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Cooking Solo This 4th Of July? A Texas Barbecue Expert Offers Advice

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Plain and simple, Derrick Walker is a man who followed his passion. He’s spent his lifetime studying and mastering the art of the pit smoker. That depth of experience is precisely why we reached out to the barbecue legend to talk turkey — and brisket and ribs and all things barbecue — to help us feel prepared for our own smoky (socially-distanced!) summer cookouts.

In the early 2000s, Walker took his lifelong love of pit smoking from amateur to pro levels when he bought a small smoker-trailer and started doing pop-ups around Fort Worth, Texas. 16 years later, he transitioned to a food truck that quickly led to his own brick and mortar establishment in Fort Worth, the beloved Smoke-a-holics BBQ. If you’ve never been, let us paint the picture: this is one of those true Texas joints that are so loved by locals and out-of-towners alike that there’s almost always a stream of people waiting down the block. One of those spots where the line itself becomes a scene.

We got a chance to speak with Walker this week while he was pulling ribs from the smoker and wrapping them for their rest — a crucial step in all barbecue. Even while working, he took the time to lay down some serious knowledge about how we can improve our own backyard barbecues in a time when cooking for yourself is more commonplace than ever. Unless you happen to be in the Fort Worth area, then you really need to hit up Smoke-a-holics ASAP.

Let’s jump right in. What was the impetus to make your life about barbecue?

So it was my grandad who introduced me to barbecue. But that was a while back when I was a kid, like 12- or 13-years-old. He used to have a pull-behind smoker. That was the first one that I had ever seen like that. He was the one who taught me how to start a fire, manage a fire, and the ins and outs of cooking meat. But it wasn’t until I got into my early twenties that I really started to take it seriously.

Around 2003, I purchased my first trailer smoker and we started doing events at different venues and pop-ups around the city. By 2019, we got a food truck, ran it for a year, and then ended up here at our brick and mortar.

That’s awesome. It’s really been a life-long journey.

It has.

You have a proper family business. Your wife, daughter, and dad work with you. And your wife still works at a salon too?

Man, my wife is a superwoman. I don’t know how she does it. She gets up in the morning and goes to the salon and she’ll see two to three clients. And then she’ll be here between, say, 8:00 and 10:30 in the morning to make dessert. She’ll stay here and do everything from the cash register to getting orders out, to prep, to running errands, and then she’ll go back to the salon when we close and do two, three more clients. I don’t know how she does it.

Wow, that is extraordinary, man. So, obviously the last three months have been rough on a lot of the service industry. How have you guys been fairing in Fort Worth?

Actually, our business got stronger. We were already a carry-out business, to begin with. So, it didn’t really affect us much except for the first couple of months when we couldn’t let anybody in the building.

What was your workaround for that?

We opened our side door and we would just serve orders out of that door. And people stood in line all the way down the sidewalk. It didn’t stop anything. After that, we were able to let them back in. I would let them in six at a time. In the last two to three weeks, we’ve even doubled that. We got a line all the way down the sidewalk every day.

That’s great to hear. So let’s dive into some tips. Let’s start with sides. If you only were going to cook two sides for a backyard barbecue, which two sides would you cook?

Well, if I could only choose two then I’d have to go classic and it would be baked beans and potato salad.

How do you do your baked beans?

Well, here we add red and green bell pepper. We add garlic, ground beef, bacon. Then you got your white beans and your ketchup and your brown sugar. That’s your classic baked beans. But instead of putting them in the oven, we put them on our pits. So, they’re actually smoked.

So it’s low and slow and lots of smoke.

Yes, and lots of brown sugar and goodness.

Nice. What’s the secret to a good potato salad? Because I don’t know about you, man, but sometimes you get a potato salad and you’re like, “Eh.” And other times you get a potato salad, you’re like, “Oh wow, this is life-changing.”

I am an advocate of sweet and salty to balance that seasoning up. Also, I’m not one for the chunky potato salad. So if you ever come here, ours is like a rustic mash. It has little lumps, but it’s more so mashed. And at first, we got a lot of people who looked at it and were like, “Wow, I don’t know about that, my man.” Now, we have people that come here just to order our potato salad!

It’s the right amount of sweet. It’s a little salty. There’s a tang and a little bit of crunch.

How do you get that “tang”? Miracle Whip, mayo, or vinegar?

No. No vinegar at all. I’m not going to say mayo — it’s a family secret — but it’s, let’s say, sandwich spread-based with mustard. So our potato salad is yellow.

