Indy 4-8-17 (Missed Que)

WOW I can’t believe it’s been over 1 year since we’ve competed. We took a little hiatus last year due to needing some good old family time and to vacation a little bit in the new camper. After some talking Leslie and I agreed we needed to get back out to compete. We’ve missed the friends we’ve met and the thrill of the competition in itself. We only had 1 issue to consider, what are we going to cook on?

A little history first. With the purchase of a new 5th wheel camper, we lost the ability to tow our offset cooker with us. This forced us to think of different options. One of those options was to go with UDS cookers. It would create a new challenge for me. I would have to learn a new cooker, a new timeline and a new logistical strategy. I like to say, “It’s not fun if it’s too easy”. I’ve had the opportunity to cook on the BPS UDS smoker (smoker #1) at home several times and found it to be a useful tool. The problem was I couldn’t do all of my meats on just 1 cooker, 4 would be ideal, but 2 would suffice. So I purchased one from Sweet Smoke Q (Smoker #2).

Once I got it, I only had time to cook each meat category once on it and tried to put together a workable timeline off of that before our first competition. Seemed simple enough. I knew how to cook, just needed to learn how to time it.

Everything seemed to be theoretically doable.

With any BBQ competition, I get superstitious, and do things a certain way. Good thing, though, is when things go bad, they seem to work out in our favor. Read any of my previous competition blog posts and you can tell. This time is was no different.

About 2 weeks before the competition, I find out we have a water leak in the camper. So I almost cancel our entry not knowing how bad it was going to be. Thankfully it was an easy and quick fix.

Then Leslie had a death in the family. We were ready to call it off, but she heard him tell her “Hey kiddo go ahead and do it.” just as though he was sitting beside her. That set it for her and I.

Tuesday tradition consisted of getting my haircut by Logan Vance. Packing up the remainder of things and relaxing.

This time something wasn’t quite right. The normal pre-comp anxiety never presented itself. I was calm and collect for the most part. Maybe this was going to be a good thing. I kept thinking about the sleep I was actually going to get using the UDS instead of a wood burning offset. I was OK with that.

Thursday morning brought a little bit of anxiety, the local grocery stores were all having problems securing green leaf lettuce due to crop damage in the south. This left us scrambling to find an alternative. Luckily the KCBS changed their rules and allow kale to be used as a garnish. The problem with that is that we have never used it before and didn’t know how to make a box with it. Thankfully Eric Ferguson was willing to take us under the wing per se and show us how they build their kale boxes. What a relief.

We headed out on Thursday without much of a hitch, the only real bit of concern was the 25 mph winds, near freezing temps and a rain that seemed to be tears of laughter coming from up above. This is setting up to be a fantastic contest. As we were cruising along I-70 we were finally allowed to give our brake system the test it deserved. Somebody didn’t comprehend how to merge into traffic, causing the HD dump truck ahead of us to lock his brakes and in return caused me to do the same all while being glad there wasn’t any young ears in the truck to hear my vocabulary.

Make it the comp and get greeted by Aaron like we were family. I have been to very few, if any, competitions that have welcomed us so well.

Our spot was very convenient and as always had the utilities close by.

Normally we like to get to comps on Thursday because it gives us a chance to hang out and talk BBQ with everyone else without worrying about what we have to get done. This day wasn’t like that, the weather seemed to be stronger than the desire to socialize. The 10 teams or so that were there seemed to stay hunkered up in their comfortable spaces. We did the same though. With how much we were in there and the amount of movement the camper did from the wind, everyone probably would think we were newlyweds if they didn’t know any better.

Friday began our normal routine, coffee, breakfast from the competition as well as a lunch. If I hadn’t said it enough in the past, maybe one more time might help, this comp sets the bar.

We even had a surprise visitor from a team we befriended about 4 yrs ago. Had only met him once and when he realized we were there, he said he had to come over to say hi. Thanks Shawn that really made the day.

Friday night we started our cook and everything seemed to be going OK. One thing I hadn’t factored in was how much of an impact the weather would have on the cookers. My plan was to shoot for 325* on both of them. Smoker #1 was running about 350ish, the pork would spend the night there. It always seems to be the meat that struggles to follow a timeline. Smoker #2 struggled to hit 300* and only ran at about 250 with a fan trying to control it. That was making me a bit nervous.

