Two Men, Two Pits and a Blog


And The Men Were Men: Backwoods Cheese Steak Sandwiches


The rendezvous was classic trout camp, sans the trout. One by one we came from various corners of the state and all conspired at the river’s soft edge for a bit of camping, fellowship, and good food under the crescent moon. We had come to trout country not to fish, however, because trout fishing annually closes it’s doors in Minnesota in November. Poachers we are not.  Instead we came here just to be, in a place that we really liked being, which in itself was sweetly enough, because, as Robert Traver once wrote in his esteem book, Trout Magic, “I love the environs where trout are found, which  are invariably beautiful“. And they are.

So we made our camps here on the shores of trout waters, deep in south eastern Minnesota, and did what we do best – eat! Now I don’t want to suggest that we come to the woods like this just to stuff our pie holes with endless calories, but in truth, it is a part of it. When your camp mate is also your fellow patron and long time pit cohort, well, with two cooks in the outdoor kitchen, lets just say pants are going to get tight! Like our first night there when we made cheese steak sandwiches on the Mojoe Griddle. A better backwoods sammich I do not rightly recall right now. Let me tell you about it, and how it went and came to be.

Enter The Mojoe


Established readers to this blog have seen this sexy beast before. The Mojoe Griddle. I’m telling you, if you have the space in your truck and can lift 35 pounds, this is one of the finest camp cooking rigs you can get. And marry it with a humble, two burner, Camp Chef Explorer stove, shoot, the world is yours! One-quarter inch hot rolled steel, people, restaurant grade, nearly non stick, complete with aluminum griddle strap to keep your spoils from toppling into the dirt!  And better yet, large enough to fry a pancake to match a man hole cover!

This is high living, people.


With the sun setting over the valley rim, tree lines waxing to silhouettes,  we got to work in the doable illumination of the porch light outside of the camper. Red onions and bell peppers sauteed in olive oil. And steak, I don’t remember what kind, but steak, seared to perfection over the hot steel. Ah yes, camp cooking at it’s finest, right here.


Through the pungent woods of shag bark hickory you can hear the gentle tumble of trout stream, the quiet banter of our camp mates in tarry around a crackling pine fire, and the comforting sizzle of vittles cooking on the Mojoe. The smell of onions and meat waft in the damp, November air. The rhythmic clank and slide of a steel spatula on a hot griddle. Tummies rumbling. You getting hungry yet!  I could do this all day!


Near the end of the cook, we toasted up our hoagie rolls for that added texture to the perfect backwoods sandwich. I don’t know about you, but I have never regret toasting my buns. Ever.


The Finishing Touch

After a fashion, all was done and we went inside the camper and assembled our spoils. My fellow patron brought along a jar of this stuff to put on our sandwiches. Boy did that add a lovely dimension of flavor and camping class. Really good! He thinks of these kinds of things, when I never would.  I found it on amazon if you’re interested. Mt. Olive Simply Relish Deli Style Dill 16 fl (Pack of 2)


The cold rain began tapping over the plastic roof of the camper as we settled into the dinette by soft candle light. The heater kicked on, softly murmuring in the background, and mood music played on the radio. Yeah, okay, this wasn’t exactly the sort of rough and tumble camping as is often associated with the past time, but hey, it was November in Minnesota. Our last fling of 2017. We had come to smooth it! And besides, we get it rough enough in town! Anyways, we ate a lot of food on that trip. Good food. But this sandwich in particular hangs with an asterisks in the panniers of our mind. There was something about how it came together: in the woods, the joys of that big griddle, the way the deli relish set off the flavors, the char on the green peppers. I dunno, it was just good! And made better yet doing what we love, with people we really like, in a place we really enjoyed being. A place where the trout leapt. And the men were men. Amen.


Somewhere in southeastern Minnesota

Stuff We Used

Check out the Mojoe Outfitters at their site, here

Camp Chef Stoves are also available off amazon. Here’s a link to that. Happy Camping!

