Saturday, October 26, 2013

Competition Pit - Part II

It is Christmas morning.  You wake up and fly down the stairs in a blur and find that Santa brought that exact present you wanted.  The only problem is that you can't play with it, you can only watch your family and friends play with it.

That's pretty much happened with our competition pit.  The same week I got the pit, I also got a hernia (surgery next week) so I have had to use it vicariously, watching Alexis and our older son use it.  Technically, I can't even open the door due to lifting restrictions.  But we've still put the pit through some trial runs. 

The custom made pit is not nameless anymore - I have given it the nickname "The Warthog".  The large twin smoke stacks at the rear, sloped facing, and unusual shape/design reminded of the A-10 Thunderbolt, aka the Warthog.  While the A-10 may be funny looking, any ground troops needing close air support will tell you it's functionally beautiful.  That's my pit - a bit odd looking but functionally beautiful.  So "The Warthog" it is.  

Photo Credit:
The inaugural cook we was a few test runs of competition chicken and some ribs. 

"Stick burning"

What would FILL both of my Big Green Eggs makes the Warthog look almost empty.
Ribs ready to go back on after foiling.

For Alexis' office party, the staff wanted to pay us but we wanted to just cook it as a favor.  Instead we settled on making it a small fundraiser for Operation BBQ Relief by charging $5 a head and we raised $150 for the organization.   

Operation BBQ Relief is a network of BBQ teams and volunteers across the country that mobilize regionally to feed the victims and first responders of natural disasters.  Since forming in 2011, we have provided over 470,000 hot BBQ meals in the wake of tornadoes, floods, and hurricanes.  Unlike SOME charitable non-profits, 100% of donations to OBR go directly to providing meals.  The director and board do not accept a salary.  You don't have be a pitmaster or even cook to be a volunteer so please check out their site and register to be called upon as a volunteer in your region.    

the menu

We did the pulled pork ahead of time.  The pork butts were smoked with hickory/oak splits and chunks of apple wood.  We injected one with a muscadine grape juice injection and it was noticeably better than the other one cooked the same way.

Muscadine Grape Injection
3/4 cup muscadine grape juice
3/4 cup water
1/4 cup Kosher salt
1/4 cup Agave nectar
1 Tbsp worcestershire sauce

The rub was our NMT BBQ Rub - Coarse and we mopped it several times during the cook with 

NMT Pork Mop
1 cup cider vinegar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp Cholula Chipotle hot sauce
1/2 tsp black pepper

and the finishing sauce was a very light coat of our Lisbon sauce, a Piedmont style sauce.

We shovel hot Kingsford briquttes onto seasoned wood to start the fire in our pit.

Alexis trimmed off the fat caps and cleaned up the butts.

Seasoned and ready to go on.

We would apply the mop sauce whenever they started to look dry on the outside like this.
For the chicken, we smoked bone in, skin on chicken breasts and a dozen thighs.  I'll post that full recipe later but it was a simple brine, the fine ground version of our BBQ rub, our chicken mop, and finished with our new cherry chipotle BBQ sauce.  I used hickory and cherry wood.  Chicken thighs are the standard for competitions but when cooking for a general crowd, I think the bone in, skin on breasts are more popular.  I overheard more than one "best chicken ever" comment.

Sauces, mixes, and rubs all made up the night before.

Set up for cooking onsite. 

Yes, I am a dork.

Too keep the slaw from getting goopy, I made the dressing the night before but only mixed it with the veggies two hours before service.

Brett glazing the chicken.  It was weird watching someone else doing my cooking.

Coming off the smoker.

Sauce bar by the buffet.  I like to give people their regional options.
The office party was a success and I was proud of every single thing that we served. 

So after 3 cooks, here are my thoughts about the Warthog cooker.

  • Easier than I thought to get it up and running to temp.  Even on a cold morning, it ran surprisingly well.
  • Thrilled with the capacity.  I haven't come close to filling it yet.
  • Much more hands on than our Eggs, requiring hourly attention. On one hand, that's fun but on the other, if I'm doing an overnight cook, the Eggs let me get some sleep.
  • It is a drier environment than the Eggs, so we use a water pan and mops during the cook.  This is expected with metal, non-insulated cookers.
  • I have gotten my best smoke rings ever cooking on this rig.
  • The warming drawer is essential equipment, in addition to adding cooking capacity, I also use it to preheat my wood so it lights fast and cleanly when I add wood splits to the fire box.
  • The front door lets a lot of heat escape when opening it but it still seems to recover the heat quickly.
  • Love that the clearance between the working shelf and the handle is taller than a steam pan. 
  • Overall, I am very impressed with the food that we have cooked on the Warthog so far.  Great smoky flavors and tasty, juicy BBQ.
The Not So Good 
  1. Already had a spot weld break on the main door hinge, having it fixed locally.
  2. Upright design and relatively light weight (for a trailer) makes towing it a bit unnerving on curvy bumpy roads (ie Tennessee)
We are very happy with our Warthog and I still feel like I got the most trailer for my money.  I would buy it all over again if starting from scratch.  I'd definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a trailer rig for competing or catering.  

Several people have asked for the dealer contact info.  It is not really a dealer.  It is a guy named Chris S. who sells them for his friend who makes the pits.  Chris S has his own business to run in Tullahoma and sells the pits on the side, so I don't feel comfortable leaving his personal phone number here.  If you want to get in touch with him, let me know and I can email you his number directly.

[Standard Disclaimer]  I received no compensation for this post and have no affiliation with the pit maker or seller.