A Day in the Life of a Barbecue Pitboss

March 29, 2012

We're celebrating the artisans, writers, makers, and more who make up the diverse and inspiring world of food.

Today: Supply Chain follows Rodney Muirhead into the kitchen of Podnah's Pit in Portland, Oregon for some first-class barbecue.

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Since its opening in 2006, Rodney Muirhead has been the pitboss as Podnah's Pit in Portland, Oregon. What does that mean aside from the fact that he has the coolest job title ever? It means that Rodney and his pit crew are up at 5:00am every morning to light oak logs in the firebox and start smoking the 500 pounds of meat that they serve each day, everything from brisket to pulled pork to ribs.

Don't let its location in the Pacific Northwest fool you: Podnah's Pit serves serious Texas barbecue. The restaurant is even named for Rodney's grandfather's nickname -- "Howdy, partner" equals "Howdy, podnah" in Texan. And along with slow-smoked meat you can expect an array of Southern fixings: cornbread, collard greens, and even migas.

We love the integrity, dedication, and just plain hard work that the Podnah's staff brings to their restaurant. Want to see for yourself? Last Saturday, Rodney recorded a typical day at the Podnah's for us -- it's the next best thing to one of their sliced brisket sandwiches. (Or a smoked prime rib cheesesteak.)

- Rodney

"Without a doubt, the morning does not begin until the coffee is made. We start at 5:00am and I think there would be a mass rebellion if we ever ran out of coffee."

"That's Ian getting sausages ready for the smoker. We make sausages twice a week but it's a process that takes a few days. They are seasoned and ground on day one, filled into the casings on day two, and smoked on day three."


"This is round one of the pork ribs and briskets that will be ready for dinner today. Between the ribs, briskets, and pork butts, we cook about 500 pounds of meat each day. Ribs take about 4 hours and we do two rounds of those daily. By comparison, briskets take about 10 hours and pork butts take about 12 hours."


"We use an Ole Hickory smoker, but not the way the factory wants you to use it. Which is why it's so ugly! We burn oak and don't use the gas option other than to light the fire in the morning, so you have to keep the firebox door open a little to regulate the air flow for the fire. That's why my shiny stainless smoker is so stained with smoke."


"Breakfast is one of my favorite meals at the restaurant. We only do it on Saturday and Sunday mornings but it gives us all a chance to do something different two days a week. We try to keep it to standard Southern breakfast classics like biscuits and gravy, grits and eggs, and hashes. We also do some things that I miss from Austin like migas, huevos rancheros, and chilaquiles. One of my favorite things to see at breakfast is people ordering potatoes, eggs, a biscuit, and either pork ribs or brisket."


"Every Saturday we smoke a couple of prime ribs. It's probably our most popular special of the week. We season them a couple of days before and they are in the smoker for about 4 hours. They usually sell out that night, but if there is any leftover we slice it really thin and make smoked prime rib cheesesteaks."


"That is our combination plate The Pitboss getting built! It comes with pulled pork, brisket, pork ribs, a sausage, 2 side dishes (on this plate it's potato salad and collard greens), and cornbread. It's a good introduction to just about everything we do here."


"This is a sliced brisket sandwich which, to me, is one of the greatest things you can eat. A little onion, a jalapeno, and a cold beer with a sliced brisket sandwich is just about perfection."

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hardlikearmour March 29, 2012
I always love to see a Portland restaurant in the spotlight! Podnah's has delicious barbecue, and a really yummy version of Frito pie!
Nozlee S. March 29, 2012
Working on this post was REALLY hard -- because I couldn't stop imagining how good all that barbecue would taste!
Miranda R. March 29, 2012
Go Rodney! Best breakfast on planet earth - I miss it every weekend.
aargersi March 29, 2012
Glad to see Austinites sharing the BBQ love! At first I read "BBQ cheescake" and was a bit alarmed :-)