About 4 hours into the cook, I noticed the temperature on smoker #1 was slowly dropping, sure enough out of charcoal. So I started another basket full of charcoal and wrapped the butts. The butts looked kinda odd this time, almost like a ham, there was no real bark on them. I hadn’t done anything really different to them. The only thing that was unusual is that they had been in a deep freeze for about a year or so. I wouldn’t think that would have played a factor, however, I have had some atypical things happen in the past.

Brisket and butts came off and the smaller meats went on. I tried to wait as long as I could to put the ribs on because the new basket of charcoal on smoker #2 was still burning a bit unclean. Time was passing along and I had to gamble it. 2 hours into it at 250* they were wrapped and 1 hour later they were over-cooked *&$#&*, if you have read any of my other posts, you’ll note this is a common thing. I swear I could probably over-cook my ribs in 30 minutes.

Chicken was coming along slowly and actually thought that I might not have it done in time for turn-in time. About 15 minutes before time to make up the box, they hit their temperature. Boxed them up and sent them in.

Indy chicken

I thought it tasted really good and would meet all of the requirements. Even the breast was moist and had one bite flavor.

Next up was ribs. I was hoping that they would have tightened up just a bit to get them turned in and salvaged.

Nope, I struggled to find enough to make a box. Normally like to get 8 in an entry, but could only find 6. The flavor wasn’t good and you could taste the bad smoke on it. Despite what the comment card says, the sauce was not burnt. You can’t burn sauce that never enters the cooker, just saying.

Indy Ribs

This is starting to make me loose my faith in how we were going to do. They were so tender that just touching some of the ribs with a knife caused them to break apart. Ribs got a majority of the comment cards and I couldn’t disagree with them.

Pulled our pork out to start breaking it down. It was tender, but drier than an 8 hour lecture on the evolution of America’s water treatment process. It was so bad that I couldn’t even swallow it. I considered just sending in a box of money muscle alone, but Leslie convinced me to sauce up some pulled and add it to the box. Guess what I forgot to do? Cover my cut up money muscle for the 10 minutes I struggled to figure out what I was going to do with the pulled. Add in 50* temps and that makes for a cold entry. Nothing I can do about it now, send it it off.

Indy Pork


At this point I am about fed up and just want to be done. Even Leslie mentioned that I just didn’t look like I was in a groove. The cook hadn’t gone anything like I had wanted it to, I slept less running the drums than I had running the stick burner and I still hadn’t had a shower.

Oh well let’s get brisket over and done with.

Got the brisket out and got it sliced up, forgot to add the burnt ends back on the heat to caramelize up a bit and made an entry out of it.

Indy Brisket

The flavor, I thought, was a great beefy flavor with a taste of the rub. Tenderness was about perfect, but what do I know I’m just a cook.

The relief came after that last box went in. Tired, stressed and a feeling of disappointment had me just wanting to go isolate myself for a bit. I can’t say how much I appreciate my wife for all of the work she puts in at the end of a competition.

Award time finally came around, not that I was looking forward to it, but was just ready to go home. We sat down with our newly made BBQ friends from BBQ Jedi and listened to a really good christian band from the Indiana Bible College.

The teams started to get called up to the stage one by one, and one by one my thoughts on my cook were confirmed. Deep down I was hoping my entries found tables that were generous with their scores, but that never happened.

As I went up to get our scores, it appeared that just about every score sheet had comment cards attached to them. That is actually a really nice thing to see. Good or bad, we like to hear it, we may not agree with it, but it is still nice to hear.

We looked our’s over and it confirmed what we thought, my cooking was that bad. Out of 45 teams here’s how we finished up.

Chicken – 17th 167.3828

Ribs – 44th 144.5260

Pork – 31st 159.9540

Brisket – 36th 153.6456

Overall – 35th 625.5084

I honestly can’t think of a time when we have ever scored that low. I guess it is back to the training block for me. I never thought I would have had that much trouble with a cook, but I guess it happens. Just bites knowing what we were capable of doing in the past and what we did on this cook. I know what I say about fun and being too easy, I just wish it didn’t have to be too hard.

Well I guess I should stop rambling and get to cooking. Hope to see everyone again and to meet some new people.




What a difference a breed makes.

