I think everyone has heard of YETI coolers, they are available almost everywhere and sponsor several BBQ teams and I’m sure they also sponsor other things as well.

Now there comes a competitor, RTIC, who claims they are just as good but at half the cost of a YETI. At least for now, RTIC is only available online.

Kristi has had a YETI 30oz tumbler for a while and really likes it so I had the idea to order some RTIC drinkware to see how it compares.

Shipping was quick, I had the items in less than 5 days after ordering. They came in a box containing the items I ordered, each in its own box. They were indeed half the cost of the YETI, we paid $39.99 plus tax at Cabelas for Kristi’s YETI tumbler and the RTIC was $19.99 plus shipping. There was no tax so it does still come out at half the cost for the RTIC.

YETI on the left, RTIC on the right

They are very close in size, the RTIC is a tiny bit taller but has a slightly smaller diameter at the base. RTIC says this is so it can fit in more cupholders, but I’m not sure it’s enough to make a big difference. At least there was no noticeable difference in how they fit in the cupholders in my truck.

The YETI is noticeably heavier and it feels like it is mostly in the base. On the scale, the YETI weighs 13.9 ounces without the lid and 16.1 ounces with the lid on. The RTIC weighs 12.7 ounces and 14.3 ounces respectively. At least at the mouth of the tumblers they are even as the lids are interchangeable.

I added 14.5 ounces of ice to both cups, put the lids on and sat them on the kitchen counter.

RTIC on the left, YETI on the right with 14.5 ounces of ice

RTIC on the left, YETI on the right with 14.5 ounces of ice

The RTIC is full to the lid but the YETI has a little room left. Does the YETI hold more or is it the way the ice is shaped? We’ll find out later.

I just left the 2 tumblers sit on the kitchen counter to see how fast the ice would melt. The temperature in our house ranges between 65° and 75° depending on the time of day and the furnace. After 24 hours they looked really close, the photo below is after 36 hours and it’s still hard to see a difference.

YETI on the left, RTIC on the right.

YETI on the left, RTIC on the right.

The lids were removed for the photo, then put back on. Both of the companies advertise that their glasses don’t sweat, and neither of these have done so yet.

Speaking of lids, RTIC has available what they call a splash proof lid. It is available in 2 sizes, the small fits the 10oz lowball and the 20oz tumbler, the large fits the 30oz tumbler. Both also have a Koozie/Coldster for cans or bottles and both have handles available for the tumblers.

RTIC splash proof lid, open

RTIC splash proof lid, open

RTIC splash proof lid, closed

RTIC splash proof lid, closed

After 38.5 hours, I pulled out the remaining ice and let it drip off for a few seconds and then weighed it. The YETI still had 4.0 ounces of ice and the RTIC still had 3.4 ounces. By that measure, the YETI is more efficient. I did fill both with water to check the volume and the YETI does hold half an ounce more water. Both are advertised as holding 30 ounces, when filled to the lowest part of the lid, the YETI held 29.7 ounces and the RTIC held 29.3 ounces.

While none of this is by any means a definitive test, I think it does show that both are very good at doing what they are designed to do, keeping cold drinks cold and one would assume the results would be similar for keeping hot drinks hot.

Whether or not they are better than all other insulated mugs is a different story. I have no connection to either company and for my money, any future purchases will be based on value for my dollar, which means they will be RTIC.



Summer Sausage

With well over 50 pounds of competition trimmings still in the freezer I decided to try to make some summer sausage. I used 8 pounds of ground venison and 7 pounds of pork trimmings for this batch.  The first step was to grind the pork:

Grinding the pork; note the condensation on the grinder

Grinding the pork; note the condensation on the grinder

It’s important to keep the meat and equipment as cold as possible during this process as it helps the grinder make a clean cut and keeps the fat from melting. If the fat melts it will leave you with a greasy mouth feel when consumed.

