The Keys to
Ask any of the top 10 BBQ competitors in Australia, and they’ll tell you that one of the keys to their success is achieving Consistency. In my interview with Lukas from Rollin’ Smoke BBQ, he filled me in on The Keys to Consistency.
Some background on Rollin' Smoke BBQ
I’d like to begin by sharing some information about Rollin’ Smoke’s last season. Overall, Lukas finished 9th on the Barbeques Galore Australian Barbecue Championship ladder. A top ten finish without winning a Grand Champion is remarkable and achievable in only one way: by being consistently excellent.
Last season, Rollin’ Smoke competed in 9 competitions, totalling 39 hand-ins. Of these 39 hand-ins, 19 were top 10, 10 were top 5, 5 were top 3, 2 were second places, 2 were first places and he earnt 2 Reserve Grand Champions overall. Earlier this year, Rollin’ Smoke partnered up with Country Boys BBQ for the inaugural Meatstock Auckland. He then went on to win the Clean Heat Charcoal Rib Off in Melbourne, earning the title of ‘Rib King’. The pattern is obvious.
The Keys to Consistency - Commit to your Compadres
Lukas rarely modifies his team configuration. Most of the time he competes by himself. He occasionally competes with his off-sider Shane, but Shane is often relegated to the roll of ‘an extra set of hands’. No matter how you structure your team, the point here is to find a system that works for you and your friends and stick to it until you’re a finely tuned machine.
The Keys to Consistency - Commit to your Cuts
Step 2 is to find your favourite cuts. There’s two levels to this. Firstly, decide on what you want to cook. For example, decide if you’re going to chicken thighs or breasts and commit to that. This applies to all categories: if you want to do ribs in the Beef category, then do that, every time. Furthermore, if you find a supplier that you like, stick with that supplier. Even though it might be the same cut of meat, individual pieces will behave differently when cooking, especially brisket. Committing to a specific supplier is one thing you can do to minimise this variable.
The Keys to Consistency - Commit to your Compounds
Firstly, I’d like to apologise for not being able to find a better ‘C’
word for recipes. I’ll try harder next time. Extending from point 2, it’s also important to commit to a recipe. This includes all of your rubs, sauces and injections. Whether you make all of your own from scratch or you use off-the-shelf products, you must make a decision and stick to it.Lukas loves to use 7 Sins BBQ Rubs and Sauces. Although they are off-the-shelf there are steps you can take to differentiate your flavour profile from the people next to you. Lukas likes to blend different rubs and sauces together to tweak the profiles. Personally, I like to add extra ingredients to suit my tastes.
Once he has found a flavour profile that he likes, he will practice at least one of the recipes every week, all year. This ensures that his recipes are down pat before comps.
At this point, we need to discuss the one exception to this rule. Generally speaking, there are two types of competitions: urban and regional. The only time Lukas will modify his recipes is when he’s competing in regional competitions. Typically, judges at regional competitions have more conservative tastes so Lukas will make some minor changes such as dialing down the chili. It’s important to know your audience.
The Keys to Consistency - Commit to your Cooker
You’ve probably picked up the pattern by now: find what works for you and stick to it. This rule also applies to your smoker. Typically, most teams will use 2-3 cookers. The exceptions are the teams that have large offset or trailer smokers that can fit an entire comp cook in the one unit.You may find that one particular cut responds better to one style of smoker. Or you may find that one particular cut needs to be cooked at a different temperature to everything else. It his is the case, you’ll definitely need 2 or more smokers.With this sorted, you need to stick to your system every time. This includes using the same fuels every time. In Lukas’ case he uses his Bullockhead Creek trailer exclusively at comps. He also uses the same fuel every time: charcoal and oak.
The Keys to Consistency - Commit to your Contrivance
Oh God, I’m getting worse… Game plan. I mean Game plan. The final key to consistency is your game plan. If you’re going to a comp, it’s vital to have some form of run-sheet. It may be a chalk or whiteboard, or in my case, printed out on A4 paper. Lukas has a standard game plan that he uses at every comp. The only modifications that he does to it is to make change for different hand-in times, and allowing himself time to sleep.