Sitting here at MeatStock, doing the dawn shift, lighting the fire and tending to our 30 day dry aged briskets I'd just laid down, I started thinking about all the different ways I could apply what I do at work to cooking a great brisket. Was this madness? Or worth the musing?
Our teams' smoker is basic, comprising of the essential elements required to get the job done: Firebox, cooking chamber, stack. The fire in the firebox creates smoke and the stack pulls the smoke and heat through the cooking chamber. During all our practice runs, and especially over this competition weekend, our team has been thinking, and overthinking, how we can possibly do things better: Different firebox designs, types of timber, blends of timber, steel plates, slots, baffles, grates, thermocouple controlled air flow fans....
What makes someone dream of doing things better? My theory is that much inspiration comes from 'pain-points' - which I'm going to loosely define as: "those things that make our job hard, dangerous, unpleasant, time-consuming or are onerously repetitive.
For us, our pain-point was controlling cook temp. Our smoker had a tendency towards being too hot, so to counteract that we'd try to keep the fire at a tame smoulder. But under those arrangements we suffered from low smokiness, but ask soon as we got smoke happening the temp would run away on us.
Today, alone for a couple of hours, I thought I'd try something mentioned to me by one of the other competitors. Simply put a tray of water in the bottom. Heat shields, directors, baffles, fans, thermocouples etc???.... No way. Water. Low-cost, functional, safe, and always works. And it did!
I recall an experience on site once in which I was asked to assist with a simple set out -literally four corners of a rectangular shaped area. It was 15:30 on a Friday afternoon - never a good time for a problem.
However, I was looking forward to seeing some new instrument software work its magic and have us out of there in 5 minutes. Great... In theory. What happens when you turn up to site with a flat battery? That's right! Three man hours lost, just in the survey crew.
It's great to have new ideas, system, tech, processes etc, BUT not at the expense of the basics, the fundamentals, the simple things that separate those that are great at their jobs...from the average.
Pulling in Different Directions
How do projects account for this? Contractors on hourly rates are actually, indirectly, discouraged to perform their job efficiently. Is there a deep-seeded conflict of interest born out of the way contracts are negotiated and managed? Let's talk about this some more another time.
Until next time, KODA