So then let’s look at the main event at a barbecue. Brisket and ribs are the mainstays, but smoked turkey is really big in Texas barbecue. And turkey is very finicky, man. How can we help people smoke some turkey and not screw it up?

Avoid high heat. You don’t want to grill it, especially with ribs. I’d say low and slow. Don’t overcook it, that’s the main thing. Just like any poultry, it’s easy to overcook. And, oh man, have fun with it. I think a lot of times when it comes to food, people are way too technical.

What temps are we talking with low and slow?

So, low and slow, you got 225 degrees, and not for too long. Definitely, if you got yourself a thermometer, take the temperature of your turkey breast. You don’t want to cook it after it hits 160 degrees. I know poultry is supposed to cook to 165, but if you wrap the turkey breast and rest it on your counter, you have something that’s called carry-over cooking. If you cook it to 155 or 160 degrees, it’s going to hit 165 when it’s wrapped and resting. So if you cook it to 165 and then pull it and rest it, you going to eat it at 175 and you’re going to end up with a dry product.

So theoretically, you could have brisket and a turkey breast on the same rack in the same smoker.

Mm-hmm.

Sticking with fighting dryness, how often should you be spritzing your meat?

Well, in Texas, and I’m sure anywhere in barbecue, there’s a saying, “If you’re looking at it, it ain’t cooking.” So you don’t want to consistently be in the cooker. But what I tell everybody is, whenever you have temperature drop, that’s your opportunity to open the door. So if it’s time to add some fuel, that’s the opportunity to spritz the meat.

What’s a good spritz mix to have?

It’s really subjective. I caught a barbecue this past weekend with a truck from another local barbecue joint, and they were using 50/50 water to apple cider vinegar. I even seen people use Worcestershire and water or just use water. There are all kinds of spritzers, man.

With my temp, I prefer a 50/50 apple juice to apple cider vinegar.

What is the secret to getting that peppery bark on a brisket?

The first secret is pepper. You have to be delivering with the pepper in order to get that bark. The second thing is time. It just takes time, man. You got a lot of people who want to try to cook a brisket in five or six hours. You can do it. You can eat a brisket done in five to six hours. But, you will not have that bark. You will not have the depth of flavor that you’re looking for. 12 to 14 hours with a good base of pepper and kosher salt will get that bark that you’re looking for.

What’s the method for cooking ribs in Fort Worth?

I dry rub the ribs the evening before. After trimming the tips, we apply the dry rub that we make here in-house. And then they go on the pit the next morning. They really need to sit overnight in that dry rub. I usually put the ribs on about six in the morning and they’ll come off the pit here at about 10:40 and then rest for about 30 minutes. In fact, I’m wrapping ribs right now as we’re talking, man.

Can I ask your dry rub mix?

You can ask. I’m not going to tell you.

Fair, fair! One last question: What’s the one dessert that you would serve at a backyard barbecue?

Man, especially in the summertime right now, I’d have to go with peach cobbler.

Oh, nice.

We have a dessert here that we call “Peach Thang.” It’s kind of a cross between a peach cobbler and a peach cake. The crust is almost like a dough. It’s crispy on the top, but it’s really, really soft in the middle. And then the peaches, man, are just sweet and cinnamony and syrupy and it’s crazy. We sell a lot of them. We sell that the most and we only do it on Wednesday and Saturday.

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Disney Plus Mulan Fails to Make an Impact

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Disney Plus’s most anticipated movie of the year was Live-Action Mulan, the infamous remake of the 1998 version of the Disney classic Mulan. With a budget of almost $200 million and alot of hard work involved, the film release’s expectations and excitement were at an all-time high. Disney’s marketing team left no stone unturned in promoting the film throughout the world as Mulan was one of the most influential female protagonists in a Disney movie. 

Mulan was known for her power and courage to take a step towards change and create a name for herself instead of becoming a burden for her family. She brought them honor but not through finding a compatible suitor, but through her bravery in fighting amongst the opposite gender when it was considered a taboo. 

But did the real Mulan walk in the footsteps of the animated one? Did it create an impact as strong as the classic version, which people love and adore even after 23 years? Sadly, no. The live-Action Mulan was nothing like the 1998 Mulan because it was not supposed to be that way. 

The old Chinese folklore inspired the Live-Action Mulan. The Balad of Mulan, which was different, more serious, and portrayed a much more feminist approach by eliminating any romantic or cartoonish elements or characters from the remake. 

