We were introduced to blogger and Portland, Oregon, deli owner extramsg last week when he responded to Gary Jacobson's post The wood versus gas BBQ debate continues as we analyze a Southern Pride recipe.
His take on the piece? "Ah, bullshit."
You can read his initial comment under the original blog post to get the gist of his argument. Basically, he says that he can cook BBQ every bit as smokey as the best wood-fired Texas BBQ joints on his gas-burning Southern Pride oven.
To that, I say: "Ah, bullshit."
When extramsg sent a lengthly followup comment last night, we felt it deserved a separate post to further the lively wood vs. gas debate.
It's an emotional issue to say the least, but please read his comments with an open mind and let us know what you think. (Note: The Daniel that extramsg refers to is Daniel Vaughn, aka the BBQ Snob, who writes the Full Custom Gospel BBQ blog. Daniel also weighed in on the wood vs. gas debate.)
Pastrami and BBQ brisket are different, for sure, but I have made BBQ brisket many times in both an electric Cookshack and a Southern Pride (and by more traditional methods). eg, we do a BBQ day twice a year (4th of July and Labor Day) at K&Z where we serve about 400 covers of Q along with our usual deli stuff.
I personally own a Cookshack. But before K&Z opened full-time in its current location, we spent two years making it in a barrel smoker with a firebox. Once a week was deli, once a week was BBQ. So I'm very aware of the differences in the products they produce. (And it's probably worth noting that I'm a KCBS certified judge and have judged events, have eaten at many of the major BBQ joints in the country, have written articles surveying BBQ in the NW, etc.)
The question I have for all of you, though, is whether you've done the same? Daniel, have you ever tested it? I know a couple people there in Dallas that would probably be happy to lend you their Cookshacks for the testing. Do the same rub, meat, wood, and temp and blind taste the difference?
Personally, I find the most difficult issue for some of the electrics to be a good bark, since some max at 250 degrees and are so small the humidity is very high inside. However, I've had no problem getting really nice barks on pork butts. And the Southern Pride we have has convection fans and can go hotter than 250, making bark easy enough to produce.
But the issue here was smoke. Truth is it's VERY easy to make BBQ smoky in an electric or gas that uses chunks or split wood. Why don't more places do it Texas where smokiness is such a traditional component? I have no clue. Why do so many places have shitty sides, chewy ribs, and undercooked or dry meats? None of that is a matter of the equipment either.
Daniel, you had the pastrami and the stuff I made was a hell of a lot smokier than what I got at Lockhart a couple days later. And that smoke flavor had to compete with the cure flavor. (Normally I'd make it less smoky but I was using pecan, which I hadn't used before, and so used extra thinking it might be like a fruit wood rather than the oak I usually use.)
I think it would be worthwhile to stop echoing some know-it-all's professed expertise on some BBQ forum or blog, passing it down like oral history that's more myth than science. No more unearned snobbery based on faulty logic about all-wood vs wood-electric vs wood-gas.