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Ask Mister Bob

Have a question about BBQ?  Ask Mister Bob!

From the backyard to the professional competition circuit, if there’s something you want to know about barbecue, you’ll find an answer here.

Click on Mister Bob’s picture, then leave your question in the comments box.

Want to know how to tell when a brisket is done to perfection? Maybe you’re having trouble controlling the temperature in your pit, or working on your own signature sauce and just can’t seem to get the right balance of flavors?

Are you heading to your first competition and don’t know what to expect?  Or maybe you’re getting started in catering and want to know how many pork butts you’ll need to feed your party?

You’ve come to the right place.  The only dumb question is the one you didn’t ask, so go ahead and ask!

190 Responses to “Ask Mister Bob”

  • ricky:

    I see cooks all the time putting one meat on the top great and another on the bottom……how does the drippings from the meat on top affect the meat on the bottom?

  • Mister Bob:

    Most cooks I know will let pork fat drip on pork or beef, but only let beef drip on beef. In fact, one competition cook I know swears that the secret to his success in the brisket category is the drippings from his pork butts on the rack above.

  • Cutty:

    I’m pretty good backyard griller, wants to try competition how or were should I start? do they have any category for beginners?

  • Mister Bob:

    Cutty, Some competitions have a ‘backyard’ category, but I haven’t seen many in my neck of the woods. You shouldn’t be intimidated to enter the professional categories though. Most cooks I know would go out of their way to help a beginner. A good place to start is Click on ‘events’ and find competitions in your area. Visit one or two before entering one and talk to the cooks. One warning…it can quickly go from hobby to obsession. It did for me!

  • Scott:

    Hey Bob,

    I’m trying to put together a marinade for ribs, wondering if I could get any suggestions from you specifically on a couple things… I do an injection for my pork butts thats essentially a brine, with about a 1/2 cup of sugar & 1/4 cup of salt for every cup of liquid. I’m thinking that might be too much salt and sugar for a rib marinade since its so much less meat. Do you use salt & sugar in your rib marinade? Just wondering your thoughts on marinating vs brining ribs.


  • tina cannon:

    can you give me some advice on how to locate the horn and present it in a comp box

  • Mister Bob:

    The horn is a curved bone you can see on the side of the butt adjacent to the money muscle. The meat underneath is some of the most tender in the entire shoulder. Here’s a link to my most recent pork turn in box. The money muscle is sliced on the left, and the rest of the box is filled with chunks taken from under and around the horn bone. Feel for the most tender (not mushy) pieces with your fingers. Show some nice bark and give everything a pretty glaze. Good luck and smoke on!

  • Mister Bob:

    Hi Scott,
    Sorry for the delay in answering, I’m in the middle of a move. I have used sugar and salt in some of my marinades. For ribs I would go a little less concentrated; 1/4 cup of salt and 1/4 cup of sugar in one quart of water is about right. Then I add the flavors. Herbs and aromatics and some spice rub. The exact combination depends on rub and sauce I intend to use on the finished product. If I’m going savory, I might add onions, garlic, herbs and spices. If I’m going sweet I sometimes add fruit, sometimes just citrus, sometimes berries or whatever strikes my fancy. I do believe the brine helps with the moistness, but I always try to add another layer of flavor in every step of the cook.

  • How to I make baby back ribs where the meat is tender and just about falling off the bone. It’s one of my favorite meals and I would love to make this at home. I have not had success with this yet. I made some in a crock pot and they came out ok but not quite there yet. Can you share some technique and carefully guarded secrets on this?

  • Mister Bob:

    The key tender ribs is quite simply ‘low and slow’. About 4 hours at 225 degrees is about right for baby backs, but a good test for tenderness is a poke with a toothpick between the bones. If it feels like it’s going into a muffin, they’re done. Any noticeable resistance and let them go a little longer. A good trick to ensure tenderness is to wrap the ribs in foil after about two hours, then unwrap 45 minutes to an hour later and cook them some more until they’re just right. Here’s a link to some baby backs I did a while back. Good luck and smoke on!

  • Andy:

    Do most competition chicken winners scrape the fat off the skin or are there other ways equally effective to get good bite through skin?

  • Mister Bob:

    Some do, some don’t; I’ve tried both ways and decided it’s unnecessary. Cooked in a foil pan in a butter bath at 275 degrees, one hour uncovered then one hour covered produces bite through skin every time, scraped or not. I find the chicken stays moister when I don’t scrape the fat. My chicken consistently score in the top 10.

  • KPQ:

    Mister Bob, when are you going to do some more posts? I really enjoyed what I’ve seen on here!!

  • Mister Bob:

    KPQ, I’m glad you appreciate my work. I’m in the middle of a relocation, waiting to close on my new home so I can get my cookers out of storage and back in action. Look for my posts to start up again in October.

