Competition barbeque champion Troy Black didn’t have a great week in Arkansas, at least not until the last night.
On Monday, Jan. 25, the award-winning ‘que chef and Southern Living “BBQ on Tour” spokesperson rolled into town in his competition rig, doing the media circuit for his “Learn2Q” class at the Pulaski Technical College Arkansas Culinary School, which was scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 30.
And then, the cold came.
After shivering in his underinsulated trailer all week, the campus ended up being closed on Saturday, delaying his class until Monday of this week (Feb. 1). And that morning, while cooking the last of the savory smoked meats for the class to sample, his competition smoker burst into flames when the extreme cold clogged its grease drain. (Black said the manufacturer has cited a malfunction and agreed to replace the smoker.)
Nevertheless, about 100 hungry barbecue fans and wannabe competitors gathered to hear Black’s musings on smoke, rubs, cuts, cookers and clashes with classically-trained chefs.
Black brought the crowd into his world of competition barbeque, recently made more popular by the TLC show, BBQ Pitmasters. He knows all the folks on the show, and he’ll even tell you which one his wife avoids at competitions because of his language (if you watch the show, you can guess).
Making the information more relevant to the home cook, Black went through every conceivable smoker type and price range. His favorite for home smoking was the Weber Bullet (also known as the Smokey Mountain Cooker), in the $300 price range for the 18.5 inch model. He also referenced the homemade terra cotta model made by Alton Brown on Good Eats, which made this writer and Alton fan very happy.
He also covered which hardwoods to use, and what meat that wood pairs with best. He said to always avoid any sort of fuel-based firestarter when lighting a smoker as it can impact the flavour. He spoke highly of these bear mountain pellets and said pellets like these can add an extra flavour to your meat.
As for sources, Black generally shuns specialty stores for product, getting most of his competition meat and spices at Sam’s Club. For ribs, he recommends baby back style for beginner home cooks, but also demonstrated preparation of St. Louis and spare ribs. He also prepared brisket and pulled pork for the audience, which hastily took notes and devoured samples.
“They usually don’t teach barbecue in culinary school,” Black said, referencing a difference in the way barbecuers and classically-trained chefs view the cooking process. “Even at the Culinary Institute of America, where the Bobby Flays of the world come from, it’s a one-hour course.”
Black will return to North Little Rock next month for the USA Barbecue Championship at Smoke on the Water, a national barbecue competition and festival to be held March 19 – 20. The event boasts the barbecue circuit’s largest prize purse at $100,000.
Black promoted the upcoming release of his DVD, Real BBQ Know-How, which he created with a Food Network producer, as well as an upcoming barbecue book produced by Southern Living, to be released in April. Also, after seeing an unexpected great interest in competition tips, Black said he’d attempt to schedule a session of his “Road to the Winner’s Circle” competition class in the Little Rock area. Updates, as well as recipes and other info, are available at Black’s website, Learn2Q.com.
- Buy a good knife for meat preparation; Black recommends the Victorinox Butcher Knife. He also recommends a serrated knife with curved teeth for cutting finished product.
- Only use pure charcoal (he recommends Royal Oak or Kingsford briquettes) or natural lump charcoal (excluding any brands labeled “South American hardwood”).
- Allow rubs to sit on meat for about 10 minutes before smoking.
- Most meats cook at 250 degrees F. in the smoker. Generally, the more expensive smokers maintain temperature better.
- 1 cup dark brown sugar (pourable style if you can find it)
- 1/2 cup granulated garlic
- 1 cup paprika
- 1/2 cup kosher salt
- 2 T granulated onion
- 2 T cayenne powder
- 2 T chipotle powder
- 2 T sweet ancho pepper (found at Mexican markets)
- 1 T chili powder
- 1 T ground cumin
- 1 T black pepper
- 1 T dry mustard
Mix well and sprinkle liberally over Boston Butt (pulled pork) or ribs before smoking. Can be stored in cool, dry place for 3-4 months.
Pork Finishing Sauce
- 1/2 cup white vinegar
- 2 c apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 cup apple juice
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1 T kosher salt
- 2 tsp fresh ground pepper
- 1/2 tsp cayenne powder
- 1/2 tsp paprika
Cook just until a boil and remove from heat. For use on pulled pork. Can be stored for several months in the refrigerator.
- 3/4 cup paprika
- 1/4 cup coarse ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup kosher salt
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 2 T chili powder
- 2 T granulated garlic
- 2 T granulated onion
- 2 T ground cumin
- 2 tsp. cayenne powder
Mix well and sprinkle over brisket before smoking. Can be stored in cool, dry place for 3-4 months.
- 1 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 cup ketchup
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 cup worcestershire sauce
- 2 T unsalted butter, melted
- 1/2 T onion powder
- 1/2 T granulated garlic
- 1/2 T cumin
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
- 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
When brisket is finished (205 degrees internal temp), remove from cooker and place in foil. Pour in a slurry of one cup beef broth and two tablespoons of the above sauce. Rewrap and hold until serving, at least 10 – 15 minutes for juices to redistribute. Slice and serve with more sauce as desired.