Sorry this took me so long. Just wanted to give you all a little break down on Saturday. If you plan on attending our clinic, please comment at the bottom of this post and tell me whether you are spectating or competing. I know there has been some concern about this being some “serious comp” to clarify, this is not a serious comp, its a mock comp. That’s why we are calling it a clinic. We want those with interest in competition BBQ to be able to see everything from items needed and setup, to meat prep, cooking and turn ins! For those of you that are looking to get into competition BBQ this is a HUGE opportunity for you to learn from some of the best in the business, including Little Miss BBQ who won their first Grand Championship this last weekend in Surprise. We also have mentors from other very talented AZ teams such as Ranch 13 BBQ, and Bam Bam’s BBQ. With the talent here to teach you newcomers, you could easily pay $500 to $1000 dollars for this type of hands on training. Your price tag this weekend?? ZERO!!! So take advantage!! All are welcome, whether you cook and compete or not, come in and learn some things! So below you will find a schedule for the weekend. If you plan on cooking this weekend, you need a rack or two of ribs, and some chicken thighs. Also bring your cookers and all items needed to cook. If you would like to cook and do not have a smoker or do not have the means to transport your smoker, we have a couple of WSM’s and a Big Green Egg that a few people can reserve. Reserve a smoker. First come first serve of course. Obviously we have everything here that you can purchase if you forget something or don’t want to haul so much, including ribs. I need a list of all people that are planning on cooking! Don’t be shy! If you don’t know how to smoke ribs, that’s what we are here for!
7:00 am Arrive and setup (coffee and donuts provided)
7:45 am Meet and greet
8:00 am Start cooking
1:00 pm Chicken Turn in
1:30 pm Rib turn in
2:00 pm Results
We are going to have a blast, and the more the merrier! Who’s in??
Last week I had the privilege of being able to embark on a little 2400 mile BBQ journey through Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas. There are a lot of stories to tell and I will cover the whole trip through multiple blogs. For this blog post I want to focus in on the Lotta Bull BBQ Competition class in Thackerville OK! For those of you not in the know, Mike and Debbie Davis are the most successful competition BBQ team in History, with over 75 Grand championships, Including 4 American Royal Grand Championships! The American Royal is the Largest BBQ contest in the world, attracting over 500 BBQ teams a year. Needless to say, when you have a chance to get in front of Mike and Debbie Davis of Lotta Bull BBQ, YOU DO IT!!! I learned a ton!
After my 21 hour drive with the BBQ Island trailer in tow, I arrived in Thackerville OK at 7:30 am, found a hotel, slept for 5 hours, and went out to the Winstar Casino for the class! There were about 30 people from all over the US and Canada, I was happy to see a familiar face in Tony Balay of Lonestar Smoke Rangers out of South Dakota whom I have competed against before. He is an awesome cook, and if you ever have the chance to meet him, ask him for some of his Salsa, it’s unreal!
Mike and Debbie are salt of the earth type folks. They were very warm and friendly with everyone and made us all feel very welcome. The facilities were awesome, we sat in rows at tables facing forward and Mike had a Camera aimed down at his prep area, which displayed on a large HD flatscreen above him for us to be able to see his processes. Outside sat the famous Lotta Bull BBQ Custom orange pit by Yoder Smokers (my new favorite pit builder J). It is a thing of beauty. Mike refers to it as “The Mistress” I might have to copy that. The class started at 4 pm and went until about ten. One thing that I really liked is how laid back Mike was in his teaching approach. He likes to interact with the students and teach them what they want to learn not what he wants you to learn. It keeps it entertaining and very easy to stay focused. Speaking of focus, its not easy to do on an empty stomach right? So when 6 pm rolled around, The Davis’s rolled out fresh grilled ribeye steaks from Strube ranch, with homemade sides and salads. WOW! First class operation all the way!
Ok, back to the class, When you watch this guy prep his BBQ, its very easy to tell that he knows what he is doing! He made everything look so easy. It was very hands on as well, you could always walk up to the front and look closer at his techniques, or if you wanted to trim something up, he would pass you the knife. It was great. The first day was spent mostly learning his methods of prep for the nights cook. We went through the four meats, and I have to tell you, he has some awesome tricks! I learned things that I don’t think I would have ever learned or picked up on my own had it not been for taking this class.