Camp Chef EX60LW Explorer 2 Burner Outdoor Camping Modular Cooking Stove

Patrons of the Pit is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to



Snowbound! Apple Smoked Pulled Pork Sandwiches

IMG_0126It finally happened. The event we northerners have been waiting for all winter long. I tarried in my leather man chair with a hot cup of tea in hand and simply watched it for a while, swirl and dance outside the window pane. Snow. Lots of it. Riding a tempest. One might even go so far as to wager it was a blizzard, and by golly it hit the spot to see. It hit the spot because of all the many times the weather men cried wolf this winter, barking of the big one to come. And it never did. Believe it or not, there are some people who actually like snow, look forwards to it, and want to frolic accordingly amid it’s softened flakes. We be some of those people. So it was good to see a boisterous and proper, Minnesota snowstorm engulfing our fair hamlet again. This was how it should be. And after it settled a bit, I went outside to cook something there.

The Power of Halves

After examining my meat larder, something men of a certain age tend to do, I settled on one portly pork butt to do the job.  I think it weighed in at 8 pounds, I don’t recall. But I knew if I wanted to have it done by supper time, (6 hours away) then I would have to deploy the old pit master trickery of slicing the butt in halves, thus to reduce the cooking time. It’s a technique I’ve used many times at the pit, and always with favorable results. Not only does it reduce cooking time by maybe a third, but it also increases the surface area. This is good because it basically unlocks new real-estate for more spice rub and smoke penetration. More bark people. Take that weather man!


The Science and Art of Bark

Here we are a few hours into the cook, and as you can see, we were already developing a flavorful and robust bark. The smoke, courtesy of two large hunks of apple wood, combined with the relatively low heat of the Weber performer, which ran at 275 degrees, and the spice rub, Kits KC BBQ Rub, courtesy of the good folk at Miners Mix, all came together in a magical union of yum! Bark is a scientific thing, but you don’t have to be an Einstein to eat it. The Flintstones will do! If you want to learn more about how it’s formed and what is going on, check out the master’s write up of it over at Amazing Ribs What is Bark.

So it was, as the Alberta clipper slid into town that we put the finishing touches on our pulled pork sandwich. A squirt or two of sweet baby rays, combined with some of the more succulent muscles of the pork shoulder, and as always, I like to mix lots of bark in there too, so you get some in every bite. Mercy! Can you smell that? That’s a proper pulled pork sammich people!

When The Bark is Worth the Bite

I plated it up with a side of beans and returned to my man chair. After settling in, feet propped up, and fueled by repetitive instinct, I reached for the TV remote like any red-blooded American man would, but then curiously caught myself looking out the window at the snow again. A soft smile formed from my lips, and I set the remote back down, and picked up my sandwich instead. I had been waiting a long time for this, and I didn’t want to dilute it with the flashing images of a TV. It would be just me, my pork, and the snow. And for a while at least, that was enough. Amen.


Nothing quite so fine as a plateful of bark and beans! Burp!

Shades of Warmth: The Art of Grilling When Your Nose Falls Off

IMG_0057The cold is an interesting beast. On one hand we need it, to keep our foods from spoiling too fast. On the other hand, we run from it when ever it sinks its icy fingers into our own meat. Some people hate the cold so much that they leave the north altogether, and live in the south. My brother’s neighbor once lamented that he was done with winter in Minnesota, and that he was going to load up his snow blower into the back of his pick up truck, and drive south until some one asked him what it was. It was there, he figured, would be a good place to live.


It’s 6 Below Outside.. So What!

To my brethren of the brisket of whom’s pit dampers puff ever stalwart in this arctic blast, we salute thee. Our warmer days will come. They always do. But in the mean time we thus must embrace the wintry folds that which are upon us now. A pit jockey well seasoned takes no issue with inclement of weather. For good BBQ will always find a way. Besides, if we waited for the perfect weather to BBQ in, well, we Minnesota folk would only grill maybe twice a year! I was lucky this cook tho, for it was only a meager and sultry, 6 below. And mercifully the north winds were blocked by our humble abode. That helps one’s situation ten-fold right there. So grab yourself a hot cocoa or something, and get comfy and we’ll tell you all about it, and how it went and came to be, patron to the pit.


