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Rod Gray
Kansas City Barbeque Society - 2009 Champion

Rod Gray Pellet Envy Sam's Club
Rod Gray at Sam's Club
Photo by Phelan Ebenhack / Sam's Club

Today I had a chance to talk to Rod Gray of Pellet Envy, the 2009 Kansas City Barbeque Association (KCBS) Team of the Year Champions. The team has won over 60 barbeque championships and has been nationally ranked for eight years.

Thanks to Sam’s Club

Sam’s Club arranged the telephone interview, and I got a chance to shake down Rod for outdoor cooking tips along with Chris of Nibble Me This. Turns out Chris first had barbecue in North Carolina at a local fire department fundraiser while visiting his grandparents on their tobacco farm, so we got to add a little Southern flavor to the conversation 

If you’re wondering how Sam’s Club happened to be talking barbecue (or setting up a great chat), then that’s because they are the official supplier of the KCBS and they were out in Daytona for the PITmaster Florida State BBQ Championship 2010. They were working with the contest and thought they’d hook some of the barbecue bloggers with some of the contestants to get grilling and barbecue tips for the 4th of July.

Getting to Know Rod Gray

The conversation was nice and relaxed. Rod talked about getting to meet NASCAR driver Dale Jerrett and said that he’s a really nice guy. Rod cooked him ribs which is one of his specialties and something that a lot of my readers email about. Ribs can be more difficult to get right than they look.

Rod’s First Barbecue Experience

I also had to ask Rod about his start in barbecue. He said his first barbecue was in college when a roommate spent the whole day babysitting a brisket. When he finally got it done, he gave Rod a plate of it.

“Worst stuff I ever tasted,” said Rod.

I had to laugh about that. Yes. Some barbecue just flat isn’t fit to eat. That’s a shame too, since it takes a lot of work and time to do real barbecue.

Getting Hooked on Barbeuce

That first experience, fortunately, did not ruin Rod for life when it comes to barbecue. About 10 years ago, he checked out a competition and then got online and read all night. Then, he bought his first smoker and wrecked a lot of meat before getting it down pat.

Rod placed in his first competition and in those after and was invited to the Jack Daniels Invitational barbecue smoke off. On a whim, his wife, Sheri, decided to grill a dessert and enter. She took first place and still gives him a hard time about that. She did a simple cobbler style recipe, and Rod had told her that she didn’t stand a chance.

Well, you just never know.

Tips from Rod Gray on Barbecue

Chris and I spoke to Rod for close to two hours and got a lot of terrific information. We’re going to keep it all secret, so we’ll be the best barbecue peeps around.

Just kidding!

I’m all about sharing information about grilling and barbecue, and I find that most other barbecue folks are also really generous with tips, ideas, and recipes.

Rod said that the first tip or step is to buy good meat. He does not advocate spending a fortune but said that prime cuts are a good investment and that Sam’s Club has now added top cuts of meat which helps keep costs down.

I don’t have a membership to Sam’s Club. It is about 45 minutes from here. But, I have gone with my sister and a couple of buddies. They do have some great prices, and I am going to take a road trip, because Sam’s Club is sending me a $25 gift certificate to check out the meats for grilling.

The next thing Rod stressed was that most people do not allow enough time to get barbecue done. He recommends doing the prep work ahead and then adding more time to the schedule than expected. “Barbecue is done when it’s done,” he said. And, he said it can’t be rushed.

Another tip Rod gave was to let the meat rest on the cabinet a while before putting it on the grill or smoker. For steaks, about a half hour works and for large cuts like briskets, an hour is fine. For health and safety reasons, you don’t want to go longer than that, but getting the meat closer room temperature helps it grill or smoke more even.

How About Some Rub Advice?

I asked Rod about barbecue rubs. He said he loves Smokin’ Gun. Be warned of the gunfire if you click. I about fell out of my computer chair when I went to the site. But, it’s a cool space, and you can order the rub online.

Rod said he liked the rub, because it was a good basic rub and did not have too many ingredient like some rubs. He says it is good to have a general “go to” rub and that it can be used on anything and then other flavors added as needed or wanted.

What Does Rod Like to Grill?

Barbecue is labor intensive, so Rod does grill as well. Grilling is quicker and a break from long hours at the smoker. He said his top pick is steak on the grill, and he loves rib eye steaks. That’s the top pick for my two teen boys as well. They give him the thumbs up on that.  

Rod doesn’t like seafood. Whew boy. And, he is in Daytona, and I am inland North Carolina. Bummer. I could go for some fresh seafood on the grill. But, different strokes for different folks.

Get That Guy a NC Barbecue Sandwich

I had to ask Rod about our North Carolina chopped pork barbecue. And, shut my mouth, he has not had any. He travels thousands of miles every year and was right down the road at the Charlotte Motor Speedway last year. But, he is working on the road, and he likes to get home to his family. So, Rod gets to travel a lot but does not get much sightseeing or local food opportunities.

Next time Rod is down this way, I told him he’d have to let me know. I’ll have to get a NC pork barbecue sandwich to him. Everyone needs to try our North Carolina BBQ at least once. I can just see all those NC heads bobbing up and down “yes” out there.


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