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Who Was Bette Thomas

By MariJo Kolze

Bette Thomas, the owner of Waterloo BBQ restaurant, was born and raised in Stockton, California. Family was a priority to her as she was both a wife and mother who possessed strong values. Despite growing up in a difficult environment, she overcame all obstacles with her self-determination. Even in the face of adverse circumstances, she never let them hold her back from achieving her goals.

Prior to opening up her own restaurant, Bette Thomas worked as a hairstylist. Her lack of education led her to pursue a career in hairdressing. As the owner and operator of two hair salon businesses, she experienced success from an early age. Her reputation as a hairdresser grew in Stockton, California. It wasn't until later in her career that Bette Thomas decided to take her love of cooking into a career. Due to Bette's love of cooking for others and for making memories with her friends and family, she began to consider what options were available. After weighing her options and following her dreams, she decided to open a restaurant with her husband JT. When they opened their restaurant, they had no idea of the impact and success they would have.

Against all odds, Bette and JT Thomas opened a restaurant called The Waterloo. Despite her limited education and other potential factors, many people didn't think she could open a restaurant. The Waterloo is located in a small town in Stockton, California. Due to the restaurant's location and accessibility, it would be difficult to make a name for it. As well as other factors including limited assistance in running the business. When Bette's restaurant first opened, she served as the cook, while her husband JT worked behind the bar. It wasn't long before their business took off, and they grew their staff from just two to more than fifty people. They knew what it would take to be a successful restaurant, and eventually grew their business into The Biggest Little Giant's Town in the World. 

Choosing to open The Waterloo was one of the best decisions Bette and JT made. The importance of continuing her family's culinary tradition was very important to Bette. Several of Bette's famous dishes and sauces have been passed down from her family to her. Throughout her different meals, you can taste her Southern Italian flair. Family is so important to the couple, and you feel the same way when you visit The Waterloo. In fact, even the staff of the restaurant is in their fourth generation. Their goal is to make you feel at home and welcome. By implementing the traditions she started at The Waterloo, Bette has left a lasting legacy.

 

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How The Waterloo BBQ Sauce Was Invented

By MariJo Kolze

More than 37 years ago, The Waterloo BBQ began its journey. In 1984, Bette and JT Thomas opened the restaurant with the goal of providing Northern Californians with a place where they could share food and create unforgettable memories. In addition to the great food and atmosphere, the Waterloo BBQ sauce is what keeps people coming back. It wasn't until we discovered how sacred it was that we planned to bottle and sell our barbecue sauce.

Despite all odds, Bette and JT Thomas, the owners of the Waterloo BBQ, were unsure of just how far their restaurant would go when they first opened. Let alone, they didn't realize how far their barbecue sauce would go. The true creation of our original barbecue sauce was not discovered until customers began raving about it. Our barbecue sauce was so popular that people kept trying to get a hold of it. They insisted on getting the recipe and having us bottle the barbecue sauce. We had customers who would even bring their own containers to fill with our barbecue sauce. Owner Bette Thomas would fill up customers' containers in the restaurant so they could take some home. In response to high demand for our barbecue sauce, we began bottling and packaging the sauce.

One of the challenges owner Bette and JT faced was packaging the sauce for distribution. Packaging was a much more challenging task back then. The lack of advanced technology made it difficult to create SKU barcodes for the bottles as well as other bottle-related problems. There also were many qualifications and requirements that needed to be met. For instance, they had to make sure the barbecue sauce met all FDA and health requirements. Although bottling the barbecue sauce took a bit of effort, it was well worth it.

One of the best things about the original Waterloo BBQ sauce is that it is made with love and is part of our family. Bette Thomas' original Milano family recipe gives the barbecue sauce its distinct flavor. Both her biological father and her stepfather came up with alterations to the Milano recipe to make it uniquely her own. The original Waterloo BBQ Sauce is a delicious blend of Italian herbs and spices combined with the best of the fresh Northern Californian roots. The success of our BBQ sauce is continuing to grow and would not be possible without the love and support of both our family and customers.

 

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Steak Tips: Understanding the Grades and Cuts of Steak

By MariJo Kolze

Few things are better than a nice tender steak. On average, Americans consume almost 250 pounds of meat each year. But, oddly most Americans when asked don’t actually know the different cuts and grades that make their steaks so enjoyable (or not). To make sure you never have a bad steak again, we feel it’s our duty to educate our steak-loving fans. If you’re in a grocery store looking to purchase a great steak, two of the most important things to consider are the cut and the grade. Let’s dive in a bit deeper!