Firstly, I must digress for a bit. For it has been a couple of moons at least, since we’ve last posted here. As many of our readership know, we done birthed a little patron last summer, and she is by far the sweetest thing our eye’s hath ever seen. Oh we were warned by other parental types how little babies, can, with a flick of heart beat, melt your soul into a rather nice pile of unintelligible goo, and I guess I am here to report that these people were right. You all were right.  I’ve been a big pile of goo for the last 6 months, I’d say, in awe at the preciousness of a baby. Every time I hold her hand, I get weak in the knees, and mine heart fills with a gladness I’ve never known before. And for a while at least, and maybe even longer than that, it’s not so cold outside after all. For my heart burbles over with warmth of a different sort. The kind forged in unconditional love. And that is maybe the greatest warmth you can ever feel.

Stranger Things Below Zero


Life below zero is always interesting. Take for example my steaming patties. This is just something you don’t see at your classic summer BBQ. Raw meat spilling it’s vapors like curling plumes of hickory smoke. I’m not sure what principles of physics and science were at play here, but I thought it amusing if only for a while.


Once you have a lovely bed of coals glowing in the bosom of your grill, it’s pretty much business as usual, no matter how cold it is. A good kettle grill can keep up just fine. And so it was with a modicum of effort, I worked the burgers with my big steel spatula, enjoying the warmth of the fire, the sound of sizzling beef, and my eyes drawn to thin slits from the bright sun resplendent over crusty snow. Ah yes!


There is a joy to be had patron to the pit in the wintry months. Maybe it’s because the mass populous thinks it’s miserable, or just not worth it effort in the cold, that makes doing so all the more sweeter. I don’t know. I would offer you this thought, tho, – that it’s maybe not the ordeal you think it to be. For to bandy close to the coals when the mercury drops, is the coziest of affairs. The gift of heat always at hand. The thrill of contrast. And there is a certain but articulate satisfaction gleamed as well, enjoying grilled meat in the dead of winter. I cannot deny that. And neither would you!


Anyways, it’s good to log some time at the pit again. Good to scribe another entry for the POTP archives. We do hope you all have been well, and are enjoying your winter and new year to come. We’re slowly getting back in the groove again, here. Finding our footing in the new and intoxicating world of babies. We are blessed and highly favored at the pit these days, I don’t mind telling you. So I’m going to take this plate of burgers now and go enjoy some of the good life. Time spent in food and fellowship. And yeah, I got me a soft, little hand to hold afterwards, accompanied with a string of unending smiles, and enough BTU’s to warm mine heart for the next thousand years at least. Amen.

*BTU Baby Thermal units

Getting Back in the Groove: A Pit Jockey’s Respite

IMG_2570I can’t help it if she’s beautiful. That when her little hand grabs my finger that all my insides melt into an irrefutable kind of goo. And I can’t help it either that when she looks at me with her baby blue eyes, that my heart spills over with gladness at what the Lord has done. No, I can’t help it that’s she’s beautiful. And I tell her this all the time.

As many of the readership of PotP know, we got ourselves a little patron in the making this summer. A gift straight from above. And thus the deployment of BBQ articles has dwindled for a time, as we managed our way through the fog of a newborn in your life. Many of you have been there, done that. You know what it’s all about. And so we thank you for your patience, and all the Emails wondering how we are. Yup, we are doing fabulous, by and by, and sort of finding our footing again, amid the new rhythms of life and baby. Indeed, we’re starting, maybe, to get back into the groove again.

Adjusting For The Curve

We learned after while that you can still have a life post baby. That, off-hand, you can still go to baseball games if you want, and manage a fine time. That most stadiums actually have a “mother’s room” somewhere around, with soft chairs, and flat screen TV’s, in which to feed your baby and still keep an eye on the score.  I never knew that.

