It was a pretty good evening at the pit, I don’t mind saying. One of those patented, gorgeous, Minnesota evenings that when they happen are the finest evenings anywhere in the world. You see, when you wait around for 6 months swaddled in Bill Cosby sweaters and long underwear waiting for the perfect weather in which to grill supper, then, when it actually does happen, you are positively the most grateful person on the planet. You just are.
Thus it was at the Pond Side Pit, under softly ebbing salmon skies, that we reveled in weather most extraordinary, and favored a continuing burger kick partial to a beautiful bed of coals. I do not know why, nor do I seek to analyze it much, but burgers, in particular, big burgers with lots of bacon, cheese, and onions have been my most favorite thing to eat lately. And man did these meat monoliths do the trick. There was no messing around at the pit tonight. We aimed to fill our bellies, and we meant to do it right.
Whilst the beautiful hand-formed patties sizzled over the hot cast iron grate, I got to work on the onions. Also, I found this gem of a black iron pan out in the garage, a smaller 6 inch skillet that was perfect for the job. I suppose we could have used one of our cast iron griddle inserts like we did a couple of weeks back, but we like to spread the love to our other cast iron entities as well. We’re big fans of cast iron around here, if you haven’t noticed, and will bandy with that world often if we can. There is nothing better for cooking over the fire, and maybe even cooking period, than cast iron. Love it. So if you have grandma’s old black iron pan just sitting in your basement holding down a stack of old photos, we highly recommend sticking one of these pans in your grilling kit. Great for the sort of stuff that always slips through the grate, like these here onions. Yum!
And then there was bacon. Yes, I started a paragraph with the word “and” , and all the grammar police now surely hath cringed. Eyeballs rolling. But hark, it’s bacon people, and bacon should be allowed to bend the grammatical rules. Bacon is special. Countries may topple and rise with bacon. Our very destiny with alien life forms may hinge on whether or not we offered them bacon at that first meeting. Boy, I think I’ve digressed. The point is bacon is good, and nobody can deny it. Anyways, we set the bacon indirect for a while to absorb some of the hickory smoke that which wafted by. Man. The smell of sizzling bacon and fried onions over a bed of hickory coals. Buckle up people!
Hickory. We were running a trifle low on charcoal this cook and augmented the briquettes with a nice pile of hickory chunks. A lovely means in which to cook outdoors. A poetry closer to the open fire cooking of the cowboys in days past. Speaking of, we will be delving more into wood fired cooking arts this summer, sans charcoal altogether. Just straight up wood, such as man was perhaps always intended to cook his spoils all along. Be looking for more posts on that.
And so the sun ebbed over the house tops and budding cottonwood trees, it’s long salmon rays spilling across the freshly hewn grasses where long shadows were cast. The sounds of the neighborhood unwinding accompanied thee as I placed slices of smoked Gouda over the savory flanks of charred beef. I smiled as any pit jockey would, as I lowered a big tong full of fried onions atop the cheese. Then of course, the bacon. How are you not drooling on your screens right now! Mercy. Then, like a flag on the summit of Mount Everest it’s self, we topped each burger with a gently toasted bun. Burgers just don’t get no better, folks.
I don’t know if you believe in love at first sight, but I say it so, leastwise with these hickory tinted bacon cheeseburgers it is. Spoils of the flame. And patron to the pit. Amen.
Pecan smoke spiraled from the old pit damper whilst the lone drake floated serenely on the pond. The cool spring breeze caressed the cottonwood buds, and the sun, man, how divine it felt to sprawl at the terminus of one of it’s golden shafts. In a word, decadent! I was what you might say, “settled in” and pit-side, with a lovely beverage in hand and the game playing softly through the little speaker of the pit radio. The day was point blank glorious. Another vintage spring day in Minnesota. One to savor fondly from the vantage of a pit keeper.
