Nick Copeland is the definition of a meat lover.
In fact, he’s passionate about cooking in general. Copeland loves anything from baking cakes to firing up the smoker, he says, and is particularly fond of the fine art of barbecue. According to Copeland, he’s been working on his barbecue technique for about 10 years. On Black Friday of 2015, he and his wife, Ammie, turned that passion into something profitable. Pits N Grills was born. Today, they’re equipping area grill enthusiasts with the goods—and the skills—to dominate the local barbecue scene.
The first thing to note about Pits N Grills is the wide variety of merchandise. According to Copeland, the variety is appropriate given the diverse grilling styles within the community. For example, the backyard chef may be interested in the Green Mountain pellet grill, which can be operated with a cell phone—yes, that exists. Pits N Grills also offers Big Green Eggs aplenty and a selection of Gateway drum smokers, which are popular in the competitive grilling world. Ultimately, though, it’s not the grill itself—it’s the cook behind the grill. “It doesn’t matter what you cook on,” Copeland says. “You just produce the best-quality food you can.” Along those lines, Pits N Grills boasts a towering wall of sauces and seasonings and meat rubs.
“We want to be the barbecue store,” he says. “We want to talk to people about how to cook and give advice. That’s in addition to selling products for the guy that wants to impress his neighbors.”
Copeland is also passionate about introducing the amateur community to the competition barbecue scene. “A lot of people around here have never tried competition barbecue,” he says. “They don’t know how good it can be.” To Copeland, competition-quality barbecue shouldn’t be intimidating: It’s all in the technique. Once a month, Pits N Grills hosts Brad Leighninger, the head chef of Gettin’ Basted, a local competition barbecue crew. Leighninger teaches classes on competition techniques for backyard grillers interested in upping their barbecue game. According to Copeland, the classes are a blast; they’re also BYOB. The store’s other classes include various “How to ’Que” basics sessions, family pizza nights and a women’s-only “Ladies Night Flip and Sip” class. One thing is clear: At Pits N Grills, barbecue really is for everyone.
Editor's Note: In a previous version of this story, we incorrectly stated that Pits N Grills was the only barbecue-focused store in Springfield. We regret the error.
Q&A with Nick Copeland, Co-owner of Pits N Grills
417 Magazine: What makes great barbecue?
Nick Copeland: First, you have to define barbecue. It means a lot of things to different people; it really depends on your definition. But what I think makes great barbecue is attention to detail and patience, really. When you’re smoking food, you have to let the food tell you when it’s ready. All [animal products] are different; every rack of ribs is different. You can have four racks on at the same time and they’re all going to be perfect at different times. It’s all about understanding what’s going on with the meat.
417: Can anyone be a grill master?
N.C.: I think so, yeah. That’s part of what we envisioned here. For example, we do a women’s-only class. Ladies, single moms, whatever, who want to get home and fire up the grill for their families: Be confident. Don’t be scared of playing with charcoal or gas or whatever you decide to cook on. We want to help you get confident with that piece of equipment. Barbecue is for everyone.