If you spend any time around a competition cook it won’t be long before the topic of brisket and what grade to use. Then add into that discussion what breed of cattle to shop for. You’ll get a wide variety of answers depending on who you talk to.

When we started competing I gave myself a very small budget. If it wasn’t necessary it wasn’t being purchased. This was even applied to the meats. I showed up basically with the bare minimum (1 choice brisket, 1-2 commodity butts, 2 slabs of spare ribs and 10-12 thighs). Looking back I can see this as a bit risky, one small screw up and the cook was over.

Recently the conversation of Wagyu beef came up again and is it really worth the cost. It’s a hard cost to swallow, pun intended, when compared to the price of prime and even more so, choice beef. I take in a lot of advice and sort though any bias and try to come to a reasonable decision. That decision was made a bit easier when Snake River Farms changed their pricing and shipping. It sits a bit easier when shipping is only $9.99 compared to $30 or more. So I pulled the trigger and placed an order. My plan was to cook a SNF brisket against a prime using the identical methods and flavors. This would be the only way to truly tell if there was a difference.

The wagyu arrives already wet aged for 28 days, so that matches up pretty close to the prime’s wet age time that I put it through. It did arrive frozen so a few more days in the refrigerator were need. I ordered the 11-14 lb range briskets.

I was impressed right out of the box. Both were in the 13 LB range and the marbling was amazing. The flats looked a bit on the thin side. There have been several people voice their displeasure with the thickness of the flats, but I have also heard that they tend to thicken up while cooking.

brisket 1


I opened up the packaging on both test briskets and again was impressed with the Wagyu. Very little excess fat on the meat side. The color was amazing. It was bright red and looked like it was freshly cut off of the cattle.

brisket 3

I then did the same with the Prime. (Note: this was a rejected brisket from our competition selection based on it’s size. It was an 8.71 LB and looked to be missing a good chunk of the flat.) Huge difference in the amount of fat. The color was more of a purple color.

brisket 4


I planned on an 8 hour cook using 1 UDS. I like to get some sleep every now and then. This would hopefully have the briskets done by lunch time. I had also been advised by a few cooks to watch the Wagyu as it likes to cook pretty fast and cook it hotter than you normally would. The temp suggestion kinda disappointed me as my UDS holds a temp of 250 without any problems. At 3 am the meat went on, with my new Thermoworks oven thermometer and it’s a good thing to.

The plan was to wake up at 7 to check on them and wrap. Leslie woke up at 6 to let the dogs out and noticed the temp on the small prime brisket was at 205.

Holy crap!!!! a 3 hour brisket how is that possible? I know the Wagyu would cook faster but not the prime. I guess the prime felt like showing off and tried to act like a Wagyu. That’s fine as long as it tastes better.

brisket 6

It’s possible because I am assuming with all the fat dripping off it must have spiked the temp to 325. Go thing the Wagyu was only at 170.

brisket 5

I went ahead and wrapped the Wagyu and planned for another few hours before worrying about it.

WRONG AGAIN!!!!! 7:30 am and the Waygu is done at 210.

brisket 7

Well I guess they’ll just have to rest a bit longer.

Now it comes down to the bread and butter of it all. How did they compare to each other?

Prime – The point was perfectly tender, but the flat seemed to be a bit tough. Flavor was about typical, except for the burning grease smoke flavor in the background. It wouldn’t have been an issue on the offset.

Wagyu – The point still needed about another hour or so, but the flat was perfect. Laid over the finger with a bit of separation. The flat did thicken up to about 1 1/2 – 2 inches. The flavor was outstanding. Great beef flavor without the pot roast flavor. Very moist.

Sorry I didn’t get pictures of the finished products.

So with that said would I switch to Wagyu? You betcha, as long as the budget allows it and the payout justifies it. I’ll try another one in the offset to try and get a better time on it while maintaining the temp a tad better.

Connect, dress, spray. Repeat

I’m not saying, just saying. I tend to do a fair amount of BBQ’n at home. I have burnt through 2 smokers in the short time that I have been smoking food. So I was currently out of a small cooker for personal use. I still had our large offset that I could use when the need for Que had to be fulfilled, but that needed a lot of wood and time for just a small amount of food. So what happens when you come across a problem? You create a solution.