I love to cook out-of-doors. It’s largely what I do. There are times when I actually wonder if my stove in the kitchen even works, for I use it so seldom. At certain times of the year, not unlike most grill jockeys hard into their game, a passerby of my open garage door may spy a pallet’s worth of charcoal stacked in there. Hundred of pounds of beautiful black briquettes awaiting my call. My bidding for the smoke. A pit keeper must be prepared don’t you know. Same unto the freezer adequately stocked with all matter of bits and bobs, from turf to surf. It’s all because I love to cook outside, and I for one do not wish to miss the opportunity should the impulse arise. Or, if by chance, guests come over keen with hunger pangs.
They did the other day, and I was ready. They all had cheeseburger shaped hollows in their stomachs, and the Pond Side Pit was the remedy! So I preheated the old Craycort cast iron grate, and freshly oiled it. ( See our review of this modular grate system here) I also deployed the cast iron griddle insert for this cook to assist in frying up a little bacon there. This was going to be fun!
Slow it Down Partner!
I stayed calm however. This is the hallmark of good pit keepers. The ability to exercise patience in the face of slobber-slopping expectation. You want with all your might to dive in and get after it, but then you know if you do, the fun will be only shortly lived at best. The trick then is to stretch it out. To make the moment linger if but only for the moment’s sake. It’s a game we pit jockeys play with ourselves. And those who do not love to cook outside just won’t get it. And that’s OK.
So I paused momentarily, like deep thinkers do, relieved myself of a certain pending gas, and I lit another fire in the chiminea. A blaze just for show, really, and patron I believe to higher levels of pit ambiance. Nothing is quite so fine as dual fires in a spring time cook out. The aromas surround. The crackle and pop do too, port and starboard. It works. It also slowed me down to better savor the day, which was the whole point. Then, whence a heady blaze was kindled there, I finally put meat to flame and grunted semi-appropriately in that golden light.
You don’t need to be told how to grill a cheeseburger. We’ve discoursed on that art enough in a hundred other posts. I will say, however, and if possible, do your best to refrain from pressing the burger patty with your spatula or tong, like you see so many people do. The only thing this does is squirt flavor clear of your supper. I will also say, glory be to the pit jock who does up his bacon and onions also on the grill. These two ingredients truly made the feast. Bacon and onions done over the stove are good and all, but doing them over the grill, allowing the wood smoke to adhere to the greasy bacon and the fried onions, well, it’s enough to make a grown body weep. And top these comestibles on your pecan smoked cheddar cheese burger and toasted pretzel bun, and well, I don’t have to tell you that you have officially arrived. And all your supper guests will smile and burp aloud, with grease dripping off their chins, as they tarry there, plumply, from the vantage of a pit keeper. Amen.
It was a morning of slow-curling pillars of pecan smoke which tapered and twirled in the golden shafts of a rising sun. The tweety birds also were in full symphony, flirting in the naked dogwoods at the pond’s edge. And the breeze which sifted through the patio furniture was cool, but soft to the touch, with a tint of mildness lingering in the eddies; a heady sensation not privy to these parts in many moons. And the winter’s snow bounties are receding now, like an old man’s hairline. And there is grass. It’s not the best grass, but alas it’s grass no how, and say what you will, but in February in Minnesota, that is no small thing. I delight also in the way the snow courts the spruce trees yonder. Filling in between the needles. The contrast of green with pockets of white. It’s just a lovely time of year. A first hint of longer days.
Pulled Pork in Less Time With More Bark
On the pit this morning, awash in the early morning light, we have what might appear to be two handsome pork butts. But in point of fact, they are only one. One petite butt, actually, sliced in half. And the reasoning for this is something we’ve been experimenting with here at PotP Headquarters for some time.