Once the pork was ground I mixed in the ground venison and seasonings;

Venison and pork, mixed and seasoned

Venison and pork, mixed and seasoned

and fried a small test patty. Kristi and I both thought it was a little bland so we added some ground pepper, cayenne pepper and a little BBQ seasoning, then placed it in the refrigerator for 24 hours to “bloom”.  The next evening we stuffed 2 logs, then added some Colby Jack cheese I had cut into small cubes;

Added some cheese to half the mix

Added some cheese to half the mix

and stuffed 2 more plus a shorty;

Stuffed and left to bloom another night

Stuffed and left to bloom another night

Back into the refrigerator they went overnight, then the next morning into the Cookshack FEC 100 to cook;

Hung in the FEC100 for some smoke

Hung in the FEC100 for some smoke

My FEC 100 has the new IQ5 controller which will go as low as 130°, perfect for smoking sausage. It also has the capability of being able to extract information about your cooking temperatures and making it into a graph;

Graph of the sausage cook

Graph of the sausage cook

I set the IQ5 to ‘smoke’ at 130° for 2 hours, then ‘cook’ at 150° for 2 hours, then ‘hold’ at 180°. I had 2 thermometers in the sausages to monitor the internal temperature so that I could pull them when they reached 155°. It took about 6 hours and at that time they had taken on a pretty mahogany color:

At an internal temperature of 155°

At an internal temperature of 155°

At this point they came out of the smoker and went into an ice bath to set the fat;

Into the ice bath

Into the ice bath

After they had cooled to under 90° I dried them off, let them hand at room temp for a couple hours and back into the fridge. Of course we had to cut into the shorty as soon as it cooled;

the finished product

the finished product

The fat content and texture we where I wanted them but I thought it was still a little bland so I’ll try to kick it up a little for next time. I think I’ll also pick up some high temp cheese for future batches. My testers all thought it was good enough to eat, so my family and some friends can expect some summer sausage in their Christmas stocking.

Today’s tip is don’t be afraid to try new things. There are several mixes and enough instructions online for anyone with the right equipment to make their own summer sausage. Although a quality grinder and stuffer make the work easier, it can be done with basic equipment. If you don’t have a smoker it can be done in an oven.

Sweet Potato Rolls

On a recent episode of Southern at Heart Chef Damaris was making her grandma’s potato rolls which made me wonder if it could be done with sweet potatoes. Sure enough, a Google search lead to several recipes so I picked 3 that looked good and altered/combined them into one I wanted to try. I started with baking a large sweet potato in the PG1000 from Cookshack until it was tender;

IMG_0543 IMG_0555

I heated the milk and added the yeast to it and let it set for about 5 minutes, then blended everything but the flour in the stand mixer. I used shortening instead of the butter that the other recipes called for in an attempt to keep the rolls light and fluffy. I added the flour 1 cup at a time  just until it was mixed, making a very sticky dough. The dough was covered with a clean towel and allowed to rise for almost 3 hours


While the dough was rising I started on supper. Kristi had been wanting a fire pit so that’s what she got for our anniversary. When she got home that evening she had to cook supper on it, but that was just roasting some wieners and for dessert we had roasted marshmallows.


I bought the fire pit with a cooking grate and used that to make some turkey steaks for supper.


After the dough was allowed to rise I covered it with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge until morning since I wasn’t going to bake it right away. Sunday morning I got the dough out, floured my work surface and the dough and pressed it into a large disk.


I then divided it in half and rolled the 2 halves, then divided each one into 12 sections,


then rolled them into balls, and placed them into a greased baking pan and let them rise for another hour.


While they were rising I made some Scotch Eggs using my home made sausage and cooked them in the PG1000.


By the time they were done it was time to put the rolls in and let them bake at 400° for 20 minutes. As soon as they came out I brushed the tops with some melted butter.


And this was our breakfast:


As you can see, the rolls came out light and airy. They are good warm or cold and have a mild flavor that doesn’t conflict with any jams or jellies that you might want to put on them. You could also make these with regular potatoes. I wonder if it would work with left over mashed potatoes? I guess that will be something to try on another day…….

Naughty Nurses BBQ Sweet Potato Rolls


  • 1 cup of milk
  • 2 tablespoons Brown Sugar lightly packed
  • 1/4 shortening
  • 1 packet quick acting yeast
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup sweet potato mashed
  • 3 cups all purpose flour


  • Warm milk to 90°, if you go much over that allow it to cool before adding yeast. Let set for 5 to 10 minutes.
  • Combine potato, shortening, sugar and salt. Add milk and yeast mixture when it is ready.
  • Add flour 1 cup at a time and mix just until no dry flour is visible. Do not over mix! You will have a very sticky dough at this point.
  • Cover with plastic wrap or a clean towel and allow to rise at least 2 hours, and as much as 5 hours.
  • The dough is ready at this point, but it will be easier to work if it refrigerated for 2 hours and can be refrigerated overnight if desired.
  • Sprinkle your work surface with flour and turn dough out on top of it, then sprinkle a little more flour on top. Press dough into a large disk about 1/2 inch thick.
  • Divide dough in half and make 2 rolls, then divide each roll into 12 balls.
  • Place balls in a well greased baking dish, cover and allow to rise for another hour.     The number of balls in a pan can vary, 12 in a 9×13 pan will allow the edges to just touch. Feel free to experiment!
  • Bake at 400° for 20 minutes until done and tops are golden brown. Immediately brush tops with melted butter.
  • If you have any leftovers, they will keep several days in an airtight container.