One other bonus of this class in particular was Mike and Debbies supporting cast for the class. They brought in the top people from their sponsors, and any of you that know BBQ, know companies such as Butchers BBQ, Kosmos BBQ, Yoder Smokers, and Texas Pepper Jelly. Dave Bouska of Butchers BBQ, Darian Kosmo Khosravi of Kosmos BBQ and Craig Sharry of Texas Pepper Jelly are all very well respected BBQ cooks and they all had a chance to teach us some things. WOW! Don Cary the owner of Yoder Smokers was also on hand with a bunch of goodies. These guys knew their stuff as well! Not to mention, they were very giving with their products, Mike and Debbie gave us an insane swag bag (Refer to Pic) and it was stuffed to the gills with product from these awesome companies. For that I say thank you, some of that stuff will be used in my next comp and I am excited to see how it does!
The next day the class started at 6 am so we could see his rib and chicken prep. For me, the class started at 9:00 am. My 21 hour drive had caught up to me and I didn’t hear a thing at 5:30am when my alarm went off. Luckily Mike West called me at 8:30 am and I was up and at em. That was pretty embarrassing walking into the class 3 hours late with the winningest man in BBQ standing at the front of the class looking at you along with everyone else in the room ;). I was ready to hear it, and I did it was all in good fun though. Luckily I caught the tail end of the judging portion of the class. Two other folks that Mike brought in were Phillip and Kathy Brazier, they are very well respected KCBS reps and were kind enough to spend time with us explaining what goes on in the judging tent at contests. It was amazing information for us competition cooks, and was very good insight into the minds of the judges.
The best part of the class by far was getting to eat Mikes BBQ. I consider myself to be a pretty good BBQ cook, but man do I have a ways to go. The food was absolutely incredible, and learning Mike and Debbies technique for building a turn in box and for plating the food was invaluable.
If you ever have the chance to take this class, I HIGHLY recommend it! You will meet great BBQ cooks from all over the country, make some new friends, and learn from the best.
I get asked quite a bit about how I start my coals and maintain my fire in my WSM’s . It seems that most often, I hear people have problems with over shooting their desired temps. First off, let me dispel a myth. Most WSM owners believe that they own a “water” cooker. BBQ tends to be a man’s game, not always, but mostly. Therefore very few of us take the time to actually read through the manual. If you did, you will find that the water pan in the WSM is a heat sink, not a steamer. It absorbs heat energy in order to help keep the temps from spiking. No matter what you think, you are NOT receiving any moisture or flavor benefit from the water or juice that you fill the pan with. I personally do not ever put water in my WSM’s, but it’s ok if you do. Just remember that it takes energy to heat all of that water, which burns out your charcoal faster. If you use water, heat it up first if you don’t want to waste fuel. Personally I just hate the mess and I have gotten to the point where I don’t need the water to help me with maintaining temps. Hopefully after this, you wont either. Ill touch more on the water pan issue later.
The most common way to start charcoal in the WSM is what is called the minion method. This is where you fire up a chimney full of charcoal, and pour it into the center of your charcoal ring surrounded by fresh coals. I am not a fan of this method. I feel that too much charcoal is lit from top to bottom, making it nearly impossible to not have temp spikes in the beginning of your cook. Also, no matter how hard you try, when you dump lit charcoal on fresh charcoal, a stray lit chunk ALWAYS lands somewhere outside of where you want to start the fire from. This creates an uneven fire, and that will give you issues.
This is how I setup my WSM’s. This method works great whether you use a temp control device such as the BBQ Guru (I use the Guru and love it) or not. I like to plan on about 45 minutes to start my cookers. It only takes about 20 minutes to get to temp but I recommend getting it to temp and maintaining it for 20 minutes just to make sure it has leveled off. I build a large pyramid with my charcoal and light it with a Looftlighter. I light just the tip top of the pyramid. At this point I obviously do not have the middle section of my WSM in place. It is off to the side. After a few minutes, once a decent little amount of coal has fired up, I place the middle section and lid back in place with all vents, top and bottom, wide open.
