How to prep and smoke spare ribs like a pro. Prep Time: 20 Minutes Cook Time: 4 Hours 30 Minutes Yield: 20 Ribs
2 racks of Pork spare ribs
Rubs: Bam Bam’s Picks – Plowboys Yardbird, with a top layer of Smoking Guns Sweet and Heat.
Heavy duty aluminum foil
BBQ Sauce: Bam Bam’s Picks – It’s gotta be Blues Hog Original.
Wood chunks or pellets: Bam Bam’s Picks – Apple wood and pecan wood
Preheat your smoker to 250 degrees. Now it’s time to prep your spares. Start by trimming your spare ribs however you like to. If you want a St Louis cut, find the tallest bone and from that point, cut a straight line all the way across the rib. You will be left with a nice rectangle St Louis cut spare rib, the leftover top piece is what’s called the rib tips. Don’t throw away the tips! Cook them! I like to trim some of the fat off the top. Then flip them over and with a butter knife, get under the membrane and pull up a corner. Grab the corner with a paper towel and pull the membrane off.
Now you are ready to season your ribs. To retain moisture in the rib hold off on seasoning them until 30 minutes before you are ready to place them on your cooker. Apply both of your rubs to the top side and sides of your spare rib, let them sit out for ten minutes, you will notice your rib sweating , this process allows the rubs to penetrate the meat. After ten minutes flip the rib and repeat. Now you are ready to place the ribs on your smoker.
Once your smoker hits 250 degrees, place the ribs on the smoker for two hours. For the first hour, DO NOT open your cooker. This gives the rubs time to set. After the first hour, spray the ribs with apple juice every fifteen to twenty minutes. This helps with moisture, color, and adds another light level of flavor. Once you hit 2 hours, pull your ribs off. Its now time to foil. Lay out the sheets of heavy duty foil. On the foil itself, sprinkle your rubs, a small handful of brown sugar, a few ounces of Parkay Butter, and honey. Lay the ribs meat side down on top of the foil mixture. Repeat the same process on the backside of the rib and seal the foil. Place the ribs back on the cooker meat side down for an additional 2 hours.
Remove the ribs from the foil and check for doneness. I like to use a toothpick to poke the meat between the bones. If it slides through with ease, the ribs are done. If there is still some resistance, wrap the ribs back up and put them back on your cooker for another 15 minutes, then check them again, repeat this process until the ribs are done. Now that your ribs are done. Take them off the cooker, break the seal of the foil and let them rest. If you forget to break the seal, the ribs will continue to steam and overcook inside the foil. Heat up your Blues Hog BBQ Sauce on the stove. Pull the ribs from the foil and baste them with the Blues Hog. Now it’s time to cut and serve! Enjoy!
So if you are anything like me, you probably were sitting in front of the TV the first night BBQ Pitmasters debuted. It was the Mesquite episode, and wow was I intrigued. Truthfully I had no idea about BBQ Pitmasters, I was just flipping through the channels and stumbled upon it. I kid you not, an hour later I was at Lowes buying an El Cheapo Brinkmann smoker! The next day, I fired her up at an elevation of 5600 feet in the middle of a northern Utah Winter, What an absolute blast that was!! I think back to some of the things that I cooked then and wow have things progressed! From that point on I probably cooked 3 times a week, and being that it was so cold and I was cooking on such a cheap smoker, I was probably by far Kingsfords best customer in UT. So after watching the show a few more times, and cooking about 30 different things on the Brinkmann, I decided to follow in the footsteps of Harry Soo of Slap Yo Daddy BBQ and buy a Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker. I found one at Ace Hardware in Salt Lake City. I have a confession to make. I told my wife that it cost $150 bucks. I just had to have it, the real cost, $399.99! Thats how obsessed I was with BBQ, fibbing like that to my wife is usually a big NO NO in my book. Sorry honey
Firing up the WSM 22.5 for the first time was SO exciting. I laugh now thinking about the fact that I filled the water pan in the middle of winter. I was still using a ton of charcoal, but thanks to the show and the forums, I was improving. One day on the UT forums, a comp cook named Rodney Livingston of R and R BBQ extended an invitation to his home on Saturday to see his competition smoker and try some of his competition ribs. He doesnt know this, but the night before I could hardly sleep, I was THAT excited! It was so cool to see the caliber of food that I could eventually cook. Those ribs were INSANE!!!
