GRAMPIAN — What started out as an annual family reunion tradition has turned into “HBBQ” – Haug, Beef and Bird BBQ Co. – a group of four men who believe “Anything worth doing is worth overdoing.”
Kevin Miknis and his son, J.D. Miknis, Jeff McCartney and Dan Bennett have been going to week-long family reunions at Kevin’s Grampian home for about 13 years, he said, enjoying their love of smoking meats, family and fellowship.
They were always experimenting with foods, Kevin Miknis said. The reunion soon turned into a competition between the men during a “rib cook off,” and was strictly ribs for about four or five years, before they decided to borrow a smoker and cook a whole hog. The men built their first smoker from a 275-gallon fuel tank around eight years ago.
Building the first smoker was a learning experience, he said, and allowed them to make improvements on the second – a larger, 100-percent wood-fired smoker to accommodate more people.
HBBQ’s specialty is brisket, while they also smoke pulled pork, butter-braised chicken and homemade sausage, using local meats such as Palumbo’s Meat Market products. The sauce used 13 years ago is still used today, including honey chipotle, Carolina gold and an east Carolina vinegar base.
HBBQ attended the “8th annual Williams BBQ Cookoff” competition Sept. 27, joining at least 32 teams and entering their brisket and pulled-pork ribs. The team won first place in the blind judge tasting, as well as first place in the people’s choice category and overall grand championship.
Each of the men plays a different role in the group, Kevin Miknis said. McCartney is a welder and was the force behind constructing the smokers, while Kevin contributes woodworking skills. Bennett is the chef and J.D. Miknis handles organizing and public relations.
What makes the smoked meat unique, he says, is the way the men pay attention to detail, including the smokers, food trailer and entire cooking process.
The goal was never to become a business that sells smoked products, he and McCartney said, but to give back through a hobby they enjoy.
The group has cooked for anywhere between 50-300 people, Kevin Miknis said, including a 50th anniversary and graduation parties for friends and family and a fundraiser benefiting The Arc of Jefferson and Clearfield Counties, raising $17,000.
HBBQ has cooked to benefit the United Way, “Project Healing Waters” for disabled veterans and individuals in the community, he said.
The group has received a lot of support, he adds.
“There is nothing like the camaraderie and family aspect of sitting around a smoker,” Kevin Miknis said.
Bennett said HBBQ has also drawn inspiration from different chefs over the years.
“The enjoyment and culture of cooking outside is what got us into this,” he said.
Kevin Miknis and McCartney said they hope to participate in more competitions and improve their much-loved hobby.
“The secret to our success is the four of us have the same passion, but each bring a different strength to the team,” McCartney adds.
HBBQ is participating in a fundriaser for the Brady Township Fire Department. For more information, call (814) 583-7610.