Cranky Charlie BBQ

crank1A new era in Kosher barbecue has begun. I welcome you to taste the devine swine made by Charlie Levine (which most Goyim still pronounce as La-Vine like a grape vine, making my rhyme sound just fine).

After many years of threatening to compete in an official barbecue contest, I have done it. On Saturday, January 9th, me and my buds set up the hobo barrel smoker, our EZ-Up tent, a folding table and a range of Q accoutrements to see if our ribs would stand up to the other amateur cookers assembled in the parking lot of Ten10 Brewing in Orlando, Florida.

I was nervous, excited and a bit out of my element. I had six slabs of St. Louis ribs trimmed and rubbed down with my signature sweet rub in the cooler. A 64-ounce growler filled with Ten10’s milk stout. My barrel smoker was bellowing sweet smoke and I had a Weber kettle grill as a backup, which I’d also use to cook my sauce on. And I looked legit thanks to fresh custom t-shirts that were a surprise gift by the Wife.

The main objective… cook some good product, drink beer and have fun.


The ribs hit the smoker at 8:53 a.m. We were off to a good start. One neighbor didn’t even arrive till 9:15 so that made me feel a bit more confident. The thermometer on my hobo barrel smoker was hovering a bit low an hour into the cook at about 215° and that had me wanting to lift open the lid, but I resisted. Every time you open the smoker, you add about 15 minutes to your cook time. We kept the ribs on the smoker until 11 a.m. when we decided to put a second layer of rub on the meat and wrap them tightly in foil before placing them back on the smoker. I also added more charcoal to the smoker at this point.

With the help of my buddy Steve, we had those slabs wrapped as tight as a sausage casing and the temp in the smoker climbed upwards thanks to some fresh new charcoal. I forgot to mention, we were using apple wood chunks to give it a fresh sweet smoke flavor. We noticed some teams putting brown sugar, honey and butter on their ribs when they wrapped them. Should we have done that? Too late now.

The crowds began to grow when the band consisting of a couple of skinny, preppy, bangs-in-their-face college kids began to bust out a few slick grooves that even had me bouncing. We had smoked kielbasa and my homemade horseradish honey mustard to give out as samples to the public. What a bunch of savages! Free food brings out the animal in people. The old birds were bumping elbows to get at my sausage. I sent the boys over to Fresh Market three times to buy more meat.

“Everyone loves my sausage,” I said (over and over), making sure to point people in the direction of the People’s Choice Award entries.

Our turn-in time was 3:25 p.m. and my nerves wiped away my beer buzz at about 2:45. It was like I had just gotten pulled over… I was instantly sober and a bit of a bossy bitch as I laid out our plan. I will take out the ribs and put them here, you place the sauce there, I’ll cut the ribs, you sauce, I set up the turn-in box.

I still don’t think I picked our best ribs. People were lined up in front of my table and literally trying to grab the ribs as I sliced them. My dad was great, he was the rib bouncer and told one kid to “Back off man, that’s for our turn-in box!” I did not taste each individual rack of ribs and the tenderness varied. I don’t know why but some were not biting off the bone easily. I mostly went by the look and feel of the ribs when choosing our final six. That may have been our downfall because the taste was dead on. Sweet and just a bit tangy thanks to brown pepper, cumin and the use of the milk stout in the sauce.

We finished somewhere in the middle of the pack. I’m still questioning what I should’ve done differently but when we go out there again, I will be rubbed and ready.


And, I will definitely be showing off my meat side!