You see, I’ve had to eat a few sandwiches for you people to figure this out, but alas, it’s a price for knowledge that I am willing to pay. I’m good with it. But it turns out you do not need to smoke a pork butt for 12 hours to accomplish effective BBQ. That is, I suppose, if you don’t want to. Because there are plenty of days I would just as soon take the scenic route like that, if for no other reason than I rather fancy the journey. But there is a secret bypass on the road to succulence. A route in detour slightly swifter, but just as edible. One that flirtatiously courts the ever-ebbing passage of time with the affable affinity and gentle premise of the tooth fairy. Lets go there, shall we. Lets do this!
The Power of Halves
By slicing your pork butt in half, what you have done, we figure, is reduced the cooking time by maybe a third. My calculations are crude, I admit, but it’s something like that. Smaller butts cook faster than bigger ones. It just stands to reason. What you have also done is increase the surface area. This opens up more acreage for more spice rub and further, more smoke penetration. And what all that means is, you’ll get more bark.And every pit jockey fancies more bark. All of this just from slicing your butt in half. So we sliced it.
The night before, in a zippered plastic bag, we marinated the pork in Kits KC BBQ Rub, from our friends over at Miners Mix. Meat and spice. It’s like hooking two lovely souls up on a highly engineered blind date. It just can’t help but to go swimmingly. We just let the flavors mingle the night long, and let nature take its course. To “get happy“, as they say, in the romantic, yet estranged confines of the refrigerator. And by golly, they did!
Or if you want to whip something up yourself, here is a basic rub recipe pretty amazing on pork.
Basic Pork Rub
- 1/4 cup Paprika
- 1/8 cup Fresh Ground Black Pepper
- 2 tablespoons Garlic Powder
- 2 tablespoons Onion Powder
- 1 tablespoon or more Cayenne Pepper
- 1/4 cup Coarse Salt
- 1/4 cup Brown Sugar
In the morning the meat was ready, already smelling amazing, and was plopped accordingly on the old kettle grill. Now, I would usually use the Weber Smokey Mountain for pulled pork, but again, I was in the experimenting mood. There isn’t much, after all, you can’t accomplish with a good kettle grill. The smoker is designed to hold a lower temperature, but you can do it on the Weber too. The trick with the kettle grill, at least the 18.5 that I used, is to build a smaller fire than usual. We’re talking just ten to fifteen briquettes, if that. Maybe a few unlit briquettes to sport a little Minion Method if desired. All this to keep the temperatures low, say around 250 degrees.
We tossed on a couple chunks of pecan wood, mostly because it’s the only wood we have in stock right now. Just so happens tho, pecan wood seems to go well with any meat you might wish to smoke. A fine all-around smoke wood. Anyways, we plunked on the old enameled lid, and went about our business. Namely that of tucking a periodical under the arm and sauntering into the little pit boy’s room for a spell. You know how it goes.
On an aside, we often get asked about our cast iron grates. They are from a company called Craycort, and might very well be the nicest thing you ever do for your Weber. Check them out on our Amazon affiliate link below. It helps keep a good company in business, gives us a wee kickback, and pretty much pimps out your kettle grill to the highest order. Sincerely, they are great grates!
*Rotate the butts 180 degrees every now and then for even cooking.
After the coals had nearly gone out, we checked under the lid and I noted I had gotten the color I was after. And that’s good enough. You don’t even need to take it’s temperature. That’s how easy this pulled pork is. And that’s all the further time the butt needs to spend on the pit. The next step is to plate them up temporarily, and ferry them inside and put them into…I can’t believe I’m saying this…but yes, put them into a….crock pot.
Now I know what you’re thinking. What would a patron of the pit be doing with a crock pot! Well, to answer that, I know what else you’re thinking. You’re thinking crock pots are awesome! Brilliant pieces of culinary technology worthy of enshrinement in various halls of fame and grandmotherly kitchens. Why wouldn’t a patron use one! And I agree. But let’s digress, shall we, to the day you were born.