My solution was building a UDS. For those of you that don’t know, a UDS is an abbreviation used for “Ugly/upright Drum Smoker”. These smokers are made from 55 gallon barrels.

55 gallon barrel 

If you aren’t lucky/rich enough to acquire an unused barrel that doesn’t have a liner in it AND has only been used for food products, then this is where the fun begins. For my project I located 2 barrels that were used for food, but had a liner in them. So the liner needed to be removed or the potential for nasty flavors would end up in the food. There are typically 3 options to go about this.

Option #1 Burn the liner out: While creating fire is a hobby I enjoy, I don’t particularly want to spend a bunch of time and wood burning out a liner. Scratch that idea.

Option #2 Grind the liner out: Sorry, say what you want but that just sounds like too much manual labor and too much time.

Option #3 Use a sand blaster: Now we are talking. Power tool, plus low physical activity, plus quick. How is this NOT the only option?

After making a call, because I have never used a sand blaster, much less own one, I borrowed one from a co-worker. He tells me that it is pretty simple and easy. Hook it up to an air compressor, turn the valves on in order, squeeze the handle and blast away. Oh yeah this is going to be so much fun. He did warn me about protective clothing.

I was getting excited. Within a day I will be creating a smoker.

Game on barrels!!! Prepared to be bare metal.

I loaded up the barrels and the sand blaster and off to work I went.

After getting everything done around the station I recruited my partner and got ready to blast the barrels. I even went and bought a hood and gloves. I surely don’t want to get hurt. Once everything was hooked up, I proceeded to get dressed with a sweatshirt, hood and leather gloves. That is pretty warm when it is in the 50s-60s.

Let’s do this. Air is flowing and I hear a brief 1/2 second sound of media hitting the barrel. Nothing.

No problem, he said it might have settled a bit. Get undressed, shake the blaster, get dressed and spray. Nothing!

OK frustration is starting to build. This is suppose to be the simple way of doing it. Maybe the hose or valve is clogged. Get undressed, disassemble the hose and unclog it. Put everything back together, get dressed again, turn it on and another 1/2 second of spray. Damn you blaster!!! DAMN YOU!!! Maybe we missed a clog somewhere, the scene of Clark Griswald standing outside with his son asking if they checked all of the bulbs came to mind.

After numerous repeats and lack of success. I finally gave in and said forget it. The picture below shows the progress that was made. Notice the barrel on the right with the silver dot next to the logo? That’s progress.


I got home the next day and took the barrels out back to have a “wienie roast”. I forgot to pick up the hot dogs. Oh well I am not going to let that little detail stop me. Let the creation of fire begin!!


Within no time  we had more progress than I had made all morning the day before.


That there is paint burning off <try using the voice of Hank Hill with that comment>.

After nearly 4 hours +/- we were nearly complete. But still had a little at the top of the can.

I called the friend that loaned me the blaster and he thought it might not have had a big enough tip. That was reassuring, so I didn’t worry about anymore burning.

With a new larger tip on the blaster, it was off to work again. This time we had a bit more success, about 2 seconds worth of progress each time.

I finally had enough progress to be satisfied with the results and move the project to the paint booth.

After about 3 coats one of the cookers was ready.


The other one could use another coat or two.

Next: The build

Franklin, IN

This past weekend was our 4th competition for the season and another new one for us. This event was held in downtown Franklin IN around their square. The location was about as great as it can get, newly asphalted parking lot & water/power ran right to you. Trashcans were provided right at our site and porta potties were within a short walk. The staff was extremely helpful with making sure we had what we needed, including all the free ice we could melt.

I learned that you can tie a canopy to a heavy object, but that doesn’t guarantee it won’t fly away. The wind played havoc with us all weekend, just as soon as we thought it died down another wave of wind would develop. At least the rain stayed away for the most part until Saturday afternoon. My poor wife, the turn in person, had to make a makeshift poncho. Who would have thought to bring clothing for rain weather? Oh yeah I do remember vowing not to make that mistake again.

Chicken has been a frustrating category for us this year. No matter what we seem to give the judges they let us know their disapproval. This time we tried a new injection and a modified technique that we really liked on Tuesday. After we sorted through the choices, we built our box and sent the chicken in. We did our ritual taste test and to be honest we weren’t that happy with it. Talk about taking any wind out of sails for the remainder of the event. I was totally bummed and even Leslie said how she couldn’t believe how upset I looked. But there was still a comp to finish.

