends and all of our customers. I've said before that the most important part of being a small business owner is being able to interact with the people who come in the store each day.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving (one of our busiest holidays!) and I would encourage everyone, as cliche as it is, to take a moment and truly think about what you have to be thankful for. I know I can be guilty of reflecting on the negative situations in my life, so I force myself to step back and take inventory on how blessed I truly am.

Daren is not only my business partner but my best friend. We have been through so much just getting the store going and growing. We don't always see eye to eye but we always come to an agreement eventually. I am truly thankful for our relationship and the fact he is always there for me.

My family. Well, they drive me nuts most of the time but I love them all and am so glad I still have them in my life. I lost my father years ago and you just never fully recover from losing a family member. My family supports me (most of the time lol). If it were not for my mother, I would not have Colorado BBQ Outfitters. She is the reason for me that the store exists.

All of our wonderful customers. What awesome people we meet each day. Not a day goes by I don't strike up a conversation with one of our customers and learn so many interesting things from them.

As we stress over making Thanksgiving dinner, or getting that great deal on Black Friday, or yelling at our favorite football team's loss... we all have something to be thankful for in our lives. Probably many things. Please take a moment and consider something you can be thankful for in your life.

Happy Thanksgiving from Colorado BBQ Outfitters!

Colorado BBQ Outfitters

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Summer changes to Fall

I've always been a big summer fan. After living in both Alaska and Michigan, I think I have paid my winter dues.

As a result, Fall has never been my favorite time of year. It always represented not only the end of Summer but the green foliage dying and the cold wind coming.

However, owning a BBQ supply store has helped me with that opinion. Once I started cold smoking cheeses in the winter, it didn't seem so bad anymore. I seem to be able to smoke easier in the colder months than the Summer. Summer seems to be owned by the grillers (hot and fast); whereas Winter seems to be owned by the smokers (low and slow). Probably because hunting season starts in the Fall and all the hunters smoke their meats during that time.

Surprisingly enough, more people smoke in the Winter than in the Summer per the HPBA Association. Again, probably attributed to hunting season being in the Fall.

Although I cannot fully embrace Winter due to the cold, snow and ice; as I mentioned, I can handle it a tad bit better these days. :) So, get those shovels out and let's start our Winter smoking soon!

Colorado BBQ Outfitters

Sunday, July 27, 2014

BBQ Myths

The BBQ world is full of more myths, old wives tales and just plain strange beliefs than Europe was hundreds of years ago.

We've all been told or shown to do certain things when it comes to barbecue. So much so that they are ingrained in our heads. But, if we stopped to actually think about some of these things, we would shake our heads.

For example, I know all of you have heard that you have to sear meat to "lock in the juices". This is a complete myth. Searing meat does not lock in any juices whatsoever. Alton Brown proved this with this experiment he performed on his show on Food Network. In fact,t his myth has been debunked many, many times.

This notion sells millions and millions of dollars of meat at restaurants all over the world. Funny thing is, it's just not true. One of my all time favorite websites,, has also debunked this myth. Meathead Goldwyn offers some insight to this myth here: Mythbusting the sear.

Searing does, however, provide those great grill marks that we have also been told makes for a great steak. Well,  yes and no. Although those marks are mainly for appearance there can be some benefit. When the surface of meat is subjected to heat, it goes through what is called the Malliard Reaction. In layman's terms, this is when the surface of the meat browns. Different compounds happen while this is going on as well a "crust" forming that adds wonderful flavor to the meat. So, as much as we love those grill marks on our steaks, for the most part they are simply for viewing pleasure.

Another myth in barbeque is soaking your wood. The internet is full of steps for low and slow cooking that start with soaking the wood you use to smoke with. Let's break this down scientifically. First of all, water does not penetrate wood. If it did, we would not have made boats out of wood for thousands of years. The most I have heard is about a 3% penetration. Big deal. Secondly, when heat is applied to wood, the wood starts to go through the process of combustion. First it will smolder, then ignite, and finally burn. Wood will not smolder or ignite if it is wet. Physics tells us that before the wood can start to smoke, the moisture content but evaporate first. So, if you want to delay your smoke, by all means, soak your wood. Otherwise, the moisture will simply evaporate and then the wood will begin the process to produce smoke. Only soak your wood if it will be applied to direct heat such as grilling fish on a plank over direct flame.