The elimination of the character of Mushu came as a surprise for all the die-hard Mulan fans who were anticipating the voice-over of Eddie Murphy in a better-animated dragon who is by Mulan’s side, aiding in tough times. We did see a dragon, but it was a silent companion only coming in need. The remake also got rid of all the eventful songs which were hummed as we watched the animated version all the time.

Another setback was the mediocre release of Mulan during the Pandemic, which basically ruined the official March release. Mulan eventually made the screen on September 4 on Disney+ Premier Access, a pay-to-view for $30 across the US. In contrast, countries where Covid-19 was under control, saw a theater release like China. But that hardly made 50% of the total movie budget. Disney hoped to make some dollars in China by accurately depicting the Chinese culture and actors, but that didn’t happen either. 

Viewers with access to Disney+ also did not venture enough on the Premier Access service. What further disappointed the release was Mulan’s availability on multiple torrents and platforms for free in HD quality on its release. VPN users worldwide watched the movie for free without paying a whopping amount of $30 for a single film, while the whole service along with other streaming services cost ⅓ of the price. 

Live-Action Mulan was also under scrutiny for shooting in the Xinjiang, the region of China where Uighur Muslims were detained and imprisoned in concentration camps. This sparked outrage over the entire social media, where Muslims worldwide protested against the Chinese government’s actions. Disney+ did not state an official apology on their platform, nor did they acknowledge their wrongdoings, probably to stay clear of the Chinese government’s atrocity. 

Meanwhile, even within China, Mulan failed to impact the Chinese audience as they have a much better take and approach to recreating any Chinese epic or myths. Their cinema is far more advanced in portraying their culture with local actors and a local production house. As we all know, China has a strict censorship policy on international content, and they have an alternate of their own. It applies here as well. 

Lastly, the ill-natured tweet of the lead actress Liu Yifei, openly supporting the Hong Kong Police’s atrocities when China was implementing new security policies on Hong Kong, claiming it as a part of the Chinese government. The Hong Kong police came under fire for mistreating peaceful protestors and using harsh means to disperse the crowd. This tweet leads to #boycottmulan across the regions of Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Thailand. 

Liu Yifei made no outright apology. 

Despite so much anticipation, live-action Mulan came under alot of controversy and failed to make a solid impression on the audience, despite holding a strong message for its feminist audience. Wrong timing and a few wrong decisions cost Disney millions of dollars and somewhat tarnished the reputation of their remake sagas. 

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5 Underrated Shows on Netflix USA You Must Watch Right Now!

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American Netflix is home to hundreds of TV shows across multiple genres. Still, it could be hard at times to find something binge-worthy on it. Now we all have that one friend that’s perfectly content with re-watching their favorite TV series, but the rest of us normies find it a tad boring. We’re on a never-ending hunt for the next big show hoping to inject some excitement into our otherwise mundane existence. However, with so much to choose from, it’s only natural that a few gems go unnoticed when scrolling through the recommendations. 

Don’t sweat it! After spending endless hours of research, we’ve compiled a list of the top 5 underrated shows on Netflix USA that are definitely worth your time.

Can’t access US Netflix in your home country? There is an easy way around. Just download a Netflix VPN, connect to a US server, and start streaming. 

  1. 1994

Genre: Documentary

Season(s): 1 season; 5 episodes

Year of release: 2019

1994 is a modest 5-episode docu-series offering the perfect guilt-free, binge-watching experience. The show revolves around a promising presidential candidate in Mexico who stands to threaten the status quo. Seen as a threat by the powerful elite, he gets shot during one of his televised political rallies. If the events of the first episode seem unusual, then what follows is downright bizarre. 

Viewers are in store for surreal events backed by actual interviews and real-life footage that ups the ante with each passing episode. 1994 is a fascinating, informative, and rich account of one of the most turbulent times in Mexico. It not only gives viewers a glimpse of the past but also a story that follows a narrative very close to what we’re seeing in our present political climate.

  1. Rise of Empires: Ottoman

Genre: Drama

Season(s): 1 season; 6 episodes

Year of release: 2020

Following the wildly popular show Ertugrul—at least in the eastern part of the world—Rise of Empires: Ottoman features a historic mix of immaculate production value and dramatic re-enactment of the 1453 fall of Constantinople. A Turkish production, the show is entirely in English and revolves around the life of a young Ottoman Sultan named Mehmet. It shows how the 21-year old leader risks everything to conquer a city his father and so many others failed to take before him.

