Pit Master for a Day

By: Rob Bleifer

I suspect, like most of us, a day off is rarely a day away from food or cooking. This was the exact case for me when a day off last week turned into a crazy barbecuing day.

I was offered the opportunity to do a pig roast on a "competition-style" pit. Of course, I jumped at the opportunity. The other players involved included my in-laws, who are far removed from the world of food. Since they weren’t enthused at the thought of the work involved in breaking down a whole hog, we decided to BBQ six full-sized pork butts.

As usual, a friendly little gathering of just a few friends and family quickly turned into dinner for 40. My brother-in-law and father-in-law were really excited for the roast; I thought this meant I had some helpers for the day. Imagine my surprise when I found myself getting the beast fired up, readying the meat and tending to it all day alone.

I started the fire with oak and hickory logs at 10 a.m. The butts arrived just after I lit the fire, which gave me just enough time to open, season, tie and let them hang out long enough before they met the fire. The fire was supplemented all day with more logs, a healthy dose of charcoal and the occasional hit of fresh hickory shavings. The smallest butt came out of the "oven" at 5 p.m., the largest at 7 p.m. The meat had a killer smoke ring, perfect charring and was as moist as can be.

If only I had room in my driveway for a rig like that!

Robert Bleifer is the Executive Chef for Food Network and is responsible for everything from managing kitchen of ten, to hands-on food styling and cooking for special events, to coordinating with network production teams, chef/hosts, guest chefs, photographers and network departments. He oversees in-house food production, location production, photo shoots, vignettes and food for more than 75 Food Network events annually.

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