There are many, many myths when it comes to barbecuing. One point that I always make with my customers is "if what you are doing works and doesn't cause anyone harm, then continue to do it". I will never, ever argue with anyone over barbecue. We all have our own ways of doing things. And if they work, then continue to do them. I am just lazy and do not want to do any more steps that what is absolutely required of me!

Dan M.
Colorado BBQ Outfitters

Friday, July 4, 2014

Temperature - how important is it?

First, let me start this blog by explaining the difference between barbecue and grilling. Yes, there is a difference! Just like we tend to call all sodas Coke or all tissues Kleenex, we do the same with grilling and barbecuing. Many times people will say they are going to bbq some burgers. Chances are, they most definitely are not going to barbeque burgers!

When you grill something, you are applying high heat to it. So the cooking process is hot and fast. When you are barbecuing (often referred to as smoking), you are cooking your food over a lower heat for a longer period of time or what we call low and slow. Grilling is usually done on a gas grill as the fire or flame is directly under the food. Charcoal can be done both ways. Either directly over the heat of the charcoal or the charcoal can be set to the side for more indirect cooking (barbecuing).

So next time someone tells you they are going to bbq burgers, make sure you explain to them that they are actually grilling. :)

Now that we have gotten that out of the way, let's talk about temperature. When you are grilling; again, you are cooking hot and fast. In some cases, the hotter the better. The ceramic charcoal grills can get upwards of 1000 degrees! Many gas grills temperatures range around 500 degrees and sometimes even hotter. Since direct grilling involves the food over the heat, less time is obviously taken to cook the food. Leave it on there to long and you have burnt food!

As I said before, bbqing is low and slow. Generally the temperature is around 180f to 225f. Some people do barbeque at a higher temperature. The temperature is lower because you are cooking the meat over a period of time to allow for the muscle fibers to break down and make the meat very tender. Obviously, if you are going to cook something for a long period of time, you need to do so at a lower temperature or you will just burn the meat up. Many people will smoke their foods when cooking low and slow. This is why smoking is used synonymously with barbecuing. Smoking simply means to add the element of smoke to the cook to infuse a smoky flavor to the food. This is accomplished by burning wood at a low temp so that is smolders but does not actually ignite.

It is ideal to keep the temperature constant when barbecuing low and slow. Constant temp changes up or down will effect the outcome of your cook. The best way and most preferred way to check your temperatures of both your meat and/or your grill/smoker/oven is to use a digital thermometer. Many bbqers are now using thermometers that are wireless and allow you to bring the receiver inside the house. You can program them to keep an eye on the temperature of your food and your heat source and sound an alarm if anything changes. Easiest and quite frankly the best way to cook low and slow. They can be used for grilling as well to check the temperature of chicken, steaks, etc.

Lastly, always, always cook your meat according to USDA recommended internal temps to avoid eating meat with microbial dangers.

Enjoy your 4th of July and have a safe holiday!

Dan M.
Colorado BBQ Outfitters
6850 N. Academy Blvd
Colorado Springs, Co. 80918

Friday, May 23, 2014

Family and barbecue

Today marks what would have been my father's 72nd birthday. Unfortunately he passed away back in 2002. Not a day goes by that I do not miss him.

Although I can't say my dad was a huge barbecuer, he would once in a blue moon grill up some burgers or steaks. I think he was most known for his camping meals. He usually did the cooking when we went camping.

The purpose of this blog today is to stress our mortality and the importance of appreciating family and friends during our stay. Nothing makes a person realize how much you appreciate family and loved ones than losing them. 