Babies and Pork Butts
You see, those first couple of hours on the pit are not unlike a baby’s first two hours out of the womb. It is the golden period of maternal bonding and modern meat smoking alike. Not only are the first two hours after birth where a mother bonds intensely with her spore, but likewise, it is also where a man imprints with his meat! Okay, I got carried away there. What I’m really try to say is, your meat gets all the smoke it needs after the first two hours. In point of fact, I’ve read from multiple sources that a smoke ring is done forming around 140 degrees internal temp. Or about two hours. It just works that way. Any smoke after that point, technically, is wasted in kind. You can read more about such things, here, if you’re interested.
So the pork has all the smoke it needs after two hours on the pit. That’s the thing to remember here. It’s not done cooking. It has just received the high blessings of the pit, is all. It has been anointed in smoke. We then transferred it to the crock pot, with a few squirts of BBQ sauce, where upon and with the aid of modern crock pot wizardry, you simply leave it to it’s own devices. Bequeath it to the BBQ fates to fall apart as it will. And it will indeed at around 195 – 200 internal. And you do not need to take its temperature here either. Pulled pork in a crock pot is easy like that. Just let the meat speak to you. Use your pit master instincts. It will tell you when its done by its tender flanks submitting to the masterful glide of your fork, as succulent pieces of butt topple over itself into whetted pools of its own glorious juices. The crock pot really does take the guess work out of it. The babysitting. And when its done, it will even keep itself warm until supper. Golly! What utter decadence! It is like a Boeing 747 landing its self on autopilot, and the pit jockey need not raise a finger. And in the end, after you pull it into savory shreds, and stuff it into a good roll, you’ll have yourself some authentic, smoke house quality, BBQ pulled pork, succulent enough for the kings, fit for the pit master, and the crown jewel of your crock potting career. And it was easy too. Real easy, patron to the pit. Amen.
Savory pecan smoked pulled pork, with plenty of delicious bark. Patron to the Pit. Courtesy of the Kettle Grill/Crock Pot Hybrid System. Works real good. But tastes even better.
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*Another experiment, resurrecting a post from the archives. One of our lesser read pieces, that explains in part, I think, why it is we do what we do. Enjoy.
Blessings – PotP
I went out to the grill the other night, in routine fashion to tend the meat, and found myself for a time just standing there, staring into the hot, glowing coals. It was a crisp night, and the hea…
Source: Testament of a Grilling Geek
Well, it’s February. And it’s still winter in Minnesota. Tho the sun may tarry in the sky now a few minutes longer than it once did, signifying, perhaps, that the summer processes have begun, I’m here to say, you can’t really tell. It’s just plain cold out. Snow still courts our yard, it’s still dark when I come home from work, and there is a patch of ice on the driveway that I think has been there since Thanksgiving. But that’s Minnesota. And after a while you simply come to accept your deep freeze situation in life, and just make the best of it. Indeed, there comes a point in every Minnesotan’s winter campaign where they acknowledge to themselves and the rest of the free world, that it’s not going to get any warmer for a while, and that they for one are done complaining about it. Mostly.
A good example of what I mean was found on my routine food sortie to the local Cub grocery store. There outside the motion activated sliding doors perched this lovely ice sculpture. I guess I can’t tell you what it is tho. Looks something like a duck and a man merged together, and carrying a purse. It doesn’t really matter, I guess. What matters, like all good gifts, is the thought behind it. The poetic triumph of it all. For here stands a sculpture really of what it means to be Minnesotan. To be stuck in the cold for half the year. Nay, half of your life, when you think about it. It is at once an icy monolith to the power of positive thinking! It says that life in the ice box has not gotten this soul down. That they will make the best of it, regardless. Lemonade, if you will, wrought from winter’s harshest fruit. Yup, that ice sculpture was much more than the tangible work of a talented person. It is a symbol of sanity when everyone around you is losing theirs. Odd that you can gleam so much just going to the store for some chicken wings, but it is so.
