YouTube Pitmaster Interview: Troy Smith
One of the great resources of our modern era is the internet. And perhaps my favorite resource on the internet, is the YouTube. You can learn anything there. Anything! YouTube University, as my elder brother sometimes calls it. And it is. What a privilege to have so much knowledge at our finger tips. Wanna know how to milk a cow? YouTube it! Wanna know how to weld underwater? Well, YouTube it! Many years ago, when we first got into the BBQ arts, cutting our teeth as it were, we naturally perused the YouTube algorithms in search of BBQ videos. What an addicting past time that is, let me tell you. Anyways, along the way we discovered a plethora of fellow BBQ enthusiasts who really knew their stuff. I mean these guys were good! They are not necessarily on the pro circuit or anything, tho some are, but one thing is for absolute sure – they have a passion for BBQ.
If you were to ask us here at PotP who some of our BBQ influences are, well many of them you can find on YouTube. And most of them have their own YouTube channel that they update regularly. Troy Smith, of T-Roy Cooks, is one of them. We’ve been watching his channel for a long time now, and well, there’s just something about him we cotton to. He’s like your favorite old pair of pants, (sorry Troy) , in that he’s just a pleasure to be around and watch him do his thing. A genuine, down-to-earth, kindly and sincere, Texan, who simply loves to make BBQ. So we contacted him to see if he might be up for an interview, and in true T-Roy Cooks fashion, he was all over it.
What follows is our conversation with Troy, as we let the man discourse a little his passion for BBQ. We really enjoyed it, and hope you do too.
Picking the Brain of T-ROY COOKS
PotP: Who are your BBQ influences? Why did you start a YouTube Channel?
T-Roy Cooks: There are a few competition BBQ’ers that have influenced my cooking. I really enjoy the layers of flavor that Johnny Trigg puts on his pork ribs and I have followed his techniques in many of my own BBQ cooks, so Johnny has inspired me the most. I also like to watch Myron Mixon and Big Moe Cason cook. Each of those guys have their own style of cooking and use different seasonings, but in the end, all of their BBQ looks terrific.
As for why I started a YouTube cooking channel, my son was moving out of the house and did not know anything about cooking. My wife and I wanted him to be able to cook the meals that he grew up eating at home after he moved out of the house, so I started making videos showing how to cook the meals that he loved at home. I guess my passion for cooking really shined through in my videos, because after just a few months of starting my channel, I began to get dedicated followers who really enjoyed my style of cooking. The feedback I received was very flattering and helpful because I was actually really shy when I began putting up videos. That feedback inspired me to continue building my channel into what it is today, so I am grateful to all of my subscribers for helping me feel comfortable in front of the camera. It is also very gratifying when they leave feedback letting me know that they have tried and loved my recipes.
PotP: What is your favorite smoke wood?
T-Roy Cooks: I have found that Pecan and Post Oak go well with every kind of meat, so that is what I mainly use in my Yoder Wichita offset smoker or my WSM. I like to change it up from time to time so that I get different smoke profiles. Right now I am using Pecan. When I run out of that wood, I will switch to Post Oak. I purchase a 1/4 cord at a time from a tree cutting service and find that it will usually last me about 5-6 months of weekend cooks. If I am cooking something hot & fast, such as flank steak, skirt steak, or tri-tip, I like to use Hickory or Mesquite, but my go-to wood has to be Pecan or Post Oak for most cases.
I grew up using mainly Hickory, but after trying other woods, I have found that both Hickory and Mesquite have really strong smoke flavor, so I use them sparingly or mix them with Pecan or Oak. I usually don’t use any fruit woods unless I am cooking poultry or fish. For those meats, I like to use Apple or Cherry. I do love the flavor of Peach wood, but it is difficult to get here in Texas and, if I can get it, it is very expensive.
PotP: Give one tip for aspiring pit masters
T-Roy Cooks: Each pit is different, so learn your pit. It takes a lot of time and patience to learn your pit, but once you have it figured out, you will produce some of the best BBQ you have ever tasted. Don’t give up and don’t over-smoke your meat! Make sure you have good air flow through your pit. You want to see that thin blue smoke instead of billowing white smoke out of your stack. Again, just be patient and learn your pit.
PotP: How often do you cook outside?
T-Roy Cooks: Luckily, in Central Texas we are able to cook outdoors all year. During the hot summer months, I probably cook outside 2-3 times per week. I love the cooler Winter months and spend most days of the week cooking out back, so I’d say 5-7 days a week when it’s cooler outside.
PotP: Favorite cut of meat to BBQ? Why?
T-Roy Cooks: My favorite cut of meat has to be pork ribs. I love pork ribs and I have become a pro at cooking them. You can get so many layers of flavor on ribs that when you take a bite of them your mouth explodes with joy! Ribs are pretty thin, so all of those flavors are packed onto the surface and go very well with the thin meat of the rib. You don’t quite get the same flavorful bites when you try to do the same thing with pork butt or thicker cuts of meat. Also, I do love a good USDA Prime Texas Brisket seasoned simply with salt, pepper, and a little cayenne!
