It’s a sweltering hot Sunday in July and a dozen of us are standing outside of Hoodoo Brown BBQ at quarter to eight in the morning. A father-daughter duo came in from the Upper East Side, one guy came from Queens, others made a 45-minute drive down from parts of the Hudson Valley or from various parts of Fairfield County, the rest sped over from up the street. At that time, Hoodoo Brown was still over three hours away from opening its doors to customers craving their Texas-inspired barbecue, so what the heck were we all doing there?
Would you believe it if I told you that the pack of us were excited about going to class? It’s certainly the first time I’ve wanted to attend any form of summer school. We were all present for Hoodoo Brown’s BBQ 101 class, a new experience offered by the popular Ridgefield meatery.
BBQ 101 is taught primarily by Cody Sperry, Hoodoo’s owner and pitmaster, with assistance from a few crew members including Nick Rivera. “This is only the second time for the class, so forgive me if I’m a little nervous,” Sperry said at the beginning of the class. “The first two—including this one—were to test it out. The first one went well, people have been curious about it, and we’ve had people come in from all over the Tri-state.”
To start, everyone took turns introducing themselves with a quick bio, plus what brought them to the class, and what meats they enjoy smoking. Most were home cooks looking to get into smoked BBQ as a hobby, others were simply looking to improve.
Sperry then told us what we were about to get into during our four-hour session. Ribs, pulled pork, and brisket were the subjects, but make no mistake, we didn’t sit around listening. We watched the Hoodoo crew demo how to properly trim each cut…then we actually had to get in there and do it! Some of that included what to throw away, like cutting off the deckle on a brisket, removing the silver skin on spareribs, and industry tips on how to efficiently go about it.
Other nuances of BBQ like fire management, how to pick out a good piece of meat, spice rubs, cooking times and temperatures, how to feel for doneness, and how and when to wrap were a huge part of Sperry’s lesson.
One main point that Sperry stressed was that BBQ enthusiasts, including serious home cooks, should keep a journal of sorts about what they’re doing or changing up and the results of each smoke as a reference guide. Sperry told us that logging everything even helped them improve over the years as he reflected back to their 2015 debut when Hoodoo’s brisket rub had big chunks of cracked pepper. “They’d get stuck in your teeth,” he said. “We learned that the pepper needed to be smaller; we changed the salt-pepper ratio to 1:1 and use Prime brisket because it has good marbling.”
It’s a given that if you sign up for BBQ 101 that your appetite will build throughout the hours of encouraged dialogue. Good thing for you that at the end, after you learn how to pull pork, separate ribs, and expertly slice juicy brisket, that you get to partake in a meat lovers feast.
When it’s all over, you’ll snap a group photo and Hoodoo Brown will send you home with a gift bag of swag, sauces, spice rub, (hopefully) leftover cue, and some recipes sent to your email a week later.
For Sperry, it doesn’t end there. “Barbecue is about fun, family, and friends, so let’s continue this relationship,” he said. “Let me know what you’re cooking, what’s working, reach out if you need a piece of meat, message me if you need advice, even if you’re traveling and want to know where to eat good barbecue. Use me as a resource.”
Ideally, Hoodoo Brown would like to offer BBQ 101 once per month if time allows. For those who have taken it already, Sperry hinted at the possibility of follow up classes on poultry or Hoodoo’s famous whole hog.
BBQ 101 will be back on September 1, September 29, October 27, and November 17, but they’re already sold out. Your best bet is to follow the Hoodoo Crew closely for any additional or future class dates.
Hoodoo Brown BBQ
967 Ethan Allen Highway; Ridgefield
(203) 438-6033; http://hoodoobrownbbq.com/