I had a chance to meet with Jim from Texas Outlaw BBQ in advance of the 2014 Best in the West Nugget Rib Cookoff and asked him some questions to get to know him better.
2014 Best in the West Nugget Rib Cookoff Competitor
Location: Elizabethtown, KY - just outside of Louisville
Texas Outlaw Barbecue has been in business over 25 years. After living in Houston and working as an engineer for several years, Jim moved to Elizabethtown KY and into the BBQ scene. Starting with local competitions, Jim started to capture the spotlight by taking first place, eventually finding his way to the National stage. He was winning like crazy and having a great time. After being told by his friends "you do all these competitions, why don't you put a restaurant in there," Texas Outlaw Barbecue was born, and then reborn to a larger, more prosperous venue that seats about 220 people and runs that along with doing 15-20 national competitions a year all over the country from California to Florida.
Jim makes his own sauces and rubs and has been quite successful at what he has done. He actually let Boomer Esiason use his sauce for Boomer's Heroes and they used it for 5 years and it was the Official Sauce of the NFL.
Jim loves to compete and loves to win. A couple of weeks ago Jim competed in the Mystic Lake Rib Festival in Minnesota. They invited 8 of the top cookers to compete and Jim and Texas Outlaw Barbecue took first place at that event and brought home the first place. The next week they went to Wisconsin and he won the People's Choice at the 2014 Pig in the Pines Rib Fest in St. Germain. The Best in the West Nugget Rib cookoff is the Big Daddy of them all. Jim and Texas Outlaw Barbecue is one of two competitors to win that event three times and has been on the Food Network for that event.The second largest is in Naperville IL and Jim has won First Place 4 times at that event.
Q. What do you like best about Competing in Reno?
A. It is the competition. All the best cookers are there. I also love the big crowds that are just there for BBQ. Jim has been attending that event for 22 years and has developed quite a following while at the event. Every year gets a little bigger for him. He has people that have worked for him while in Reno while they were in High School many years ago. Now they are married with kids of their own and they still come back and work for him when he comes to Reno.
Q. How much meat do you go through while in Reno?
A. Somewhere around 18,000 - 20,000 lbs of meat - Ribs, brisket, pulled pork, chicken...that is a lot of meat and a lot of work. That is cooking 24 hours a day with 3 Southern Pride Smokers going full time for 6 days/24 hours a day.
They do everything the old fashioned way. They make their own rub, they use lump coal with a good combination of cherry, apple, hickory and pecan wood.
He loves winning the event in Reno. Last year he took 2nd place and missed first place by just a couple of points.
Q. Have you ever missed a turn in?
A. No, but he had a dream that he did. He woke up in a cold sweat until he realized it was just a dream
Q. What is your specialty - what do you love to cook?
A. My specialty is Ribs, but he sells a ton of brisket during the Best in the West Nugget Rib Cookoff.
He used to go out to Portland Oregon to the Cattleman Association Cookoff and he won for like 8 years in a row with his Brisket.
Q. What makes your BBQ Unique? How do you win? What makes you special?
A. He makes a very unique rub and sauce. His sauce is a Spicy honey BBQ sauce with a nice tiny little bite to it. He has perfected the cooking time, temperature and selection of woods to make a great product.
He never wants to hear, "man this is good sauce" or "this is good smoke.' Instead he wants to hear, "wow - these are great ribs!". He wants everything to blend together to make a great flavor. He never wants anything to be overbearing in the process.
Q. What advice would you have for a beginning competitor or an aspiring backyard BBQ'r
A. I would say patience is one thing. You never want to rush what you are doing. Find yourself a good smoker and learn how to maintain a constant temperature. You are not cooking on a flame, you are using ambient heat. Don't over smoke your meats, just use enough to give it a nice little flavor. Grab yourself a cold drink and sit back and let it go and learn as you go. You have to enjoy it. If you don't enjoy it, you won't be any good anyway. The more you do it, the better you will get and after awhile, you will develop your own flare and you will tweak things a little bit. Experiment a bit. Start off with a basic rub, get yourself a good sauce and experiment until you find the one you like. You will find that you will probably end up with a Texas Outlaw BBQ Sauce anyway, so just have fun with it.
You will become very popular with your friends. They will all want to come over. It is amazing as you become a good BBQ'r how popular you get amongst your friends. It will increase your social life, although it may not improve your pocketbook.
Q. Do you have a favorite BBQ Experience?
A. One time when he won the Best in the West competition in Reno, the night before the competition he had a dream that he won. He wanted to win it so bad that he felt that if he never won another competition this is it, I am happy...that is how bad I wanted to win that competition!
Q. Where do you see your BBQ Future Going?
A. I enjoy competing and doing the cookoffs so much that I would love to expand and do more every year. I might also want to compete on PitMasters or some other TV BBQ cooking show. In several weeks, I am going to be on the Secret Chef of Louisville where they come interview me and interview my customers and then play the interviews on the show.
I am also the President of the National Barbecue Cookers Association (NBCA). They are out promoting rib cookoffs and BBQ in general.
Q. How is your restaurant going?
A. We just got done with a huge renovation of our restaurant and we are having a soft grand opening next week. We are excited because it has been closed for almost a year so we are hoping that it grows and becomes successful again.
Q. What are your favorite competitions?
A. I would have to say that my top three are:
- The Best in the West Nugget Rib Cookoff in Reno NV is probably my favorite.
- Second is the Naperville Ribfest in IL
- The third is probably the Mystic Lake Rib Festival in Minnesota. It has only been going for one season, but it was put together so well and they have invited me back again next year.