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Friday, June 22, 2012

BBQ Pitmasters 2012 - Thoughts on Round 3

The new season of Barbecue Pitmasters is a lot of fun to watch. You can catch new episodes Sunday nights at 9/8c on the new Destination America channel. In each episode three barbecue cooks go head to head cooking barbecue to be judged by Myron Mixon, Tuffy Stone, and Aaron Franklin. In the third episode, round 3, Johnny Trigg of the Smokin' Triggers team went against Charles Wilson of C-Dubs Corruption BBQ Crew, and Chris Hart of the Wicked Good Barbecue team. They each had to barbecue turkey and bone in pork belly (pork belly with spare ribs still on). Spare ribs are cut from the pork belly which is the cut of meat on the hog where we get bacon.

SPOILER ALERT! - If you haven't seen this episode and don't want to know the outcome, don't read further until after you watch the episode.

Chris Hart and Charles Wilson both recognized the ribs still attached to the pork belly. However, Johnny Trigg at first thought the pork belly was a slab of beef ribs. Being from Texas, he doesn't cook a lot of pork and certainly not a pork belly. His wife finally recognized the pork belly as bacon and Trigg was then "back in the game" as he put it.

All three contestants cooked the pork belly and the spare ribs in a very similar way. They removed the ribs from the belly and cooked them just as they always cook spare ribs. The pork belly was pretty much cooked just like the ribs. After hearing Trigg brag about how good his pork belly smelled and how good it looked, his reaction to tasting it was pretty funny. He reached down and grabbed a delicious, juicy looking chunk, put it in his mouth and immediately declared "It tastes like $*@#!" So, out came the barbecue sauce. Later he called it "ungodly." Clearly, he doesn't like pork belly.

Each contestant had their own unique way of cooking the turkey. They had to turn in both white and dark meat. Trigg spatchcocked (Trigg called it butterflying) the turkey he cooked. Chris Hart separated the legs and thighs from the breast so that he could cook it all for different amounts of time because the breast is likely to dry out while waiting for the dark meat to get done. He also turned in part of his turkey with a Kansas City style seasoning and another part with a North Carolina style seasoning. Charles Wilson cooked his turkey whole.

Trigg rubbed his turkey with squeeze Parkay and his barbecue rub. Chris Hart injected his turkey with phosphates (they help the meat retain moisture) and rubbed it down with barbecue rub. Charles Wilson brined his turkey and then rubbed it and put it in the smoker.

None of the judges had a lot of good things to say about any of the pork belly that was turned in. But, they loved Trigg's turkey. Charles Wilson only turned in white meat because the dark meat he cooked was still raw. That cost him points. It also seemed that all of the rib entries were a little too tough. In the end, Johnny Trigg won. The judges commented on the turkey and the appearance of his pork belly/ribs box. So, congrats, Johnny Trigg! Trigg stated that he believed he won because he kept things simple. Hmmm, sounds like a familiar post right here.

There have been some who, after watching this episode, felt that the show was scripted. They claimed that the dialog was scripted, the way that all three contestants stepped forward when Mixon asked who turned in entry number 3 was scripted, and they even felt that the outcome was preordained. But, I don't get that impression at all. While there are some things that are "scripted" I don't believe that the outcome or the banter between the cooks is scripted at all. The people who run the show may encourage banter, but I don't think they give the contestants a script.

The only parts of the show that are clearly scripted include the times when the judges are judging the entries. One of them always announces, in a way that sounds as though they are reading cue cards, what the next step in the process is. Also, every time a judge mentions the number assigned to the entry they are judging, the contestant whose entry was assigned that number always says something like "That's me!" Clearly, the people running the show instruct the judges and contestants to do those things.

Some claimed that when all three contestants stepped forward after judging when Myron asked who turned in entry number three, that it was scripted. There is no way they all could have done that without pre-planning. However, according to one of the contestants, the three contestants discussed doing this with each other during a break in filming. It wasn't something anyone who runs the show told them to do.

Another thing that I have been reading about is the problem some are having with Johnny Trigg calling squeeze Parkay "butter." First of all, yes, Parkay is margarine not butter. I think everyone knows that, even Johnny Trigg. But, I think, there are two things that some people are forgetting. There are many people in the older generations, like Johnny Trigg's, who call margarine butter. That's just what they do. They know it's not butter but they do it anyway. Secondly, there are probably restrictions on what products the contestants can mention. If you will notice, the only brands mentioned on the show, that I have seen anyway, are Kingsford and Snake River Farms (it's not spoken but the logo is all over the packaging the meat is in that they provide the contestants). So, speaking of "scripts," I bet that Johnny Trigg was specifically told to not mention the brand name of his squeeze "butter."

And, in response to those who are crowing in blog posts and online "news" sites about how that margarine and phosphates have no place in backyard barbecue, all I can say is "Who are you to tell anyone what belongs in their backyard barbecue?" Where did you get your backyard barbecue cop badge?

Seriously, there are no rules for how you have to cook barbecue in your own backyard in spite of what the backyard barbecue police may say. Don't let some online blowhard intimidate you or make you think you are doing something wrong. The fact is, if you like how your barbecue turns out, it's the right thing to do. Cook what you like. Tell the barbecue cops to take a hike. Heck, I may just go out and buy some Parkay and some phosphates to cook some barbecue in my own backyard and email the pics and recipe to those people just to have some fun with them. I'll even taunt them and ask them if they are going to call me names and arrest me! Ah, good times!

Look, Barbecue Pitmasters is about fun and it's about celebrating the art of cooking barbecue. So, lighten up there, people!

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