IMG_2428We learned also that our time at the pit need not be compromised. That babies enjoy watching the meat cook as much as we do.  And that you can both tarry there together under summer skies and watch how the grass bends in the wind, and the tweety birds all follow each other about from thicket to thicket. I learned that little babies have a natural wiring to make a good pit master. They are well versed, for example, in sitting around and doing absolutely nothing, at least until the next feeding is in queue. Yup she’s good at that, and I had to scratch my head as she’s an awful lot like her daddy that way. Hmm. Maybe that’s why we get along as we do.

Getting Back In the Game

So in an attempt to get back in the groove of things, let me show you my sandwich I made the other day,  and how it went and came to be, all patron to the pit, and with a little help from my friend.


The Basics of Pork Butts

It was your most basic of pork butts, of which we seasoned heavily in Miners Mix Maynards Memphis Rub. It’s the same rub we’ve used a hundred times now, but there is of course a reason for that. It’s awesome. And yeah, I guess I threw on rib eye too, you know, for good measure. Hey, pork butts take some considerable clock, and a pit boy needs his snacks!  Anyhow, it was an easy smoke as most pork shoulders are. Dampers tweaked down to thin slits, both top and bottom, meat set indirect, and turned 180 degrees from time to time for even cooking. A little hickory wood on the coals. That’s all you gotta do people. That and take it slowly up to 195 degrees internal temperature for to pull there into highly succulent pork sandwiches.  Oh, which reminds me. Let me tell you about some sauces we recently got in to test.

Low Country Barbecue


These were pretty tasty. Low Country Barbecue sauce comes in both tomato based and vinegar.  Now I don’t know about you, but I’ve come to think a proper BBQ pulled pork sandwich is at it’s most authentic with a good vinegar based sauce, of which this one was very good. But I also tried a sandwich with the tomato based version and honestly, it was just as good.  Really good. And I suppose there are thousands of BBQ sauces out there all looking for attention, and these are just some of them. But Shawn, from the Snazzygourmet was kind enough to send us some samples to see what we thought, and being he is a fellow Minnesotan we found out, well, it’s good to help a brother out.  And so we will. So if you get a chance, he runs a great website called the Snazzygourmet, which is pretty much a wonderland for foodies.  Not just BBQ stuff, but other goodies as well. Check it out!

In Conclusion

Anyways, after we pulled the pork into tasty tendrils of BBQ heaven, and mixed a little of the new sauces into it, letting it’s thin viscosity mingle into all the right places, I plated up a nice sandwich or two for my wife. Baby would have to wait, I suppose, until she grew some teeth! But my other sweetheart was more than thrilled, as she usually is, holding to the good status of being the wife of a patron. She said thank you, and smiled brightly as I handed her the plate. I smiled back. Yeah, I can’t help it if she’s beautiful too!


Slow smoked and succulent, glistening in a light vinegar sauce. The privileges of the pit,  the good life, and holding hands with those you love. Amen.


Let’s Render!

As some of you know, we do on occasion dally with a YouTube channel.  Not very much, but when we do, it sure is fun. Here is a little video we slapped together the other day depicting some quintessential time at the pit. Of slow rendering pork shoulder, with it’s juices dribbling down it’s glistening flanks. Not to mention a gaggle of the resident ducks, who seem always to come by when there is something cooking under the hood. It was good to see them. And supper was adequate. Enjoy!

