2004 Madison Ribberfest

Madison native caters
to rib-cooking market

Austin is a proud sponsor
of the Madison Ribberfest

By Ruth Wright
Staff Writer

MADISON, Ind. (August 2004) –  In the dead of winter, long before most folks ever begin to think about firing up their grills, things are busy at the Austin National Smoker Co. in Noblesville, Ind. The family-owned manufacturer of custom barbecue pits has orders to fill for individuals and businesses across the country.

Troy Austin

Photo provided

Troy Austin has built a successful
business in Noblesville, Ind., selling
grills and smokers.

Owners Troy and Beth Austin, both 33, employ seven people year-round in their shop to keep up with the growing demand. "Sales are strong," said Troy Austin, a native of Madison, Ind., and 1989 graduate of Madison Consolidated High School.
Austin had been in commercial printing sales for 14 years when, two years ago, he decided to start building smokers for a living. "I asked myself, 'What do you enjoy?' " The answer was related to what had become his favorite hobby: barbecue. Not only did Austin enjoy barbecue cooking, he also was a certified judge who traveled around the country judging competitions for organizations, including the big ones at Memphis in May and the Kansas City Barbecue Society.
"Indiana is under-served as far as true barbecue cookers go," said Austin, who figured he could remedy the situation. In February 2002 he formed the company, which now produces as many as 100 custom-built smokers a year.
Austin Smokers, or "pits," as Austin referred to them, are not the kind of grills found on typical American patios. Rather, these heavy-duty portable cookers are the kind preferred by true barbecue connoisseurs for slow-roasting meat over seasoned wood – not gas. The smokers feature electric rotisseries and a firebox that runs the entire length. They come in sizes ranging from the standard four-foot model to the deluxe 22-foot concession trailer model, complete with a six-foot pit on a covered deck and a fully enclosed kitchen with sinks, hot and cold wells, two serving windows and room for a full size refrigerator and freezer. The price tag: $33,000 for the concession model. The four-foot models sells for $3,750 with a trailer ($3,250 without).

Bobbie McWright

Photo by Don Ward

Troy Austin (far right) poses
with 2004 Madison Ribberfest
pro division cooking winner
Bobbie McWright of Nashville,
Tenn. With him are (from left)
Jeff Garrett and Shawn Auxier
of the festival committee.

About 25 percent of Austin's customer base is comprised of barbecue circuit competitors. Among them are Mike and Chris Cammack, a father-and-son team from Madison. The Cammacks, who compete in KCBS competitions under the team name "Wildcat BBQ," purchased a four-foot Austin National Smoker in February 2003. "We built our first one and then looked around and tried to find a premium cooker that we could afford," said Chris Cammack, who was impressed with the Austin Smoker's rotisserie and full-length firebox. "It cooks very evenly," he said.
Cammack was using his Austin Smoker last year in Crestwood, Ky., when he met Greg Laramore of Greensburg, Ky. Laramore, who was then using a homemade cooker, was so impressed with the Austin Smoker that he purchased his own four-foot model last December. "I really liked the rotisserie and the compactness of it," said Laramore. He has since purchased two additional smokers, which he uses both for his barbecue catering company and KCBS competitions. He and wife, Charlotte, operate Bluegrass Bar-be-que. "The cookers are in use about six days a week. I haven't had any trouble with them," Laramore said.
"Troy (Austin) is a great guy to work with. He's very attentive to the needs of his customers. I'd never hesitate to buy another (Austin Smoker) if I needed it," said Cammack, who will use his Austin Smoker in this year's Ribberfest competition.
Laramore also will use his smoker in the Madison event.
Because Austin National Smokers are built to order, customers can expect eight to 10 weeks for delivery. For this reason, and because it takes several uses to become familiar with a smoker, Austin recommends placing orders well in advance of scheduled competitions or events.
Although he had planned to bridge the gap of Indiana barbecue smokers, Austin admitted he still sells very few of his cookers within the state, just four or five a year. "We're still fighting the misconception that barbecue is a dried-out piece of chicken breast thrown on a gas grill with some sauce," he lamented.

• For more information about the Austin National Smoker Co., call (317) 714-1679 or 1-800-979-9935. Or visit: www.austinnationalsmokers.com.

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