My trusty Looft Lighter and Good One Lump Charcoal
This is about all I light.
On the flip side, If I am using my beloved BBQ Guru, this where I would button up the whole cooker, close all of the bottom vents, open the top vent, and let the fan and controller bring the cooker to temp. I recommend learning how to use your cooker manually before buying a BBQ Guru or Ique. In my most recent competition, we lost power, then I pulled my temp probe out of my cooker way too hard and snapped it, so I had to finish the cook manually in thirty mile per hour wind. Luckily I knew how to manually run my cookers and had no problems at all.
Now back to manual operation. I usually advise people to shut the back two charcoal vents, and shut the top vent about halfway once they are within about 40 degrees of their desired temp. Your temp will still continue to ramp up, but this will help keep the temps from overshooting. Generally if the weather is good, meaning no wind, I can lock in the cooker around 225 to 250 following these steps. If you want a little more heat, start by opening the top vent all of the way. Then if you need even more heat, open one of the back vents about a ¼ of the way. Remember, nothing about BBQ is fast. If you want to increase temp, then make a small change and wait 10 minutes and repeat if necessary. After a few hours, especially if you use crap Kingsford, that’s right, I said it Ash will start to build up a bit and you will have to open vents to keep your temps maintained. This is why I strongly advise using a good natural lump charcoal. When I say good, I mean brands like: Good One, Montana, Royal Oak, Chigger Creek, and my personal favorite, Ozark Oak. Sorry about the shameless plugs, but I am big believer in Lump charcoal. Its reusable, produces WAY less ash which in a WSM is imperative, especially for you 18.5 WSM owners, and puts off a better flavor.
If I am shooting for 225, I would button up the vents here.
After 25 minutes, she is humming along right at 225. Lets Cook!!
As you can tell, I am a BIG fan of the WSM! It really is a great cooker, and Weber has some of the best customer service around. I also think it says a lot that some of the best cook teams in the world compete on them, and keep in mind, Weber does not sponsor cook teams, these pro’s buy theirs just like the rest of us. Teams like Slap Yo Daddy BBQ, Sweet Peppers, Rythym n Que, and local AZ young guns Loot n Booty BBQ and us, Bam Bam’s BBQ, all swear by the WSM in competition. That’s it from me, good luck!
TIPS AND TRICKS:
-Every time you open the lid, you add 10 minutes to your cook
-For those of you in cold or windy climates, go to your local Home Depot or Lowes and buy a 10 foot roll of “48 inch Reflectix” this is a super economical way to insulate your cooker and provide a wind barrier. I recommend buying some utility Velcro so you can fully wrap your cooker and keep it in place. One thing to keep in mind, this works especially well for BBQ Guru or Ique users because you can fully wrap the cooker top to bottom without having to worry about suffocating your WSM. For those of you without a BBQ Guru, wrap the Reflectix around the seam between the bottom and middle section of the cooker, so you do not block your vents and suffocate your coals.
-If you don’t use water in your water pan, double wrap the water pan in heavy duty foil for easy cleanup. If you are still having temperature spikes and want to create a heat sink without using water, then buy some ceramic briquettes and place 10-20 of them in the bottom of your water pan and put another layer of foil over them to catch grease.
-Be careful with the lid and middle section of your WSM. Never set the either one on any hard, or abrasive surface such as concrete or asphalt. Not only will you leave a grease ring that wont come out, you will chip away at the porcelain coating which will hurt the seal between the lid and the middle section, or the middle section and the charcoal bowl. Instead, set the lid down on a plastic table or a piece of cardboard. Concerning the middle section. The lid and the charcoal bowl are heavier and much more rigid than the middle section. The lid and charcoal bowl will help the middle section of the WSM hold its shape. If the lid and charcoal bowl are not connected, be careful not to warp the middle section. The middle section is much more flimsy and can warp fairly easy. I have warped mine when traveling to competition. My WSM was too tall if the lid or base was connected, so I had to transport it in 3 pieces. I packed things around the middle section and they shifted en route to the comp and warped the middle section of the cooker. Once that happens, your WSM will run extremely hot and really wont even be useable. Now my warped cooker is my little backyard fire pit
We learned how to make Harry’s terrific Santa Maria style tri-tip. Spoiler alert: It involved a lot of white pepper, garlic powder and SYD rub.
