Smoking, Meats

Part of Drive My Way’s ‘Big Rigs and Barbecue’ Series

If Karl Pickard were a recipe, he’d make for an interesting mix: one part truck driver, one part foodie.

The company driver for ATS out of St. Cloud, Minn., started cooking in his mama’s kitchen at age 8.

He’s pushed his culinary boundaries ever since, whether he’s cooking at home or on his truck.

“Us out here on the road, we don’t have much. The one thing I do insist on is good food,” says Pickard in a smooth drawl. Pickard puts few limits on what he’ll cook, even if it means having to improvise while on the road for his CDL trucking job.

Karl and Jeanette“Everything we cook really does not have a recipe,” he says of himself and his wife, Jeanette. “We’ll look at the recipe online and get the general idea, then we take it in any direction we want to take it.”

Having a CDL trucking job doesn’t hinder Pickard’s ability to cook what he wants. He’s been at it long enough to make anything work. On the road, Pickard loves to grill truckside. On any given evening, he could be firing up brats, sausages or the stuffed hamburger Jeanette makes.

But when he’s home, it’s all about the smoker. Pickard learned to smoke meats when he was a teenager. He learned from watching his uncle and stepdad, who were “big into it.”

By now, Pickard, 57, is big into it, too. He’s smoked it all, from brisket and pork shoulder to fish and sausages. When asked what he prefers to smoke, he replies, “Everything. I’m an eater. I’m a foodie. I just like eatin.”

The Prep

Pickard loves pork short ribs most of all. He recommends first pulling off the membrane on the inside of the ribs. If the membrane is on, the dry rub won’t soak in. And for Pickard, it’s all about the dry rub.

“The rub gives the meat its flavor,” he says. “So you start with a good dry rub, like McCormick’s applewood dry rub. I add to that chipotle, cayenne powder, brown sugar and black pepper. You rub it on your ribs really thick—really thick—and put them in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours.”

When Pickard’s ribs have marinated long enough, he fires up the grill to 225 degrees. He soaks wood chips in water, getting them nice and wet so smoke develops. Then he puts his ribs on the grill and closes it up, letting them smoke for 8 to 10 hours at low temperature.

Cooking on the Truck

Pickard cooks ribs on the truck, too, but when he does, it’s quite a different process. When the ribs have Karlmarinated in the refrigerator for 24 hours, he cuts the slab into three equal pieces and places them in his Aroma cooker, one slab on top of the other. He sets them to “slow cook” for three to four hours, “until they’re nice and tender,” he says.

Then he fires up his 18-inch gas grill and cooks the ribs for about 10 more minutes per side, until they’re crispy.

“If you want sauce, I’ll bring sauce to the table,” Pickard says. “I do not sauce my ribs. I take pride in what I make. It’s the best feeling to see the looks on people’s faces while they’re eating what I cooked.”

Missed our first “Big Rigs and Barbecue” story? Check it out here.

Featured image courtesy RealAKP / Pixabay, other images courtesy of Karl Pickard.


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When It Comes to Grilling, This Truck Driver is Right on

Part of Drive My Way’s ‘Big Rigs and Barbecue’ Series

When Charlie Clark says she grew up on a truck, she’s not exaggerating. The long-haul truck driver, an owner operator leased to Larry Gary, really has been in trucking “for the long haul”—ever since she was 2 weeks old.

An Alabama native, Clark is a child of the highway. She was raised by her father, a truck driver. And while Clark inherited her father’s love of the road, she likewise inherited his passion for barbecue.

Charlie with her fiance, Matt Horne

Clark with her fiance, Matt Holmes

“My daddy always had a grill with us on the truck growing up,” Clark says. “I was all up in his face when he was grilling, so he could either teach me or I was going to become annoying.”

Clark’s father, a southerner from Oklahoma, had wanted a son. So he named his girl Charlie. But it didn’t take Clark long to prove that when it comes to barbecue, she can hang with the big boys.

“The first thing I did on my own was I smoked a brisket when I was 11 years old,” recalls Clark, who was home schooled on the truck yet graduated from high school a year early. “We used to make deer jerky all the time. I’ve been making jerky since I was 7 or 8. That’s like second nature to me.”

Clark recalls catching grasshoppers at age 6 and using them as fish bait; constructing makeshift grills at campsites; and barbecuing with her dad at the lake.

“I did a lot of rabbit as a kid,” Clark says. “I’d kill ‘em and skin ‘em and grill ‘em. Grilling is in my blood.”

Truck Driver Is Right on Today, Clark teams with her fiancé, Matt Holmes. When they’re off the clock from their CDL trucking jobs, Clark prefers making steaks and barbecued ribs. She coats her ribs with a homemade dry rub, marinates them in whiskey or beer and lets them sit in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for 24 hours.

Clark cooks her ribs on an 18-inch grill, cutting the slab in half so they’ll fit.

“My concoctions differ,” says Clark of her dry rubs. “Some of them will be spicy, some won’t.” Cayenne, garlic, some secret seasoning she picks up in Florida, it all depends on which meat Clark is cooking.

Clark uses her 18-inch grill for cooking nearly anything.

Clark uses her 18-inch grill for cooking nearly anything, such as these chicken-fried steaks.

So what’s Clark’s secret to making great barbecue? “Time and patience,” she says. “Anybody can cook a hot dog, but it takes patience to cook a steak or a brisket just right.”

The last time Clark cooked brisket, it was on her 18-inch grill. “Nobody’s sleeping,” she says of the experience. Clark wrapped her brisket in aluminum foil and let it cook on low heat for 29 hours. It turned out great, she says.

“Barbecuing is our time to relax and kick back,” Clark says. “It gets us outside the truck. It’s the equivalent of going home for the weekend.”

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