“It’s about beef!” This line in the beginning of episode 3 of BBQ Pitmasters Season 4 offered a bit of foreshadowing of what was to come.
(NOTE: Spoilers below – do not read any further if you have not seen the episode and/or do not know the results)
This episode of BBQ Pitmasters was filmed in Austin, TX, at Rodeo Austin. Those of you familiar with last season and the “in-between” season featuring regional BBQ styles will be familiar with the guest judge – Aaron Franklin of Franklin BBQ makes his return to the show as judge #3 in a reunion with Myron and Tuffy. This episode could be coined as a restaurant episode, as all of the teams competing own and operate restaurants. Although the teams were representing their restaurants, they all had some form of competitive cooking experience.
The following teams competed in Austin for the chance to move on to the semifinals:
- Fat Jack’s BBQ – Philadelphia, PA (pitmaster is Glenn Gross)
- Ubon’s BBQ – Yazoo City, MS (pitmaster is Garry Roark)
- Character’s Famous BBQ – Adairsville, GA (pitmaster is Michael Character)
Each episode offers up two different meats to cook, with one meat traditionally taking longer to cook than the other. Since this episode was filmed in Texas, it’s only fitting that the two cuts of meat be divinely bovine – shoulder clod and beef back ribs. Most folks may be familiar with the beef back ribs (fairly self-explanatory name) but may not have a clue about shoulder clod. The shoulder clod (or beef clod) is a large lean cut from the top part of the shoulder on a cow.
The pitmasters each had 12 hours to turn in entries for shoulder clod and beef ribs. The cookers used in the episode were varied: there was a reverse flow smoker, a Backwoods smoker, and a huge Southern Pride smoker.
With all of the pitmasters being from various regions around the country, providing staples of Texas BBQ turned out to be a very interesting challenge – in particular, the huge shoulder clod each of them had to cook. While two of the pitmasters chose to part the clod into various pieces and treat them, in essence, like Boston butts during the cooking process, Fat Jack’s BBQ decided to leave theirs in one whole piece. Again, viewers got insight into the prep process each of the teams took (cooking process, wood selection, rub/sauce makeup, etc.).
The show was not without drama, as viewers witnessed Fat Jack’s BBQ having temperature fluctuations in their massive smoker. As a result, they had to call an audible and cook their beef ribs in a charcoal grill at 300 degrees. Even with the temperature issues, Fat Jack’s BBQ wound up in a respectable 2nd place. Character’s Famous BBQ took home 1st place, with Ubon’s finishing 3rd.
My Thoughts, Plus a Drink Count
For the first time this season, the meats to be cooked wound up being a bit of a curveball (unless you’re a native or proclaimed Texan). I have not seen the scores, but I’d venture to guess that the separation between first and third place was the closest so far this season. All of the teams seemed to be evenly matched in terms of experience.
Some of my other thoughts, random and unorganized:
- I’d like to see what the final scores were between all three of the contestants.
- I was a little bit surprised to not see brisket, but I’m guessing that’ll be later on down the road. Shoulder clod made for a very interesting twist.
- My favorite line so far this season… when asked about the shoulder clod, Michael Character gave this great response: “Looks like a piece of dragon tongue, but I’m gonna smoke the hell out of it!”
- It was good to have Aaron Franklin back on for this episode, especially with this being right in his backyard. Having a Texas BBQ subject matter expert on a show that featured traditional Texas BBQ staples was a good move.
- Lots of verbal sparring and jabbing between Michael and Glenn from Fat Jack’s BBQ made for entertaining television.
- Finally, I was glad to see Garry and Leslie from Ubon’s on the show. Even though they brought up the rear, it seemed like their entries were solid (aside from tenderness issues).
And for the drink count… hope your liver is still holding up! I counted 33 drinks broken down as follows:
- Trash Talking – 10 drinks
- Injections/Flavor Profiles – 4 drinks
- Trashed Entry (finally had our first trashed entry) – 1 drink
- “That’s Me” – 18 drinks
Let me know what you thought of this episode!!