When I spoke to Tyler Salyer of Memphis' Big Mouth Smokers several weeks ago about competing on TLC's BBQ Pitmasters, I ventured a guess as to the secret ingredient for the Pitfire elimination round.
"Funny you should say that," answered Salyer.
The ingredient turned out to be frog legs, and it was what did in the Big Mouth Smokers.
The team, made up of twentysomething teachers, were cast as the newbies against the more seasoned Wood Chicks, A Boy and His BBQ, and 3 EYZ BBQ.
The episode, which aired last Thursday, was brutal. All four teams were a bit flummoxed with how to prepare the episode's main dish, turducken, and there was more flop sweat all around when the Pitfire challenge ingredient was announced.
Salyer, leading his team, was confident and knowledgeable. But he was also realistic. When Big Mouth's frog legs were presented to the judges — Art Smith, Warren Sapp, and Myron Mixon — just this side of raw, the team was asked to leave, their turduckens seemingly never to pass the judges lips ...
In the aftermath, Salyer took the time to answer some questions.
How'd you think you came off?
After watching the show, we’re happy with how we came off. We knew what we were doing with the turducken, but had no clue what to do with the frog legs. I think we came off as competent and not a team that just walked out of the woods.
You mentioned in our original talk that you've looked for the secret ingredient at area stores since the taping but haven't been able to find them. That ingredient was frog legs. Have you found them, and, if so, did you try to cook them?
I have STILL not found frog legs anywhere in Memphis, but I do want to find them and try to cook them again. I have got to master this thing before I can move on!
What'd you think about the competitor questioning your use of cookbooks? And, cookbooks, really?
When you go to any kind of competition, you have to do what you do and not worry about what anyone else is saying. We had an idea that we would have to cook something pretty exotic, so we brought a few wild game cookbooks. We wanted to have them there to give us the flavor profiles for different meats that we hadn’t cooked before. Unfortunately, the only thing we could find for frog legs was a fried recipe. After we fried them, there was so much moisture in the meat that the batter wouldn’t stick. At that point we had 10 minutes left and knew we weren’t going to pull it out.
Done any competing since the show?
This weekend is our first competition since filming the show. We’re cooking in the Bartlett BBQ Cookoff.
Are you rooting for a particular team?
We are cheering hard for Melissa Cookston and Yazoo’s Delta Q. They are friends of ours and the best cooks out there! We’ve gone to a couple of their classes and they are some of the nicest people you’ll meet.
Is there going to be a reunion show or anything that might bring you back to Pitmasters?
I sure hope there’s something that brings us back! When we were chosen for the show we thought that for sure we would be cooking at least one real barbecue dish. I was looking forward to just having some of the big names in barbecue taste my food and judge me on what I cook each weekend. We feel like if we had the chance to go out there and cook some real barbecue then we would have surprised a lot of people.
I have to know about the turduckens you started. What happened to them after you were eliminated?
After we got eliminated, they made us put out the fire in our barbecue pit and move off set. Well, we took our other smoker and moved it about 15 feet over to the side and finished cooking our turduckens. After they were done we sat there and started feeding the crew.
At first there were only about four to five people there, but then I look up and there’s a line of about 15 people waiting to get some. While I’m serving the crew some of our turducken, I was making comments about how I wish the judges would have let us turn it in and I look up and see Art Smith in front of me. Long story short, he said our turducken was amazing! He even went and got the other judges and brought them over to the table to try some. They were all extremely complimentary.
A few days later, we met up with Wood Chicks in Arizona, and the first thing they said was that Myron kept complimenting our turducken. We feel like that proved we knew what we doing, even if that didn’t make it to the show.