Grades of Steak: 

When it comes to grading in the United States, the USDA is the primary authority. To guarantee consumers like you can enjoy a fresh and flavorful steak, the USDA must develop and maintain grade standards for meat. It is determined by two main factors: the amount of marbling (how much fat) in the meat, and its maturity (the age of the animal). There are numerous beef quality grades to choose from as there are a total of eight. However, the three consumer grades in the United States are prime, choice, and select. The top grade is prime, the same grade you’d likely find at a high-end restaurant, while choice and select are at the bottom. The remaining grades of meat are of lower quality, and are processed into foods like hot dogs that you might see grilled on your barbecue during the summer.

(Image via usda.gov)

Prime grade beef remains the highest in quality. Whenever you treat yourself to a high-end restaurant and dine out, you usually order and eat this grade of beef. Because prime grade beef is of high quality, it is in limited supply, which drives up market prices. The flavor of prime grade beef is well worth the price increase. If you're wondering how to prepare this type of grade, we recommend that you dry-cook it for maximum flavor. Dry-heat cooking such as broiling, roasting, and grilling is a great way to prepare prime roasts and steaks.

The next best option is to purchase a choice grade. Choice beef is still high in quality, but has less marbling than prime. Since it is a lower cut quality than prime, consumers have greater access to choice beef since it is more affordable. The main difference between choice and prime meat is the fat content, as prime meat typically contains more. Under this choice grade, you can still enjoy tender, juicy, and flavorful steaks. If you want to cook your beef to be nice and tender, you should try braising or roasting your meats. You can even simmer your meat in a tightly covered pan to keep its moisture. As for picking choice grade steaks, filets and rib steaks are always fan favorites.

Select beef is the last grade available to consumers. Compared to higher grades, it is considered the leaner meat. The meat is fairly tender, but it lacks some of the juiciness of the higher-grade cuts due to its minimal marbling. BBQ grills are best suited for cooking tender cuts of meat, such as ribs, loins, and sirloins. These would make great options to serve your guests at your next barbecue! For the best steak, we recommend marinating your steaks before cooking in order to get the most tenderness and flavor.  

Cuts of Steak: 

The second factor to consider is the cut of the steak. There are different cuts of beef based on which part of the cow they come from. In other words, the quality of the steak is determined by where it is cut from the cow. Choosing the ideal steak cut for what you want to cook is probably the most important part of getting the right steak at the right price. Learning the differences between the different cuts of beef and finding out how to cook each type of beef is the key to a great BBQ. You have plenty of options to choose from with the variety of cuts and cooking styles available.  

The meat from a cow is divided into different sections known as primal cuts. There are then sub-primal cuts that come from these primary cuts. Cuts of meat can be separated into three main categories: rib, short loin, and sirloin. 

In the rib category, which is located in the middle of the cow, you'll find cuts like back ribs, ribeye filets, and ribeye steaks. Meats in this section are full of flavor and have lots of marbling. We recommend using a sauce, such as our Original Waterloo BBQ Sauce, to enhance the flavoring even more. The fattier the cuts, the better they can be prepared when slow cooked and roasted. Some, however, are not best prepared for slow cooking. For instance, ribeye steak is best grilled or fried in a skillet. When you are looking for a tender cut of beef that has extra marbling, try finding a meat from the rib category. 

When it comes to short loins, these cuts are typically leaner and tender. It comes from behind the rib section, towards the back of the cow. Since these cuts are leaner, they are best grilled or fried, and at a high temperature. On the other hand, T-bones, porterhouse steaks, and tenderloins are cuts that do well when cooked at low temperatures. In this category you'll find the most expensive steaks as they are highly prized because of their tenderness. 

Sirloin cuts are the third category coming from the back of the cow. The sirloin is less tender than a short loin, but is still very flavorful. The sirloin includes some of your favorite choices like filet mignon, tri-tip, and strip steak. These cuts are also leaner and best cooked on high heat, on the grill, in a skillet, or in a stir-fry. When you're craving a flavorful and tender cut of beef, cook a cut from the loin. 

Any steak no matter the cut or grade, will always taste better with our Waterloo BBQ sauce. Next time you fire up the grill, keep these steak tips in mind!

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4 Ways to Lighten Up Your Next BBQ

By MariJo Kolze

 There's nothing like a backyard BBQ with friends and family to mark the beginning of summer. Summer BBQs are known for their delicious foods, refreshing drinks, and good company. But BBQ calories can add up! Don’t fret yet since there are still a wide variety of food options to choose from if you’re in search of healthier options. No matter what your eating habits are, you shouldn’t have to miss out on a fun and enjoyable BBQ! Use these tips to transform your grill into something lighter, whether you're hosting a guest or hosting a BBQ.

