This week, BBQ Pitmasters on Destination America headed to Virginia, home of NASCARs Martinsville Speedway. The pitmasters were as follows:
- Jennifer Duncan; Smoked to the Bone; Gilbert, AZ
- Rob “Rub” Bagby; Swamp Boys; Winter Haven, FL
- Tommy Houston; Checkered Pig; Martinsville, VA
Judges Tuffy Stone and Myron Mixon were joined by guest judge Chris Lilly—cookbook author, executive chef of Big Bob Gibson’s Bar-B-Que, and three-time world grand champion.
The pitmasters were happy to find baby-back ribs in their coolers, but perhaps not so thrilled to find a turkey.
“I don’t cook turkeys in competition,” Pitmaster Tommy said, obviously a little nervous already.
Pitmasters were required to give examples of both white and dark meat on the turkeys.
Pitmasters, Start Your Cookers!
Pitmaster Rub fired up pecan wood in his indirect stick burner; Pitmaster Jennifer brought two cookers to the competition, one for indirect heat and a barrel/drum smoker for direct heat (on the turkey); and Pitmaster Tommy loaded his stick burner with Blue Ridge Mountain hickory.
Introducing moisture into the turkey was the main challenge for the pitmasters. Pitmaster Tommy decided to brine, followed by a rub, while Pitmasters Rub and Jennifer decided to inject, as well as rub.
All of the pitmasters seemed happy with baby-back ribs. Pitmaster Jennifer, who competes to support the ongoing fight against breast cancer, demonstrated an unusual technique, using several different rubs on her ribs, but all of the teams went with rubs.
NASCAR Comes a Callin'
Not only were the teams cooking to impress the judges, they were visited by NASCAR royalty Dale Earnhardt Jr., and learned that the winner would be an honorary pit crew member for the #88 at Martinsville. “We’re gonna be just like you, in the barbeque world, tho’,” Pitmaster Rub told him.
“Dale Jr. just took this competition to a whole other level,” Pitmaster Tommy said.
“Holy cow, being able to go down into the pits at NASCAR?” Pitmaster Jennifer said. “It definitely makes me want to win more!”
But, there could only be one winner, and the judges were looking for the best of the best!
Ribs and Turkey
The judges were chowing down on some nice lookin’ ribs. Judge Stone particularly liked Pitmaster Tommy’s ribs, with the extra-meat “Hollywood” cut; Judge Mixon praised the look and the taste of Pitmaster Rub’s ribs; and Judge Lilly said that, while Pitmaster Jennifer’s ribs were just a bit less tender than the other two boxes, her flavor was “top notch.”
Turkey was the category that was really the unknown in this competition. Pitmaster Tommy went skinless, which was an automatic strike against his entry, according to Judge Stone. “Drab” and “washed-out” was the way Judge Lilly described it. Pitmaster Rub got rave reviews, with his half-plain, half-sauced entry. All of the judges loved it, from taste to tenderness. The judges were not nearly as happy with Pitmaster Jennifer’s entry, with Judge Lilly noting that the texture was like “mush,” due to injection, and Judge Mixon taking note of an over-sweet taste.
NASCAR in Martinsville!
So, who made it into the pits with Dale Jr. and the #88 Diet Mtn. Dew Chevy?
Pitmaster Tommy came in second, and Pitmaster Jennifer followed in third.
BBQ Pitmasters airs on Destination America on Sunday nights at 9 p.m. E/P.
Image: Wikimedia Commons