Newburgh couple takes the art of the cookout on the road

Jen and Stu Hatch show off one of their Mainely Cookouts cookers and their mobile kitchen at their Newburgh home.
Jen and Stu Hatch show off one of their Mainely Cookouts cookers and their mobile kitchen at their Newburgh home.
Posted Sept. 26, 2012, at 10:24 a.m.

NEWBURGH — It’s a debate as old as man.

How do you cook something to get the best flavor from it?

It was that question that led Stu Hatch into what would become his business, Mainely Cookouts, located at 2443 Carmel Road North in Newburgh.

One day Hatch and a buddy, Dan Simcock, started making cookers because “we needed a pig to come out right,” Hatch said. “They would be great in the middle, but raw on the ends.”

Eventually the pair created a winning design by using old oil drums and stove parts. Then Simcock went off to run Two Knights Barbecue in Corinna, leaving Hatch with the cookers.

Those cookers (there’s six now) have kept Hatch and his wife Jen busy for much of the six years since then.

About every weekend between April and September, the Hatches and/or one or more of their cookers are in demand around the state. A pair of oversize skis hanging in the shed can be used on the cookers for winter-time events.

They’ve built their business the old-fashioned way, through word of mouth. “People keep coming back, and send their friends and relatives,” Jen said.

The Hatches are licensed and insured caterers. They can cook the meat, cut it up, and bring it to the customer. They also can bring a cooker to a customer’s location and cook there. Or a customer can even try running a cooker for $50 a day for a drum cooker or $125 for the rotisserie unit. All a customer needs is a standard trailer hitch to haul it. One or two cookers are rented out each weekend.

“People call ahead of time so we can get our schedule and theirs together,” Jen said.

The Hatches also have a complete catering kitchen on wheels, inside an old pop-up camper rebuilt with mostly recycled materials. They’ve taken it to events around the state, mostly notably the American Folk Festival several times.

What can be on the menu when the Mainely Cookout camper comes to town? The Hatches listed ribs, pulled pork, beef brisket, trashcan turkey, chili, BBQ beans, jambalaya, BBQ veggies, coleslaw, garden salad, and fruit salad as among the possiblities.

They generally cook a 100- to 150-pound pig on average, which takes about five hours in the right conditions. The biggest one they ever cooked was 300 pounds, which took nine hours. “Any bigger would be fatty as the dickens,” Stu said.

They don’t grow their own pork. Instead, they send customers to Watson’s Butcher Shop in Etna for their pigs. “If it’s not inspected, we can’t use it,” Stu said.

The Hatches aren’t believers in sauces or rubs for their meat.

“We don’t put anything on it,” Jen said. “We cook it in its natural state. Most people don’t want to put anything on it, because it’s so good.”

They use 70 to 75 pounds of charcoal in the cooker.

Why charcoal instead of wood? “Wood has a tendency to flair up,” Stu explained. “Charcoal gives it a smoky flavor with more even heat, and it’s easily attainable. You can throw some wood chips in to flavor it. But you have to be careful not to oversmoke the meat, because it’s not a good flavor.”

It takes time to master a cooker. “You can mound the charcoal, or flatten it out to control the temperature,” Stu said. “You cook a pig low and slow. It’s something you play with.”

To learn more about Mainely Cookouts, call 570-1844.

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