By this time the ribs were ready for the second phase of cooking. They were pulled from the smoker and we prepared them for the next stage.
We applied brown sugar and other ingredients and wrapped them in foil. At this point they were put back onto the smoker.
The pork butts were looking really good at this time. We opened them up so they could breath and set them aside until later. During a competition they would have been Cambroed at this point.
After learning three different ways to prep chicken thighs we prepped a bunch.
The next round of food was chicken sausages, kielbasa, summer sausage and tri-tip.
Holding true to his less is more theory. This is what chicken looks like when it is ready to go onto the smoker.
Harry discussed the different cooking times for the different meats while he was loading the Marshall.
I am always amazed at how much food the Marshall can hold. We didn’t even have the 4th rack in.
The Tri-tip turned out absolutely fantastic. Have you ever seen one look so good?
Sausages, sausages, sausages!
Surprise! Seared tuna as a snack. The sauce was simple to make and really worked well with the sliced tuna. This is an outstanding appetizer and only takes about 10 minutes to make.
The ribs were pulled from the smoker and cut. They were really great. Harry put a little heat into the sauce and they turned out just like I like them.
I was waiting for this. The brisket. The burnt ends were fantastic. He took care to use pieces that had just the right amount of fat content but were not chewy. This was my favorite thing we cooked.
After tasting the brisket we moved on to the pork butts. We tasted each of the three most desirable muscles individually with and without sauce. It really helped me understand the difference in taste and texture between the different parts of the butts.
All I can say about the chicken thighs is WOW!. Bite through skin with a tangy citrus finish. Outstanding!
We spent the next 20 minutes eating and comparing the different foods we cooked.
Finally the class was over and we took time to get a group photo of the class.
We have hosted many BBQ classes over the years and I can say that this was one of the best. Thanks again Harry for sharing your knowledge of great BBQ with us!
Slap Yo Daddy BBQ Class The amazing Harry Soo came out last weekend and put on a couple of classes. Boy howdy did he deliver! There is so much to cover I had to break this into two separate posts. Enjoy! You should know that we expected poor weather and set up the classroom in our shipping area. It made taking pictures a bit difficult as the lighting in the store was not very good. So if some of the photos are not that good, please cut me a little slack.
His set up was pretty simple. He just had two 18 WSMs hooked up to a Stoker powered by a battery pack. He said he started using the battery pack because of unreliable power supplies at the events. This handy device can power his Stoker for a two day event on a single charge. We pulled out a few other demo units so he could try them out. To the right, you can see the GMG Jim Bowie.
We also rolled a 22 WSM and a Marshall by The Good One. We got them fired up and class was ready to start.
I almost forgot. We also fired up a Mini Big Green Egg and Harry put on some Moinks for us to munch on during the first part of the class.
The first part of the class covered food safety and how to create your own rubs, sauces and injections. Everybody in the class got to taste all the items he made. He felt that it was very important to know what your seasonings taste like raw and after they are cooked. It helps you understand the relationship between the two better. I would liken the experience to tasting wine with a sommelier and his take on the complexity of the different seasonings was enlightening.
The cornbread on the GMG was looking really good.
Yay! The Moinks were done. I think I ate seven of them.
Next up was prepping pork butts. Harry went into great detail about the butts. Everything from where they are located on the animal to the different muscles the shoulder is made of. He took a lot of questions and I learned a lot!
I was glad to see that Harry uses Forschner knives. We recommend these knives also. They all are top rated and moderately priced. They hold their edge and are very durable. We offer this set of three knives as a BBQ Select package that is discounted and has free shipping.
The next portion of the class covered how to prep a pork butt. He started by showing us how to properly trim it. Taking extra time to explain the importance of exposing the money muscle so that you get a really nice bark on as much of it as possible.
