First came love. Then came marriage. Then came the barbecue smoker.

That, at least, was the progression for Josh and Kristy White, who have turned their passion for all things smoked and sauced into a true family affair.

The White family takes part in area barbecue competitions under the team name of Bubba-Q-Boys, where the family has won praise and prizes for their ribs, chicken, sausage and brisket. But that’s not the only time the family plays with fire and food.

“We tend to grill four or five times a week,” Josh White said. “On the weekends, we’ll start up the smoker, and we’ll end up cooking a whole lot of things — it has more room than you would think, and we figure since it’s going, we should throw on all sorts of things. Sometimes, neighbors will come by — some want to know if we could smoke some meats for them, others just want to know what’s on the menu.

“Either way,” he said, smiling, “it makes us one of the more popular houses in the neighborhood.”

Josh White had little experience with the low-and-slow practice of smoking meats until he met Kristy.

“My father and his best friend did competition barbecue for a number of years,” Kristy said. “And Dad was the one who got Josh interested.”

“I had never tried smoking meat before,” Josh said. “I had done some grilling but that was it. Once I got into it, though, I really became fascinated with the whole process of barbecue and just kept after it.”

“Bubba-Q-Boys” was the team name under which Kristy’s father had competed, and when the couple began getting serious about competition barbecue, he turned the name over to them.

The Whites took part in such local events as the now-defunct Art of Barbecue that was presented by the Arts and Humanities Council of Tulsa (“Our first time to take part was the year it was 107 degrees, and everyone’s working over hot coals for hours on end,” Kristy said, laughing), the Bixby BBQ ’n Blues Festival, as well as competitions in neighboring states, such as one in Golden City, Missouri, where the family took first place in sausage and brisket.

The family had a 16-foot barrel smoker for a number of years but more recently has switched to a vertical smoker made by Gateway.

“It gives you more control over the cooking,” Josh said.

He started working on a signature seasoning rub, finally coming up with a formula that pleased him in 2008.

“That was a process of a lot of experimentation,” Josh said. “You would come up with things that were too hot, or too salty, or too sugary, that would end up turning into a syrup under heat or simply wouldn’t adhere to the meat.”

At competitions, the family would be asked so often about what went into their rub that they decided to market it.

They began selling Bubba-Q-Boys in 2015. It is available online at bubba-q-boys.com, as well as at Doc’s Country Market, Cook’s Nook, Akins in Bixby, Ida Red, Candy Castle, Carmichael’s Produce, Okie Spice & Trade Company, Perry’s Deli & Meats, Jack Wills Outdoor Living and Midtown Hardware.

Some of the restaurants in the McNellie’s Group use the seasoning for their barbecue applications. The pulled pork that goes on the nachos at McNellie’s Pub starts with a generous application of the Bubba-Q-Boys rub, and Elgin Park uses it for the brisket and bologna that shows up on its pizzas and sandwiches.

The family tends to confine its competition times to the summer because their three children have a number of extracurricular activities during the school year.

But the younger generation — Addy, 12; Aiden, 10; and Avery, 7 — are getting more and more involved in the family’s barbecue business.

“These kids started eating ribs when they were a year old,” Kristy White said, laughing. “And now, they’re all at an age when they can help us out.”

The kids are tasked with such jobs as helping to prep the meats with the family’s seasoning, slicing the finished product and readying them for judging.

“They make it all look good,” Josh said.

Here are some barbecue recipes that would be perfect for the holiday weekend.

BACON-SMOKED BRISKET FLAT

The flat part of the brisket is easily found at supermarkets, but they are much leaner than other brisket portions. This preparation helps ensure this cut will be tender and juicy.

1 brisket flat (4 to 5 pounds)

Coarse sea salt

Fresh black pepper, coarsely ground

Hot red pepper flakes (optional)

16 strips of thick-cut bacon

1. Place brisket in a disposable aluminum pan and season generously with the salt and peppers on all sides. When finished, place brisket fat-side down in pan.

2. Set up smoker or grill and heat to 250 degrees, and add soaked wood chunks, chips or other products as specified by manufacturer. Place a metal bowl or aluminum pan with 1 quart of warm water in smoker (this helps with smoking and keeping meat moist).

3. Smoke meat for one hour. Using tongs, turn brisket fat-side up and neatly drape surface with half the bacon strips. Cook until bacon is darkly browned, 2 to 3 hours. Remove bacon, chop and eat as a reward for your hard work, or use for another application.

4. Top brisket with remaining bacon and continue cooking until bacon is dark brown and brisket has an internal temperature of 205 degrees, about 3 to 4 hours. Refuel smoker or grill as needed.

5. Remove pan containing brisket from smoker or grill, cover with foil and store in an insulated cooler for 1 to 2 hours.

6. Move brisket to a welled cutting board and slice against the grain into ¼-inch slices (bacon can be left on the brisket or removed and served separately). Spoon any juices from the cutting board over the meat and serve.

— Adapted from “The Brisket Chronicles” by Steve Raichlen (Workman)

BACKYARD BARBECUE BEANS

½ cup barbecue sauce

½ cup ketchup

½ cup water

2 tablespoons spicy brown mustard

2 tablespoons cider vinegar

1 teaspoon liquid smoke

1 teaspoon granulated garlic

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

1¼ pounds bratwurst, casings

removed

2 onions, chopped

2 (28-ounce) cans baked beans

2 (15-ounce) cans pinto beans, drained

2 (15-ounce) cans cannellini beans, drained

1 (10-ounce) can Ro-tel Original Diced Tomatoes & Green Chilies, drained

6 slices thick-cut bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Whisk barbecue sauce, ketchup, water, mustard, vinegar, liquid smoke, granulated garlic and cayenne together in large bowl; set aside.

2. Cook bratwurst in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, breaking up into small pieces with spoon, until fat begins to render, about 5 minutes. Stir in onions and cook until sausage and onions are well browned, about 15 minutes.

3. Transfer bratwurst mixture to bowl with sauce. Stir in baked beans, pinto beans, cannellini beans and tomatoes. Transfer bean mixture to 13-by-9-inch baking pan and place pan on rimmed baking sheet. Arrange bacon pieces in single layer over top of beans.

4. Bake until beans are bubbling and bacon is rendered, about 1½ hours. Let cool for 15 minutes. Serve.

To make ahead: At end of step 3, beans can be wrapped in plastic and refrigerated for up to 24 hours. Proceed with recipe from step 4, increasing baking time to 1¾ hours.

— Adapted from Cook’s Country

James D. Watts Jr.

918-581-8478

james.watts@tulsaworld.com

Twitter: watzworld

Scene Writer

James writes primarily about the visual, performing and literary arts. Phone: 918-581-8478