  • BigZ:

    New to competition, but not new to bbq, helped teams over the years, but did my first comp solo two weeks ago, placed 18th overall out of 55 teams, I was a bit discouraged. Anyways, my question, i got stuck in a rut, trying to replicate the “usual”, example being blues hog 50/50 w blues hog red for a few of the meats, anyways, when you are coming up with flavor profiles, do you start with a sauce and then base your rub on the sauces you prefer? or vice versa? I plan to go hard next year with competitions, and want to work on some flavors, just kinda stuck, bc i dont wanna work on sauces and rubs at teh same time, bc itll be hard to figure out which is best, ya know? Thanks for your time brother!

  • Veronica:

    Hello Mister Bob…I would like to get into BBQing but I am a newbie and I want to start off with something simple…what do you think of the electric smokers?

  • Mister Bob:

    Great question. I prefer to work from the inside out, meaning closest to bone and working out to the sauce then finally the finishing seasoning. With pork for instance, I start with the injection. Peach nectar, apple juice or pineapple juice as a base, then maybe a little Worcestershire Sauce, salt, pepper, herbs and spices. I then use those same herbs and spices in my rub and sauces as well, adding some cayenne for kick ginger or lemon zest for some pop, etc. Keep it simple at first and only add ingredients make sense and taste good to you. Too many spices blended together might result in a nondescript, muddled flavor profile, where a few well selected ones will sing with flavor. Trial and error and adding one thing at a time is the best way to go. Good luck!
    Mister Bob

  • Mister Bob:

    Hello Veronica,
    Electric smokers have advantages and disadvantages. They’re very easy to control and you can pretty much ‘set it and forget it’ until the meat is done. The downside is that they usually don’t seal as well as their wood or charcoal burning counterparts, so there’s is less moisture in the cooking environment. This could potentially cause the meat to dry out. A water pan can help, but a there is no real substitute for a well sealed cooker. You also don’t get that beautiful smoke ring with an electric smoker. The ring is a result of… well it’s complicated, but you can read all about it here Finally, with an electric smoker, you will be missing out on the primal satisfaction of cooking meat with smoke and fire which I find so personally rewarding. All that said, most electric cookers are fairly inexpensive and might be a good place for you to start. Good luck.
    Mister Bob

  • ozie henry:

    This weekend I cook some chicken thighs. I picked all the fat off and scraped the fat off the skin, put my rub on and reattached it to the meat and bone with a tooth pick. Cooked it and then glazed it several times with jezabel sauce. The skin was very tough. (I did brine the thighs in a kosher salt solution skin and all) did this make the skin tough?

  • Mister Bob:

    ozie Henry
    When I brine thighs, I always do it with the skin off. I have found that the brine definitely changes the texture of the skin and can make it tough. How did you cook the thighs, what method, what temperature, etc.?

  • Bernie:

    You cook your butts at 300. When cooking a large amount in an Old Hickory Pit at 300 how long of a cook time would I be looking at for the buts average weight 8-9lbsÉ

  • Bernie,
    I usually don’t cook my butts at 300, depending on what I’m cooking alongside, and whether I’m cooking for a crowd or cooking for competition my cooking temperature varies between 230 and 275 degrees. At 275, my 8-9 pound butts take about 8 hours, so I assume you can knock about two hours off that time to get to 195 degrees internal temperature (perfect for pulling). The time can vary from one cooker to the next, so pay more attention to the internal temperature and the feel of what you’re cooking instead of the clock. Once it’s done, you can hold the butts in a warm cooler wrapped in foil and a blanket for hours. Vent for 10 minutes first so it doesn’t keep on cooking in there.
    Mister Bob

  • Mr. Jeff:

    Hello Mr. Bob:

    Burnt Ends and how they are cooked are my topic. I have looked at your competition Brisket tips and want to know more. Is there anything more I need to know to make my Burnt ends awesome. I wish you would do a photo tips and tricks just on Burnt Ends. As for me I just want to eat not compete. But that doesn’t mean I can’t improve my backyard BBQ skills. Thanks again Mr. Bob. BTW I like your recent tips on smoked salmon.

  • Hello Mr. Jeff,

    Not much more to tell you about burnt ends except that they’re one of my favorite foods in the whole wide world!

    When the brisket Is done, separate the point from the flat. Wrap the flat in foil then a blanket and put it in a Cambro or warm cooler to rest for at least one hour. Cube the point (about 1″ x 1″) put the cubes in a foil pan, hit them with your favorite sauce for beef, and put them back in the cooker for about 45 minutes. A 50/50 mix of Blues Hog Original and Head Country Original works for me, but your personal favorite will work best for you. Smoke on!

  • Mr. Jeff:

    Thanks Mr. BOB!
    I will do just that. I am going to try out Pellet Envy’s Next Big Thing sauce on the burnt ends and see what happens. I assume since they are “Burnt Ends” you do not cover them with foil when you put them in the pan. Well I can’t wait to try it out on Friday. HERE in Florida it will be 72 F so it will be a great time to smoke on my WSM. I am weak on Brisket (number of cooks compared to ribs or chicken) because of the cost to make it, so I am going to focus on it this year. I have never made burnt ends so I am stoked ! Thanks again !