I continued cooking a couple times a week, but during the next Winter I slowed down, it was just to big of a pain cooking in the snow in an uninsulated smoker. In February of 2011, I moved to AZ to expand my company. I remember firing up the WSM for the first time and I could not believe how little charcoal I needed to do a cook. I was stoked!!! Needless to say, my BBQ habit came back in a scary way! I was cooking 4 times a week and IMHO was getting pretty good, especially with pork! I found the AZ BBQ forums and immersed myself in BBQ down here. Everyone was so dang nice and helpful! I was HOOKED!!!
This is where things got crazy! One day I was driving around and feeling a little lazy. I decided to look for a BBQ Store and I stumbled on to a shop called BBQ Island in Tempe AZ. I will never forget the first day I came in here. In UT we dont have stores like BBQ Island! I was in heaven, and I became what BBQ Island calls a lingerer! LOL! I was in there twice a week buying something. Up until this point I was making my own rubs and buying rubs at the grocery store. BBQ Island introduced me to the world of competition rubs and my cooking shifted into over drive.
I was on the forum one day, and I had mentioned that I wanted to start thinking about doing a competition soon, and started asking for advice. Everyone was super cool, and they told me about a mini pork competition at Chesters Harley Davidson in Mesa AZ. Now keep in mind, this was June in Arizona! SO HOT!! So I hopped on craigslist and started looking for some things I would need to compete. The first thing being an EZ UP. I found one an hour later for a hundred bucks. I bought two used coolers, a five gallon water jug, and a couple of pop up tables. I then went back to BBQ Island and Mike West the owner spent an hour with me on rubs and sauces. I went home and practiced one more time! I was ready! So I thought.
This mini comp was a cook at home and bring finished product type of comp. I stayed up all night cooking my competition pork butt along with about 8 others for Peoples Choice since about 3000 bikers were supposed to show up. I loaded up that next morning and went over to the comp. I setup my area the best I could. I thought I had really good pork, but I didnt garnish the box or anything because I thought it was not necessary. By the time the turn in came around it was 113 degrees, but 130 on the pavement. It was INSANE!! Needless to say, the bikers never showed, it was just to hot. So long story short, we all packed up and got ready for awards. I really thought I was going to do well. There were only 9 teams, and I felt my pork was super good. Well results came out and I finished DAL!! Dead ass last! LOL!! I was floored!
I went home and cooled off, and much to my neighbors delight, I passed out extra pork butts and caught some Zs. I hopped on the forums later that night and started talking about my results. I figured comp BBQ would have to wait for a bit after my stellar finish LOL! But, an interesting opportunity presented itself in Holbrook AZ. They needed a few more teams, so they cut the entry fee way down and I told myself, why not? So I entered my first four meat KCBS sanctioned event. I was SO nervous. I had no clue what I was doing, but again, thanks to BBQ Pitmasters being on the DVR and watching those basically in slow motion, I felt as prepared as I could be for the comp. I loaded up the wifes Nissan Murano and made the 3 hour drive to Holbrook AZ. When I got there I was SO intimidated. I saw some big rigs and some famous teams, then I was star struck, there was Harry Soo from the show! I was so excited!
My best friend from UT met me there to help. I knew how to cook but had no idea how to build a turn in box or anything like that! Luckily I was setup next to Tommy Duncan and Jeff Riggs of Whiskey Ranch BBQ team. It was intimidating because his rig is basically a semi truck trailer with a massive pellet smoker on it! Something very lucky happened to me that night though. Whiskey Ranch BBQ had a broken down smoker!!! Normally that isnt good news for anyone but for me it was! These guys were so dang nice to us and since Jeff came all the way from Vegas to cook, he was stuck there. That next morning Jeff came over and taught us how to build a box, and how to place meat in the box, along with another million little tricks! To this day I am SO grateful for all him and Tommy taught me! My cook was going great, I was super happy with my pork and brisket, but still had no idea what to expect as far as judging was concerned.
Let me backup for a second. After I was all setup I went to my first Cooks meeting, I was like an excited little kid. They asked if there were any first time cooks, one other cook and I raised our hands and introduced ourselves. They offered to let us listen to the new cook CD that the KCBS provides and it was super helpful. The reps who to this day are my FAVORITES were Kelly and Kathleen McIntosh. They really take their job seriously and what immediately stood out to me was that I felt like I could hand these two my life savings and trust them 100% with it. LOL! They are great people! I went back to my EZ UP and tied her all down because of a nasty storm coming in, luckily I had two trailers on either side of me to tie down to. The other trailer belongs to Tracy of Pinup Pastries. She remains a very good friend as well. Here pastries are SO amazing and she had a nice little air conditioned trailer that saved this Utahn from the AZ heat!