Rainy Days and Radios: Spicy Cedar Planked Salmon for Dummies

FullSizeRender (23)The cold rain tapped across the window pane as I sipped hot tea from an old, blue-enameled cup, whilst the fingers of my other hand tenderly worked the analog dial of my old time short wave radio.  It’s been hurricane season as you know, and I was hoping to find some hams out there discoursing on the weather. I know with the inter connected world of the internet,  and a few swift keystrokes, I can find out the weather any where in the world much easier than listening to the radio, but I don’t care. I just like the poetry of a good analog radio. The challenge of trying to wring out a signal from across the country, with what by today’s standards is inferior equipment.  Like BBQ, I was more into the journey here than anything. The process. The poetry of good things on cold, wet nights. So I was dredging the side-bands if you will, looking for amateur radio operators talking about the weather. But mostly I guess, I was enjoying just being here, listening to the radio and the rain. And thinking off and on about BBQ. And no, my name is not Jim Reitz. He apparently was the previous owner of the radio before I got a hold of it.

Turns out the last BBQ here at the Pond Side Pit was in the rain. There’s been a lot of that lately, which is of no matter to a patron of the pit. We will grill in sheer tropical force monsoons if need be. Lo, it would be a dark day indeed the moment we actually cook on a stove.  Anyways, my wife gets in the mood for fish these days, which is new to me. She’s never been particularly fond of the finned foods. But they tell us when you’re raising a newborn to eat more fish, as it is supposed to help your child grow nice and smart. Well, being a proponent of smart children, I did what any proud and new Papa would do, and went out into the wilds and procured a fish for my family. OK,  I really went down to the local grocer and plucked a salmon from the ice, but the other way sounds better don’t you reckon?

What You’ll Need

  • Mustard
  • Brown Sugar
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Miners Mix Wholly Chipotle

We slathered the salmon first in mustard, then packed on some brown sugar, a little salt, a little pepper, and for our secret ingredient,  a dash or two of this blend from our friends at Miners Mix. Wholly Chipotle.  It is considered one of their hot rubs, so if you’re not a pepper head, just use it sparingly. A little of this stuff goes quite a ways indeed, but adds that sought after kick of heat that some of us occasionally crave.  Anyways, after seasoning this fillet up, we brought it out to the pit where the cedar plank was oiled and pre-heated.

The Art of the Plank


If you’ve never had occasion to try planking on your grill yet, you’re definitely missing something out of your life. It’s about as easy as grilling gets, people. Simply put the plank over direct heat. Remember to soak it for an hour or so beforehand. Lightly oil it if you wish, an pre-heat it like you would a frying pan. Then lay your intended protein gently on top. All you gotta do from here is just get out of the way and let the plank do it’s magic. And it will. This form of cooking is so effective you need not even flip the meat. The plank acts as a heat shield which in turn protects your plunder, whilst at the same time creating an even heat environment, not to mention releasing oils and smoke into your food, giving it a flavor reminiscent of the finest restaurants. It’s just good, people. Trust us!

Planks come in many flavors and thickness, from 1/4 inch cedar, to 1/2 inch maple. Thicker ones last longer of course, but tend to run a little more expensive. You can find them in most any big box store these days. Or you can be lazy and grab some off Amazon I suppose. The best planks we ever tested at PotP were Superior Planks, grown and harvested up north of here, on a small island in lake superior. Check out our write up of that here . Anyways, a really fun and tasty way to grill if you haven’t tried it yet. You can cook anything on them too, from burgers to steaks to vegetables. But the best thing to plank, in our opinion, is fish. Ever have your fish fall apart on the grill grate? Problem solved with the good and ever abiding virtues of the plank. Gotta try this people!


There you go. Spicy cedar planked salmon from the pit. Sided with a lovely bouquet of vegetables for to please the lady folk. And a baked potato smothered in butter. Man! Good eating! And maybe even someday a smart baby, if you’re into that kind of thing. Amen.




Here’s to You Mrs Sturminator!

IMG_2332To the time-lapsed eye, a golden sun arced like a fiery pendulum across a blue summer sky. And the cumulus clouds hung puffy and white like heavenly mobiles on high. Songs birds bellowed their stoic harmonies from yonder dogwoods and cattails softly bent in the summer breeze. Such lovely times of it here on the 45th parallel, or summertime in Minnesota. Everything is so alive and vital.  So green and so plentiful. The earth spins swiftly here too, and the weeds in the garden grow like babies in the evening’s long shadows.


