Updated: Jul 31
It’s said that all good things must come to an end, and sadly, that’s the case with the 2017 Smoke Freaks team lineup.
At 7:27 p.m. on Thursday, April 19, after two years of anchoring our lineup, Pam The Alpha Pit was called home for a comfortable and well-deserved semi-retirement.
Pam’s a real champ. In 2 seasons on the competition BBQ trail, she produced 21 top-10 calls in Brisket, her main cook, and another 21 calls assisting her twin Redrum on Ribs. (Pam always handled the post-wrap part of the Rib cook.)
We try not to play favorites when it comes to our pits, but Pam holds a special place in our hearts. She emerged as the natural leader of the pack as soon as she hit the competition trail in June 2016.
Truth be told, we didn’t see it coming. After all, Pam had a pretty rough entry into the world after some rough handling by the delivery company left her severely dented, unable to so much as open her lid to accept her first basket of lump.
So we appealed to her maker, none other than Mr. Hunsaker himself, who expedited a replacement barrel that we lovingly but tentatively swapped in, like a heart transplant performed with nuts and bolts by inexperienced surgeons.
We wondered if a pit born of such humble conditions could ever rise to the level of a true champion?
Pam recovered beautifully from the transplant. As soon as she hit the competition trail, she started impressing teammates and competitors alike with her grace under pressure and ability to hold a steady temp, even when neglected by her distracted pitmasters in terrible weather.
I feel like I became a real pitmaster with Pam at my side. We’ve been through a lot, and she was a big part of my learning the ropes. Pam’s first big win was Reserve Grand Championship her fifth time out at New Palestine, IN, in July 2016, and it was my first big win, too. Together, we never looked back.
I’m convinced it’s in Pam’s DNA to instinctively run the perfect cook. She’s a joy to pitmaster, and it’s no wonder, given the incredible design of these Hunsaker Smokers.
First off, there’s the fire basket. The patented Vortex design creates a tornado of heat that ensures even cooking, even with a full load of meat.
And I’m a huge fan of the floating hinge, so I’m not stuck dealing with a lid. Thanks to this feature, we rarely have our pits open for more than 20 seconds at a time, which makes a HUGE difference in keeping the fire rolling steady.
Another big Hunsaker plus: The larger wheels make them highly portable. Believe me, that matters when you’re moving pits up and down a trailer ramp and across the variety of terrains we see over our 9-month season. Sand, gravel, mud, snow, tall prairie grass, you name it … these pits roll like a dolly with their tall wheels cruising over anything.
Finally, there’s the adjustable rack system with heavy-duty expanded-metal grates. This innovative design affords ridiculous flexibility. We’ve hung beef tenderloins and turkeys within her cavernous belly. We’ve cooked 50 hot links at once, and she could handle twice that many if we threw in a couple more grates. Six butts at a time? No problem!
But still, even with all that great design, I’m convinced that Pam The Alpha Pit is one-of-a-kind. Some would say we’re crazy to even consider taking her off the competition trail after all the success she’s had. And there’s no question, her 72% call rate on Brisket leaves big shoes to fill.
And you had better believe, they will be filled. By these guys...
Introducing Money and Cash, aka The Glitter Twins, who make their debut in the Smoke Freaks lineup May 4-6 at the Masters in May doubleheader in Appleton, WI.
Money and Cash represent the latest, greatest design thinking out of the Hunsaker Smokers workshop in Columbia, MO. Over the two years since Pam joined us, our good friends Mark and Ryan have been fine-tuning their design for simplicity and quality.
What’s new since then?
New rack-mounting system saves several pounds over Pam’s design, while greatly increasing sturdiness, fit and reliability.
New basket design saves almost 20 pounds over the old setup. (My “BBQ triceps” will probably shrink as a result, but I’m good with that.)
New clear-coated finishes that are hard as a rock.
And best of all, sexy rust-proof STAINLESS STEEL components all the way around. We might have to swap out the drums every few years, but all the stainless bits and bolts that make it a Hunsaker will never fail in my lifetime.
And so alas, sometimes you get replaced by a newer model. Happens to the best of us, and sometimes it’s just better step away while you’re still at the top of your game.
But weep not for Pam The Alpha Pit. From now on, she’ll be living the good life at home, cooking all manner of meats unadulterated with all the goofy stuff we put into competition BBQ. Instead, she’ll be cooking the food we actually eat ourselves, along with the occasional competition test recipe. She might even cook a pizza or bake some smoked cookies for good measure.
Before sailing off into semi-retirement, Pam spent plenty of time with the new lineup, passing on tidbits of wisdom to help them follow in her footsteps. And she wants you to know she’ll be back. She wants another shot at glory. Maybe at the Royal. Maybe at the Jack.
She’s already missing her BBQ family, and she’s howling for you.