We got out the pork injection that we had created earlier in the class.
Everyone took turns injecting the pork butts. Harry coached us on where you should inject them.
Next he covered the brisket. How to pick one. How to trim one. When it came to trimming the brisket he was pretty aggressive. Much more so than I usually do. After seeing the results I will start doing this to all my briskets whether it is for a competition or family and friends.
We got out the brisket injection that we made earlier in class.
How to apply the rub and how to place it on the grill. There is a secret here. Do you know what it is?
On the other smoker, he showed us how to tell when the bark was properly set. The sides of this one were ready but the top was not.
Since the brisket was not quite ready we went back inside and started the rib portion of the class. Harry gave a great description of where the different ribs come from on the animal and how to prepare spare and baby back ribs. Here his holding up a nice 10 rib rack.
We all took turns preparing a rack of ribs.
An hour later or so the rib tips were looking really good.
We stopped and listened to Fast Eddy describe his new pellet smoker grill. Highlights on the new unit were; pellet drop, digital controls, 600 degree charbroiler with cast iron grate, large indirect smoking side, warming rack, and an integrated warming drawer. Price TBD, but we know it’s going to be under $1400.
The kids competition was great. All the kids were busy plating there foods while the parents sat close by and helped out.
This thing had to be the most bizarre inflatable kids toy I have ever laid eyes on. They would squeeze out of the vertical split in the gray end. It reminded me of the Ace Ventura movie where Jim Carey squeezes out of the Rhino.
When we got back to the booth, Chris was giving a short speech to one of the BBQ tours. He finished his talk by feeding the group some of the whole chickens we smoked that morning.
We still had some time to kill, so we went next door and played some washer toss. Mike is a natural. If you look close you can see the washer homing in on the PVC.
The guys relaxing a bit before the storm hits. Shelton’s no shoe idea was great. My dogs were barking, so I followed suit.
It was time to get powered up for the over night haul. Nothing gets you going like more meat. This time it was copious amounts of sausage. I had been on a diet of mostly meat and beer for roughly two days now. I was starting to smell worse than our dog after she got into the deviled eggs.
Mike Smoots and Shelton saying, ” Bring it on, it’s time to light the pits and get this train rolling.”
At 10 pm we lit the pits with propane and wax fire starters. Game on. This particular fire burned until 2 pm the next day.
The fireworks were awesome and great way to start the long night.
Smoots, Shelton and I kept an eye on the smokers while everyone else got some rest. It was pretty chilly but the fire box kept us warm.
On the way to the event Christopher asked his Dad if we could stop by the store and get some snacks for the day. Chris responded, “Well we have sausages.” Fortunately we stopped by the store and picked up a few things to break up the all day only sausage diet.
I am still a bit uncomfortable with KC small hoodie fashion trend, but the kids seem to love it. I guess it is better than saggy pants.
Prepping the sausage fatties for the smoker.
After you do this for awhile you can sleep anywhere.
KCBS Officials checking the coolers for the competition. Everything checked out.
Time to go on a walkabout. The area of the competition was under the freeway. There’s an eerie feeling late at night with the sound of cars, and lingering clouds of smoke.
After we got back from our walk I powered up on some cold milk.
The sausage logs are well on their way to being finished. We temped them just to be safe.
It was going to be a meat only day again. However our buddy Mike Smoots pulled through with some biscuits and all was right with the world again.
After a glutinous breakfast of giant sausage slabs and smoked biscuits we started prepping the meats. The brisket was first on the list. Shelton breathed deep as he realized the gravity of the moment. This is the turn in brisket for the Three Little Pigs team, gulp!
Jaccarding the brisket. Mike Smoots had to show Shelton the “mad man technique” when it came to Jaccarding the briskets. This involved hitting the meat so hard the table bounced.(that is a bbq statement, please do not take it out of context.)
Wrapped and seasoned briskets ready for the ice chest.
Our neighbor took an early morning rip of Kentucky go juice.
Smoots and Mike worked together to get all the butts injected.