PotP: Do you have any outdoor cooking traditions?
T-Roy Cooks: Cooking traditions, huh? Well, I usually have some tunes going while I am cooking out back. I love Classic Rock from the 80’s mostly, but I also enjoy Classic Country music from the 70’s & 80’s. I also like to have a keg of local Austin beer in my Kegerator out back and enjoy a nice chilled beer while cooking. The smell of the smoke in the air and the smell of the meat cooking while I enjoy some tunes and sip on a cold beer is what I love to do. Life doesn’t get much better!
PotP: What is your biggest BBQ blunder? What just didn’t work? When did Troy slap his head and go “whups!”
T-Roy Cooks: When I first started doing BBQ, I wanted to cook pork ribs on my offset. I read how everyone was using the 3-2-1 method, so I gave it a shot. I ruined my ribs by overcooking them. I found out quickly that the 3-2-1 method does not work for me. My ribs were severely overcooked. The bones fell out of the meat and the meat itself was mushy. I have come to realize that most people like their ribs to be “fall off the bone” tender, but I like mine to have some bite. So, I have never used the 3-2-1 method for cooking ribs again. If I do ever try wrapping my ribs again, I will probably do my own 3-1-1 method!
PotP: Other than eating it, what is it about BBQ that excites you? Why do you keep pursuing it? What fuels your passion, T-Roy!
T-Roy Cooks: When I walk by my Yoder Wichita offset smoker, it smells like I am in one of those very old BBQ joints where they’ve been cooking BBQ on the same pits for over 100 years. You know the kind of BBQ joint I’m talking about where the smoke has discolored the walls of the place and the smoke smell permeates every crook and cranny in the joint? There is something to be said about that smell of a BBQ pit and the aromas filling the air from the meat smoking on the pit.
The smell of BBQ exhilarates me and makes me want to celebrate fine tasting BBQ with my friends, family, and neighbors. I am passionate about BBQ, but knowing that each cut of meat is different, I have to stay on my toes while cooking BBQ. No two briskets or pork butts will ever cook exactly the same. The meat can be temperamental and it is up to me, the Pitmaster, to do everything I can to produce the best BBQ I can from the meat on the pit. It is a challenge, but it is a challenge that I gladly accept. Plus, it’s a lot of fun!!!
PotP: When you don’t feel like cooking, where do you go for BBQ?
T-Roy Cooks: I know you’ll find this quite odd, but I really don’t go out to eat BBQ. In fact, I rarely go out to eat period! There are plenty of BBQ joints here around Central Texas (Austin), but there are only a couple that I would eat at again. One is Louie Mueller BBQ and the other is Stiles Switch BBQ. I hear that Franklin’s BBQ and La Barbecue (owned by Mueller’s grand-daughter) are really good, but I have yet to try those because I don’t like long lines and I don’t like going to downtown Austin.
PotP: What is your pit-side beverage of choice?
T-Roy Cooks: I love relaxing by my pit with a cold beer or a big glass of strong sweet iced tea. In fact, I have a Kegerator, as mentioned in a previous question, and I always have a keg from a local Austin brewery iced down on tap. I change up which breweries I have on tap, but most of them are really tasty!
PotP: What is your choice activity whilst smoking a 16 hour pork butt?
T-Roy Cooks: During the day, I enjoy floating around in my pool under the palm trees or relaxing in my hot tub while listening to some classic tunes from the 70’s & 80’s. If it’s late at night on a long cook, I will watch a good Sci-Fi TV show or movie, a Football game, or some NASCAR on my TV out back to pass the time. I usually have plenty of those shows recorded so I can watch them at my leisure.
PotP: Lastly, what is next for T-Roy Cooks?
T-Roy Cooks: I have had a lot of my followers request that I make BBQ rubs, so I am working on some recipes for my own rubs that I can sell. I am also wanting to do some live cooking shows so that my followers can watch me in live time while I cook. They can ask questions of me and I can instantly respond back to them. The hard part with that idea is finding the right time where I can get the most people watching live.
Bonus Question: I’ve seen you in your videos do cannonball dives into your pool for the amusement of your viewers. Big leaping kerplooshes, sending tsunami-like waves across the land. Pets run for their lives. You have some mad skills there. So, if you were an Olympic diver, and a gold medal was on the line, would the cannonball then be your go to dive?
T-Roy Cooks: If I did a cannonball from a great height, I’d probably drain the pool and other divers wouldn’t be able to compete, so yes! Of course, I’d have to go first! I also do a really elegant back flip off of the diving board, but my pool is only 6 feet deep, so that isn’t something you’ll see me doing in my videos.
Thanks Troy. You’re awesome!
Check out T-Roy Cooks on YouTube some day. Good stuff!