Balloons, Blues & Barbecue

This past weekend we were in Parsons Kansas for the Balloons, Bikes & Barbecue contest. This has become one of our favorite events of the year. As the name implies, the weekend includes a balloon glow, blues music and of course, a barbecue contest.

Unfortunately we didn’t make it out to where they do the balloon glow on Friday evening this year but we did hear it was quite the sight. You can see some of the pictures here.

We had the usual taco bar dinner Friday night and we got the news we had been expecting; several teams had cancelled and we would need to split, so Naughty Nurses Second Shift would make their first appearance of the year. Since we were pretty much expecting this to happen we had enough equipment and meat for 2 teams. It really messes with our timing having to cook as 2 teams instead of together, but we pulled it off again.

Of course Saturday morning we had a breakfast furnished by the organizers of oatmeal pancakes and sausage. This alone makes the contest worth attending;



Add a little peanut butter and a steaming cup of coffee and it’s heaven in Parsons!

The cook was pretty uneventful, yet stressful since we were each cooking alone instead of as a team with twice as much to do. But we both got everything turned in on time, including our desserts. Kristi made a peanut butter cheescake with a candy bar topping and I made a combination German Chocolate and Turtle cake in a dutch oven.


This was the first time I’d tried this recipe, I should have used a skillet instead of the dutch oven and along with a couple other changes it will be a contest entry again.

Soon it was time for awards and Kristi started it off winning the dessert category with a perfect 180! Anyone that thinks you can’t make a winning dessert on a grill has never cooked on a Cookshack PG1000. My cake came in 5th, which wasn’t bad. In the meat categories, Greg earned 3 calls with 10th chicken, 9th ribs and 7th in brisket while Kristi got one call with a 7th place pork call. It was interesting to note that we hit the same table in all 5 categories; I took 3 of the 5 so that makes me the winner!

It wasn’t long after we started home that we started thinking of supper, so we plotted our course to take us through Independence. Except the GPS took us on a shortcut that bypassed Indy, so we started looking for something else. As we drove through Moline we caught sight of a sign for the Swinging Bridge Cafe so we circled the block and pulled in. The cafe is a part of the Crooked Creek Lodge and we thought the layout was a little strange, but we were hungry and they had food. And they had good food, and ice cream, and we were happy.

As we prepared to leave I had to stop in the bathroom, and then the layout made more sense;


it was an old nursing home that had been converted. I didn’t hit that call light, but did think about it! We continued on our way and made it home with only one close encounter with a deer.

The Parsons contest was the end of our season, a few of our stats:                                We cooked 13 contests and had a total of 18 category top 10s with one 1st place in ribs (which was a 180 score!) We had 3 top 10 overall finishes with 1 Grand Championship. We also had one first place win in beans and 2 first place wins in dessert.

So now it’s time to winterize the camper and start looking forward to next year. And practice. Because as I’ve said before, barbecuing and grilling are year around sports!

The American Royal 2015

The American Royal is a non-profit organization dedicated to the education of youth in the Kansas City area. Since 1899 the American Royal has been using a variety of events to raise funds to support their goals. One of the events they organize is the World Series of Barbecue, which consists of both an invitational contest and an open contest. To qualify for the invitational, a team must win a sanctioned contest between July 1st and June 30th for the contest in October. As the name implies, the open contest is open to any barbecue team that wishes to enter. This year there were 187 teams in the invitational and 607 teams in the open.

The big change for 2015 was the location of the contests. For the past 36 years it has been in the West Bottoms area near the old Stockyards. This year the event was moved to Arrowhead Stadium. This change caused a certain amount of angst among both the organizers and the teams. For the organizers, there were logistics to work out but with the help and encouragement from the Chiefs organization I think it went off pretty well. From the teams standpoint, it was mostly just the break from tradition and fear of the unknown. Sure, there were a few glitches here and there but we’re glad they moved. There was more room, and it seemed like there was more extra activities, yet it retained the feel of the greatest barbecue contest on earth.

