The Posse is always shigging.
Nothing sinister, mind you, as some define the term: “stealing” barbecue secrets.
We’re always looking for techniques that will make us better cooks and that we can share with readers.
“To become great at anything you learn by trying, by failing and from observing those who are greater than you,” Posse member Daniel Goncalves says.
We first wrote about shigging in 2011, a few months after Posse member Marshall Cooper noticed that Aaron Franklin — then operating a small trailer joint in Austin — wrapped his briskets in butcher paper for part of the cook. Marshall and Posse co-founder Chris Wilkins wrote about the practice. It continues to be one of our most popular posts.
Seven years on, we’ve learned a lot. So, I thought it would be a good time to revisit the topic of shigging and see if our views have changed. . .or not.
Wilkins says his view has changed dramatically.
“Some pit masters protect their recipes and techniques like they are state secrets, others share openly and don’t worry about any effect on their business,” he explained.
On a recent visit to Bodacious BBQ on Mobberly in Longview, Wilkins asked pit master/owner Jordan Jackson how it was possible to cook a brisket for 24-plus hours and have it turn out juicy and pretty much perfect, among the best he has ever sampled.
“After I asked the question, I quickly apologized in case he didn’t want to share a secret ,” Wilkins says. “Jordan laughed and proceeded to tell us exactly how he does it. I guess, technically, that’s a shig, but if any of us can remotely smoke brisket like Bodacious on Mobberly, that’s a win for backyard pit masters everywhere.”
Wilkins plans to share Jackson’s technique in a future post.
Because of the Web and videos, there does seem to be a lot more sharing of barbecue “secrets” now than when we first wrote about shigging. For example, Google “butcher paper wrapped brisket videos” and you’ll quickly find a half-dozen or more how-to explainers posted in just the last couple of years.
“What does it say about the state of shigging when Aaron Franklin has a PBS series showing everyone how to smoke?” Posse member Jim Rossman asks. “Granted those are not his exact recipes, but who cares. . .we all want to learn whatever Aaron has to teach us.”
Cooper, the best cook among us, has a different view. He doubts that the big name barbecue masters are telling all their secrets, even in their videos.
“The competition guys don’t tell anybody,” Cooper says. “They don’t even tell their wives.”
Cooper has cooked with some of the best. A few years ago, he helped John Lewis in competitions. Lewis helped Aaron Franklin start his original trailer and also cooked at la Barbecue in Austin. Lewis now runs Lewis Barbecue in Charleston, S.C.
Cooper talks about watching Jamie Geer cook ribs on Geer’s Jambo pit in Geer’s backyard.
“I’ve seen it but I can’t reproduce it,” Cooper says.
He has coined a new term for what he thinks is really going on. He calls it reverse shigging.
In reverse shigging, the shiggee — the cook getting shigged — intentionally shares good, solid, but mainstream, tips while still keeping trade secrets private. Nobody is giving away a magic recipe.
Cooper also cautions that differences in approaches and cooking logistics make it difficult for a backyard pit master to exactly replicate techniques of the masters. The competition guys are going for that one bite that will impress judges. The volume joints could have 20 or more briskets on a single pit, compared to just one or two on the backyard smoker. The conditions are not the same.
And don’t forget that the great joints and competition kings have years of experience and, yes, even a barbecue cooking feel — call it art — that’s hard to teach or shig.
“It’s timing, reading the meat, knowing when to crank up the fire,” Cooper says.
So, there you have it. The Posse’s take on the state of shigging, 2018.
Go forth and shig. And if you learn any secrets, please share them with the Posse.