Team PUTC Smokes Team Nissan in Tennessee Cook-Off

Nissan BBQ Titan Meatup

By Aaron Bragman

The Great Titan Meat Up was a two-part event set against the lovely hills in and around Pigeon Forge, Tenn. It was designed to showcase the off-road prowess of Nissan's Titan half-ton and Titan XD pickup trucks as well as put Nissan's Smokin' Titan concept to the ultimate test: a BBQ cook-off.

The Smokin' Titan is the brainchild of Billy Hayes, Nissan's vice president of regional operations for North America, who is a huge smoked meat pit boss. The truck came about after Hayes asked in a meeting, "What if we built a smoker into a Titan pickup?" One thing led to another and a truck was born. You can read all about the Smokin' Titan here, introduced earlier this year at the NTEA Work Truck Show in Indianapolis. Since then it's traversed the country from Idaho to Tennessee to the Meat Up, hitting four barbecue hot spots along the way. It will be making appearances all summer at various festivals and cook-offs across the country.

The Challenge

To properly inaugurate the Smokin' Titan, Nissan decided that it needed to be cooked on. Enter Part 2 of the Great Titan Meat Up, in which six teams took on the home Nissan team in a smoked meat competition. The competition put teams representing five media outlets (including and employees at the Canton, Miss., plant where the Titan is built against Hayes and Team Nissan. Each of the six challengers cooked one protein while Team Nissan cooked all six. The choices were pork shoulder, pork ribs, beef brisket, lamb, chicken and turkey.

09-nissan-titan-2018-meat-up-exterior--manufacturer-event II was late to the invite list, so PUTC teammate/ photographer Christian Lantry and I had a choice of lamb or chicken. I think chicken's just too common, so we chose the challenge of lamb. Each dish was judged by two celebrity chefs, David Rose and Cory Bahr, stars of Food Network shows and culinary masters themselves. Each dish would go up against Team Nissan's dish one-on-one and be judged on a point scale in categories such as execution, presentation, flavor and more.

After a day of off-roading in the Smoky Mountains in Titan and Titan XD Pro-4X trucks, it was time to start cooking. Friday night's dinner was prepared by Bahr, who used the Smokin' Titan's built-in bed kitchen and huge Lang barbecue smoker to create an unbelievable spread for the assembled competitors. After dinner, it was a mad scramble to collect the ingredients for the next day's cooking contest from the provided pantry, and back to our individual cabins at Parkside Resort in Pigeon Forge to start prepping.

In honor of National Barbecue Day, we're going to diverge from our normal pickup truck talk here for a bit to indulge the foodies out there (I'm sure there are at least a few). The entry for this contest was a cherry-wood smoked leg of lamb with Alabama white barbecue sauce, a combination of my own creation. The Alabama white sauce is an unusual concoction that includes mayonnaise, vinegar, cayenne, mustard, lemon juice, black pepper and the key secret ingredient: freshly prepared horseradish. I made my own horseradish from whole root — and if you've never done it before, it is akin to being tear-gassed by riot police. We whipped up the mixture and marinated a whole leg of lamb — seasoned with salt and pepper — in it overnight and then readied for the smoker the next day.

The Contest

Teams began assembling at the mountaintop event space as early as 5 a.m., as some cuts of meat required a long, low smoking. Brisket and pork shoulder easily can take 12 hours, so those teams were up before dawn to fire up their Traeger Pro 34 smokers and get their meat on. Us? Not so much. Lean leg of lamb doesn't have much in the way of fatty connective tissue to break down. This meant that a long, low smoke would result in well-done meat, which is not what one wants from a leg of lamb. A three-to-four-hour smoke was what we planned, just to get it to medium rare. So, while other teams were scurrying around preparing rubs, making sauces, mixing ingredients for side dishes, Lantry and I sat around drinking moonshine cocktails for much of the sunny Saturday morning, waiting for the noon hour to roll around, when we started up our smoker.

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Presentation was at 5 p.m., when Nissan went live on Facebook with a broadcast of the competition judging. Team Nissan went first for each dish, presenting theirs to the two celebrity chef judges, followed by the challenger. As you can see, our sliced lamb with white barbecue sauce was presented on custom-built (by yours truly for about $50 in materials at Menards) diamond plate serving platters made to match the Smokin' Titan's custom bodywork. Judges then scored the dishes out of a total of 190 points, with winners chosen in each category plus an overall grand champion winning dish with the highest point total of all.

Team Nissan proved to be unbeatable in every category, with Hayes and his team of amateur cooks presenting some phenomenal food — every category but one, that is. The lone challenger to beat Hayes and Team Nissan was your favorite team, with our lamb dish clobbering Team Nissan's lamb pops in what we were told was a significant point disparity. However, let's make one thing clear — there wasn't a single effort at the event that didn't result in something amazingly tasty.

What was the secret to our success? Practice: I went through four iterations of smoked lamb experiments in the two months prior to this competition to find a recipe that could be reliably duplicated with minimal fuss in the field. And the results paid off.

Will Nissan do another Meat Up next year? Signs point to maybe, now that the inaugural event has come and gone. I'm hoping Nissan does and that has the opportunity to defend its title against Team Nissan. photos and sous-chef duties by Christian Lantry



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Smokin meat is an art in itself..
I slow cook lots of meat but do not smoke it
I'm just not fond of tasting/smelling smoke...which takes away of the actual taste of the meat, kind of like putting lemon juice on fish...might as well put lemon juice on a piece of bread

I love me some Brisket and pulled pork.



re: smoke. Have you ever tried smoking pork bellies? The pork can really stand a lot of smoke and still taste great. (Think bacon). Same for neck bones. Turkey legs, too.

Speaking of smoking and Nissan maybe you should have asked what Nissan is really smoking because they are getting smoked by the competition. Why?!?!?!??! The Titan was ahead of its time 14 years ago when it first came out, but Nissan just let it languish with their "I don't care" attitude. Then they were years behind with the new Titan and they are still unresponsive and comatose, like a rubber chicken nailed to the wall. Does it feel good to be nothing more than Toyota's weird cousin?

BD is correct

The Titan is a turd and they need to get back to the drawing board and improve on it.
I would even take a girly dial shifter Ram over the Titan anyday


How many Gen 2 Titans have you driven?

I have driven exactly zero. Why? Are my statements incorrect until the second I drive one around?

I have driven exactly zero (Nissan Titans). Why? Are my statements incorrect until the second I drive one around?


It guarantees that your "voice" is easier to hear when you are walking away. Shall I be more blunt?


How many of each of the trucks you blanket bash have you owned?


Then shut the heII up.

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