Ribs had looked pretty good when we trimmed them. During the cook they seemed to cook faster than I wanted them to. Not sure if  I have a thermometer issue or if it was just the ribs. I took them off an hour early to save them from being totally overcooked. At turn in, we cut them and could tell that some were definitely overcooked, we tried to select the ones that would be less offensive and filled the box. Upon tasting them, they seemed to be pretty much on the money for what we were hoping for.

When we went shopping for our pork butts I noticed that they didn’t seem to have great “money muscles” and were on the smaller size (13-14 Lb) cryo-vacs. I usually like to get 16-18 Lb packages. Once we prepped them the money muscles looked better. We tried a new injection this time and initially I had reservations about the taste of it, but what the heck. I was able to get 3 out of 4 butts injected before I gave up on clearing clogs from the injector. Which kinda worked in my favor, if I didn’t like the flavor of the injected butts I always had a back up. The butts cooked great and at turn in the injected ones made the cut. We liked them so much that they only got a drizzle of sauce.

The brisket, once out of the plastic, had me a little concerned. The flat was thin and not a lot of marbling. During the cook it seemed to cook fine, but could never get the burnt ends done to my satisfaction. Brisket has been a big category for us this year so we had high hopes again. This time all we turned in was the flat.

During awards we were getting excited because they were handing awards to the top 10. We have been hitting that area with our brisket so I thought for sure I was bringing something home.

After all the names were called we ended up not hearing our’s once. Talk about a disappointment. Leslie followed the routine and got our results from the reps. Here is how we finished:

Out of 32 teams

Chicken – 22nd (157.7142)

Ribs – 25th (151.4286) comment card said they were overcooked. We kinda knew that. We could have hit 15 th place had we hit our mark on tenderness.

Pork – 16th (162.8568)

Brisket – 19th (158.8570)

Overall – 21st (630.8566)

To see how we stand in the KCBS click here for our standings. This is out of 4500 teams

As usual we had a great time meeting new teams and we even had a great compliment. One of the teams that have a lot of respect for came up to us and gave us a compliment on how good our sauce was. The head cook also had given us a compliment on how good our food was. He had been at a judging class that we cooked for. It’s little things that like that can make up for not hearing your name called in front of everyone else. Thanks Gary.

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Dwain Dixson
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PB&PA unit #11
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Downtown Danville Inc.

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Father’s Day treat

In the few days leading up to Father’s Day my wife asked if I had given any thought as to what I wanted to do. Honestly I hadn’t really thought much about it. With my schedule we just usually try to squeeze in memorable activities as we can. She then suggests that maybe we could go to a neighboring city and eat at a BBQ restaurant. What was she thinking? I mean seriously, you want me to drive 30 miles to eat BBQ? There is nothing special about that. If we are going to drive for BBQ let’s DRIVE for some BBQ. I throw out the thought of going to one of the restaurants that I follow on Facebook, They’re in the city that I really have no interest in visiting very often, Chicago. But what the hell, it’s for great BBQ, I can suffer.

The morning of Father’s Day started off great, I wasn’t up all night running emergency calls so I was well rested for the 3 hour drive ahead of us. I figure we’d head out by 9-9:30 and be up there at lunch, head home and have leftovers ( if we had any) if not then I’d cook out on the grill.  As I got home I noticed the only person up was my wife, what the heck? Why isn’t everyone meeting me at the truck asking when are when are we going, when are we going, when are we going? I found it hard to believe that I was the one that had been looking over their menu for the last 2 days debating what to get. But that seems to have been the case.

Once the kids were up and dressed, and myself cleaned up we hit the road @ 10:00. Not that big of a delay we can still eat by 1:00 and home by 5:00. In case you didn’t know, I am horrible about timelines just ask my mom.

On our way up my wife asks me “Isn’t there going to be a lot of traffic”, I responded with sound confidence ” Nope, it’s a Sunday. If there is traffic it will be moving and not bumper-bumper”.

We hit the Dan Ryan at about 1:00 and suddenly the ease of forward progress came to a screeching halt. This had better be some great BBQ for this amount of hassle.


Yup that there is brake lights, Clark.

After about 1 1/2 hours of this and numerous “are we there yet” style of comments, we finally were able to do the speed limit.