  • Oliver dexter:

    I like the looks of your smoker, can you tell me how well the insulated firebox works and how hot does it get to the touch?

  • Oliver,
    I’m not sure which smoker you’re talking about, I have six.

  • Oliver Dexter:

    I’m talking about the red offset smoker.

  • Hi Oliver,
    I’ve since sold that smoker. The outside of the firebox was 3/8″ steel pipe and the inside was 3/8″ steel plate with a minimum of 2″ clearance and up to about 4″ due to the difference between the round and flat surfaces. The void was filled with mineral wool insulation. Even though it was well insulated, the outside still got too hot to touch while cooking.

  • Hank:

    Bob – I tried your method for cooking Brisket as shown on this site under “Brisket Basics”. I had what I thought was a successful cook at 225 until I sliced into the brisket and it was dry. I think perhaps I let it simmer too long in the marinade mixture (beef broth, soy, etc…). it had everything else but it was dry. What are your thoughts on how this got dried out. Thanks!

  • Hank,
    The most difficult part of cooking a brisket is knowing when it’s done. Unlike pork, the temperature range for perfect tenderness and moistness varies from brisket to brisket. This can happen anywhere from 185 degrees, all the way up to 205 degrees. I have found that the better grade cut, the lower the temperature required to reach that point, but two of the same grade and same size briskets, cooked side by side might ‘give up the ghost’ at very different temperatures. That first moment when your temperature probe slides in like a hot knife through butter is when the collagen has finally converted to gelatin. Cook any longer after that and the brisket will start to dry out. The extra fat content in a prime brisket extends the time before the brisket becomes too dry, and a Wagyu is even more forgiving. But with any cut, as soon as that probe slides in like it’s going into a corn muffin instead of a beef roast, take it off, let it vent for 5 to ten minutes then wrap it back up in foil or butchers paper then a blanket and rest it for a minimum of 30 minutes before slicing. If you don’t rest it, it will bleed out moisture while you’re slicing. You’ll also want to eat it immediately after slicing before it has time to dry out. Reserving the pan juices, removing the fat and pouring the au jus over the slices will help and also add an extra punch of flavor to you brisket. Good luck and smoke on!

  • Hank:

    Bob, thanks for the reply on the “dry brisket”. One more question….Does simmering the brisket in the matinade mixture cut down on the cooking time compared to just letting it slow cook on the racks?? I really appreciate your input.

  • Hank,
    Yes it does. It’s especially helpful in pushing the temperature through the stall that usually occurs somewhere around 160 degrees or so. You can get a great brisket either way, but wrapping in foil or covering and braising when the brisket reaches the stall can make cooking time a little more predictable. That’s particularly helpful in competition BBQ.

  • Ron:

    Bob, I am planning on entering my very first competition later this year. What is the best advice you can give someone just starting out in the competition circuit. I am also looking to upgrade to a larger vessel. What type of smoker would you recommend if I am not trying to break the bank just yet? Thanks!

  • Ron,

    I highly recommend you get certified and judge a few competitions so you can see and sample what other teams are turning in, and hear what the other judges think about them. I would also practice the timing until you can nail the tenderness every time before you concentrate on flavor profiles. Finally, don’t do anything too crazy with your flavors. Mango Chutney Baby Backs are fun for a weekend cook, but might not play so well in a competitive situation. Good luck!

    For a high capacity smoker that won’t break the bank, you might consider a 22″ Weber Smokey Mountain (or two!)

  • I’m making 2 9 lbs pork butts for my neice’s sweet 16 party on Saturday using your peach injection. I have 3 Questions to ask.

    1 do you inject first then wait 24 hrs and rub
    2 do you strain the stubbs befor injecting
    3 do you bring the meat to room temp befor cooking

  • Joe,

    Sorry, It looks like I missed the deadline to answer this, but for next time:

    1 – For pork, I usually inject and marinate at least several hours before cooking (up to overnight), then rub right before it goes onto the cooker.
    2 – Yes, strain any liquid that contains herbs or spices prior to injecting or you’ll just clog your injector.
    3 – No, I put the butts right from the refrigerator onto the cooker. You’ll get better smoke ring that way because the process that causes it stops at about 140 degrees, so the longer the meat is cold in the smoke, the deeper the smoke ring. Food safety is another good reason in my opinion.

    Good luck and Happy Birthday to your niece!

  • Stephen:

    Mr Bob,

    Will you be at Hudson Valley rib rest this weekend?


  • Stephen, unfortunately no, I have a prior commitment. It should be a great comp, have fun!

  • Steve:

    Dang I was hoping we’d cross paths.

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