Caffeine, Consumer Responsibility and Energy Drinks

My favorite energy drink in the world. I took this picture on Saturday morning. The background is my backyard, behind the fencepost.

I love VPX’s BANG energy and Biotest’s SPIKE energy drinks. I capitalize those words, because that’s how they are branded by both companies (VPX Sports and Biotest). They both wield 0g of sugar and 300mg of caffeine (if you are talking about the “Shooter” 8.4oz version of SPIKE energy). They should only be consumed by adults.

I state the last sentence, because “should” — in the real world — does not always translate well. By all accounts (of what I know and have researched), neither BANG nor SPIKE have been reported in any adverse cases where teenagers have imbibed energy drinks.

The media scares people into believing that energy drinks are “garbage”. I think, in the realm of edible items, dubbing something as “garbage” is subjective. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

Consumer responsibility doesn’t seem be as valued as much as it used to be. If you want to halt teenagers from ‘overdosing’ on caffeine via energy drinks, then these companies need to step up and make it so that you can only be 18 years of age or older to purchase them. I know that’s not fool proof and that kids can ask adults to buy them for ’em, but it’s a step up. Also, as a parent, educating your child the best way possible about consumption is imperative. That’s also not a guarantee to prevent your kid from drinking energy drinks, but it’s another channel.

But don’t act like a parrot and repeat what the media says just because of teenagers out there winning Darwin awards by partaking in consumer neglect.

A “venti” black coffee from Starbucks reportedly contains 600+ mg of caffeine. You don’t hear about adverse effects from those drinks on teens because black coffee is an acquired taste. It’s strong, and coffee typically isn’t ‘chugged’. However, 600mg is twice the amount in BANG and SPIKE, and almost four times the amount in a typical Monster or Rockstar energy drink (140-160mg per 16oz can).

Be careful demonizing what you don’t understand, simply because the media tells you to.

I enjoy caffeine from various sources. I understand how much I can handle. Self-awareness and knowledge is key. Don’t blame a product for accepted ignorance. Take responsibility.

“You’d be furious if someone you loved experienced an adverse effect from drinking energy drinks!” ~~ To that I say: Of course I would! That doesn’t make me a hypocrite. What point does this statement serve to make?

I don’t understand the disdain for artificial sweeteners, either. I’ve never read a single, scientific, peer reviewed study on human beings that signifies any adverse effects from them. Only anecdotal accounts. The only studies out there that exist where negative health effects occur are on mice where they have been given a megadosed amount to the point we’d have to all consume 20 cans of Diet Coke in a sitting to have the same effect. I don’t know about you, but I don’t know anybody drinking 20 cans of Diet Coke in a sitting, let alone in a day.

Coffee has jumped up in popularity in recent years, and I’m going to ignorantly guess that energy drink consumption has gone down a bit. “Death Wish Coffee” promotes the “strongest cup of coffee” out there; it’s decent, but $20 for a pound of coffee is so freakishly overpriced it hurts. Now coffee is becoming a fad type of deal with companies like Death Wish, with “Bones Coffee”, “Legal Drug Coffee” and “Kokaine Coffee” being buzzword (particularly the last two), fad, “eye grab” names. The cheap coffee from my local grocery store tastes just about as good, if not better. I like using my French Press in the winter, because coffee is too hot to drink in the summer. I’d rather drink an ice cold “lemon drop” flavored BANG.

Burgers on the STOK Drum Grill

I couldn’t be happier with my STOK drum grill. I mean, I’d love some “swag”/goods from STOK, the company itself, from all the free endorsement I’ve been giving them on here and on Instagram (@smutravageur is my handle), but who wouldn’t?


I grilled these burgers last Sunday (6/4). They came out pretty damn good; no complaints from anyone, at least. I posted that to Reddit, and I made a mistake by mentioning STOK’s name, and a few idiots considered it a “hail corporate!” kind of thing. I wish! Once again, I’d love to be endorsed by STOK. I give them plenty of free advertising both on here and on Instagram. The internet is cynical as hell; Reddit can be a bottom-dweller’s haven at times, with a lot of morons showing their asses through anonymity.

It’s 73/27 ground beef. A 5+ lb. batch goes for about $10 at the grocery store. Whenever I grill them, I like to form the patties and put them in the freezer for a while to let them solidify, as it makes them much easier to cook. However, my family was so damn hungry I had to be a little quick. The problem with not doing the freezer method with these is that they fall apart. It’s difficult to sear them, because they are so fatty the fat drips onto the coals and induces plenty of flare ups. It wasn’t a huge problem last night. It at least made for some nice pictures. The burgers came out delicious and juicy, with a nice crust.

I give credit to this STOK grill because I love the cast iron grates. As I’ve said before, I’m a cast iron freak. Nothing holds heat better. I also love this grill, because with the basket you can use it as a direct/indirect grill, and what I plan on using with a “vortex” method pretty soon. I’m going to get some wings and start them off on indirect heat on the grill for 7-10 minutes per side with the lid closed before crisping them up, very carefully, on direct heat. Should be some damn good eatin’! The little lady loves crispy wings (hell… so do I), so this should be worth a shot on the ol’ STOK!