Later that evening, speaking of chicken wings, I fired up the old Weber kettle grill for supper. One of the things I like to do, when the charcoal chimney is under fire, is give it a little whack on it’s side with the tongs, and watch how the sparks scatter into the night. Sometimes it makes for interesting photos. Sometimes not. But even so, I enjoy the artistic spray of sparks flashing against a dark, wintry sky. It soothes me.
There is also a certain comradeship amid the coals. They give off two things a winter bound pit keeper craves: light and heat. And oh what a joy it is on these frosty winter evenings to bandy close to a hemorrhaging bed of orange coals. To feel the heat rolling out of the pit. It takes the sting out of the cold night, and loosens a stiffened soul. And for a while at least, you are content in your dark little corner of the globe, managing your meat over this beautiful bed of briquettes. Even in the middle of a Minnesota winter, out on the patio in the cold, there is joy to be found, patron to the pit. Like so many hardy folk around here, you just have to make the best of it.
These wings were seasoned first in one of our favorite blends, Poultry Perfection, from the great folks at Miners Mix. They’ve been awful good to us, and it’s our privilege to thank them yet again for sharing their wares with us. True spice wizards if ever we’ve seen any. Anyways, at the end of the cook, we glazed over the wings with some Sweet Baby Rays as per custom in BBQ fare, whilst back inside, some banter of the bodacious sort was at hand.
My bride whipped up a hearty batch of Miners Mix Bodacious Bean Dip. Mercy, it’s good stuff, people, very tasty, and one box seems more than plentiful, I might add. A plentiful bean dipping Nirvana. Plentiful also in the after effects come bed time, for thy cotton sheets may billow as if hit by a soft summer breeze. I almost slept on the couch that night if not for the mercy of my lovely wife. But like most good Minnesotans, she too made the best of it. We all did. Mostly. And Amen.
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I thought I was a humble fellow, but I guess it turns out I’m not. It was just your run of the mill slab of pork ribs. Your basic kettle cook at 20 below. Truly, I thought nothing of it when my wife requested ribs for supper during a polar vortex. This is just what I do. Its who I am. And she knew it. However, in retrospect, I probably should have gone to McDonald’s for a Big Mac instead. Let me digress.
Indeed, the recent polar vortex to come through town put the kibosh on a great many outdoor activities. What with 20 below wind chills, it was a day obviously better suited for other endeavors besides the art of BBQ. But I had never gone sally with the elements before, leastwise where BBQ is concerned, and by golly, today wasn’t the day I would start. And the winds hurtled through the icy township with a divine authority that demanded respect. The good people of the world were huddled indoors, suckling hot cocoas and watching Netflix marathons. And then there was me. Fortunately, the Pond Side Pit was tucked into the gracious eddies of the house that which broke the keen and penetrating December wind. Well, for the most part it did. And there, amid my armory of Webers, I was able to make my stand.
I chose the Weber kettle as my tool of choice this smoke, for a couple of reasons. One, it’s small, and would require less fuel on this cold day to keep it hot. And two, I just didn’t feel like dumping ten pounds of charcoal into the Weber Smokey Mountain for one rack of ribs. As much as I love the WSM, it is rather the gas guzzling SUV of the meat smoking world. No matter, I was a Patron of the Pit. I had smoked ribs in the Weber kettle many times. This was old hat! Child’s play…
“Henceforth, I destroyed thy pork ribs with a vigor usually reserved for a nuclear detonation.”
They were hard, brittle, and crusty to the touch. Looked like the skeletal remains of a pet which did not make it clear of the house fire. It was bad. A chunk in hand could have maybe sufficed as a good charcoal pencil for the cave walls, that which I felt like I have just emerged from. Hark, it looked as if my elder brother had even come by and assisted me with my BBQ whilst I was not looking. Where did I go wrong?