On the pit tonight, a big birthday steak, for yours truly! In these archives, she will go by the name Mrs Sturminator. No, not the steak, but a person we know. Mrs Sturminator is a long time friend, and frequenter of the pit, and when your birthday comes along, she tends to set a chap up rather well, so-to-speak. She’s been doing such things for years. So this year she gave me a steak. And not just any steak. A grass fed top sirloin steak, so thick I do believe it should have come with it’s own pair of suspenders!  Mercy! No sir, Mrs Sturminator never is one for giving wimpy gifts.



I had some yard bird thighs handy, so I tossed those on the pit too.  Along with some foiled potatoes, and of course, thy beloved and highly esteem sirloin. Of which I discovered was actually pair of steaks, which if course, was even better.  The thighs were seasoned in miners mix XXX Garlic, and the potatoes were wrapped in foil along with olive oil and some Miners Mix Steak and Veggie. Yes, more Miners mix. Sorry, it’s just when you find something that’s better than most, well, you eat it! Then we also sauteed up some mushrooms in butter and more steak and veggie seasoning on the Craycort cast iron griddle insert.  A modular grate affair that just keeps getting better. Love those Craycort grates!

For seasoning the steak, as always, I like to keep it simple. Steaks are too precious to screw around with. Just onion and garlic salt on this one, grilled to a modest medium over hardwood lump coal. Quite possibly my favorite thing to eat in all the known world. Happy Birthday indeed, and patron to the pit.


Think we’ll just leave it at that this week. Let the photo of this perfectly seared top sirloin topped with sauteed mushrooms do the talking.  Boy did my belly wrap rightly around this one, people. Man! A special thanks to cows that eat only grass, and to Mrs Sturminator for sending a portion of one my way.  Your talent for giving is one of quiet legend. But your heart measures even more so.  To good people and good food.

Many thanks, and Amen.


Cleverness: A Salute to Pit Master Ingenuity

Some people are just more clever than others.  Terry Dabb, of Aurora Wisconsin, is one of them. When I came across this photo on the Weber Kettle Fans Facebook page, I thunk to myself, now why didn’t I think of that! Well, I don’t have a deck for starters, so in that respect, I do take some console in my lack of deck creativity. But a lot of people do have decks. Tiny, little decks. And a lot of those people still wonder how to fit their Weber kettle grills on them in a proper like manner. It’s a quandary that has haunted many a pit jockey down through the ages. Terry Dabb, however, has finally developed a rather elegant solution.

deck weber

What you don’t see in the pics is I have 4 more Weber’s” Terry says.  “When looking for something to mount them on a free steel door came available from a customer of mine. And the idea ran from there.”

deck weber 2

“I have limited space on my deck”, Terry said, “So I just started Brain storming. On how to try and manage my limited space.”

I’d say you brain stormed pretty good my friend. As one of our readers on our Patrons of the Pit Facebook page so eloquently put it,  “I bow to the King of Sensible Deck Remodels”. Indeed, a lovely tribute to backyard ingenuity and the endearing will of an inspired pit master.

Terry, even tho you’re a packer fan, I do believe we would get along just fine. This one’s for you!


How To Fall In Love: The Birth of a Patron

IMG_2241She came upon a balmy eve just a few days prior than when the doctors said she would. Just a day before the 4th of July fireworks illuminated the night skies across this mighty country. She looked purple at first, and covered in cheese, but after a while the Lord put breath into her little lungs and she became cute. And still is cute. And somewhere around there I also fell in love.

Our readership may have noted it’s been a bit quiet around this blog lately, and now you know why. Welcome to the world, little Emma Jean, all of 7 pounds and 2 ounces. You are brand new to us, yet in this short time you have already wiggled down into the tender most parts of our hearts, nuzzling the skin of our souls there, and now we are forever smitten for thee.  And I don’t think I am being biased either, when I say, you are the sweetest little package of cuteness mine eyes have ever seen. That’s right. And I’ve seen a full packer brisket once.

