John McLemore - CEO of Masterbuilt
Lots of Exciting Things Going on with the Family Owned Smoker Fryer Company
McLemore Family with Paula Dean
3rd Generation - John Jr. On Board
Masterbuilt Smoker - Easy to Use
Cyndi Fries a Turkey in MB Fryer
Masterbuilt Cookbook - Yum!
It’s not often that I talk to a CEO with a distinct Southern drawl, but John McLemore of Masterbuilt sounded just like folks around these parts. He’s a little further South, down in Georgia. So, the dialect was a tad different, but Southern is Southern, and it’s always nice to hear those melodic vowels and words lacking the final g’s. It’s kind of like running across someone wearing a t-shirt with your favorite team logo on the front.
Why Was Grill Girl Talking to the Masterbuilt CEO?
I’m on a lot of grill and barbecue company mailing lists, since I write in those areas. Masterbuilt had sent out a note about some new research and findings, but I never get the kind of details I enjoy with basic press releases.
It is interesting that “cooking at home is important to consumers” and that 86% put more value on home meals this year versus last. I’m also glad to hear that folks want to be more creative and are looking at new ways to cook at home.
But, what I really like to know is what makes people tick and what they get excited about and what they are working on and that includes companies as well. There are always stories behind the statistics.
You’ll Never Guess How Masterbuilt Started Out?
John and his brother are second generation at Masterbuilt which is a family owned company. And, John’s son, who just graduated from high school just joined the team today, making him the first of generation three to get on board. Both brothers have three kids each, so they have a good pool of up and coming Masterbuilt kids coming along.
While Masterbuilt now makes fryers and smokers, the company actually started out when John’s father made a plant stand. He carried that around while he was selling tires for Good Year and would stop and show it to plant store owners. That went well, so he set up shop and sold plant holders.
Then, Mr. McLemore decided to make a fish fyer. It was just for home use. He loved to fry up fish. But, it worked so well and people got interested, so before you knew it, the plant stand company was converted over to make fish fryers.
Actually I think my Dad (now passed) may have had one of these. I will have to check in Mom’s attic and see.
Over the Years at Masterbuilt
Fish fryers are a rather niche market, and the family decided to expand with turkey fryers and smokers. Part of it was the need for expansion, but John said that they looked for product ideas where they could spend time with family and friends too. I can relate to that. I have grilled and smoked for years, but I really began to do that on a regular basis after having sons. They were much more likely to join in with outdoor grilling rather than with indoor cooking.
Convenience and simplicity as well as safety were key interests in developing products at Masterbuilt - again thinking about families and what folks need and want. A lot of people would love to make fried turkey but worry about a huge vat of oil perched on a flimsy tripod stand, and barbecue smoking scares folks who see visions of standing over a cooker for six, eight, or ten hours.
Masterbuilt came out with the Butterball® Indoor Electric Turkey Fryer, a turkey fryer that has many advanced safety features and works like a basic home fryer. I have one, and it really is easy to use. I put it on the cabinet, heat it up, and make some really mean fried turkey (better than any other method I’ve ever tried). And, I don’t have to worry about the boys knocking over an outdoor fryer here in football throwing land.
So far, I’ve just fried turkey in the Masterbuilt Butterball Turkey Fryer, but John was talking about how great Low Country Boil (or Frogmore Stew) is made in the fryer which also boils and steams. Now, I have a craving for a big pot of LCS, so I think I might just give that a try this weekend.
With the smoker, the company went with electric. Consumers who are not comfortable with charcoal or wood can just add some wood chips and get smoked barbecue without having to babysit the unit for hours.
I’ve done many a smoke with the alarm set for some ungodly hour to get up and check Boston butts or shoulders. That’s fine. I enjoy it. But, wood or charcoal smoking is not for everyone. It’s great to have options.
What’s New with Masterbuilt
I, of course, asked John what we can look forward to with Masterbuilt, and they have quite a few exciting projects in progress.
They have a smaller version of the turkey fryer which will use less oil (2 gallons versus 3) and then also a larger model that will fry turkeys up to 20 pounds (original model goes up to 14 pounds).
And, they have come full circle, with a new fish fryer which is more shallow and perfect for not only fish but also Southern fried chicken and other smaller fried items. Just thinking about that gives me a craving for a big batch of home cut French fries.
Masterbuilt also has a smoker coming out with a probe thermometer. That goes in the meat with a read out on the control panel. You put an expensive cut like prime rib in a smoker, and you do not want to chance overcooking and ruining it. The digital read out will allow home smokers to check without opening the lid all the time to double check and then perhaps miss the point of perfection.
Another addition will be a cookbook, “Dadgum That’s Good,” which will be out in the fall of 2010. I asked John who was doing the cookbook, and he said, “Well I am.” It includes recipes from the family that they make at home and for friends. I’m looking forward to that cookbook. It’s fun to get real recipes from real people, especially when they know what they’re doing.
To keep up with all the news from Masterbuilt, check out the Masterbuilt fan page at Facebook. You'll find more updates there as well as photos and recipes.