Gary Wiviott’s new BBQ book published by Running Press (which he authored with food writer Colleen Rush) is based upon his popular web-based course on how to master the Weber Bullet smoker in 5 easy lessons. Unfortunately, because I decided to skip ahead to Step 3 after Step 1, he threw my ass out of the program.
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The last time I spoke of Gary Wiviott, founder of the Chicago foodie discussion board LTHForum, it was Labor Day of last year, where I embarked upon Gary’s 5-step online WSM course. Since then I have done quite a bit of my own BBQing, but because I never truly followed his lessons to his exact specifications, I was ejected from the online course, with extreme prejudice. I don’t blame Gary for this, he warned me in advance that if I didn’t listen, I would be toast.
Since my ejection from his online Weber Bullet course — which has since been shuttered so that he could focus on newer projects — Gary has been working on a book with his friend and food writer Colleen Rush, which expands on the fundamentals of the original course and more. I got to meet him during the book’s launch party at the Paramount Room in Chicago about two weeks ago, where we had a heated discussion about the fundamentals of barbecue.
The crux of Gary’s book is that what you know about making BBQ at home is completely wrong — forget about listening to the competition winners and pros and BBQ restaurateurs who get anal retentive about temperature monitoring and probes and air vent regulation and all that stuff — just learn to build a fire properly and understand your meat.
I of course, being the technologist and systems integration expert and inquisitive by nature, find that consulting the pros and learning from their massive combined experience helps me to find my own way and gain a better understanding of the vastness that is ‘Q. Gary believes that I have been contaminated and my BBQ prowess will be irredeemably poisoned by my tendency towards constant tweaking and alteration. I beg to differ, but the man has strong opinions and so do I. He’s also bigger than I am and could probably squash me like a bug, so I’ll stay away from protracted combat with him, just in case things have the remote chance of actually getting serious between the two of us at a foodie venue.
Had I never touched a smoker before, however, I could definitely argue what Gary is saying makes sense. A lot of BBQ novices once they get their first smoker jump onto sites like Virtual Weber Bullet and go completely crazy with various different fire building methods and vent management procedures and all sorts of arcane stuff. With his book, Gary is teaching you a proven process that he has refined over many years of home smoking.. Emphasis here on home smoking — not competition, not pro, not restaurant, none of that. How to produce good results at home with inexpensive home smoking equipment. Gary’s original course was specifically for the Weber Smokey Mountain (WSM, aka “The Bullet”) but his new book encompasses offset smokers and traditional kettle charcoal grills.
So this Memorial Day Weekend I decided to toss my preconceived notions about BBQ out the door and went with his method. No temperature monitoring and no thermometers — totally by instinct (“The Force”) and Wiviott Method. I started my fire according to his way of doing things — a layer of lump charcoal at the bottom of the bowl, some hickory wood chunks, some more lump on top of that, and then I lit a chimney starter according to his directions and poured the hot coals on top. Put the water bowl on top, fill with water, layer the grates and load up the meats. Vents totally open, balls to the wall.
Essentially, I followed the first lesson, for Chicken Mojo Criollo. However, because I totally wanted ribs this weekend, I also threw a COSTCO 3-pack of dry-rub baby backs onto the lower deck. I realize of course this is likely to compromise my re-acceptance into the Wiviott Program, but so be it. I did everything else he asked me to do!
Gary’s first lesson calls for marinading two small split chickens in Goya Mojo Criollo Marinade, and then smoking it. I’ve made the Mojo Criollo recently, so this time I used Goya’s Mojo Chipotle instead, with an overnight soak. Gary calls for 4 to 6 hours for a marinade but I’m not really sure if 12 hours makes much of a difference. I’m of the opinion that the longer the marinade, the better when it comes to chicken. If he tosses my ass again over this small deviation I @#$%ing give up.
Here’s the chicken after about an hour and a half on the smoker. Again, no thermometers, all vents open.
And here is the finished product, a half an hour later.
Here is what is likely to get my ass booted again. When the chicken was cooking on the upper deck, I had the dry rubbed Baby Backs (which had been rubbed the previous night with Blackjack BBQ rib rub and sat in freezer bags in the fridge until the next day) on the bottom deck, and basted them with a Mop Sauce combination of Apple Juice, Apple Cider Vinegar, Mustard, Salt, Pepper and hot sauce every 30-45 minutes, a trick I’ve learned from several pros (yeah Gary, I CONSULT WITH PROS!!!!! I CAN’T FRIGGIN’ HELP MYSELF, OKAY?!?!?) Once the chicken was done, I moved them to the upper deck to finish cooking. The photo above is at about the 2.5 hour mark.
Finished Baby Back Ribs.