By Ryan Cornell
MAURERTOWN -- For one Maurertown man, retirement is a dish best served grilled.
Following a 36-year career in the insurance industry, Frank Zirkle, 61, began his own mobile barbecuing business, Frank's Bar B Q.
Zirkle, who graduated fromStrasburg High School in 1971 as a star running back on the football team, moved to Manassas in 1981.
"Everybody's a backyard barbecuer, you know," he said. "So I like to barbecue and I like to entertain and when I entertain, people say, 'Oh, this is good, you should start your own business.' And so I kept that in the back of my mind."
As the years went by and the possibility of retirement grew closer, he wondered what he was going to do after insurance.
He started watching barbecuing shows on the Food Network and saving money for equipment. With the help of some advice from Prince William County's barbecue stands and guidance from a new friend, Rick Rutherford -- who has his own line of Rivers West barbecue sauces -- Zirkle prepared to launch himself headfirst into all things barbecue.
He found a white van for sale previously used as a mobile computer repair shop, a trailer, a smoker and a welder who could design them to his specifications. He said his total investment has been about $20,000.
When the owner of his insurance agency unexpectedly died and his father was diagnosed with Alzheimer's, Zirkle said he knew it was time to move back.
"I would say my advice to anyone who wants to start a barbecue business and think it's easy, is to find someone who's doing it and pick their brain and see their operation, because it's a heck of a lot more work than I thought it was," he said. "But I had an investment and I was not going to not do it."
Each Wednesday, Zirkle smokes about 100 pounds of Boston butts that will be used for his North Carolina-style pulled pork.
After placing a dry rub on them, he cooks the meat in his smoker at a temperature between 250 to 300 degrees. He uses a marinade consisting of apple juice, vinegar, oil, chicken broth and salt and pepper to flavor his meats. The meats are hickory smoked for about four hours to reach an internal temperature of 195 degrees, are wrapped in foil and cooked for another three hours at 250 degrees.
His first experience in barbecuing pulled pork resulted in nearly causing a grease fire and breaking apart a meat slicer. Since then, he's learned to smoke the meats in lasagna pans and pull the pork by hand.
"After four years, I'm still learning how to do it," he said.
During the weekends, Zirkle sells pulled pork, barbecue chicken, spare ribs, brats and roasted corn out of his food truck in the Buettner Tire Distributors parking lot in Woodstock.
Although the pulled pork is his most popular item -- "There's nothing in town like it," he said -- another customer favorite is Frank's Porky Dawg, a hot dog topped with pulled pork, coleslaw and barbecue sauce.
When Zirkle takes his food truck out to the Route 11 Yard Crawl next weekend, he'll bring along a perennial specialty, the Atomic Buffalo Turd. Don't let its name fool you; it's one of his bestsellers.
"It's a jalapeno pepper that's stuffed with cream cheese, onions, garlic powder and a sausage link wrapped in bacon," he said. "I can't keep enough of them when I take them to events because people like them so much."
Where: Outside Buettner Tire Distributors, 752 S. Main St., Woodstock
When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (or when he's sold out), Friday to Sunday
Cost: $5.50 for pulled pork sandwich, $4 for barbecue chicken, $11 for half-rack of ribs, $3 for Frank's Porky Dawg
Contact staff writer Ryan Cornell at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or firstname.lastname@example.org