I don’t know who deserves credit for this photo, but it really shows the layout. In the center is Arrowhead Stadium with the home of the Royals, Kaufman Stadium, to the left.  All the ‘white’ campers and tents outside both end zones are the competitors, the invitational being closest to you and the open contestants on the far side. Between the two stadiums was the stage, food vendors, displays, and other activities. Click on the picture for an exploded view and you’ll see the white arrow pointing at our camper.

ariel view AR

We got in late Wednesday evening and were one of the early arrivals, so we had no trouble at all getting into our spot. During the day Thursday they moved in a semi-trailer from Reser’s Fine Foods and at that time we had no neighbors on that side so this was our view out our kitchen window:


Of course by Friday there was a team in between, but it was still a short walk to their trailer, as that afternoon they provided goodies to the teams. We were able to pick up several items from their product line. By now we’ve tried them and can say they are very good. If you are looking for an easy side dish, look for the Reser’s line at your favorite grocery store.

Thursday afternoon we made the short drive over to Q39 where we met my sister for an early dinner. Q39 is owned by a former competitor, and a very good one, Rob Magee. The food is excellent and highly recommended. When a BBQ competitor can recommend a BBQ restaurant you know it’s good! And since we beat the dinner rush, we were able to visit with Rob for a short while. Rob welcomed us into the barbecue family at our very first contest and we will never forget that.

We had ordered a new banner that did make it in time for the Royal and we had it on display along with our site number.


These are just a couple of pictures that show our location as it related to Arrowhead;

IMG_0440 IMG_0342

Friday evening my sister Debbie, her son Jared, his wife Natalie and their son Teddy came out for supper and to visit. Teddy had a great time playing with all the coolers and buckets


It was good to visit with them, but soon it was time to get serious and cook for the invitational. We had a power glitch overnight, but we caught it in time to recover and finished everything on time. After 6 trips from our site to the nearest corner of the stadium, up one rotation of the spiral to the second floor, down the hall to the turn in location and back I was TIRED! According to an app on my phone, I walked a total of 7.73 miles on Saturday. Later that afternoon it was time for awards which were held inside the stadium


My sisters Debbie and Donna made it just before the awards started. After the Kid’s Q awards in which our friend Cole Backerman took 3rd in his age group, it was time for the KCBS awards. First up was the chicken category and Naughty Nurses BBQ was called for 14th out of the 187 teams! We got to go down on the field to accept our ribbon.


It was our only call, but what a thrill! For the other categories we finished 157th in ribs (they weren’t our best) 24th in pork and 63rd in brisket for an overall finish of 45th. We are very proud to have finished in the top one-fourth of the best teams in the world.

Saturday night we took in some of the activities; they had beer pong although I’m pretty sure they weren’t drinking out of these “cups”


The also had  a Jenga game that was a little bit oversize as well that we set up and played until it fell


The main attraction for the evening was a concert by recording artists Big & Rich


who put on a very high energy show.

Both Friday and Saturday were closed by an impressive fireworks display


On Sunday we turned in for the open contest in which we didn’t fair nearly as well as we did in the invitational but that’s the way it goes sometimes.

We got out in reasonably good time and made it home around 11pm Sunday, very tired but still excited from the contest. Here it is almost 10 days later and our chicken ribbon



is still hanging off the drapes in our living room where we can admire it.

We enjoyed the new location and have put ourselves under pressure to win a qualifying contest so we can get back into the invitational next year.

We have one more contest this year at Parsons Ks and it’s one of our favorites!

The only tip I can give today is to encourage you to attend The American Royal World Series of Barbecue next year, I promise you won’t be disappointed whether you go as a competitor or a spectator.


McPherson Scottish Festival

This past weekend we were in McPherson Kansas for their annual Scottish Festival. We have been feeding the athletes for the last several years and always enjoy this weekend as we have become good friends with several of them.

The announcer is Francis Brebner who was born and raised in Scotland and now living in California. Being a true Scotsman, he likes his Haggis. Now if you look up the traditional Haggis recipe it’ll turn your stomach so I do a mock, or pretend, Haggis. I still use the traditional spices and some of the ingredients, but use ground beef and pork for the meat. This year I had the idea to make bratwurst with the mixture. The traditional method calls for the mixture to be stuffed into a sheep’s stomach and boiled, so I thought hog casings on the grill would be a good substitute. The mixture stuffed well;

Haggis bratwurst

Haggis bratwurst

I made short links so people could have a taste. I did a test link on the grill and this is how it looked:



It passed the Francis test and one of the athletes who has made multiple trips to Scotland and eaten quite a lot of Haggis described it as having a true Haggis flavor, so I think I’ll keep this recipe!