1. Consider different protein options

The grill still offers a variety of tasty and healthier meals even though many people prefer juicy steaks. Protein options that can be included in your meal are chicken, fish, and lean pork loin. Compared to red meat, proteins from these sources contain a greater proportion of healthy fats and less saturated fats. In addition, they contain omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, as well as other vitamins that contribute to a healthy diet. By choosing a lighter option like fish, you can reduce your calorie intake while keeping the same meaty taste and you’ll be able to maintain fullness for longer by choosing options such as fish and chicken. Along with these protein sources, you can grill vegetables like zucchini and asparagus, which can be seasoned to your liking.

If your barbecue wouldn't be complete without red meat, you may want to consider leaner cuts of the meat, such as sirloin or tenderloin. These cuts should all be graded choice or select rather than prime, which contains more fat. The sirloin is a better alternative because it is still incredibly flavorful while having less than 5 grams of fat. Avoid more processed meats such as hot dogs and sausages, which contain high levels of sodium and saturated fat (the sodium content of one hot dog alone can reach your daily limit). By following this method, you can lower your fat intake. 

2. Add vegetables and fruit

Lighten up your meal by including vegetables and fruits. You can easily incorporate these foods into your next meal by combining a tray or bowl of fruits and vegetables. The trays are even more enjoyable when they are paired with tasty dips and sauces. As for enhancing the flavor of grilled vegetables, you can use a variety of techniques and seasonings. With just salt, pepper, and a spoonful of olive oil, you can grill tasty, juicy vegetables. Aside from the vegetables already mentioned, you might also enjoy eggplant, corn, and cauliflower at your next cookout. Even try combining these vegetables together to make a delicious skewer!

As a healthy dessert option, fruits are also a great choice. Instead of sweetened pies, consider fresh or grilled fruit. Adding some yogurt or whip cream will spice up the fruit even more. Another refreshing and fast option is to make a fruit smoothie. With just one or two fruits in a smoothie made with milk or yogurt, you can easily lower your sugar intake. For those who are dairy-free, almond or soy milk are great alternatives to dairy milk that contain fewer calories. Additionally, you will satisfy your sweet tooth while maintaining your calorie intake.

3. Go for fresh marinades and sauces 

As a vital aspect of your BBQ, sauces and marinades enhance the flavor of foods. While cooking or grilling, marinades help keep your protein juicy and tender. As well as adding many benefits to your meal, they are the perfect complement.

A healthy BBQ starts with knowing what's in the barbecue sauce you choose. Nevertheless, it's important to read the ingredients of store-bought marinades and sauces since they often contain more sodium and sugar (find ours here). Try homemade marinades and barbecue sauces that contain light oils and vinegar. Additionally, you should use marinades that contain an acid and an enzyme in the right proportions to obtain the most benefits. Enzymes such as mango or pineapple in the marinade help break down protein fibers, as well as tenderize the meat. Managing portion sizes and marinade amounts goes hand in hand with this. While eating barbecue sauce and marinades, you can still limit your calories. Don't add as much sauce to your meat as you used to, and try to use half a cup per pound. By controlling proportions accordingly and choosing your marinades wisely, you can maintain the flavor and tenderness of your meat as well as follow a calorie-controlled diet.

4. Hydrate with healthy beverages

During the warm summer, nothing is better than a nice refreshing drink. It is, however, possible to consume too many calories by drinking sugary drinks. Sugars and other sweeteners are commonly added to summer drinks. That's why choosing homemade drinks is a healthier option. Many low-calorie drinks can be enjoyed at a summertime barbecue! To get started, you can make your own pitcher of fruit-infused soda water. Simply add fruit, soda water, and limes to a pitcher to make the perfect drink. There's no better way to serve plenty of guests than with this simple, yet effective, method. 

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10 Things to Remember For Your Next BBQ

By MariJo Kolze

1. Know the difference between grills

Choosing the right grill is just as important as choosing the right meat. You’ll find every grill is different causing variation in temperature and cook time. The two most popular grilling options are charcoal and gas grills. Charcoal grills are a more authentic way to grill, as they burn lump charcoal as fuel. The smoky flavor that comes with this grill is well worth the cooking and preparation time, and perfect for anyone who loves BBQ. Another common grilling method that you would find in most homes is a gas grill. It's better to use a gas grill if you want to cook your meats faster since they heat up more quickly, and the cook time is shorter. Gas grills also have the benefit of adding moisture to your meat while grilling due to the steam that is released. When it comes to choosing either grilling method, there is no wrong choice. Each option has its own advantages, so choose one that suits you best!

