The Southwest BBQ Academy’s latest class featuring Chris Marks was held at the BBQ Island Superstore in Tempe Arizona. The beautiful December day was an added bonus to the comprehensive training Chris put his students through. The following are just a few snapshots from the class.


Some of the students that showed up early grabbed a cup of coffee and started flipping through the class material.


Ribs are a class favorite. Many people are intimidated by them, but after the class find that that they are quite easy to prepare and smoke.


Chris holding up a rack of ribs and answering questions about them.


The students got some hands on experience prepping their own half rack of ribs.


After the ribs were prepped onto the smoker they went.


They turned out fantastic as always.


Next up was brisket. Here is a shot of a finished brisket that he had prepared the night before.


He used the finished brisket to demonstrate how to cut it up after it was smoked.


What a beautiful smoke ring!


Tender and juicy!


Working with the brisket burnt ends.


After the brisket portion of the class Chris dug into pork shoulders. He covered trimming, injections, rubs and cooking techniques. This is a shot of one that he had prepped the night before so the students could taste the finished product.


Delicious bark, great smoke ring and tremendous flavor.


Chicken was the last of the big four meats Chris tackled. This is a shot of the steaming method he demonstrated which helps get that bite through skin everybody is striving for.


Nice shot of the partially cooked chicken.


It’s not even finished yet and it already looking delicious.


Hot damn that looks tasty. I’ll take two please!


Chris also demonstrated how to spatchcock a chicken and why it is a good method to use sometimes.


The showstopper was this half prime rib he prepared. Unfortunately I did not get any pictures of the finished product.


The class covered a few other interesting items like golf ball or lollipop chicken, which is basically a half deboned leg with the meat balled up and wrapped in bacon. He also made the short version of his unbelievable delicious burnt ends. As always the Southwestern BBQ Academy came through with another great class. Thanks to Chris, the students, everyone who helped with the class and to Derek for taking the time to snap these great photos.

Hey everyone!

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!

Lotta Bull BBQ Class Review

Lotta Bull BBQ Class Review

Lotta Bull BBQ Class Review

Lotta Bull BBQ Class Review

Lotta Bull BBQ Class Review

Lotta Bull BBQ Class Review

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!

Lotta Bull BBQ Class Review

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.

Lotta Bull BBQ Class Review

Lotta Bull BBQ Class Review

Lotta Bull BBQ Class Review

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.

Lotta Bull BBQ Class Review

Lotta Bull BBQ Class Review

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.

Lotta Bull BBQ Class Review

Lotta Bull BBQ Class Review

Lotta Bull BBQ Class Review

Lotta Bull BBQ Class Review

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.

Keep on Cookin

Bam Bam

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.

Prepping the Tri-tip

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.

The ribs are ready to foil

We applied brown sugar and other ingredients and wrapped them in foil. At this point they were put back onto the smoker.

Using a flour sifter to apply brown sugar

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.

The pork butts are done and the foil opened to rest

After learning three different ways to prep chicken thighs we prepped a bunch.

Trimming the chicken thighs

The next round of food was chicken sausages, kielbasa, summer sausage and tri-tip.

Chicken sausage, 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.

Chicken half coated with rub

Harry discussed the different cooking times for the different meats while he was loading the Marshall.

Putting the prepared food onto the Marshall

I am always amazed at how much food the Marshall can hold. We didn’t even have the 4th rack in.

The Marshall is loaded and ready to go.

The Tri-tip turned out absolutely fantastic. Have you ever seen one look so good?

The tri-tip turned out perfect

Sausages, sausages, sausages!

The assorted sausages were sliced and sauced.

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 seared tuna was sliced and sauced.

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.

The ribs turned out fantastic

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.

Burnt ends

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.

Tasting the different butt muscles

All I can say about the chicken thighs is WOW!. Bite through skin with a tangy citrus finish. Outstanding!

The finished chicken thighs.

We spent the next 20 minutes eating and comparing the different foods we cooked.

Comparing the different foods.

Finally the class was over and we took time to get a group photo of the class.

Slap Yo Daddy BBQ Class Picture

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.

Two 18 inch WSMs and a GMG pellet smoker

We also rolled a 22 WSM and a Marshall by The Good One. We got them fired up and class was ready to start.

One 22 inch WSM and The Good One Marshall

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.

Big Green Egg Mini

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.

Tasting the discussing the injections

The cornbread on the GMG was looking really good.

Cornbread on the GMG

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!

Harry fielding a question

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 three knives Harry Soo uses.

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.

The art of trimming a pork butt

We got out the pork injection that we had created earlier in the class.

The pork injection

Everyone took turns injecting the pork butts. Harry coached us on where you should inject them.

Injecting the pork butts

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.

Trimming the brisket

We got out the brisket injection that we made earlier in class.

