It’s All About the Pit
While the term Pit Master is one everyone in the barbecue biz may be familiar with, the rest of us probably have heard but really don’t understand it. “Think of it as being the executive chef in a high-end restaurant,” smiled Tim Keegan, Executive Pit Master extraordinaire at Fiorella’s Jack Stack Barbecue. “Most Pit Masters have at least five years’ experience in an open pit, that’s a wood fire. They control everything – the meat choices, the cuts, the fire and meat temperatures, the rubs, the sauces, everything.”
Jack Stack, with five restaurants, has five Pit Masters and the “youngest” has about nine years’ experience. They get up VERY early and are usually at work by four or five in the morning, put in a 12 hour day typically and then go home to dream about barbecue. They each have two assistants who are “in training” for the Pit Master job.
Jack Stack began life as the Smokestack in 1955 and Tim was there in 1999 – after already honing his skills at his family’s barbecue (Snead’s) starting at age 11 and an additional 12 years, beginning in 1987, running his own eponymous barbecue restaurant. He was well versed in what it takes to run a great barbecue restaurant and opened up three of the latest restaurants. Now he’s in charge of the cooking production and procurement for the shipping division of the business which allows thousands of non-Kansas City folk to enjoy ribs, cheesy corn, sausage, brisket, the works.
You may have seen Tim, on TV because he’s been on numerous Food Network shows, public TV here and in Iowa, and even the History Channel. His passion for his job and what he does always shines through.
By the way, that wood fire? At Jack Stack, it’s 70% hickory, 30% oak and each of their five locations burns five to seven cords a week. You probably know a cord is 128 cubic feet or a close stacked woodpile about 4 feet high, 8 feet long, and 4 feet deep. It’s a LOT of wood, that’s all I can say.