I guess when pit jockey has a baby he ought to cook something.  So I headed out to the pit and whipped up some chicken thighs, just because. Truth is, I couldn’t much keep my mind on the cooking for mine heart was back inside with this little one. But here are a few shots of the cook, even so. Just because.

FullSizeRender (20)

Nothing quite so fine as some fatty chicken thighs seasoned in Miners Mix. We usually just do the Poultry Perfection for our chicken, but this time decided to turn up the heat a little with some Wholly Chipotle, which if you’ve never had occasion yet is one of the finer hot rubs you will find on the market today. A lovely balance of flavor and heat, by the good folks at Miners Mix. A little goes a long ways too, unless you’re a devout pepper head. But I’m Swedish, and that’s all you probably need to know on that.

FullSizeRender (19)

Anyways, supper came off the grill without a hitch. Stuff we’ve done a thousand times. Spoils wrought from sheer muscle memory.  And in the golden slants of an evening sun, I plated it up with out much for way of fan fare or small talk, and sidled in through the back patio door for to feed the family.  The aromas of chicken hot off the grill wafted through the house as my eyes dropped gaze on to our new family member. Our new patron to the pit. Boy is she cute. She smiled and promptly fill her drawers in a long, gurgling sort of  fashion, which was at once arrested by a silent room. Classic. I smiled back. She could do no wrong.  A quaint stage of life where everything you do is somehow adorable. But then, I was in love, you see. And well, you know how it goes. 


Welcome to the family little Emma Jean. You are a beautiful gift straight from God. The bearer of much joy, much happiness, and much wonder. You melt our hearts with but a single glance, and turn any manliness I once had straight to goo. We love you. We will do our best to take care of you. To show you a few good things in this life, and someday, when you’re able to chew things, feed you some very acceptable BBQ. I think you’re going to like it here. In point of fact, it’s already a better place because you are. Amen.


Chasing the Flame: Santa Maria Style Tri-Tip on the Gabby’s Grill

As I repair here at my desk, I’m reminiscent, of well, just yesterday. A day spent at the pit doing what I do. It was a day similar to a long stretch of other days lately, in that it was point blank beautiful outside, and a pleasure to behold.  How could I not be out there, putting meat to flame. But it was a day also different, in that I got to cook over an open fire, the venerable Tri Tip Roast. A rarefied cut of meat out here in the Midwest, of which the popularity I do believe may be trending eastwards from the coastal hollows from whence it was immortalized.  That of Santa Maria, California.

I’ve long heard stories of this enchanted hamlet, nestled somewhere in the Golden State. And I’ve heard tale of the Tri Tip festivals they hold there, and how the local meat eaters prize this particular cut of beef, and the sheer joy they take in BBQing it for others. In point fact, here is a facebook page devoted to just that.

I know that some day I must pilgrimage there, for it is the call of the pit jockey and it echoes strongly over the western hills. It would surely be to my delight, if not for the lovely aromas and tastes of perfectly executed Tri Tip in their native environs, then for the classy pits from which they were so masterfully grilled there.

Raquel Welch?

santa mariaPart of the romance of the Tri Tip Festival, and a great share of the poetry there, I think, would be found in their pits. From afar, my oh my but they are pleasing to the eye. As my elder brother would say, “Like Raquel Welch in hot pants“. And up close their charm and steely appeal still holds up under good light and scrutiny. Indeed, if there was ever a beauty contest held just for BBQ grills, well the lavish pits of Santa Maria would probably win every time. I’d betroth one in a heartbeat if I could afford it.

santa maria 2

I’ve had cars cheaper than some of these grills. Some things in life will just have to wait, I told myself. Or would they? Maybe there was a poor man’s option out there, that would let a bloke like me experience the joys of a Santa Maria style grill. So, emboldened with a new and novel brain-thrust,  I did what any grill lusting chum of age would do in the year 2017. I googled it. And this is what I discovered.