This point marked a crucial juncture in history: The fall of the Roman Empire and the transition of a local regional entity to that of a global superpower. While the show does have its set of drawbacks (such as the frequent History Channel-type flashbacks), the appeal of our protagonist is sure to have viewers in for a memorable ride. 

  1. Wild Wild Country

Genre: Documentary

Season(s): 1 season; 6 episodes

Year of release: 2018

The mere mention of Wild Wild Country in front of veteran Netflix viewers is sure to garner you some respect points. Based on a true story, Wild Wild Country tells the tale of an Indian cult that’s decided to relocate to Oregon. What ensues is a series of unusual events as the locals struggle to come to terms with the new inhabits and in particular, the eccentric leader of this cult: Bhagwan. This mini-series manages to capture and re-tell a significant—albeit unusual—event in American history and media and retell it in a way that’s sure to leave some viewers scratching their heads!

  1. Lenox Hill

Genre: Documentary

Season(s): 1 season; 9 episodes

Year of release: 2020

For those looking to embark on a roller-coaster ride of emotions, look no further than Lenox Hill. While we do recommend this docu-series especially if you’re a fan of Grey’s Anatomy or ER, Lenox Hill is not your average watch. It’s a far cry from what you’d call a feel-good series as it reveals the brutal reality associated with people diagnosed with really bad things.

Set in New York, the show follows the story of an ER physician, an OB-GYN, and two brain surgeons that are part of a small-time hospital competing with bigger establishments. It lifts the curtain from the otherwise romanticized emergency-ward that we’ve grown accustomed to and accurately depicts the struggles of both patients and doctors.

This highly emotional series might not sit well with everyone but if you want to watch a story about individuals that sacrifice everything to save others then this one’s for you.

  1. Borderline

Genre: Comedy

Season(s): 2 seasons; 12 episodes

Year of release: 2016

The Office is the most viewed show on Netflix according to Chicago Tribune which is a pity because its contract is set to expire on January 1, 2021. Enter Borderline, a British comedy series and ‘mockumentary’ of sorts that follows a similar pattern and humor as The Office. Set in the fictional Northend Airport instead of an office, viewers are quickly introduced to a slew of funny and ridiculous personalities.

The best part of the series is that it has its own version of Pam, Dwight, Jim, and a Michael type-boss. It also doesn’t try too hard to resemble its more popular counterpart and a few episodes are enough to make you wonder why more people aren’t watching it!

Agree with our list? Know of some underrated shows that need more love? Let us know in the comments section below!

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The Advantages of Online Casino Welcome Bonuses

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When it comes to online gambling, the industry is thriving in 2020. Although casinos are banned in many countries, people still find ways to enjoy their favorite games of chance. However, considering the level of competition on the market, it may be difficult for a beginner to find a good online platform and take advantage of all offers. In this article, you will learn the benefits of casinos’ welcome bonuses.

What Is a Sign-Up Bonus?

As we have already established, the industry is growing rapidly and companies are desperately looking for new ways to attract customers. A welcome bonus is often used by online casinos to get new leads and players in the future. However, the best casino bonuses can be easily used to the player’s advantage. Here are the main reasons you should not neglect this offer.

  1. It saves your money

Quite obvious, right? Well, this is the main reason why you should always use welcome bonuses in online gambling: it is always better to not risk your own money. It is especially true for beginners. Since they have no experience, it is fairly common for beginners to lose their initial investment and be done with gambling for good. However, if you use your welcome bonus as a way of getting the basics skills, the chances of success will rise significantly.

  1. It allows you to try several games

Another common issue beginners face is a lack of understanding of which types of games they want to try: slots, roulette, baccarat, blackjack, etc. If you use your sign-up bonus, you will be able to play several games and choose the ones you like better. Moreover, you can take advantage of a welcome bonus on several online gambling platforms. That way you will try out even more options.

  1. It will make future gambling more profitable

Besides beneficial sign-up bonuses, good online casinos usually have great loyalty programs. For instance, the company may double up to five first deposits on the platform. If you invest 100 USD, you will get 200 USD to your account. More money — more games — more chances of winning.

Although a welcome bonus is a great way of upping your gambling game, there are a few things you should pay attention to. Firstly, a good bonus does not equal a good platform. Before choosing a casino, make sure that the company is legal and trustworthy. Since there are many scams right now, it is essential if you want to save your money. Moreover, check the available deposit/withdrawal methods and their terms.

We hope that this article has shown the true power of online casinos’ welcome bonuses and how you can use them to your own advantage. Follow our tips while choosing a platform and enjoy the best gambling experience.

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