044 Daniel – Fort Smith BBQ Society

Fort Smith BBQ Society

044 Daniel -
Fort Smith

Okay, so the final stop on our tour of the US was Fort Smith, Arkansas, the home of WalMart. My wife’s family is from that town so were there to visit the Aunts and Uncles. Not that that stopped me tracking down some very interesting people to talk Q with. The first was Daniel from the Fort Smith Barbeque Society. This is a very passionate group of local people looking to make a difference in their local area. They get out there, get dirty, and help some of the most needy in their community. But if I tell you any more, I’ll spoil it.


Chef Paul J Lange proudly brings you delicious West Australian made rubs and sauces with Smokey Q Rubs and Sauces.

Shire Smokers is where you need to go to learn all things BBQ – charcoal or wood-fired. Private and group lessons available. 

Wyld Smoke BBQ Seasoning is a local business using local ingredients on a national scale. Try the Makin’ Bacon – it’s my favourite!


  • The last thing he BBQ’d was pork loin back ribs
    • He cooked them for the Super Bowl weekend on this smoker as part of a fundraiser for a non-profit organisation
  • He has a custom built reverse flow smoker built from an old 250 gallon propane tank
    • The firebox has been built internally
  • His origin story with BBQ
    • It started with his father
    • His father was apprenticing in a BBQ shop in Little Rock where he learnt to cook ‘old school’ – salt, pepper, and hickory wood
    • He kept a little bullet smoker at the house ever since
    • He met some friends who were into smoking and got him into competing
    • His friends made him enter a few competitions first before they would build a smoker with him
  • They let the propane tank vent out for 8 weeks before they started cutting into it
    • They bought the tank from a tank dealer
    • It had been decertified
    • They removed all the fittings and let it sit out in the pasture for the time
    • They had storms come through and the rain helped wash it out for a while
    • There was no propane at all left in tank, just an odour. The odour is what is added to the propane for detection
    • They did roll the tank over to drain out before they started cutting into it
    • The odour burns out once you start using it for cooking
    • They lit a ‘trash fire’ in there the first time to check drafting and to get the smell out. It was undetectable after a few seasoning cooks
  • The Fort Smith Barbeque Society
    • It was created to help with the promotion of BBQ and BBQ Competitions
    • Daniel did not start it, but he joined in 2008
    • Competitions were just starting to get off the ground in their area around 2000
    • They were inspired by the Houston Rodeo competition
    • Their competition is called the ‘Border Town Bash’ and the proceeds go to a local children’s charity
    • Examples include the Fortunate Boys Shelter which takes in boys who’ve been taken from their homes due to issues with their families and the Children’s Emergency Shelter. The CES gets children from all over the state. Often they only get 45 minutes notice and arrive with nothing but the clothes on their backs. Drugs are a big family issue in that area at the moment
  • A day in the life
    • ‘Controlled Chaos’
    • Their Border town contest is in July to avoid conflicting dates with comps in Oklahoma which is their neighbouring state, hence ‘Bordertown’
    • Daniel’s job is mostly logistics – moving trailers, making sure people are in the right place etc
    • He organised all the judges one year and was asked not to do that again and that he needs to delegate
    • He’s more of a back-of-house person
  • Most successful event was a fundraising event they did to raise money for Bordertown
    • They sold 700 racks of ribs in a day
    • It was 105 degrees and one guy passed out from the heat
  • Tips for people wanting to start a charity event:
    • Work with the groups as much as you can
    • Set a decent goal
    • Work with a cause that you know is going to get as much participation as possible
  • To him, BBQ means friends and family
    • BBQ has the power to bring families back together
  • The competition scene is pretty decent in Arkansas
    • They have KCBS and NBN sanctioned competitions as well as several others including IBCA
  • How are the competition sanctioning bodies different
    • KCBS comps are very strict on what you can do
      • Must have two officials at every event
      • Judging is very strict. The promoter isn’t even allowed to be in the judging area while the judging is going on
    • IBCA is a little more relaxed on some of the criteria
      • ICBA turn-ins are every 30 minutes vs every hour at KCBS
    • In Memphis BBQ
      • Mostly cooking pork
      • If you make it through the first round, the judges will come to your site and do on-site judging
  • The backyard competition scene
    • They’re laid back
    • Usually chicken and ribs
    • Often they loosely base their rules on KCBS rules
    • Primarily done for fundraising and getting people interested in competition BBQ
    • Contests are not actually held in peoples backyards, but are attached to small festivals
  • Arkansan BBQ
    • Fort Smith BBQ is more similar to Kansas City style
    • On the Eastern side, near the Mississippi Delta, the style is more like Memphis
      • More pork than beef or chicken
      • More dry rub than wet and saucing
    • In the North East, might reflect on Memphis
    • Cooking everything with Hickory is typical Arkansan style
    • Low’n’Slow still reigns as the dominant cooking style
    • Meats: West of Little Rock they cook everything
      • Chicken, Beef, Pork and a lot of Sausage
      • East is more Pork
    • Arkansas BBQ is like a melting pot of BBQ styles
      • People from Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas and Oklahoma move into the Fort Smith area due to the number of worldwide companies based in the region employing people
      • They bring their BBQ styles with them
  • What would Daniel like to see in Arkansas in the future?
    • He’d like to see more competitions spring up
    • Wants to keep Bordertown going
      • They’re in their 17th year now
    • Wants to see more backyard/amateur contests
    • See the next generation of cookers get started
  • Brisket: Fat side up
  • Chicken: Thighs
  • Pork Ribs: Baby Backs
  • Sauce on the meat or one the side?
    • Depends on the meat. For him, 50/50
  • Charcoal: Lump over Briquettes
  • Tricky to cook? Pork loin and beef ribs
  • A tip or trick he wishes he’d sooner:
    • How to draft on a fire properly
  • The next trend in BBQ
    • Teams will start involving Sous Vide in their cooking methods
    • Using propane as a fuel source in competitions
  • Pellet grills in competitions?
    • Yay
  • His fantasy BBQ league
    • Robert Waddell of Habitual Smokers
    • Travis Clark of Clark Crew BBQ
    • Donnie Peel of Buffalo’s BBQ
    • David Bosca of Butcher BBQ
  • His website: www.bordertownbash.com
  • Facebook: Fort Smith Barbeque Society


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