santa maria 3

It’s called the Santa Maria Attachment, from Gabby’s Grills. They cost about 200 bucks, 50 of which I found out was for shipping. I read reviews and thought about it for while, you know, the usual routine people do before they crack open their wallets. And then in a moment of passion, and perhaps because it was my birthday, I snatched one up. Maybe it was an impulse buy, I’m not sure, but I haven’t regretted the purchase yet, I’ll tell you that much. The first thing I tested it on was my old chimenea out on the patio, and as you can see, it fit right in there. Thus converting the fire pit into something a wee bit more useful. But it was designed by Junior Castro, founder of Gabby’s Grills, to fit into all kinds of things, not the least of which is your Weber Kettle grill, and that’s where our story leads us next.


So it was, after a trip to the local butcher shop, that the Pond Side Pit paid a quiet homage to the pit masters of Santa Maria, as a hardwood fire crackled underneath a succulent and dripping Tri Tip roast. Oh buddy! I cannot tell you how fun this was, nor the joy that which built up in my heart and toppled out into my soul. Almost like a mini BBQ dream come true. If you like to play with fire, and are one to flip your meat with great frequency, this may be the style of cooking meant for you. Man it was fun.

A Few Specs and Such

The Gabby’s Grill Attachment is built to last too. As soon as I took it out of the box, I knew it would likely survive the 3rd and 4th World Wars with aplomb. The ring is 3/16 inch thick, 1 1/2 inch spun angle iron.  And the grate can be cranked up and down like the big boy grills to a height of about 16 inches.  Perfect for slower cooking high above the fire, and even better for dropping it down to coal level for a world class sear.  Basically this little rig gives you most of the joys of Santa Maria style grilling at a modest man’s price. Plus, no assembly required. Just plunk it over your fire and get to cooking. Can’t beat that.


Getting down in “Sear Mode”


Got Wood?

To do it authentically as they do in Santa Maria, you would also need to get you hands on some red oak. But we didn’t have any red oak, and just used hickory instead. We do ask for the forgiveness of the Santa Maria purists out there. We did what we could, and leveraged what we had.


Zooming up a little, you’ll see we tossed a few potatoes in the there too. Easy cooking people. We rotated the spuds once during the hour they spent down there, and that was enough. Did I mention this was fun stuff!


Cranking her up after the sear

Seasoning and Stuff

Traditional Santa Maria seasoning goes along with the” less-is-more” mantra you hear a lot of these days. Most purists put only salt, pepper and garlic on their Tri Tips. “SPG” as we call it in the business. And you really can’t go wrong with that. Also, you want a good flame when cooking Santa Maria style. Embrace the flame as if it were another tool in your shop, and let it work for you. You want it licking for the heavens unto your spoils freshly placed there. As far as we know, you want the flames to just touch your meat, not to engulf it.  

TIP: Pour a little bit of your manly beverage over the meat as it cooks, letting it drip down into the coals to create a billowing pillar of smoke for to rise unto your plunder. It’s good entertainment, and adds a wee smokier taste to this already wood fired way of cooking.

The End Game

I suppose you should take your Tri Tip to 145 internal, maybe removing it a little before that and wrapping it in foil to rest. The internal temp, like most big cuts of meat will continue to rise a little after it’s removed from the pit. I say, I suppose, because it’s all personal you see. Tri Tips are like big steaks, so cook it like you like your steaks and you’ll be just fine. And remember to always slice it across the grain for a proper and tender chew. Just like you would a brisket. Just like they do out way of Santa Maria, where the red oak smoke also rises. Amen.


Santa Maria Style Tri Tip Roast, grilled over the open fire. Succulent, smokey goodness! If there is a more fun way of watching meat cook, we haven’t heard of it yet!

If you want to hook your Weber up with this Santa Maria attachment, you can find it courtesy of the good people over at Gabby’s Grills

Check them out!