I really wanted to go meet Harry Soo, but I didnt want to look like some BBQ stalker so I left him alone, and I just started prepping meat. I put on my pork and brisket at about 10:30 pm. I tried to sleep a little but yeah right!! The cook was going great and at about 5:30 am I noticed Harry Soo walking around taking pictures of some of the historical buildings around us. He actually came by and introduced himself, he doesnt know this but I was FREAKING out. I must have watched every episode of BBQ Pitmasters 30 times and he was by far my favorite! Here he was in my spot introducing himself and giving me little bits of advice about BBQ. I didnt understand much of it because Harry speaks in Science book terminology! LOL!! Something about the Maillard reaction or something. He is a super intelligent dude. After Harry walked away it was time to get serious about the cook again.
Ribs went on at 8 am and ended up turning out pretty good. I spaced chicken but put it on at 10:30 am which was cutting it close since the turn in time was at noon. This part of the day is where we learned SO MUCH from the Whiskey Ranch boys. I had no clue whatsoever on how to build a turn in box. I had no clue that the parsley and lettuce had to be so perfect and that after you place the meat in the box, that you cannot have a speck of sauce or water anywhere inside or outside of the box. We learned about how crucial having baby wipes, paper towels, and q tips around for turn ins is. That next two hours was mayhem, what a rush!! We got all of our turn ins in on time and were just so excited to be there! I have to give props to my best friend Andrew Grose for doing the parsley in the boxes. It must have taken him 3 hours to do. LOL! I could not have done it without him.
Hopefully for those of you reading this that are maybe thinking of tossing your hat into the competition ring, you are learning that people on the BBQ circuit are the salt of the earth! I like to think that I have payed it forward at every comp since then with new teams. Now that I am an experienced comp cook, I get so excited about new teams jumping into the mix! The more the merrier! My advice to any of you that are thinking about it is just be friendly, humble, and observant. Let the reps at your first competition know that you are new. Do not be scared about asking for some advice from other teams. The only thing I will steer you away from is asking teams for flavor profiles or recipes. If they offer it up themselves than great, otherwise, keep your questions focused on processes and turn ins. 99% of cooks out there will be more than happy to help in anyway that they can! Here it is 8 months later and I remain very good friends with the folks I met at my first comp. The Duncan clan and Jeff Riggs of Whiskey River, Little Miss BBQ, Rythym n Que, Pinup Pastries, Slap Yo Daddy BBQ, Ranch 13 BBQ, Tom and Paul of IAB 30 BBQ and of course my favorite reps the McIntoshs! They all have helped me in many other ways since then as well. I have also made so many more BBQ buddies since.
Back to the comp in Holbrook. We had packed most of our stuff up and it was now time for awards. We had our fingers crossed, we just wanted to hear Bam Bams BBQ called once! For those of you that dont know, most comps call out the top ten in each of the four meat categories, then they call the top five to ten teams overall. It was cool walking up to the ceremony and seeing all of the big gold trophies. It felt like T ball on steroids, and I learned that day that no matter how old I get, I still like big plastic trophies. They started with the chicken category, and after ten calls, No Bam Bams. That was ok, our chicken wasnt that tasty. Now onto ribs. I was really confident in the ribs, they were super good. Another ten teams called, and again no Bam Bams. Now onto the pork category. Now dont forget that just a week earlier I was dead last in a mini pork comp. Needless to say my confidence was not sky high. After they called out tenth through fifth place I pretty much knew that I was not getting called in pork. They then called out fourth through second and still nothing. I was just smiling and clapping for the teams that were getting calls. I did not really care that we were not getting called, I was just stoked to be there. I will never ever ever forget when Kelly McIntosh raised the mic back up and said First place in pork goes to a first time competitor, now since there were only two new teams there, I had a fifty fifty shot of it being me, and wow was my heart beating! He proceeded to call out Bam Bams BBQ!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I will never forget the smile I had on my face! I was so happy that I seriously almost lost it! I looked around and every single cook there was on their feet clapping with HUGE genuine smiles on their faces. It was one of the happiest moments of my life! I got a check for $500 and a big ol trophy!! When I returned to my seat, Scott and Bekke of Little Miss BBQ, Harry Soo, Tracy of Pinuop Pastries, Tom and Paul of IAB 30 and Vince and Alexa of Rhythm n Que all greeted me with hugs. I remember Vince telling me that my trophy would be the most expensive trophy I would ever own! He was right! I was officially addicted!!
