A journey into what has gone from a fun, part time hobby to a fulfilling and rewarding obsession.. Culminating in a style I like to call "Authentic Southern (Utah) Barbecue"

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Time to step it up

I spent a lot of time throughout this early process going back and forth as to where I wanted to go next as far as a cooker went.  The little brick pit had been an exceptional beginner tool, the Ugly Drum was an even better teacher when it came to methods and flavor development but throughout it all it became apparent that things were going to have to get bigger.
With the work on the patio and outdoor areas coming along I was having to be conscious of where things would have to be placed in the future and what sizes I would be comfortable with so as not to have a lot of bulk in the way while using the space.  Several hours of reading and research once again on the internet proved to be an enormous help with the decision, although it did take some time and many discussions with my wife.  I needed her to be comfortable with what I was doing and make sure she was on board with spending what would more than likely be a sizeable chunk of money.
All the reading and emails and phone calls eventually directed me to a couple of people who live within the state that, at the time, were quickly making a name for themselves on the competition circuit.  They proved to be a fountain of knowledge, on many different subjects, but mostly they always had a good answer for any question I had.  Not to say I always agreed with them, but it was nice to have someone who was willing to answer questions and evaluate my current techniques.  The only real problem was that they are 250 miles away.  No worries, emails and phone calls were proving to work just fine.
Once I had narrowed down the different types of cookers available in a larger scale, it was time to look closer at which direction to go.  I originally planned to go with a pellet type cooker since they seemed to be the popular ones at the time, but the more I looked into it I really didn’t like the idea of always needing a power source available and there was not a dealer in my area that carried pellets for cooking.  Gravity feed styles looked promising but they all appeared to rely almost entirely on cooking with charcoal and seemed to have a few limitations as well.  The final decision came down to an offset cooker.  These seemed to be more versatile, even though it also meant having to tend the fire more often.  No matter, I was used to having to spend a lot of time back and forth with what I was currently cooking on so in my mind I figured the learning curve wouldn’t be as steep.

Johnny Trigg at "Smokin in Mesquite", September 2010

Through discussions with my new friends in the North I found that they had acquired a few cookers from a place in Texas called Jambo Pits manufactured by Jamie Geer.  At the time I had not seen much about them but that quickly changed.  About this time a new program was introduced on television called “BBQ Pitmasters” which was a chronicle of a handful of the top teams in the country and their adventures along the way at different pro style contests.  As I watched the show I realized that many of the top teams, (including the Godfather of Barbecue Mr. Johnny Trigg), were using Jambo pits and a couple of the episodes had Jamie Geer present as well.  I found the website and dug a little deeper and decided that a Jambo was the cooker for me.  My friends up North had what was known at the time as the “competition” or “backyard” model which is slightly smaller than the trailered larger versions.  However, according to what I had read, they cooked pretty much the same and it was hard to find any sort of negative feedback about them, in fact the reverse was true in that I found pretty much nothing but rave reviews.

First fire and seasoning of the new Jambo.

So, through some serious discussions with my wife and a good look at what the patio size was, I contacted the brothers of the north and in May of 2010 purchased a bona fide Jambo pit.  They were getting ready to attend a contest south of where I live that week so they were kind enough to deliver it to me. 
It was great the day it arrived.  The craftsmanship was second to none, solidly built and beautifully finished.  I couldn’t wait to get it fired up.  It took some serious muscle to get it into the backyard from the driveway since we were still in serious construction mode and the patio area was torn up pretty good as well as it being too wide to fit through the door in the garage.  But, with the help of a couple of good friends we made it happen.
Now, I just needed to figure out how to make it cook….