I have been seeing ads for Competition BBQ Secrets being sold by the Chatham Artillery BBQ Team and wanted to find out more information. One of the book’s authors, Bill Anderson, was kind enough to send me a copy to look over and write a review.
Moment of transparency..Bill is selling his book with an affiliate program. This means that if you decide to buy his book through one of my links that I will make a little money. If you do decide to purchase a copy I thank you in advance!
Bill maintains a website with a ton of free information. He has over 40 videos available for free, a blog where you can ask questions and if you sign up for his free newsletter you get instant access to over 60 archived newsletters. I think the videos and newsletters give a nice feel for what Bill is all about. You can check out Bill’s free information here.
Competition BBQ Secrets (73 page PDF) was an interesting read and I consider it a nice starting point for someone new to the game of barbecue. If you have no interest in competing and just want to crank out some good bbq in your backyard then don’t let the title of the book scare you off. This is perfect for the novice backyard chef.
I have been playing the game for a while and I still picked up a few insights from their section on smoking woods. If you are a beginner and are looking for a fast track to learn then keep reading this post. If you are a member of a highly competitive BBQ team already getting calls then I don’t think you will find that “edge” you are looking for at the next competition in this book.
Competition BBQ Secrets contains detailed instructions for turkey, brisket, ribs, pork butt and chicken thighs. The book outlines which dry rubs, injections, marinades and finishing sauces the Chatham Artillery BBQ Team uses in competition. Competition BBQ Secrets includes times, temperatures and preferred smoke woods for each meat. It also includes recipes for different dry rubs and sauces for folks wanting to put their own signature on things.
Competition BBQ Secrets also contains information on getting started in competitions with about ten pages about how the contests are usually conducted, supplies need, a handy checklist, advice on timing and containers as well as a pretty nice listing of local bbq associations.
I did some searching on the BBQ forums to see what other folks had to say about the book and there were three common themes.
- This is a nice book to help you get started.
- You can learn everything in this book after reading through old forum posts.
- Can you believe they actually say to use lighter fluid!!!
I want to tackle points 2 and 3.
Point #2: This information is free on the forums.
Yes, you can pick up most everything in this book by reading the forums. The problem is that you can pick up a ton of other stuff as well. The forums can be confusing and intimidating for someone just starting out. Going to the forums to figure out how to cook a brisket is not as easy as it sounds. First, pick your favorite forum (Smoke Ring, BBQ Brethren, Texas BBQ Forum, Virtual Weber Bullet, Smoking-Meat, Pelletheads, etc). After you figure out which forum you are comfortable with do a search on briskets and you will find threads about:
- Fat side up or down
- To inject or not
- Use of phosphates
- What is the best rub
- What is the best wood
- Foil or no foil
- CAB or Waygu
- Low and slow versus hot and fast
Once you get through all of the brisket posts you need to do the same for chicken, ribs and pork butts. After a few months of going through old threads and figuring out who has their act together and who is blowing smoke you can learn everything in Competition BBQ Secrets without ever spending a dime.
Personally I find it useful and refreshing to have a single resource that shows how one team approaches the topic start to finish. No interruptions, no hijacked threads. Are the techniques in Competition BBQ Secrets the absolute best way to make championship brisket? Probably not; but it is a nice starting point. You also only need to spend an hour or two doing the reading instead of months detangling forum threads.
I place a value on my time. I will spend a few bucks and learn something fast over learning something slow for free.
Point #3: They use lighter fluid!!
There is a forum thread that slams this book because the authors mention the use of lighter fluid when cooking ribs. For the sake of clarity, the authors talk about using lighter fluid for someone cooking their ribs on a kettle in their backyard. They are very specific in saying that the coals have to be well ashed over to make sure all of the lighter fluid is burned off. They are clear that many people find lighter fluid to be objectionable and that you might want to use a chimney instead. They also state that for competitions lighter fluid should NOT be used.
I’ll be honest, the last time I cooked ribs at my brother-in-law’s camp I used lighter fluid. He didn’t have a chimney and I didn’t feel like taking mine. The ribs turned out great. I cook for my friends and family, not KCBS judges.
This brings us back to Point #1: Competition BBQ Secrets is a fine starting point.
Whether you want to learn how to barbecue in your backyard or you want to start competing, everyone has to start somewhere. I am not enough of an expert to say the “The best place for a beginner to start is XXXXXX.” I do feel comfortable saying that Competition BBQ Secrets is a good a place to start as any.
If you want to fast track your learning curve head over to Bill’s site and pick up a copy of Competition BBQ Secrets. Bill offers a full 60 day money back guarantee so there really isn’t any risk.
I am going to have another post with a Q&A session with Bill; I’ll try to get a little “extra bonus material” from him so stay tuned!