What we learned
Well, for starters, I learned not to under-estimate the narcoleptic value of a good grandma blanket. Because that’s where I was for much of the smoke. Under a grandma in the living room, snoring like a brown bear whilst listening to football on the TV. It was an agreeable lifestyle. The kettle grill was left to its own devices out on the patio. I thought I had set it up for success. Turns out I had not. I had built the fires too hot inside it’s steely bosom. In an ill-guided miscalculation on my part, I figured somewhat logically, that because it was so cold out, I would counter the elements with a slightly larger fire. All this did however, was raise the pit temperature from pretty hot, to split-your-own-atoms, kind of hot. And thus incinerated my beloved ribs with all due effectiveness. Aw well. Live and learn, as they say. There’s always tuna fish sandwiches for supper.
A week has passed. Maybe a bit more than that. The new weekend was upon thee, and I had a span of clock available to smoke another rack of ribs if I wanted. Well, with my last efforts still dawdling on my mind like cigar smoke in the drapes, I wanted nothing more than to rectify my blunder, and set my status right again in the smokey community. To get this rancid flavor of defeat off my tongue. The temperature had risen now to a balmy zero degrees or something like that. The wind was low, in-effectively low, and the tweety birds were even active again, darting about the yellow block of suet I had set out for them. This is as good as it was going to get in a Minnesota winter. Like an aplinist siezing a window of proper weather in which to summit Everest, I knew I must act soon. And I knew this time I would do it right, and fire up the Weber Smokey Mountain.
Tho it uses moocho much fuel, one thing is for sure about the Weber Smokey Mountain. It works. And it works in the cold too. One heaping chimney full of orange glowing coals dumped into the center of a ring of unlit coals, as seen in the photo, is all it takes for a rack or three of ribs on any given day. The minion method is your friend here. That’s where the lit coals slowly light up the unlit coals, and those coals in turn light up other unlit coals, kind of like a chain re-action, thus employing a steady, even burn, to last many hours with out baby sitting. The WSM was soon established at 225 degrees, and it did not budge from this temperature the rest of the cook. I should have just done it right the first time, but you know how it goes.
To learn more about the minion method, we did a write-up years ago on that. It’s probably our most read article. Consume at your leisure is so inclined.
Meanwhile, we seasoned up the ribs with a splattering of Worcestershire sauce, and then liberally dusted it Kit’s K.C. BBQ rub from our friends over at Miner’s Mix. We’ve said it before, but we’ll say it again; if we had to be monogomous to one spice rub company, I do believe the Miners Mix crew would be our choice. Just love their flavors. Here’s a link to their stuff if you guys haven’t yet had the occasion.
Anyways, we put the ribs on the pit, bone-side down, and let them do their thing for two and a half hours at 225 degrees in a gentle cloud of pecan smoke. Then we foiled them with a little smearing of butter and BBQ sauce for one more hour. And I napped only cautiously this time, under my grandma blanket, hockey game on the TV, and listened to the calling of my pit master instincts, as the culinary end game drew nearer to thee. And like it does in winter, the night fell early over the land, as the old bullet smoker puffed stoically out on the patio. The aromas of a Carolina BBQ shack wafted over the crusty fields of blue-tinted snow, for which a slender moon hung silently above. I slipped into my shoes, and waddled out the patio door to check the tenderness of my spoils, jacket zipped tight, and there under the scant starlight of a cold winter’s eve, amid the sounds of sizzling pork and aluminum foil unwrapping, I knew as surely I had known anything before, that these ribs would at once be amazing. And furthermore, that I had been quitely redeemed. Amen.
Succulent pecan-smoked pork ribs redeemed from the jaws of a polar vortex. Very satisfying, both to the stomach and soul. Grill on! -PotP
*Found this essay hiding out in the PotP archives, covered in 2 inches of digital cyber dust. Never published. A story about a little cook-out from last spring, some good food, and some people there we met along the way. Enjoy.
