Brandyn Baker’s first memory of BBQ was when he was three years old. His family took him tailgating at a University of Alabama game – a longtime tradition – and someone gave him a pulled pork sandwich. Years later, in December 2018, when Baker got his first pellet grill, the first thing he learned to BBQ was pulled pork.
“It’s the BBQ I first tasted, first learned to make, and what I make the most often,” the Montgomery, Alabama native says.
Today, Baker lives in John’s Creek, Georgia with his wife, his 18-month old daughter, and his black Lab, Pitbull mix Roscoe. He says staying home during the pandemic at the start of 2020 is what really got him creating more dishes on the grill.
“I had a lot of free time on my hands, as most of us did when we were stuck at home, trying to find things to do,” he says. “That’s when I really started doing a lot of research on how to make the best BBQ.”
Baker watched videos online and started paying attention to what BBQers were posting on Instagram. In November 2020, @blackdog_bbq was born.
“It took me a bit to get the hang of things, as far as what I was making and also making sure I was posting quality content,” he says. “Probably about six months in, I started getting significantly more interest and followers.”
Throughout the whole learning process, and still today, Baker says it’s nice to be able to reach out to people in the BBQ community for tips and support.
“If I have any questions, I can go to people online and get advice,” Baker says. “It’s really awesome to be part of a community where people are so willing to help each other out.”
A unique thing about Baker, who is clearly an avid BBQer, is that he’s also a dietician by trade. He currently works at Delta Airlines as a health coach, offering one-on-one counseling and larger group work for employees to educate them on nutrition advice and their well-being benefits at the company. He’s also worked in acute and long-term care facilities.
In some ways, his career may seem in contrast to posting indulgent meals, such as these delicious-looking Bang Bang Sliders with fried pickles or these mouthwatering beef shanks, but Baker says it’s all about finding balance in your meals.
“I believe you should be able to eat whatever you want, but you need to make sure you’re eating in moderation,” he says.
Chicken and fish meals, and lots of vegetables, are also great to include in meals throughout the week, Baker says, such as this salmon with apple infused honey glaze or this rotisserie chicken.
He also thinks that, sometimes, a post of a big pork butt or brisket can be deceiving.
“People see a large BBQ meal I post online and the think I ate it all in one or two meals. In reality, I will have a little of it that night, then I will freeze it and save it for meals for the next week or month,” he says.
Although he’s not necessarily trying to preach about nutrition through his page, he doesn’t mind sharing his tips for staying healthy and active when his followers ask.
“It’s all about making adjustments so it fits your diet,” he says. “Portion control is key.”
The first time Baker came across Bear Mountain at a Tractor Supply store near his house, he was intrigued. He tried the pellets and really liked them.
“Bear Mountain pellets add good flavor, help make consistent cooks, and the pellets don’t seem to provide much dust at the end. I don’t have to use my shop-vac to clean out the grill,” he said.
Baker’s really pleased with the traction he’s seen on his Instagram page and is excited to keep creating content. He thinks it may be possible to make it more of a full-time job down the line.
“In the beginning, I didn’t see this as a full-time thing, but now that my page is growing and I have contacts, maybe years down the line, it could be something,” he says.
He’d also like to get involved in more competitions, potentially a few a year, to expand his pitmaster skills.
“I want to be able to learn from people in that arena and really make the best kind of BBQ,” he says.
To check out and keep up with Baker’s latest content, follow his Instagram and TikTok pages. And make sure to try some of his delicious BBQ recipes, like his Gameday Beef Chili and Sweet Italian Sausage.