Unrelated, but I graduated from high school on this day eight years ago. June 12, 2009. It’s hard to believe it’s been that long. That summer was arguably the best summer of my life so far. I miss that time period so badly.

Baby Back Ribs and Pork Loin on the Weber Smokey Mountain

I was born in eastern Tennessee and raised in southwest Virginia. I’m a mountain boy. So, it is fitting that I am now cooking with a smoker called the Weber Smokey Mountain. This is a huge upgrade over my previous smoker, where I had to constantly babysit the temperatures all day. I’m also now going to be a Weber fan for life, because their customer service is out of this world fantastic. The lid is kinda ‘out of round’ where I have to force it down onto the top of the smoker, and Weber is supposed to send me a new one, free of charge. You can’t beat that kind of customer service. I am already in love with my Weber Smokey Mountain.

One of the advantages of the Weber Smokey Mountain cooker vs. other cooks is its ease of use. In its ease of use, it holds and retains heat incredibly well. When you fire it up, using the Minion method, which is filling the charcoal base entirely with unlit charcoal, removing 10-15 briquettes and beginning a fire in a charcoal chimney until it is grayed and ashed over, subsequently dumping the hot coals onto the unlit ones, after the smoker heats up to 225-250, you can close all three of the intake vents located at the bottom of the smoker and lightly ‘crack’ one of the intake vents by barely leaving it open, all the while allowing the exhaust vent on the lid of the cooker to remain wide open for the duration of the cook. This smoker worked like a charm right out of the box, and I can only imagine how much better and more efficient it is going to run once a solid film of ‘grease’ coating adds up in the internal surfaces of the cooker itself after a few cooks.

I watched game one of the NBA Finals last night and wound up going to bed past 12 a.m. I woke up at 4:30 on Friday morning, just a few hours after going to bed, as I could not contain my excitement as it pertained to smoking some meats on this thing. Whenever I smoke, I like to stuff the smoker full of food, as I am usually always cooking for a large group of people (family and friends, typically, but oftentimes even acquaintances around this rural neighborhood).

22.5" Weber Smokey Mountain cooker

Smoked baby back ribs

Baby back ribs! The one on top was near its completion. The bigger one took about two more hours to smoke!

Bacon-wrapped pork loin

Bacon wrapped pork loin. I used McCormick Molasses Bacon seasoning on it before wrapping it up in bacon. I also coated it with mayo before doing any of that to add a shield of protection from the fat since it’s a lean meat.

Smoked bacon-wrapped pork loin

The finished bacon wrapped pork loin!

Smoked baby back ribs

One rack of baby back ribs out!

Tender baby back ribs with a smoke ring

Check out that smoke ring! Call me a braggart, but I nailed it!

Ultimately, I smoked a bacon-wrapped pork loin, two racks of baby back ribs, a family pack of chicken thighs, some chicken drumsticks and a tube of bologna. I didn’t take pictures of the thighs, drumsticks nor the tube of bologna, but I will try to (particularly with the excellent smoked bologna) in the next go-’round.

I have to admit, I was most excited for the baby back ribs. This was my first ever time smoking ribs of any kind, as I only just began my barbecue journey back in December.

I didn’t foil the ribs, despite many recommendations online suggesting that I follow the ‘3-2-1 method’, which is smoking the ribs uncovered for three hours, wrapping them in foil with a few pats of butter and drizzled honey (optional, but allegedly it adds to the flavor and gives it a bit of sweetness) and finishing the ribs by unwrapping it from the foil and allowing the smoke to pervade them for one more hour. In the case of the last hour, in regards to the addition of the honey when you foil it, one could potentially open the exhaust vents completely in order to increase the cooking temperature to allow the sugar from the honey to caramelize on the surface of the ribs. Talk about deliciousness.

My chosen method for my first ever racks of ribs was to use Uncle Yammy’s Memphs Style Chicken & Rib seasoning as a dry rub. Throughout the cook, I spritzed the ribs with a cranberry-apple juice I had in the fridge (as I did not have any apple juice at the time). As for when I chose to do so, it was around the two and half hour mark as for when I started ‘spraying’, or ‘spritzing’, the ribs with the cranberry-apple juice concoction. I made sure not to overdo it, as I did not want to somehow inconceivably taint or ruin the bark that I was working hard on achieving on these delectable pig ribs.

The smaller rack of ribs finished at around four hours in, as I surmise that they were cooking at a higher temperature than what the Weber Smokey Mountain gauge was reading. If there is one pitfall I have found as it pertains to the Weber Smokey Mountain, it is that the temperature gauge on the lid of the cooker is rather poor, and you could have your temperature reading 225 while the actual temperature of the food on the grate is being cooked at close to 300 degrees. This is a potentially exasperating fault, but with more experience in the realm of cooking should come more comfort using it, despite the errors of the temperature gauge.

