The first annual Georgia Southern tailgate cook-off was held Saturday April, 12th, and featured the appropriately named “True Blue Barbecue” team, which was created by BFSDoArt alumni, and took home the grand prize. Betty Foy Sanders Department of Art Alumni Adam Pace, BFA 2D, 2011, and Jared Brown, studio minor, 2012, successfully won-over the hungry fans with “fatties,” “Mountaineer Oysters,” and Boston butt.
“I actually had never attempted to do a low and slow BBQ until last Labor Day weekend. Jared Brown, Matt Rodgers, and I all got together and I attempted to cook some ribs. They turned out pretty decent, but it was hard to compare since I had never done anything like that before. Shortly after I cooked a Boston butt for a Thanksgiving family gathering and heard compliments. People even asked about recipes and techniques.
I toyed with the idea of some backyard style competitions, but with the current cooker I had there was no way to cook enough food to enter anything like that. The majority of the larger smokers that actually hold temps cost anywhere from $500 to $20k and beyond, so that ruled out any chance of upgrading to one of those. After some research online I stumbled upon a DIY smoker build from a 55gal drum. It was aptly named the “UDS – Ugly Drum Smoker.”
The original concept was to burn a 55 gallon drum to clean it, drill holes in the bottom and lid, and screw through the sidewall to hold a grill rack. Then you would pour charcoal in, light it, and use magnets to cover the holes adjusting the airflow.
Tue Blue Barbecue’s Ugly Drum Smoker
Being an art major who is now in the engineering field, I sat down and turned out a few CAD drawings of designs and features I wanted. I discussed it with Jared, who also spent time in the BFSDoArt studying 3D, and away we went. It wasn’t until the previous weekend that we actually finished up with the build of the smoker and had not even fired it up for a test cook. By this time the smoker had adjustable air intake vents, multiple exhausts, removable charcoal basket with catch pan underneath, and an adjustable shelving rack to change heights for different kinds of foods.
I am known as a procrastinator by my wife Emily (graphic design alumni, 2013), whom I met in Printmaking, and the IRS. Throughout school she was told to ignore most of what I said and don’t do anything I do. (And, also, I just filed my taxes the night before the competition.) It seemed fitting that we would just wing it and bring the smoker down hoping that it would work and hold a fire for 10-15 hours.
Apparently, Jared and I work better under pressure because we didn’t arrive to the tailgate area until 11:30pm the night before. The original plan was to be there around 7pm with the meat on by 8pm and sleeping through the night. At this point we were hustling around and burning ourselves because the charcoal was lit and a grill rack support fell into the coals as we were trying to prepare the meat to go on. We managed, minus a few missing hairs and some greased up knuckles, and the meat was already producing an intoxicating smell through the tailgate zone.
(Pace and Brown smoked the butts overnight. Pace goes into explaining their secret recipe, but we here at the BFSDoArt didn’t think it was fair to give it away so easily. You’ll have to taste it for yourself!)
Then we threw on the “Fatties,” a one pound flattened out chub of ground beef, sprinkled with cheese, wrapped in a weave of bacon, and let them cook until about 9:30am. Then allowed them to rest until the crowd arrived at 10am. While they were on, we also had what we called “Mountaineer Oysters”, a meatball wrapped in bacon sprinkled with homemade rub, and tossed in a sweeter BBQ sauce. The name came from the school rivalry, Appalachian State, who are the Mountaineers. Mount Oysters are commonly known as a bull testicle, so it was a play on words that really seemed to deter a lot of people until we explained it.
Around the time people started showing up, it became obvious I was competing against my father-in-law, Dal Cannady, WTOC’s bureau chief, and that seemed to intensify things. Throughout the entire week preceding the comp, I was constantly asking my wife to ask her dad what they were cooking, how much, when, where, why, and how to try and get the inside scoop. Either he never told her or she just got tired of me asking and always said she didn’t know.
Since we got there later than expected we were never able to get any sleep, as the beginning of the cook is crucial for temps and any downtime was spent cleaning, or preparing other stuff for the competition. Needless to say, we were a little loopy during the serving period, and, believe it or not, neither of us ever got to try any of our own food other than some pieces of pork butt that fell on the table during serving. At one point, one of the contest organizers was walking us to the field for awards and mentioned the tent behind our tailgate area. We let her know it was there because we had originally planned to catch some sleep during the cook, but unfortunately we never got the chance. When questioned about staying up all night, I responded “Bacon ain’t gonna weave itself!”
All in all, we had a blast, and it was a great opportunity. The competition was excellent. I didn’t get to personally taste or see any other booths, but I heard mention of ribeye roast being sliced, shrimp being served, and tenderloins tossed in a homemade sauce. Hopefully next time we’ll be able to try each others cooks. Up until this weekend, we had never entered any kind of competition or cooked for any judges, so it was definitely an experience. We’ve already started discussing plans for next year, and looking at some other similar backyard events that we could enter. With time, we’ve even discussed looking into some catering, as we love cooking and pleasing people. Perhaps next year we could set up a booth for some BBQ sammiches at Artsfest!”