I once saw a saying on the internet that said "you never invite friends over to microwave". I loved it. It's true. Who says "come on over and I will cook you a microwaved dinner". Some do; however, say "come on over and let's barbeque today". 

Grilling/barbecuing has been a family oriented institution since the 1950s when that first Weber grill was created. Families started migrating to the suburbs and grilled/barbecued in their backyards. 

As we approach this Memorial Day weekend, I would encourage everyone to in the very least reach out to family and tell them you love them. Some day, you or they will not be around any longer. Better yet, get that grill you may not have used lately fired up and cook some food on it and share it with loved ones. 

Nothing like grilling some burgers, hot dogs, etc with all the fixins and enjoying the weather as summer approaches! 

Have a safe and wonderful Memorial Day weekend everyone! 

Colorado BBQ Outfitters

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Starting charcoal

Just saw a post on Facebook that was so profound that I had to write a blog about it....

"Why is it that 1 careless match can start a forest fire, but it takes a whole box to start a grill?" - Meathead from 

It's so true. Seems like we can burn down an entire national forest with the flick of a cigarette, yet we can't get charcoal which is designed to burn to save our lives. There are many ways to light charcoal. All the different ways involve the following two situations: 

1. How patient are you?
2. how much do you want to spend?

We all know that true barbecuing involves patience. You can't pop bbq in the microwave and eat it in five minutes. Cooking over lit charcoal can require some patience; however, there are products out on the market now that can vastly reduce your time involved and still get that great charcoal taste this summer. 

First of all, what is charcoal? Simply put, charcoal is wood that has been subjected to low amounts of oxygen and heat. This combination causes the wood to turn into basically pure carbon or char. The process rids the wood of moisture and other compounds. 
Let's talk about lighting it. When charcoal is subjected to heat it basically ignites and starts to burn. At first it will burn just like regular wood but eventually it turns to a white hot ash and that is what provides the heat you want. 

As I said, one of the factors to consider is how patient are you. The less patient you are, the more you will pay to get your charcoal lit. Same with how much you would like to pay. The cheaper the process, the longer it takes. 

NEVER, EVER, EVER, EVER, EVER USE STARTER FLUID OR OTHER PETROLEUM PRODUCTS ON YOUR CHARCOAL.  I know your Dad did this for years. It's unhealthy and causes a horrible taste to your food as well as can ruin your grill. This stuff should be outlawed if you ask me. Also, do not use the cheap charcoal you find at the big box stores. This isn't a hit on the big box stores. That charcoal is generally made from lumber and can have chunks of concrete and nails in it. Always only use all natural hardwood lump charcoal. 

The cheapest and longest process to start charcoal is to simply throw something that is on fire into the charcoal and let it start burning. This process can take as long as 30 to 45 minutes to get it lit. 

Next, which also happens to be the most common way to light charcoal, is what is called the chimney starter. This is an upright "tube" that you put the charcoal in. There is space in the bottom to apply heat. Some use newspaper, some place it over the side burner on your gas grill; I prefer to use Primo Quicklights that I place right on my grate under the starter. 

As you can see from the picture, the heat rises as the air is drown from the bottom of the starter and up. This causes the charcoal to light quicker than if you tried to light it on your own in a pile in your grill. 
This process takes anywhere from 10 to 15 minutes. Once the charcoal is ready to cook with, just pour them into your grill and start cooking. 

The next item on the list is an electric starter. This are basically heating elements that you stick into your pile of charcoal on your grill, plus them in, and the element heats up and starts the charcoal. They take about 10 minutes to get it going. 

Lastly, there is the Looftlighter. 

This bad boy will light your charcoal in 30 TO 60 SECONDS! Here is a video showing how it works: Looftlighter

No matter how you decide to light your charcoal just remember these simple basic rules:

1. Never use lighter fluid to light your charcoal.
2. Use a good quality all natural hardwood lump charcoal.
3. No matter how you decide, remember that lit charcoal is very hot. Anything it comes in contact with will be hot. So please be careful. 

