Last Saturday, in the middle of our chicken cook, I had a complete freak out. I couldn’t remember if I had actually made the turn-in boxes or not. All 4 boxes were ready to go, of course, but it really struck me that this momentary uncertainty could have gotten under my skin to the point of interfering with a cook that was going very, very well.
(Worst case scenario, we would have gone commando on the boxes. But shaking off that feeling of dread was not so easy, at least for me.)
The Smoke Freaks method of competition BBQ is a series of hundreds and hundreds of little tasks that are all really important. Many things have to happen in a very specific way, and so many tasks are completely dependent on other tasks. When you’re having a great cook, all of those things happen in perfect harmony. It all just flows and the right things happen at exactly the right time.
But in order to pull this off, you’ve got to have your game face on -- AND -- you have to be ready to deal with the unexpected. Because something will usually happen that could knock you off course.
Supplies: Do you bring all the right stuff needed to execute your cook? What if you accidentally left the injections at home? Can you figure out a way to deal with it or are you SOL?
(Wo)Manning the Pit: Are you focused enough to keep an eye on your pit temps for the duration of the cook even when you have to multitask? If you had to crank open the exhaust to bring up the temp, did you remember to adjust it back down at just the right time so it doesn’t run away from you?
Boxing: Are you observant enough to find anything weird, like a worm in your kale? Because even a microscopic piece of foil will get you DQ’d. It could have happened to us in a brisket box last year in Indiana, but fortunately we discovered it in time and walked away with an RGC instead of a DQ.
Weather: Can you deal with 35 MPH winds or a huge downpour right as you’re getting ribs on? It’s no sweat for the teams who basically cook indoors, but those of us under popups have to batten down the hatches.
Equipment & Fuel: Can your cooker deal with these weather conditions and still run steady? (Our Hunsaker Smokers ran perfectly during two days of crazy weather.) Did you put the charcoal and wood somewhere where it won’t get wet?
Transportation: What if the lock on your RV door malfunctions and you can’t open it? Will you have time to find an RV store, locate the right part and be able to install a new lock? (Been there, done that.)
The Enemy Within: Can you deal with ever-changing conditions and all the logistics that are needed to pull off a winning cook? Can you handle all the uncertainty? Do you believe in yourself enough to rise above whatever comes your way? Do you want it bad enough?
Next up on the American Freakage Tour is stop #9, the Hog Capital Challenge in Kewanee, IL. Freak ON!
Ann is Co-Founder and Pitmaster for Smoke Freaks. She loves being the Head Cook and and has fallen head over heels in love with Pork.