2. Choose metal utensils 

Grilling with the wrong tools can ruin your great meal. The right utensils, such as stainless steel options, are essential. The intense heat on a grill makes stainless steel utensils a good choice since these materials don't conduct heat well. They’re also easy to clean and durable, making stainless steel a desirable option. If you used plastic on the other hand, it’d probably melt.

3. Keep the grill clean 

Maintaining your grill is important for many reasons. By cleaning the residue and extra food particles or sauces from the grill, you can extend the lifespan of your grill and save a lot of money in the long run. More importantly, cleaning the grill helps prevent food contamination. Ideally, you want to be able to enjoy the flavor of the meal you prepared without worrying about tasting previous meals or possibly contracting food poisoning. Having a fresh clean grill will ensure that your meal will be cooked better, safer, and with more flavor. It's important to satisfy your taste buds with the flavorful steak you paid so much for and worked so hard for!

4. Always have BBQ fuel available 

Different grill fuels require different cooking times and preheating. Be sure to always keep plenty of BBQ fuel on hand so that you can be sure to grill your food properly. With that, it's important to know what kind of fuel works best for your grill. A charcoal grill, for instance, uses charcoal in the form of briquettes and you light the coals to begin grilling. With gas grills, propane is typically the preferred fuel source and is very simple to use. It’s very easy to use propane as a fuel source, as you buy the tank and simply attach it to your grill. To light the propane, there are burners built into the grill. The use of these barbecue fuel options is very common due to their simplicity and efficiency.

5. Flare-ups are more common than you think

A flare-up is a common occurrence when grilling. Usually, flare-ups are caused by excess fat on meats, or oil splashing onto the food and hitting the coals. If this happens while you are grilling, don’t panic. Flare-ups can be controlled in a couple of ways before they ruin your tasty meal. As an example, if your grill includes a hot zone and a medium zone, you can simply transfer food between the two zones. When you aren't using the two zone method, putting the lid on your grill is another way you can control flare-ups. By covering the grill, you remove the oxygen that fuels the fire, which eliminates the flames.

6. Make sure to season meat thoroughly 

The night before your barbecue, marinate your meat for the best flavor. You can really bring out the flavor of your meat by applying salt to it the night before. Adding salt to your meat is a great way to make it tender and juicy. If you can't do it the night before, season the meat at least an hour before grilling it. The larger the piece of fish or meat, the more seasoning is needed. Using the correct seasoning prior to grilling will allow you to achieve the best taste.

7. When to take the meat off

When cooking different grades and cuts of meat, it's important to know when they are done. To be certain that your meat is done, purchase a thermometer. Using a thermometer is a cost-effective and efficient method of ensuring your meat is free of any food-borne illnesses, and cooked properly. After using a thermometer and determining that the meat is ready to be served, you should let it rest on a cutting board. A resting period is an important part of your grilling, since it allows the meat to absorb the juices that have formed during the cooking process.

8. Avoid adding sauces too early

When grilling meat, it's important to know when to add sauces, as they can change its flavor. Sugar is one of the ingredients in barbecue sauces, and it can burn when heated above 350 degrees. BBQ sauce that burns while cooking will give your food a distinct taste and change the whole flavor. Adding barbecue sauce to the food during the last 10-15 minutes of cooking is the best time to do so. The meat will then have a more flavorful coating rather than having a burnt exterior, and you will achieve better results.

9. Different techniques are required when grilling fish

Most people enjoy freshly grilled fish, however they forget that grilling fish is different than meat. First, grilling fish increases the likelihood that it will stick to the grill so be sure to pat and oil it very well before grilling. When it comes to the grill, be sure to clean it very well and set the temperature at a high heat. For best results, it's recommended to grill a dense fish to prevent flakiness and breaking. Fish such as tuna and salmon are all great dense sources of protein to choose from. The fish can be easily removed from the grill after it's cooked and is ready to be served to your guests.

10. Avoid grilling cold foods directly

Before grilling, you should let your meat come to room temperature. This is important because cold meat will not contain the flavors of your meat. It also won’t cook evenly, resulting in the outside of the meat being cooked but the inside being cold. You should remove your meat from the fridge at least 30 minutes to 1 hour before grilling in order to prevent this from happening, and for achieving your best results!

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