Charcoal as a heat source can be used for grilling and barbequing. 

Colorado BBQ Outfitters carries all of the products I discussed above. Come on down and see us and we can answer any questions you have about using charcoal! 

Colorado BBQ Outfitters

Saturday, May 3, 2014

May is National BBQ Month

Did you know that May is National BBQ Month?

WikiHow says we should celebrate this way: How to celebrate

The HPBA (Hearth, Patio,  and BBQ Association) says this about it: HPBA National BBQ Month

I wanted to have some sort of witty origin about this unofficial holiday month but unfortunately I couldn't find a darn thing on it. :)

So, just know that it is National BBQ Month in May!

No matter how you celebrate it, get outside and grill or bbq something this month. May is when the plants start greening up. (In the Northern Hemisphere that is) The month happens to be one of my favorite months since I am not a winter person. The weather gets warmer and the days start getting longer. 

It marks the beginning of the "season" for barbecuing and grilling. Although Colorado BBQ Outfitters feels that all year long is the season, many people do grill or bbq just in the summer. Things sure "heat up" at the store during this month. 

To celebrate this most glorious of months, we are giving away a Coleman Denver Bronco tailgater grill. Anytime you come into the store this month, you can place an entry form into our special jar (my mom gave it to us) for a chance to win the grill. It's a cute little thing. 

The more you stop by the store this month, the more entries you can put in to win. 

Tell all your friends and family to come on down and check us out and possibly win this cute little grill. 

Colorado BBQ Outfitters

Thursday, April 24, 2014

It's been two years!

I can't believe it's been two years since Daren and I opened the doors to Colorado BBQ Outfitters! No saying is more accurate than "time flies when you are having fun". 

We have experienced so much over the last two years and have also learned a lot as well. I think my favorite has been the classes and the discussions with customers. Sometimes people just come in and talk for awhile. I learn so much and can sometimes share some of my BBQ wisdom and experience with them. 

Daren and I have decided to renew our lease for another 2 years in our location. Our smaller size offers some challenges for us but I have faith we will overcome that and make the store the best ever in the next two years as well as many more years to come. 

I especially want to take this time to thank all of those that helped us over the last two years. Family and friends have been so nice and gracious enough to donate items to the store, their time, and other resources that we simply could not have functioned without.  I am thinking we will have a private bbq party for those that we owe a huge debt of gratitude to sometime next month. :) 

I look forward to the next two years and many years after that. 

Colorado BBQ Outfitters

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Spring is close!

I really need to rename this blog to Dan's not-so-monthly blog instead of Dan's not-so-weekly blog!

Although Spring isn't officially here yet, it sure feels like it.

The birds are chirping each morning and the weather is getting nicer and nicer. I even have weeds starting to come up in the front yard!

Having lived in Alaska and Michigan for most of my childhood, I have paid my dues with winter weather. Not a fan at all. It doesn't stop me from smoking or grilling my favorite foods but I sure do prefer the warm weather.

Soon we will be putting away our winter coats and getting out the flip flops, shorts and tank tops! (Just make sure you have some sort of clothing on so you don't look like this guy...)

This time of year is usually when the "seasonal" bbqer's start to pull out their gas grills, etc. And that means checking basic maintenance and doing some cleaning. 

When it comes to grills and smokers, do NOT clean the smoke build up on the inside. That is called a "seasoned" grill or smoker. However, you do want to clean out the ash and larger debris that may accumulate. You gas grillers out there will want to make sure your burners are all clean. You will want to clean out any accumulated grease as that can lead to a fire hazard. 

Cleaning the outside of your grill or smoker is easy with Citrusafe. We carry this product at the store as it is non-flammable, non-toxic, biodegradable and phosphate free. Yet it still cuts through the dirt. 

for those of you that use propane, it is extremely important to check all of your valves, connectors and hoses for any leaks. Here is a great link to an article that gives some tips: Grill Maintenance

Sit back, enjoy the sounds, smells and beauty of Spring and keep on smoking and grilling! 