It was a soft spring afternoon, under quiet gray skies, with a light drizzle dappling over the land and over the pond. I was out manning the pit of course, doing what pit keepers do, sizzling up a pan of bacon over the old patio stove. The tweety birds were out too, in full chorus I noted, despite the drizzle. And the Mallards milled poignantly in the pond, as always, indifferent to the inclement of weather. Anyways, we were having a bandy of people over today, to fellowship and commune over several pounds of perfectly grilled ground beef. Hamburgers that is. Burgers large enough to warrant their own zip code Okay, maybe not that big, but even so.
The ground beef was seasoned with a packet of Lipton Onion Soup Mix, which was thoroughly worked through all the protein. Massage it in there, people, and get your hands dirty! Divvy out into patties accordingly. I thought about stuffing a couple globs of pepper jack cheese into the center of the patties, for to sport a Juicy Lucy, but I felt lazy at the pit today. So I didn’t. A pit jockey’s freedom.
You all know how to grill a hamburger. Leastwise I hope you do. So we shall not indulge in the how-to’s of the game. I will mention to you however, the glories of a gently curling pillar of hickory smoke, wafting up out of the pit damper. Likewise, the wonderful, earthen aromas of grass and dirt on a wet day, and how it mingles so saintly with the pungency of lightly charred beef. And the Canadian geese yonder, afloat on placid waters, honking it up like the brass section of the high school band. Can’t say it sounds good, but I’m glad it’s there, I guess.
Among the guests to show up this eve, was a little lady I hadn’t had occasion to meet before. She was quiet most of time, keeping to herself, yet drawing mass attention like all babies do. I felt compelled to build her a hamburger. You know, to welcome her to the planet and all. It was a good one too. And I noticed after a fashion, that it was almost, but not quite, as big as her head. Relatively speaking, that’s a burger! Glory be the day that I meet up with such a plunder, as I have a rather larger than normal cranium as it is, or so I’ve been told. But this here baby, in truth, she was not all that impressed with my bountiful offering. She was no more amused with the hamburger than she was with the 42 inch mounted musky on the wall in the living room. Ah, ignorance is such a blinder.
And so we settled in for food, fellowship, and really big hamburgers patron to the pit. Burgers are at once easy to make, declicious to eat, and always seem to go over well feeding a crowd. They can assemble their own, and thus it becomes personal to them. That’s the magic of burgers. Add a chunk of mesquite wood or hickory to your coals during the cook to really up your game. It will propel your hamburger to the next level of smoky goodness, and all your people will rejoice in turn. Well, all that is except for those who don’t have any teeth yet. But what can you do? Amen.
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!
Rising from the murky waters of Louisiana there is hope. Resilience. Tho the tempest has howled, and the floods have washed much asunder, it will not wash away the human spirit, nor the ability to carry on. This photo was just too fantastic not to share. We do not know who these guys are, but a tip of the BBQ Tongs of Gold Award to these Gentlemen of the Grill. Comrades of the Coals. And Patrons of the Pit. In the words of Kipling, “You have kept your wits about you when all others are losing theirs“. Bless you, and prayers for drier days. Amen.
Two Men, Two Pits, and Forty Pounds of Yard Bird
It was early Saturday morning at the Track Side Pit. The song birds were singing as brightly as the warm, August sun, of which it’s golden shafts dropped with authority from an eastern sky, kissing the Petunias that which bordered the patio here. Soft music played on the pit speaker system, whilst the tall, leafy stalks of the track-side Mullen plants leaned in the morning breeze. Smoke curled off the freshly lit charcoal chimney, as I prepped the 22 inch Weber Kettle grill for action. My fellow patron, and caretaker of the Track Side Pit, patiently tinkered with his old, Char-Griller Outlaw, also prepping it for business. Yes indeed, a dual patron cook out was in progress. We love it when this happens. It is not often both co-founders of PotP bandy together to ply their craft in one locale. But we did this morning. We had things to do. Manly things. And we would do it together, by and far, as Patrons of the Pit. We would do it for Lee.