We always get a good spot on the field and when we’re not too busy preparing lunch we can watch the games

Some of the athletes of the Scottish Highland Games

Some of the athletes of the Scottish Highland Games

At BBQ competitions it’s a tradition to have a good luck toast the morning of the contest and we brought this tradition to the games a few years ago. We tried to find true Scottish toasts for the event and there is one that has become the favorite of Dave, the athletic director;

Here’s to lying, cheating, stealing, and drinking;                                                                       If you’re going to lie, lie for a friend,                                                                                          If you’re going to cheat; cheat death,                                                                                       If you’re going to steal; steal someone’s heart,                                                                        And if you’re going to drink; drink with me!

A good luck toast to start the day

A good luck toast to start the day

We feed the athletes well, lots of proteins and carbs. Recently we had the good folks at Cookshack make us a set of custom racks for the FEC100 for cooking/reheating full size pans. We’re happy to say they worked well:

FEC100 with the new rack design

FEC100 with the new rack design

Of course the meal includes dessert! Which goes to show you can make just about anything in these smokers and grills! In fact, I haven’t found anything yet that I could not make in either the FEC100 smoker or the FEPG1000 pellet grill.

Gotta have those brownies!

Gotta have those brownies!

We had ordered a special pair of aprons for the event, so we just had to get our picture taken with Francis

Our Scottish 'dress'

Our Scottish ‘dress’

On a sad note, the wife of one of the competitors and a member of HASA suddenly became gravely ill just before this contest. Kelly and Thom are in our thoughts and prayers, we wish her a speedy recovery! This reminds us to never pass an opportunity to tell our friends and loved ones how we feel.

We cleaned up and got home around sundown on Sunday, so it was a mad dash to get the catering trailer emptied and put away. Now we will be using every available minute after work to get things ready for the American Royal World Series of Barbecue

Getting loaded up for The Royal

Getting loaded up for The Royal

We’ll be in spot G335 so stop by and say Hi! The blog on that event will be up sometime next week.


Cherokee Strip Cook Off

This past weekend we cooked the Cherokee Strip Cook Off in Ponca City Oklahoma. It’s always a good contest but we’ve had scheduling conflicts the last couple of years and couldn’t make it so we were glad to be there again this year.

We didn’t get off to a good start as we spent most of Thursday evening in the emergency room instead of trimming meat because I had a kidney stone that decided to plug up my right kidney. As much as I dislike trimming chicken that would have been a thousand times more fun! We got home around midnight and Kristi made her cheese cakes and worked on the ribs while I wondered around checking out all the pink and purple elephants in the house.

Friday morning I felt considerably better and headed to Ponca City while Kristi had to work. I got our site set up, trimmed the chicken and got the big meats ready. Kristi made it down in time to enjoy supper with our friends the Powells who were celebrating several birthdays that were just past or coming up in the next few days.

When it was time to get started I got to try my programmed setting for competitions on the Cookshack IQ5 controller, which worked like a charm. Turn ins were an hour early which meant everything went on an hour earlier but we stayed on time and got all the categories when they were due.

There once was a time we were known for the cinnamon rolls we had at breakfast but we’ve been trying to ear healthier lately so Saturday morning breakfast consisted of home made sausage, scrambled eggs and toast

Home made sausage and toast on the PG1000 for breakfast

Home made sausage and toast on the PG1000 for breakfast

We got to hear our name several times at awards, starting with a 3rd place dessert;

3rd place dessert

3rd place dessert

Followed by 1st place beans, 5th place chicken, and 2nd place ribs. It was interesting that the second place finisher in each of the 4 main categories got a small shovel and a 5 gallon bucket; something about burying the body? Hell, I was tickled pink with 2nd! Our big meats didn’t do so well but we’ll keep working on that.


I know the blog is brief this time, but as I type we’re getting ready for the Scottish Highland Games in McPherson and the American Royal so there’s lots to do.

I do want to take a minute to say it was sure good to see our friends from Little Pig Town who we hadn’t seen all season.

And a special shout out to the ladies of Professionals Today who put on the contest. It was their 29th contest and was a great time for a great cause. Which leads to my tip for this week: Support your local contests and organizers. They worked hard to put on the contest and many, like this one, give the proceeds to a very worthy cause. In this case, the money goes to Hospice.