Hello from Lincoln NE! I'm new to the forum, and fairly new to smoking I've had a little Brinkman charcoal smoker for years, but never really did much with it. I would occasionally make some jerky or a pork roast, but never felt too confident about what I was doing. That changed when I met a BBQ restaurant owner from the Kansas City area (If you're ever near Brobecks in Overland Park, give him a try. Make sure you try their ham salad too!). I was videotaping a feature on his restaurant for my job and at the end of the taping Doug, the owner, gave me a sample of his rub and a couple bottles of his sauce. I decided to try his rub on my first ever attempt to make ribs on my smoker and I was blown away! Since then, I've been hooked! I found a few rub recipes on line and started modifying them to match the flavor of the rub from Brobecks.
I started smoking ribs and loins on my smoker and soon decided to purchase a second smoker. Being a novice, I decided to purchase a Masterbuilt electric smoker and started using it regularly. I've done plenty of ribs, loins, roasts, turkeys and more since then. Sometimes on my Brinkman and sometimes on my electric, depending on my mood. (If I was feeling lazy I would use the electric, if I wanted better flavor I would use the charcoal smoker)
Last summer my brother in law and I decided to enter our first rib and loin contest for fun. It was a small contest, but many of the people cooking had big time, professional smokers. I'd been tweaking my rub recipe and had one I though had good flavor. We entered the contest because we thought it would be fun, plus we got free t-shirts and drink tickets. We rolled up with a pair of Brinkmans, lump charcoal and a mix of oak, pecan, and fruit wood. To our amazement, we took first place for our dry rubbed pork ribs. The victory only fueled our fire. I guess there's a lot to be said about beginners luck. More than anything, we loved the spending time with the other chefs, sharing "secrets", enjoying a lot of joking around and sampling some amazing meat.
Since then I have upgraded to a 22' Weber Smokey Mountain and plan to enter a couple of small contests again this summer with the same brother in law. I learned at the contest that you don't need the best smoker in the world to produce great ribs. Find a recipe you like, pay attention to what you are doing, and treat your ribs with a lot of TLC and you can get great results. I look forward to hearing form others and love the sense of community that comes with being a "smoker".