After it settled down they moved on to Brisket. Believe it or not, we got a third place call in brisket!!!! I was freaking out! So was everybody else! I was so excited! Got another big trophy and another few hundred bucks. We ended up finishing 6th overall out of 20 teams in our very first contest. Reserve Grand Champion that day went to Rhythm n Que and the Grand Champion went to who else?? Harry Soo of Slap Yo Daddy BBQ!! I have competed against Harry 7 more times since that comp 8 months ago. Of the 8 comps he has taken Grand Champion 5 times!!!!! He now calls me his lucky charm. 2 of those GCs were in massive comps, Lake Havasu (77 teams), and The ACM BBQ Showdown 2 weeks ago in Las Vegas (112 teams). Yesterday I received a t shirt in the mail that said in large white letters, Harrys Lucky Charm!! LOL!! Pretty funny how fast things have progressed.
Since that first competition I have competed a total of 11 times, my second contest, I walked away with another 1st in pork and a 3rd in Chicken, 6th overall again! I have been fortunate enough to walk in every comp I have cooked in since. As of my 4th comp I teamed up with a great friend of mine from UT Trever Johnson. We were named the Rookie Team of the Year in AZ for 2011 and we are currently ranked 24th overall in the US, with a 5th place national ranking in ribs.
I ended up selling my half of the business and was hired by BBQ Island full time! Now I get paid to linger! Its funny how things work out! Now I cook out of a 25 foot air conditioned trailer and I cook on a massive offset Yoder Smoker named The Bamzoni! All furnished by BBQ Island! I love those guys! Im spoiled, I know. I can honestly say though, that if I didnt have any of the fancy stuff, I would still be competing out of the Murano. Still though, Im floored when I think about how much my life has changed since June 2011! I wouldnt change a thing either!
Hopefully after reading this you have a better idea of what to expect if you are jumping into comp BBQ. Like I said before, be friendly, humble, and observant. Never be scared to ask another competitor for help or your comp reps. TAKE A CLASS!! Here at the store we teach classes, and we are lucky enough to have legends like Chris Marks and Harry Soo regularly teaching here. I was also fortunate enough to take a class from the winningest man in BBQ Mike Davis of Lotta Bull BBQ in Thackerville ,OK! Him and his wife Deb are not only AMAZING cooks, but I consider them very dear friends now. They are great people and if you met them you would never know that they have LEGEND status! they are as humble and sweet as can be. Same goes for Harry Soo. Harry is currently ranked #1 in the country, and he is as nice as they come! Plus he makes me T shirts ;) I have to give a shout out to Loot n Booty BBQ as well, I met them my second comp and they have helped me a TON!! I know that was a random shout out but I had to do it.
Another fantastic resource for learning how to cook BBQ is Cook books, and BBQ forums. Some books that I love that helped me a ton are: Chris Lillys Big Bob Gibson BBQ Book, Serious BBQ by Adam Perry Lang, Peace Love and BBQ by Mike Mills and my newest addition is Wicked Good BBQ by Andy Husbands and Chris Hart of IQUE BBQ. Forums wise, I am a regular on Grandcanyonstatebbq.com, azbarbecue.com, imbbqa.com and BBQbrethren.com. If you get on any of those, my screen name is Bambam! Now the number one thing you can do to prepare for a comp is very complex, you ready? COOK COOK COOK!! Practice makes perfect. If its raining, practice! If its Windy, practice! You get the point! Learn to cook in all types of weather. That will be a huge advantage for you at comps with inclement weather. Most importantly, have fun!!! Dont stress about winning it all. Come out and meet some new people and share in the passion of cooking amazing BBQ. I really hope to see you out on the comp trail and if you see me out there, come say hi and never hesitate to ask me a question if you need any help.
I love feedback, so if you have any, or if you want to ask a question, scroll down a bit and ask right here inside the blog.
R&R BBQ’s East Texas Smoker
R&R BBQ’s ribs
On my way to my first mini comp
Holbrook Ace in The Hole Comp. First comp setup
First night prep
First night prep
Holbrook AZ, Andrew building turn in boxes
Pork turn in 1st place!!!
Brisket turn in 3rd place!