There is this BBQ chain that I rather admire, called Sonny’s BBQ. Many of the readership here have probably heard of it. Many have probably even partook of it. Sad to say I have never been there however, nor sampled their smokey wares. I’m sure the vittles are good tho, I don’t question that. But it isn’t their food so much that impresses me, even tho I know it would. Nay, it is their character, and in particular, this thing they do, called, Random Acts of BBQ.
What they do is find some one in the community who has been giving selflessly, of their time and talent to others. And doing so whilst asking for nothing in return. Just plain good people helping other people. Anyways, the team at Sonny’s BBQ cater a bunch of tasty BBQ to these folks, throwing a shin dig as just a way to say thanks, and to let them know they are appreciated. Pretty cool stuff. Well, figuring that there is no copyright on kindness, we here at PotP thought we’d dabble in the practice ourselves, and do something nice for some one else, who could use some good BBQ.
That some one is friend that goes to our church. She’s been through a rough time of it lately, rougher than most people I know, losing her husband, Lee, in a car accident last spring. It’s miserable stuff, but with grace handed to her from the Lord above, she’s managing through it alright. Life goes on, as you know, and here lately, she had to throw a graduation party for her daughter, and she needed a lot of meat grilled up for this. She needed help. And this is where a Patron of the Pit must answer his calling. This is what we’re born to do! And we were glad to do so.
40 pounds. That’s about how much chicken we had to grill up this morning. This would later be chopped up for a massive quantity of Chicken Caesar Wraps, sufficient enough in-part to feed a parade of hungry tummies. It’s a lot of chicken! And rotating between two pits: the 22 -inch kettle grill, and the Char-Griller Outlaw, we made it happen. Systematically cranking through it. Several chimneys of charcoal. Several lovely beverages. And four hours of good, meat-flipping comradeship. We were men, you see. Soldiers of the Smoke. And highly smitten for the day. What a pleasurable cook it was. And it started of course, with bacon.
No, the bacon was not an ingredient for the Chicken Caesar Wraps. Nay, it was for us! If you’ve not yet experienced the joys of breakfast at the pit, well you’re missing out on some of the finer moments of life. My fellow patron brought out his camp stove, and set it up pit-side, and in a few moments, the sounds and aromas of sizzling bacon were at play. That combined with a gaggle of fried eggs, a cup of coffee and some old fashion donuts, well, such set our bellies off right, here in the golden shallows of a morning sun.
So it was, batch by batch, we grilled our way through the morning hours, whittling away on the 40 pound pile of chicken breasts. It is not technical grilling. Anybody could do it. We seasoned each chunk in a light offering of salt, pepper and garlic. SPG as it’s called in the business. Then we placed them over direct heat to start, right over the coals, this to sear them a touch, and promote a moderate crust with lovely bits of char. And when this was completed on both sides, the breasts were then escorted by tong in hand over to the other side of the grill, opposite the hot coals, and there they would finish out the remainder of the cook, and their journey to excellence. And we did our best of course, not to get in the way of that.
Indeed, once we found our rhythm, we settled down into our patio chairs when appropriate, legs crossed like gentlemen of leisure, and just watch the smoke pillar from from our grills. Sunbeams broke through the deck above us, illuminated in smokey shafts. Tweety birds sweetly serenaded us from afar, and the grass yonder never looked so green. The children frolicked in the sand box, and you could almost hear the garden growing right beside us. We looked at each other and smiled. Nary a word was said, or needed to be said. We both knew we had arrived. Doing precisely that which is well with our souls. What a beautiful day to grill something. And what a better day yet, to do something helpful for someone else. And to let them know that they matter, and that we’re here for them, by and by.
This one’s for you, Lee. And the little lady. Blessings. And amen.
What God the Father considers to be pure and genuine religion is this: to take care of orphans and widows in their suffering and to keep oneself from being corrupted by the world.
– James 1:27