Brisket injection

How to apply the rub and how to place it on the grill. There is a secret here. Do you know what it is?

Brisket on the WSM

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.

Checking the brisket

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.

Nice rack of ribs

We all took turns preparing a rack of ribs.

Rubbing the ribs

An hour later or so the rib tips were looking really good.

The rib tips are looking good

Watermelon Guacamole

  • 1 jalapeno, minced
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 3 TBS lime juice
  • 1/2 tsp jalapeno salt
  • dash of hot sauce
  • 2 cups cubed watermelon
  • 8 avocados, diced

Combine all ingredients except watermelon and avocado and mix
thoroughly. Fold in avocado and watermelon. Let it chill for at least an
hour before serving.

Jalapeno and Cheddar Grits

  • 2 roasted jalapenos, diced
  • 1 raw jalapeno, diced
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • 1 1/2 cups cornmeal
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • salt & pepper to taste

Saute jalapenos, onion and garlic until brown. Add cornmeal and water
and bring to a simmer. When the cornmeal is soft stir in the cheese and
season to taste.

Smoked Salsa

  • 2 Roma tomatoes, roasted and diced
  • 1 poblano pepper, roasted and diced
  • 1 jalapeno, roasted and diced
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1 jalapeno, minced
  • 1-2 TBS lime juice
  • cilantro
  • salt & pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients ans smoke for about 30-40 minutes.

Photos from the class:

Veggies that are going into the salsa. Note that the poblano peppers are to be roasted before they go into the salsa.

Avocados and fruit for the salsa.

Make sure all veggies are minced well, as this helps distribute the flavors.


Fish taco toppings.

Class is underway.

Class begins with a quick introduction to the recipes and ingredients, before everyone dives in to do their own grilling.

Chef Gare offering his insights.

Scallops sizzling on the salt block.

Salmon in a cedar wrap, tied with a scallion. The wraps are very, very thin slices of cedar wood that a soaked and then wrapped around the fish. They are  similar to the cedar planks, but they cook quicker and offer nice presentation on the plate.

Cedar plank salmon came out super moist with a nice cedar flavor.

Mike Pratt, showing off his delicious cedar plank salmon.  Mike was also the fishmonger for the class. Thanks Mike!

Cedar Plank Salmon rubbed down with the Dizzy Pig Shak’n the Tree

Guests enjoying themselves after a fun evening of grilling. The fish on the grill class featured Halibut, Seabass, Scallops, Shrimp, and Shark. We were able to use various wood planks, cedar wraps, salt blocks as well as open charcoal fires. Everyone selected their fish of choice, seasoning of choice, and their grill of choice to create their own signature “fish on the grill.” Thanks for all the support, and we hope to see you in the store for the next class. You can sign up for the email newsletter, and get more information on the next class right here on the web site.

The weather this year was fantastic. It was in the mid-seventies a with a gentle breeze.

Blue Sky

While waiting for all the students to arrive, Chris fielded questions from the class.


After Chris demonstrated how to prepare ribs and chicken, the students all got to prepare their own cuts of meat. Once they were prepared they were put into the smoker.

Putting on the chicken and the ribs

A few hours later this is how they were looking.  The chicken is almost finished but the ribs still have an hour or so to go.

Chicken and ribs

Man that is some tasty looking chicken. Nice crispy skin packed with flavor. Are you getting hungry yet?

Smoked chicken

Chris surprised us with a couple of BACON EXPLOSIONS! These things were crazy. They were stuffed with more bacon, sausage and bbq sauce. Take that Lipitor! I could hear myself getting fatter when I was eating it.

Bacon explosion times two

Chowing down on the finished ribs. Everyone got to eat some of their own and taste other peoples. It was interesting to see people comparing their results.

Students eating ribs

Chris did a wonderful job of explaining the brisket and how to trim it up.

Chris and a brisket

Rubbing the brisket down with mustard.

Putting mustard on a brisket

Adding some rub to the brisket.

Seasoning a brisket

Jaccarding the flat side of the brisket. This not only help tenderize the meat, it cuts down on the cooking time and forces some of the rub into the meat. This helps to create a great bark.

Jaccarding a brisket

One of the students trimming  brisket.

Student trimming a brisket

A student trying out the Jaccard.

Student jaccarding a brisket

A finished brisket. Look at the depth of that smoke ring!

Finished brisket

Demonstrating where to inject the pork butt.

Injecting a pork butt

Covering the butt with rub.

Seasoning a pork butt

This butt is prepped and ready for the smoker.

Seasoned pork butt

Finished brisket, butts and bacon wrapped poppers.

Brisket, butts and poppers

Shredding the finished pork butts with Bear Paws. These really make shedding the butts a breeze.

Pulling the pork