Lone Star Smoke War: BBQ Pitmasters Season 5 Episode 2

Episode 2 of this season of BBQ Pitmasters turns to the Lone Star State for its next set of contestants.  Three Texas BBQ teams from different regions of the state battle for  BBQ supremacy.  Who comes out on top?  Read on for more…

(NOTE: Spoilers are below.  If you haven’t seen this episode and don’t want to know who won, stop reading now.)


Episode Synopsis

The following teams were featured on this week’s episode:

For this episode, the teams were given 10 hours to cook and turn in brisket flat and Vegas strip steak.  But before I dive into more episode stuff, let’s answer the question…

What the Heck is Vegas Strip Steak!?!

I was asking the exact same thing when I heard this cut announced as one of the meats to cook.  It turns out that the Vegas strip steak is a relatively new cut of steak discovered by researchers at Oklahoma State University in conjunction with meat expert Tony Mata.  The process for cutting the steak is pending a patent (as far as I can tell).  You can view the patent application as well as diagrams for making this cute of steak in this PDF file.

Back to Our Regularly Scheduled Episode

It was interesting seeing the approaches taken by the pitmasters from the different regions of Texas.  Two of the teams used offset smokers, while Junior’s Up in Smoke rocked out the gravity fed insulated smoker.  Mesquite, post oak, live oak, and pecan make appearances as cooking woods.  The preparation methods and seasonings were also widely varied — Meat Church injected and seasoned their brisket, Junior’s Up In Smoke marinaded the brisket and then seasoned, and JD’s Team Xtreme BBQ simply seasoned the brisket.  Rubs ranged from a dalmation-based rub (equal parts salt and pepper) to more of a sweet/heat blend.

With the Vegas strip steaks, the approaches were a little more similar.  Two of the teams marinaded their steaks, while the other seasoned the meat and let it rest.  Ultimately, the cooks on the steaks for all the teams were hot and fast (searing and cooking to approximately medium rare).

A major nemesis of brisket cooks is what is often referred to as “the stall”.  This is where the internal temperature of larger cuts of meat will stall out and stay at one temperature for an extended period of time.  Meathead Goldwyn of AmazingRibs.com has an excellent breakdown of what “the stall” is and what causes it.

While JD was able to power through the stall, Matt (of Meat Church) didn’t get the desired tenderness out of his brisket.  Even though his brisket and steak both received high marks for flavor, he was dinged for tenderness issues and ended up placing 3rd. JD and Junior were neck and neck after the steak was judged.  However, JD’s faux burnt-ends were not moist (Moe mentioned that the brisket cubes were “dry as a popcorn fart”).  This, combined with high praise for Junior’s brisket entry, propelled Junior’s Up in Smoke to 1st place on this episode and sent JD’s Team Xtreme BBQ to 2nd place.


The final production of this episode falls right in line with the tried and true formula followed in season 4 and continued in season 5.  The addition of the “BBQ Pitmasters” tips will no doubt help to educate those who may not have an intimate knowledge of BBQ.  From an entertainment perspective, it’s always nice to see the teams interact with gratuitous smack talk, and this episode did provide some of that.

I still wish that final scores would be published.  This would accomplish two things — it would reveal how close the competitors were to one another, and it would also reveal how each component of the judging process (appearance, taste, tenderness) is weighted.  If Iron Chef America can do it, then so can BBQ Pitmasters.

For those keeping track or needing a bracket, you can download a copy of the  bracket here.  I’m interested in hearing your thoughts about this week’s episode.  Also, if you were on this season of BBQ Pitmasters, I’d love to have you talk about your experience on the show!!

  • Midnite Oil Steve Ray

    I always enjoy the show, but I wonder why it has gone to such a sterile environment. I always enjoyed the back story of the festival where the cooks were held. Mo is a good addition, especially when he tossed that burned end onto the sample board. The equation of the competition is great. Just stick to meet and leave the fish out of it. Will always watch it no matter what the format, however.

    • Good points. My guess is they went to a single filming location to cut down on travel costs going to the different festivals. I don’t mind there being a second somewhat oddball meat out there — it helps reinforce the viability that a true pitmaster can cook anything on their cooker.

      • Midnite Oil Steve Ray

        John Markus is a smart man and I am sure he knows what will work in the long run. I am hoping for more shows on Live Fire Cooking. I saw a few last year that Weber Sponsored – Paula Dean’s son hosted it – out in California. I thought that was good as well. I liked the Vegas Cut grill challenge.