In the past few years since purchasing our Tucker Cooker I have been on a mission of barbecue information gathering, learning, practicing and the overall betterment of myself as a pit master and cook. I have noticed from talking to other Tucker owners that, even though the Tucker is a larger pit, it is often the first real pit / smoker they have ever owned. With those things in mind, I thought it would be helpful to put together a resource guide to assist people in their education process. The lists contained here should not be considered a complete work, but rather a starting point. These are just my favorites and my personal recommendations. Take the time to explore and use these resources to find your own favorites.
Requirements….or are they?
There are just a few real requirements in the barbecue game. They aren’t difficult, but they are undeniable. First and foremost, you must have an unquenchable thirst for knowledge. That is the single most important thing you can bring to the table and will serve you better than any other trait. Second, you must be willing to tinker with things, such as recipes and cooking methods. Be willing to take these things and see if you can make them work, adapt them, change them and call them your own. Finally, keep a note pad and pen handy and take copious notes. In hind sight, this is probably as important as the thirst for knowledge. Jotting down times that meat goes on the pit, what temp, how long it cooked, at what temp/time you injected, etc will prove to be invaluable as you grow. The sooner you adopt the idea you must take notes about everything, the faster you will improve.
Having noted all of these requirements, I am reminded that this crazy culture of barbecue was built by men and women who have accepted that there are really no actual rules, but a lot of strongly suggested folk lore. This lore, as with most things of legend, is meant to be tested, challenged, changed and changed again. So, I think my greatest suggestion must be to find what works for you. I can only hope some of the things I mention here aid you in finding the magical combination of things that will help you become a true pit master.
The Wide World of Web Info
The Internet is always the first resource I recommend. It is a pretty obvious one given the age of information we live in…not to mention it’s free. Anything and everything you need to know you can usually find online. The real question then becomes where to find the best, most helpful info. Since the sheer amount of information on the web can be overwhelming, to say the least, the majority of the hints here will help start you on the right path to finding the information you want on-line.
Seek and Enjoy
You can, of course, go with a search engine like Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc. You just have to be willing to type a question into the search engine and see where it takes you. General questions like “best internal temperature of a pork shoulder” typed into Google will keep you reading for hours, if not days. The drawback with this method is that you may well find yourself flooded with too much information. It may also turn you onto 15 great sites that you become a long term fan of. Be patient! Pick a site that looks interesting to you and see where it takes you. User mileage may very, but never underestimate the power of the almighty search engine.
Finding Your Forum
Forum’s are probably the single best source for the new barbecue pit master. These jewels of the Internet are loaded with nothing short of experts in the field and you can learn a lot in a very short amount of time. Be warned though, as with most activities with a learning curve, most forums have little patience for newbies asking the same question over and over. Take the time to read the FAQ sections of all forums before posting questions. Be sure to use the search functions of the forum to help find answers. Take the time to post an introduction telling everyone who you are, where you live, what cooker you use and what you like to cook now. The barbecue community is, by and large, chock full of friendly, helpful and knowledgeable folks who are more than happy to help. If you follow these few tips you will find yourself welcomed and the volumes of information available to you vast.
Here are two I personally recommend (although there are literally hundreds to choose from):
BBQ Brethren - Probably the most comprehensive barbecue forum on the Internet. A vast source of information, a wide ranging cast of characters and a lot of bantering.
BBQ Bug - A fantastic resource that includes tons of step by step instructions for just about everything you can think of in barbecue.
I really love a number of blogs and read them daily. What I find so compelling about blogs and newsletters is that they are typically written by fans turned experts. You get several levels of expertise; everything from someone who has never barbecued who just wanted to write about their experience to actual experts who have been brought on by a company to write for them. Each type of writer has things to bring to the table and each is worth reading. Blogs and newsletters are great because you can subscribe to them and have every updates emailed to you as they are released. This allows you to catalog the information and recall it at will. Some of the resources I subscribe to are:
Big Wayner’s BBQ Blog
Grilling With Rich
How To BBQ Right
Nibble Me This
Patio Daddio BBQ
Lately, my favorite source for barbecue information are Internet radio shows, also known as podcasts. These shows are hands down some of the best entertainment for the barbecue pit master. I know, it sounds a little bit odd at first using your computer to listen to the radio, but just think of these shows as Pandora for barbeque. Then there is the whole idea of listening to a show about barbecue. Doesn’t it seem a little bit self indulgent? Well maybe, but the shows really are a great way not only to learn, but to get a real feel for the whole barbecue culture. I understand this may not be for you but I still suggest you give it a try. Like me, you may find yourself addicted to it. I love that I can listen to these resources live and participate in the audience or I can download the podcast of the show later and listen on my phone while driving to and from work.
