This week on Destination America, the BBQ Pitmasters demonstrated that sometimes a culinary background doesn’t help your chances when you are competing with the best in the business.
This week, BBQ Pitmasters headed to Mobile, AL, for the 12th Annual Hog Wild Festival. Judges Myron Mixon and Tuffy Stone were joined by Alabama BBQ legend Chris Lilly, pitmaster of Big Bob Gibson’s Bar-B-Q and author of Big Bob Gibson’s BBQ Book—and he was ready for some great BBQ.
“Welcome to Alabama; you’re on my turf now,” Judge Lilly offered. “And, if you can’t make good BBQ out of what’s in that cooler, I’m not gonna be scared to tell you.”
Welcome to Alabama, indeed!
This week, the pitmasters had a whole chicken and a whole pork shoulder. The three competitors were:
- Mark “Pig Daddy” Little of Team Bib’s, bringing his family’s North Carolina BBQ heritage to Alabama.
- Chuck Baker of Barrel House BBQ, hailing from Lynchburg, TN, a mason-turned-barbecuer.
- Sara Horowitz of Nacho Mama, a professional French chef challenging these pitmasters with her culinary expertise.
Inject Or Rub?
To inject pork or not to inject? The judges agreed “yes,” but the pitmasters did not necessarily agree.
Pig Daddy opted for no injection, but brought a great rub to the table, looking for a tasty bark; Chef Sara also went for a rub; and Chuck went for a rub on the Boston butt and an injection in the picnic ham, cutting the whole shoulder into the separate pieces.
The injection, Chuck said, was Tennessee whiskey and cola, along with a shot of their rub. “The whiskey and the cola together, it just does something special,” he said. Of course, not surprisingly, their competitors did not agree.
“That ain’t good. I think that’s animal cruelty,” Pig Daddy suggested.
Whole chickens can be a tough one for even skilled pitmasters, and this time around, the teams had to supply the judges with both white and dark meat, to demonstrate their mastery—or lack of it—with the whole bird.
“I think the smart thing here,” Judge Lilly said, “would be to part the chicken before it hits the grill,” which would give the pitmasters the ability to control the cook on the different parts of the chicken. Judge Mixon also suggested that not going too spicy on the chicken would be a good way to go. “I like honey powder in my rubs,” he said.
Pig Daddy had a unique chicken technique: coating the skin of the chicken with mayonnaise before adding the rub to keep the skin crispy.
But, Did It Work?
Pig Daddy’s chicken was deemed “underseasoned,” but well-liked overall; Chuck’s chicken was overdone, according to the judges; and Chef Sara’s entry was brought down by a dry “lollipop” drummie she added to the box, attempting to give the judges something unique.
The whole pork shoulder was a winner for Pig Daddy, with all three judges agreeing that the BBQ in that box was cooked by a skilled pitmaster; the judges seemed to agree that Chuck’s entry had too much tomato taste in the sauce, but the pork itself was well-flavored; for Chef Sara’s box, the bark was bitter, according to Judge Stone, and some was a bit overcooked, according to Judge Mixon, but Judge Lilly praised the presentation highly.
And, The Winner Is …
Chef Sara came in second, while Chuck took third place.
“I should have left my background as a chef at home and focused on becoming the pitmaster I want to be,” Chef Sara admitted after the failure of her “lollipop” chicken drummies.
Words of wisdom for all of you aspiring pitmasters out there: Just focus on the Q!