Hi Pork. It’s me, Ann. I think we may have gotten off on the wrong foot, and I’d like to start over.
I’ve been thinking about our relationship, and can see how I’ve hurt you.
When I said I was a bit reluctant to become the pork cook, I should have also mentioned that I was super excited to learn a new skill. In fact, I try to live my life by the motto “always be learning” -- especially in BBQ. I should have told you that.
I know there have been times when I have been less-than-enthusiastic in digging through steamy butts to find the best muscles to put in the box. I should have also let you know that that moment is actually a pure adrenaline rush. That moment when I’m pulling back your sooty foil and see your yummy, porky goodness. Delish.
It was probably pretty offensive to see me so unkempt and groggy at 4:30 in the morning when lighting your pit. You didn’t know it, but in reality, I just couldn’t wait to get the fire burning so we could embark on our approximately 4 hour, 30 minute journey together.
And Pork, perhaps worst of all… I can see how upset you probably were when we switched your pit from Fatboy to Clownfish, who joined our family back in April and was totally untested on the competition trail. I should have at least given you a heads up about the change so you could have warmed up to the idea. I totally suck for springing that surprise on you like that.
I am so sorry for all of this. The pain and suffering. The doubt, the frustration, the feelings of being unloved and unwanted. It doesn’t have to be this way…
I love you, Pork. I really do.
I’m your biggest fan, your most tenacious pitmaster and I am so Freakishly determined to transform your delicious offerings into Freakage the judges can’t turn their backs on.
I hope you can forgive me. Ideally before the Effingham Jam this weekend.
We're just back from the doubleheader Gold Ribbin’ BBQ Fest in Green Bay. What a weekend it was! It’s great to have a good cook and even better when you have one on both days, especially when you’re up against 58 other teams.
I scored my very first 1st place in Chicken on Day 1 which helped us land 9th overall. And we took 5th overall on Day 2 thanks to 3rd in Chicken, 11th in Ribs and 2nd in Brisket.
Let’s just say Pork continues to be an “opportunity” for us.
Here’s my Top 10 of all the Freakiest moments:
10. The Freak Force is real, and it was palpable before we even arrived in Green Bay
9. It’s never good to look out the window and see one of your 40-pound canopy anchors levitating from yet another freak storm
8. We were only 100 feet from a liquor store, but 1000 feet from turn-in
7. I ran into my wolf doppelgänger and her hat was WAY cooler than mine
6. I lost my wolf hat temporarily at awards when an adorable little boy borrowed it
5. We took a gamble and it paid off
4. The new Smoke Freaks lighters are battle-tested and proven to bring out the Freakage
3. I loved that chicken from the moment I first laid eyes on it
2. I was determined not to drop that 18-pound trophy when they presented it to me
1. Our pork was serenaded each morning for good luck - click here to see the video!!
Special guest blogger appearance by Mr. Freak...
We’ve always considered Brisket the Kilimanjaro of KCBS barbecue. It’s hard for a lot of cooks to conquer, not so much because it’s technically difficult, but rather because of the sheer expense involved in making the journey.
Most of us have to cook more than a few cases of those big, beautiful, budget-busting slabs of beef before we even get a glimpse of the summit. And that costs a crapload of money, even if you’re cooking CABs from Costco.
Fortunately we found a shortcut early this year that helped us make our run at the top of the mountain. We’re not there yet, but we got pretty close last weekend at Sam’s Club with a 178-point-whatever, having missed our first 180 by a tenderness point.
The shortcut? It’s called Mystery Beef.
This all started at our first comp of the year, CCS Fest in Indy. After a long winter off, we came out guns blazing with strong calls in Chicken, Ribs and Pork. But we finished in the bottom half of the pack overall, thanks to terrible Brisket that deserved every one of the 5s it got at the judges table.
We made the bonehead move of trying a hot new ingredient without even doing a test cook. Matter of fact, we didn’t even taste it before Mr. Freak went injecting that stuff into a $180 Wagyu brisket.
It turned out to be a lethal mistake, but from the ashes of that 139.92 box of horrors, Mystery Beef was born.
What is Mystery Beef?
Don’t ask Mr. Freak, he doesn’t know. And Ms. Freak doesn’t know either. All we know is the stuff evidently works pretty well on Brisket, and it was first perfected the night before Day 2 of Masters in May, where we RGCed thanks, in part, to the magical qualities of Mystery Beef.
Masters Day 1 had been pretty ugly for us, and Brisket had again proven to be our nemesis. We were still tuning our recipe in real-time on competition day, and it bit us in the ass AGAIN!
Confident the problem had something to do with the fancy new injection, Ms. Freak decided to do something about it. She changed the formula of the injection mix, trying something completely different than prescribed on the package. The end result: Smoke Freaks Full-Strength Beef mix.
Meanwhile, Mr. Freak had his own ideas, so he doctored the base injection as supplied by Ms. Freak, not knowing that she had already thrown the original recipe out the window.
By the time we pumped the new concoction into our Day 2 SRF Black Label, we realized neither of us had any idea what was actually in the stuff.
Mr. Freak was pretty bent out of shape about it, but Ms. Freak remained sanguine and simply labeled the remaining injection “??? Beef ???”
A few hours later we were driving home, smiling ear-to-ear the way BBQ teams do after a killer day. We’d not only RGCed, but we got a nice call in Brisket -- our first of the year!
Mr. Freak tried to take credit for fixing the brisket injection. And so did Ms. Freak.
That’s when we realized, not only did we not know what Mystery Beef is, neither of us knew exactly what we did to make it. So we spent the rest of the drive back-tracking every step until we were each pretty sure we’d figured out our respective parts of the formula.
I’d tell you what goes into my half of the injection, but Ms. Freak doesn’t even know that secret. Some things are best left a Mystery, and as long as our Brisket recipe is working, that’s what it will remain.
Next stop: Gold Ribbin’ BBQ Fest in Green Bay, our 4th double-header of the season. Freak ON!
We just wrapped up a much needed week off from the BBQ trail. The highlight of our week “off” was a 3-way pork test where we went back to basics for inspiration.
Pork has been our nemesis all year, and despite working on it constantly, we just haven’t been able to turn things around in the judges’ tent. Oh what I would give for my first pork call! But like the song goes, “you can’t always get what you want.” And true to the song, I guess I did get what I needed - some pork help from our BBQ family.
Yep, these are the folks that we go up against each weekend, and they’re also the same people who would lend you a hand and give you the shirt off their back. Their advice was much appreciated and it gave us the inspiration to do yet another test cook, this time with simplification in mind.
We tested our go-to pork recipe (T1) against an early 2017 recipe (T3) that earned us our only pork award of the year … and a new recipe (T2) created just this week. While we were at it, we tried our hand at some new trimming methods that seem promising and way more efficient.
(Truth be told, I’m feeling some pressure to get some pork points on the board as we head into our first appearance at the Qualifiers for the Sam’s Club National BBQ Tour. The top 6 teams advance to Regionals so we really need pork to be working for us vs. crushing our dreams.
We thought T2 was the clear winner on appearance, taste and tenderness. By a lot. The funny thing is all aspects of the recipe - trimming, injection, rubbing, wrapping, carving, saucing and boxing -- are super simple.
So it was decided, we’ll put it to the test at Sam’s Club this weekend!
Now we just gotta nail our entire cook, starting now.
Ann is Co-Founder & Head Cook for Smoke Freaks ... and she's fallen head over heels in love with Pork.