Masters of the Pit: Tippycanoe BBQ
February 23, 2012
As part of our ongoing Masters of the Pit series, today we’re catching up with Joe Beland, the mastermind behind award winning Tippycanoe BBQ.
Thanks for your time Joe! So where’d your love of outdoor cooking come from? Any early memories from around the grill?
When did you start barbecuing and grilling yourself? I started cooking outside after I got married. It kind of grew from there. We bought a camper and started spending the weekends sitting around campgrounds. It wasn’t too many weekends of that and I knew I had to find something to entertain myself while camping! So off to the local big box hardware store I went and I was the proud owner of a $140 smoker.
And when did you start competing?
We started competing in the fall of 2008.
Was it the same team back then as today?
Yes it was. It is the same group of family and friends. I couldn’t ask for a better group of people to spend my weekends with!
I personally love the Tippy Canoe team name. Was that your idea?
Although no one really remembers why, when our daughter was very young we called her Tippycanoe and later just tippy. When we decided to enter a local bbq event in the summer of 2008 we needed a team name. Sitting around the campfire one night we started throwing team names around with the group. We knew we wanted something different and my wife threw out using tippycanoe. From there it grew into TippyCanoe BBQ Crew and needless to say it stuck!
So from first timers in 2008 to grand champions of both the American Royal Invitational and the inaugural Sam’s Club National BBQ Tour in 2011. What’s the secret to such a meteoric rise through the ranks of the BBQ elite?
It’s been such a wild ride that I’m not sure I even believe it really happened. We never took any competition bbq classes and learned on the fly. We started tweaking recipes every 2-3 events until we hit a top three in each category. We were fortunate enough to hit on the right things fairly quickly (thanks to a lot of great bbq websites and hours of reading) and then just focused on cooking the meat to perfection every time out. I strongly believe any “normal” flavor profile can be successful if a cook can consistently cook the meat to the perfect tenderness.
And how do you possibly plan to top last year’s mind blowing record?
We are going to cook a heck of a lot more! We really only cooked 15 or 16 contests in 2011 and hope to get back to 25 in 2012. The competition keeps getting better and I’m sure we will have to fight like hell to get a few wins under our belt.
What’s been your best category to-date? Is there one you’re still playing with or do you plan on standing firm going in to the new year?
Everything stays the same for 2012 with the exception of chicken – it’s been our weakness since day 1 and still is today. We are going to see if we can change that in 2012. Pork and Ribs have been our two best categories and they seem to be what drove our success last fall.
Any contests you still have on your to-do list, either to compete in, to win or both?
Obviously, the Jack is on the list. We’ve been twice, finishing in the 20’s in 2010 and 9th in 2011. The Jack is its own animal and if we are fortunate enough to get another chance we are going to give it our best shot! Someday I’d also like to form a team of local competitors to cook Memphis in May. There are so many good cooks in this area, I’d love to be a part of some “all-star” Midwest team and see what kind of damage we could do @ MIM.
What’s next for the team? Catering, product lines, perhaps a line of Tippy Canoe swimwear?
We have teamed up with Big Tz Q Cru to start putting on competition BBQ classes. We have one under our belt and two more planned for this spring in Iowa and Connecticut. We are working on a couple of other very exciting things that I can’t talk about yet, but we are very excited about the future. BBQ has been very good to us and I hope to help it grow in the future.
So thinking back to that first contest a couple years ago, what would you have done differently today and what advice could you give to someone who is thinking about jumping in to the game for the first time?
TAKE NOTES! We started doing this about 6 months into it and it made all the difference. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve looked back at notes and figured out what I was missing, doing wrong, or found a tweak that was successful. Every time you cook, write it down – evaluate – suggest tweaks for the future.
Thanks again and continued success in 2012.
- –Clint Cantwell, Grilling.com Editor