At about 3:00 we made it to Rub’s Backcountry Smokehouse. First thing we noticed was the smell of smoke in the neighborhood. A nice sweet smell that started the mouth watering and the stomach juices pumping.

Parking is something that, like I’m sure everyone in Chicago, not real common/easy to come by. I guess I am a spoiled small town kind of guy. We had to park about 1 1/2 blocks away in a residential area. Which probably was a good thing, I am going to need a bit of exercise to burn off all of the calories that I am about to dominate.

As we walk up to the front door, nothing but smiles are on my face. This isn’t a fancy foo foo “BBQ restaurant” this is what a real “BBQ restaurant” is suppose to look like. Nice sturdy wooden tables, brick & wooden walls and the smell of BBQ throughout the air. All this in a small cozy environment.

As we entered we were greeted with smiles and told apologetically that there was a short wait of about 10 minutes. Really you think that is a problem? Heck you just impressed me, at 3:00 you still are busy.

We were seated not too long after we were told about the wait and were handed our menus, not that I needed one, in case you forgot I have been planning this meal for 2 days. Drinks were served in mason jars, that ‘s another plus.

Our waitress returned and took our order. Leslie got the brisket melt, Alexes got the salad (no surprise there, she is a bbq restaurant token vegetarian), Kobi got the BBQ nachos and I got the “Big Guys Meal” ( 1/4 Lb pork, 1/4 Lb brisket, 1/4 Lb chicken and 3 rib bones) this came with their cole slaw and home made potato chips.

big guy meal


I liked that the meat came un-sauced because I feel it shows confidence in your cooking ability. I being a person that understands the cooking process felt it appropriate and respectful to taste the meat without the 4 varieties of sauce on the table.

Let’s start with the pork- The pork tenderness was fantastic. A bit on the dry side though and not a lot in the way of flavor. Not bad but not great either.

Chicken- Reminded me of the white meat on thanksgiving day, a bit dry and powerful herb flavor. Not what I would describe as a “BBQ chicken” more of an oven baked herb chicken.

Brisket- the flavor of the brisket was very nice. Had a good beef flavor, but I didn’t taste any rub flavor. A little disappointed with that. It was a tad on the chewy side. Definitely something that I would order again.

Ribs- tenderness was perfect. The dry rub was a nice change, a little peppery. I was kinda hoping for a sweeter rub, but it was very good as it was.

Potato chips- excellent. They are everything you look for in a chip. Not overly salty, nice and crisp.

Cole slaw- Very good slaw. It was a vinegar based slaw with very good sweet accents. The chopped apple was a welcomed unexpected surprise.

I was hoping to get a tour of the pit room, but they were in the process of adding another monster pit to help with the customer demand. Can you believe that that they are already looking to expand after recently doing so.

If you are in the area and want some BBQ I would definitely recommend stopping by and getting a bite to eat.

Oh yeah, I never made it home in time to cook on the grill. Probably a good thing because I don’t think I could have ate any more.

Sex isn’t all we think about.

I’m sure it’s not to hard to do a search on what men are thinking and the popular answer would be sex. There are some men out there that aren’t so simpleminded, I include myself as one of those men. What do we think of then? BBQ. Doubt me? Just ask my wife. I figure at least 80% of my day is spent on how I cook, when I cook and who I cook for. With a wide spectrum of history in BBQ it is hard not to. I started, as most men, grilling the backyard. Learning from many newbie/uneducated errors, but easily correctable ones, until I didn’t make my family dread BBQ nights. I have progressed through the ranks, up to professional competitor/caterer/sauce creator.

Today alone, I have thought about what to cook for Mother’s Day. That menu has changed 3-4 times, Our upcoming competition next weekend, time to clean out our cooker, next month’s wedding, tonight’s dinner, when to pick up supplies for the upcoming competition, how nice it would be to open a restaurant and how great it will be to spend the night with my wife (OK there are some thoughts of adult activities that go through my head).

BBQ is more than just throwing some meat on a grill, drinking a couple of beers and then eating. There is a world out there that is eager to teach about techniques, flavors and equipment. Want to really know what goes through an obsessive BBQr’s mind, take a minute, scratch that, take a day and google BBQ or join a forum. You are going to be amazed at everything that you didn’t know about BBQ.