The larger rack of ribs finished at around six hours. I was a little surprised by the discrepancy between the two racks, with the two hours in between finishing times, but nevertheless, for my first ever rib cook they turned out phenomenally well, if I do say so myself.

My choice of smoking wood was apple wood, which was sourced from the apple tree in my front yard that I pruned back in late February, along with two small chunks of hickory wood. When it comes to barbecue, I prefer a deep smoke flavor, and the smoky flavor imparted in the grub from this cook did not disappoint in the least. It was love at first bite for my family when they gave them a taste.

Multiple Weber fanatics and barbecue veterans from the Virtual Weber Bullet forum advised me to

not smoke a pork loin for my first cook, as the smoker was stated to allegedly run ‘hotter’ in its first couple of cooks than what it will when there is an ample amount of grease built up among the walls of the smoker, but hey, I just wanted to get my first cook in with this new barbecue toy, and what better way to learn than trial and error? The pork loin wound up being perfect: juicy as can be. I coated the pork loin with a thin layer of mayonnaise to ‘protect it’ with the fat in order to ensure it being moist when it was finished cooking, not to mention, well, the bacon wrapped around it helped quite a bit as well.

I am more than excited to continue experiencing with the WSM, and I look forward to sharing many journeys with my new smoker on my site going forward.

The Massive Smoke on Mother’s Day

Here are pictures from the massive barbecue meal we had on Mother’s Day that I cooked. These pictures are imported from my other blog, Troy’s Thoughts on Sports. I smoked two pork shoulders, a sirloin pork roast, two chuck roasts, two whole cornish hens, 12 chicken thighs, 15 country pork ribs, about eight or nine skewers of thick cut bacon, 11 bacon wrapped cheddar cheese stuffed jalapenos, and about 17 potatoes.

Needless to say, I was exhausted that night, but damn, everything came out great! I used my grill to smoke most of the country pork ribs (sans three) with a mix of pecan and cherry wood. Everybody loved them, as they were gone faster than anything else.

The Beginning of Grizzly BBQ

My girlfriend’s family gave me their old, offset vertical Brinkmann Trailmaster smoker in December. They usually cook for a decent sized group and they moved off to a horizontal smoker where more can fit without having to cut and separate (like a big beef brisket). I appreciate that they were/are so generous, because I can’t get enough of the flavor of smoked food. Here’s what I smoked in December: a 5 and a half pound Boston Butt (pork shoulder), an itty bitty brisket (just to try) that was about a pound, smoked bacon wrapped cheese stuffed jalapeno peppers and chicken drumsticks. Also, not pictured, but I smoked a chuck roast for my family a couple days after Christmas along with some potatoes. Here’s some pictures from the first batch:


Update (February 15, 2020): Looking back at this post almost three years later (since the cook that I posted in the featured photos above; it has been just a touch under three years since I posted this), I was a complete and total barbecuing newbie, fresh to the game of grilling and smoking meats outdoors. Now, with some time under my belt, I want to take a moment to reflect.

I did not own a meat thermometer back then. Well, that isn’t totally accurate. I bought a non-digital cooking thermometer from Wal-Mart back in December 2016, and it wasn’t top notch at all. It failed to accurately read the temperatures of meat and it was slow. In June 2017, I picked up a Thermapen Mk4 digital thermometer from Thermoworks, and it is hands down the best meat thermometer I’ve ever used, with its quick and accurate readings.

The first ever pork butt that I smoked, all by myself and without assistance, I got lucky in regards to hitting the proper ‘doneness’ temperature of 200-202 degrees. When the bark fully set in, I placed the pork butt onto an aluminum foil pan and popped it into the oven at 400 degrees for a little over an hour. Nowadays, I always try to avoid using electricity by finishing my meats on the pit. When I pulled the pork butt out of the oven, it was ready to shred and I felt incredibly accomplished because of that feat, at the time.

The second time I smoked a pork butt, shortly afterwards, the results were less than thrilling because of my lack of attention to detail. The first one was around 6-7 lbs. while the second one was a few lbs. bigger. I used the same method of trying to finish it off in the oven due to having a house full of hungry guests, and it didn’t shred. Now, it was done in terms of safe cooking temperatures, but it didn’t reach the point to where the collagen in the meat is supposed to give way to tenderness. Everyone still enjoyed it, but I was frustrated over my failure. That was the last time I butchered a pork butt, because I was embarrassed over serving it to my guests when I ‘advertised’ pulled pork to them only to deliver, uh, sliced pork. Thankfully they still enjoyed it due to all the almost-quiet lip smacking that commenced.

Barbecue is a journey. We all have our own ways, techniques and efforts when we put the work into creating the magical, smokey grub that we love and enjoy. The only way to make great barbecue, when you are a beginner, is to do your due diligence — as far as literary research is concerned — and go through the painful endeavors of trial and error as you do the actual work of trying it out yourself. Practice makes perfect.