My favorite shows? That’s easy, check these out:
BBQ Central Radio Show - This show is also live every Tue, 9pm EST on the Outdoor Cooking Channel Greg Rempe does a great job of balancing fun and barbecue information and is considered the pioneer in barbecue radio shows.
BBQ Super Stars - Darryl Mast has many shows on his network and does a live call in, free format sort of show that allows anyone to call in and talk Q. BBQ Super Stars as a site is much more than just a radio show though, check it out as it is a great source for all sorts of barbecue information. Check out the Tucker Cooker section on the main site, there are some videos there that were shot during the last Memphis in May.
Whiskey Bent BBQ’s “In The Pit” - Is one of the shows on the BBQ Super Stars network. This show is headed by Chad Ward of Whiskey Bent BBQ, a fantastic up and coming competition team out of Florida. Chad’s main focus is competition barbecue and the show is always informative and entertaining.
Birds of a Feather…..Twitter Together
What makes the barbecue community so powerful is the sharing of information and the direct access we have to the “stars” of our field. It’s impossible to be at every event, competition or show with your favorite barbecue star but if you have a Twitter or Facebook account you have what almost amounts to a 24hr backstage pass with them. Not every star has or maintains their Twitter or Facebook feed, but the one’s who do are fantastic sources of information. I suggest you follow them and don’t be afraid to interact with them and ask questions. A word of advice: Remember that these are real people, with real lives, real families, real jobs and real problems. Be polite, be real, be courteous and, above all, be a friend, not just someone who is trying to gain something from them. If you do that, you will go a long way towards making some great friends. In fact, some of my closest barbecue relationships started on Twitter and grew into real world friendships that I consider invaluable.
So who do I follow? All the people I have mentioned in his article have websites, Twitter and Facebook accounts. Take the time to look them up even if I don’t explicitly list them all below. I follow and recommend these folks because they are great at Twitter in particular, all links are to Twitter, but you can find links to Facebook from there:
Danielle Dimovksi (aka DivaQ)
Neil Stawder (aka Bigmista)
Ray Lampe (aka Dr. BBQ)
There are many, many others. You can do a search in Twitter for #bbq or #barbecue and see what turns up. Don’t be afraid to Follow someone for awhile to see if you like their content. If you don’t you can always Unfollow them later.
Reading Is Fun-da-mental
If more traditional sources are your cup of tea, there are, of course, tens of thousands of barbecue books out there for you. I really like barbecue books because they are as much instructions manuals as they are recipe books. Some include a bit of history, behind the scenes access to legends and some fun tall tails. One of my first barbecue books was by Ray Lampe. His book was an integral part of inspiring me to start making my own barbecue sauces. I would recommend reading much more than just barbecue books though. Be willing to expand your purview and find inspiration from many types of books. One of my favorite things to do is find a recipe that has nothing to do with barbecue and take it, rework it and make it my own by putting my own barbecue slant on it.
I have included a few of my personal favorite books in the list below. One of which was written using a Tucker (Championship BBQ Secrets). Each are great books in their own right and for different reasons. Check them out, cook along with them and see where they take you.
BBQ Makes Everything Better
Championship BBQ Secrets for Real Smoked Food
Dr. BBQ’s Big-Time Barbecue Cookbook
Peace, Love and Barbecue
If you are looking for a great list of barbecue book reviews, check out AmazingRibs.com. Meathead Goldwyn does a good job reviewing some of the best books available.
It’s All Perspective
While I find myself writing “rules” or “recommendations” for the new barbecue fan, I have to admit there are no actual rules. Every time a rule has been created in barbecue it has been challenged, changed, rewritten or reinvented. Some will swear by low and slow while a new breed of pit master is all about hot and fast cooking. Some will say you can only get great flavor by burning wood while the next guy is steadily winning with charcoal or pellets. In the end, my earlier premise holds true: this culture of barbecue was built by men and women who have accepted that rules are made to be broken and the folk lore is meant to be tested, challenged, changed and redone. There is, however, one truth that we cling to:. No matter what you cook on, cook with or how long the cooking takes, when the meat tastes great, you have cooked with love and passion. Remember that, and you will have a great dish every time.