Harry Soo and Peter Graves of Slap Yo Daddy BBQ. His trophies are always bigger than mine
Perfect smoked chicken with bite through skin. Prep Time: 30 Minutes Cook Time: 2 Hours Yield: 8 Servings
8 Skin on chicken thighs
Rub: Bam Bam’s Pick – Butchers BBQ Honey Rub
Sauce: Bam Bam’s Pick – Butchers BBQ Sweet Sauce
Stick of unsalted butter
Disposable aluminum pan
Spray bottle with apple juice
Pigtail food flipper
Wood chunks or pellets: Bam Bam’s Pick – Apple
Preheat smoker to 275. Now its time to trim. Just trim some of the excess skin and fat off the thighs until you are left with fairly organized rectangles. I like to place them in disposable aluminum pans. It does not matter what size pan you use, just make sure that the chicken thighs fit flat into the pan. Don’t try to squeeze to many in. At the bottom of the pan place about a ½ TBS of Butter where each chicken thigh will sit. Now place your chicken thighs into the pan skin side down and season the backside (exposed) of the thighs with your rub. Now cover the pan with foil and place in your cooker for 45 minutes. Remove the chicken (leave covered) and let rest for 15 minutes.
Now with your pig tail flipper, pull the thighs and season with your rub. Now place the thighs skin side up directly on the smoker. Add ONE large chunk of apple wood to your coals, if you use pellets or on offset just do what you are doing ;). Chicken can EASILY become over smoked, so when in doubt, use less! Leave the thighs on the smoker for 45 minutes.
While your thighs are cooking, heat up your sauce. I like to thin my sauce for chicken, I generally will cut in some apple juice, and butter but you don’t have to. Once the 45 minutes passes, take your hot pot of sauce and your Pigtail Food Flipper out to the smoker and one by one with your flipper, dunk each thigh into the sauce and place back on the smoker. This is the pretty way to do it. No finger smudges or messes. Allow the sauce to caramelize on the chicken thighs for about ten minutes. Now pull the chicken thighs, serve and enjoy!
Wood Chunks or Pellets: Bam Bam’s Picks – Oak or Hickory
Make Paste: In a small bowl mix Better than Bullion, Mustard, Chili Powder, and Worcestershire Sauce together. Apply the paste to the whole brisket, this acts as a layer of flavor, as well as a glue for the rub
Preheat your smoker to 225 degrees. Take your brisket and with a nice sharp knife trim fat cap below to about a ¼ inch. Now trim the fat and and silver skin (if you have the patience) of the top of the Brisket. This allows the rub to adhere to the surface of the brisket which is a must if you want a good bark. Now you are ready to inject. Just mix your Butchers Prime Injection with water and inject the brisket in a grid pattern of one inch cubes. I like to inject across the grain at about a 45 degree angle. Hold your hand above where you are injecting so it does not spray every where. Put your brisket back in the fridge for a couple of hours. Remove the brisket from the fridge, pat dry with paper towels and gently apply the paste over the whole brisket. Now its time to cover the whole brisket with your 3 Little Pigs Memphis Rub! Cover your brisket again and set it back in the fridge for a couple of hours.
Now you are ready to place to brisket on the smoker. After about 2 hours, spray the brisket with water every 45 minutes or so. Same logic applies to the bark of the brisket as it does with pork. Once the bark has setup and does not scratch away, you are ready to foil. Again, if you need a more specific guide, pull the brisket for foil when the internal temp hits between 160-165 degrees internal temp. In a double layer of heavy duty foil, place your brisket with about a half of a bottle of Head Country Marinade poured over the meat. Seal tightly and place back on the cooker until the internal temp of the brisket reaches 205 degrees. Pull the brisket off of the smoker and separate the point from the flat. Make sure to save all of the au jus!! Just follow the very obvious line of fat that separates the two muscles
Place the flat into a Cambro or Cooler to rest for an hour or two. Now season the point muscle with Memphis rub and place back on the smoker for a couple of hours to get burnt ends. After a couple of hours pull the point off and trim into cubes. Take to saved juices and pour into the separator, pour the au jus in to a pot and heat it up, set aside for now.
Now remove your flat from the Cambro/cooler and and cut into pencil thick slices, make sure to cut against the grain, or you will have tougher meat. If you prefer you can cut the fat off the bottom, I prefer to leave it on, it tastes great, and adds moisture to the bite. I don’t like to use sauce on brisket, I like to brush or pour the au jus over the meat. Serve and enjoy!
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
This recipe really came about from having some leftovers and it turned out better than any of the planned meals using these same ingredients. This hearty stew is perfect for warding off the cold during these chilly winter evenings.
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.