Dan MacDonald
Colorado BBQ Outfitters

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Small business rewards

Last week I was sitting here at the store and a gentleman came in with a Scottish accent. His name is Ken.

We got to talking and it turns out he has a BBQ business back in Scotland. Since my ancestry is from there and it's always been my dream to go visit someday, of course I was fascinated about his story.

Turns out he flies to Colorado Springs on business every few months. He googled barbeque supply while here and lo and behold found Colorado BBQ Outfitters.

His business entails making pulled pork and then selling it to food trucks in the area who get a pretty penny there to sell pulled pork sandwiches. Right in the middle of the UK! (He lives on the border of England and Scotland. Here is a map showing where he is located)

We talked for about an hour about all things barbecue. I was even able to give him a few tips to make his life easier when it comes to smoking meat. We exchanged emails and a friendship began. When I told Ken that is my dream to visit Scotland to see my family's ancestral castle, he immediately told me what to expect and even invited me to stay with him if I ever get over that way.

I emailed him a few days ago and he replied this morning with his website which is Highlands Smoke. he also sent me this delicious photo of his pork shoulders smoking.

Very cool to not only meet someone from the UK; but, someone who has some culture overlap between our two homes.

When people ask me if I like owning my own retail store, this is an example of why I reply; "Yes, very much".

Dan MacDonald
Colorado BBQ Outfitters

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Advertising and sanity

As a small business retailer one of the most important aspects of the business is figuring out how to let your customers know you are there.

Truth is, you can offer the cure for cancer for free in your store but if no one knows you have it, then it doesn't matter. So the challenge is, how do you let your customers know?

Of course if you have an endless supply of cash, you can just take out a commercial during the Super Bowl. If you have the cash to do that, you probably don't even need to advertise!

Most small businesses have a very limited budget for advertising. Which means, what little budget you do have, you want the impact of whatever you choose to big significant. Unfortunately, without a crystal ball, one probably wouldn't know which way works best.

Daren and I have tried print media (coupons in local newsprint), signage, flyers, those little signs you see near intersections around town, and hand shake partnering with other businesses. It can be a challenge to get the biggest impact for the lowest cost. This is referred to as Guerrilla Marketing. spending very little for a huge impact. Here are some examples:

Proctor and Gamble received permission from the City of New York to paint their iconic Mr. Clean image on one of the crosswalks in the city.
A study showed that thousands of people a day cross over that crosswalk; so, in turn, saw that image. It was so strange that people would go into work or back home and mention what they saw. Anytime you can get people to talk about your product, it's generally a win.

Daren and I have been brainstorming different ideas for Guerrilla Marketing this year and welcome any and all ideas or experiences that you might have seen that left an impact on your as a consumer.

Maybe Daren and I should try something like this:

Dan MacDonald
Colorado BBQ Outfitters

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

2014... an exciting year!

I know I haven't done a blog in some time. One of my resolutions this year is to try and blog more often!

Well, here we are in another year. 2014! The first few years of any small business is the hardest and requires the most patient. Daren and I have been fortunate enough to have such a great customer base and we have fun with what we do which makes a big difference. We can't thank all of our customers enough for the past two years being successful.

We have some exciting things happening this year for us. First of all, we will be bringing in new products to the store. We pride ourselves in trying to offer products that cannot be found just anywhere and that make your bbq experience so much easier. Now that we have been in business almost two years we feel we know better what our customers are looking for and need. We will phase some products out and bring some new ones in.

Daren and I have also discussed doing more demos and offering more samples during the summer season. Our traffic during our first two seasons didn't necessarily warrant our being able to offer this but now we feel this summer we will be able to explore more sampling during the weekend. This means demo'ing our grills and/or smokers as well which will be exciting for us.

We look forward to this new year's challenges and successes as we enter into it. We also look forward to seeing our regular customer base as well as making new friends in the store this year!

Colorado BBQ Outfitters