Smoots and Mike applied the rub to the butts.
Once again Christopher demonstrated his amazing ability to sleep virtually anywhere.
The smoked spatchcock chicken made for a great mid afternoon snack. Yep, you got it. More meat. Just meat. That is all you eat. meat, meat, meat, meat.
After the fueling up, we went for for another wander. I took a peek at the judges meeting. It was interesting to see who was going to judging our food.
Chris and Shelton were both super stoked about competing in the 2011 American Royal.
Chris showing us how to remove the membrane on the beef ribs (brisket on a stick). One and done. If you have never done this before, just use paper towels to grip the membrane and pull. As always, Chris makes it look simple.
Shelton is using a fork to poke holes in the lower membrane. You do this between each rib. This helps break down the connective tissue, making the ribs easier to cut and allows the smoke to penetrate deeper.
Shelton is lightly sprinkling Memphis rub on a rack of beef ribs. Just like with Brisket, we try to stick with a rub that accents the beef flavor. Memphis rub does just that.
Finally 32 racks of beef and pork ribs are on the smokers. Time to relax before the Ace of Hearts party starts. Since The Good One smokers hold their temperature perfectly, we decided to take the time to go walk around and check out the event.
We ran into Johnny Trigg. He is a really down to earth guy. When Johnny bumped into Chris Marks he asked him how many Royals he had won. Pretty cool. Hopefully we can get Johnny out to the store to do a class or two.
We got a chance to check out the new Fast Eddys pellet grill smoker. Check out the suicide doors, they’re pretty sweet.
The new Fast Eddy’s smoker is something to behold. The left third is a 600+ degree pellet open flame grill and the right side is a low and slow pellet smoker. They have also incorporated a warming drawer that can double as a cold smoker. (It’s on the bottom right, and the drawer on the left is the ash pan.)
We saw this custom ice chest rack that Tuffy built for his motor home. It was designed to be high enough to clear their trailer smoker.
These were everywhere. I am no electrician, but this does not look like it is up to code. I don’t usually see bungie cords used with electrical boxes.
After we got back from our walk the guys from Old World Spices prepared over 600 jalapeno poppers! All three of the fillings they used were fantastic.
Cored, stuffed and on the smoker. We were ready for the party. 32 racks of beef and pork ribs and 600+ jalapeno poppers. The Good One Trail Boss is an unbelievable pit smoker!
An American Royal tradition. The Three Little Pigs team getting the event kicked off with a round of whiskey shots.
Setting them up.
Chris is cutting up ribs for his guests.
The Ace of Hearts ladies! Perry (in the background) explaining the features of The Good One smokers.
Uh oh, the party just got kicked up a notch. Our Arizona friends Jeff Caler & crew are in the house.
The meat and whiskey lifestyle caught up to a few people.
After a long night of food and drink we went to bed, getting some much needed rest.
Welcome to the Super Bowl of BBQ! When Chris was out here doing his last class, he invited us to come help cook on his team. It was an opportunity we could not pass up. Not only were we going to the Royal but we were going to be cooking with the nine time winner Chris Marks!
On the way to the American Royal. We crossed over the Christopher S. Bond Bridge. Not only is the bridge functional, it is a work of art. It opened in 2007 and was built to replace the Paseo Bridge. You can read the full Wiki article here if you are interested in learning more about it.
We stopped at the the SmokeHouse BBQ restaurant for some lunch. It was pretty ordinary BBQ, however our waitress was really nice and went out of her way to make our visit enjoyable.
While Chris drove us to the event he explained how the weekend would unfold. He was truly a generous Southern host.
Pulling into the parking lot we saw this awesome old Kansas City Live Stock Exchange building. The inside has been completely renovated and is used as office space these days. The official website has some good information about it’s history.
The BBQ Legend Chris Marks and his son Christopher. Second and third generation KCBS competitors.
The American Royal Banner
The Awards Arena. This is where it all ends.
The guys had set up the tent, lights and football field already. We spent the next 6 hours setting up the rest of it. It was very quiet at this point as everyone was busy getting ready for the onslaught of people that would arrive tomorrow night.