How Strict Vegetarian, Will Andrews, Went All In on BBQ
Meet Will Andrews, Free Fly numbers guy and creator of @rollin_bones_bbq. With over 6k followers on TikTok (and growing daily), he’s got a respectable local following and a fiercely devoted fan base around Free Fly HQ—especially for someone who used to avoid meat entirely. After watching a few videos, you’ll see Will has the kind of charisma and quirky charm worthy of his own primetime Food Network show, thanks to his signature ‘stache and catchphrases like, “Eat BBQ. Live forever.”
We sat down with Will to hear his full story, and how we went from anti-meat to specializing in things like “meat candy” and “dino ribs.” And while meat might be on his menu now, he’s always trying to carve out a little more space in the BBQ world for veggie lovers, too.
Q: First, tell us how you went from being vegetarian to hard pivoting into smoking meat and starting a BBQ TikTok channel?
A: Oh man, I hope my mom is reading this. I’d been a strict vegetarian for five years. I was pretty set in my veggie ways. To put that perspective, I hiked 2,000 miles in one of those years and didn’t give in to the gravity of a burger… So, I traveled home for Thanksgiving in 2022 and the morning of the big day, my mom surprised me with a task. “Will, you’re smoking us a brisket today.”
I should have seen the writing on the wall because she had mailed me a copy of Aaron Franklin’s A Meat-Smoking Manifesto a few months prior and I had no idea why. I just chalked it up to one of those moments when meat eaters ironically pretend to forget their vegetarian friends don’t eat meat (vegetarians, you know what I’m talking about).
Well, turns out she was priming the pump. I like to explore new activities and I like to make my mom happy, so despite being a vegetarian I gave cooking that brisket a shot. I quickly read the brisket chapter of Franklin’s book that day—and I don’t know how we did it… but somehow my mom, brother-in-law, and I finished that brisket in about 6 hours. Something that usually takes 12+ hours. I tried some, and man we nailed it. The brisket was so good that we smoked a second one that night.
Playing with fire is fun and seeing people light up over something you’ve cooked is an incredible feeling. I left Texas thinking I’d like to smoke some more food, and the next month I bought a smoker, modified that smoker, and smoked my fiancé’s family a brisket for Christmas.
After that sequence, I was full-stop smoking meats and ended up starting a TikTok and Instagram channel (@rollin_bones_bbq) to showcase the journey and have a little fun. Only one troll so far, and he happens to be one of the FF founders.
Playing with fire is fun and seeing people light up over something you’ve cooked is an incredible feeling.
Q: What’s your favorite thing to cook—anything besides meat that you like to experiment with?
A: It’s hard to beat smoked meat, and I’ll do plenty of that. My thing is that I want to celebrate the vegetarians too, and they often get left behind in BBQ. I want to help shake that left-out feeling I felt as a vegetarian at BBQ joints.
I’m still learning smoked veggies, and the info available on smoking veggies is a small fraction of what it is for meat… so I still have that left-out feeling as I research. But that’s what I’m out to change. That’s what I’m rolling the bones on. I’m taking a shot at being a little bit off center by trying to develop as many veggies that can stand up as main dishes as I do meats, and broadcasting that knowledge as far as I can on these social media channels.
Veggies are hardcore and I want to bring that to the smoker with some tenacity—for every meat video on my social channels, the plan is to have a veggie counterpart, one to one. I might succeed, I might not—but I’m going to smoke some awesome meat and have a crack at the veggies too.
For example, last week I made a smoked mozzarella cheese stick that was killer. I also did smoked sweet potato burnt ends that blew my hair right off (...not really on the hair, I’m already bald). I also did a smoked strawberry limeade and that was bad, don’t make that. Across the same time period, I smoked a brisket, some beef ribs, and made sausage.
My thing is that I want to celebrate the vegetarians too, and they often get left behind in BBQ.
Q: What’s the best advice you’d have for an aspiring pit master?
A: Get out there and burn some meat! Get a Costco membership, get a sub $500 smoker, watch some youtube videos and get some reps on the fire. Do it once and take the mindset of learning something new and expect that you’ll continuously get better.
For me, the most rewarding experience has been reaching out to people in the BBQ community. People are cool—and I haven’t observed any gatekeeping of information. The guys I look up to at Leroy and Lewis, Chuds BBQ, and Palmira BBQ seem to believe that the way to move BBQ forward is to share the information they have, so that people can build on what they’ve learned and push BBQ further together.
I’ve reached out to these folks through social and volunteered time, watched them on Youtube, and attended their classes and it’s astounding just how giving the connections I’ve made in the BBQ community are.
Their perspective really struck me, and I suppose that’s a main influence for starting my TikTok and Instagram (and Facebook, too)—to share what I’m learning and to help people see that you can do it in a backyard in an approachable way. At the end of the day, the pursuit of great BBQ is a way to connect with people and the food brings people together we care about.
For me, the most rewarding experience has been reaching out to people in the BBQ community. People are cool—and I haven’t observed any gatekeeping of information.
Q: What does your current BBQ setup look like and what’s your dream setup? Walk us through the customization and DIY approach you’ve taken.
A: I have a Weber Smokey Mountain smoker. It’s as simple as it gets, with a modular design where the fire sits on the bottom and the cook chamber stacks directly above—with the cooking grates separated by a water pan and exhaust vent on the top.
I’d recommend one of these to anyone trying to get in the meat game. It’s affordable and it’s easy to build a base knowledge and throws off some awesome product. I went a little cowboy on it with some DIY mods. I put a beefed up door on it to make it easier to fuel the fire and regulate temperatures.
In the mod process, I toyed around with painting the smoker white with cow spots and making the door into an udder but that felt wrong. Instead, I painted it blue so I can dress it up as minion for Halloween. Keep your best friends close, am I right?
Anyway, the Weber is more of a “direct heat” style smoker, where the meat sits on top of the heat source. If you were going down to Austin, TX (there’s lots of good BBQ nationally, but my north star is Texas BBQ, so I’ll call Austin the BBQ capital of the world) or to check out the folks in Charleston at Palmira or Lewis BBQ, you’d see these big, impressive hunks of metal called an “offset smoker.”
An offset is the dominant style of pit used in Texas, and the story goes that these originated in the oil fields when workers built smokers out of surplus pipe. These smokers are 100% wood fired and the fire sits in the side car. The gas that combusts is drawn across the large cook chamber by the massive smoke stack, adding flavorful smoke to the meat. If you keep the meat at a low enough temperature for long enough, the connective tissues inside essentially turn into jello, and that’s that tender mouth feel you get when you smoke something properly.
For me, there is a certain romanticism about doing things simple and in a traditional way, so I started dreaming about buying one of these offsets. They come in various sizes, usually in the same volume as propane tanks (250, 500, 1000 gallon) because people generally try to blow themselves up making these out of propane tanks. Anyway, I decided to learn how to weld so I could blow myself up in the pursuit of meat and traditional methods.
I went to the local metal supermarket and found the name of someone who could teach me how to weld… and I learned how to weld. Life ended up being life and I didn’t have time to build a smoker (and didn’t want to explode) so I bought a 94-gallon smoker from Mill Scale Metal Works in Austin, TX.
In my unprofessional opinion, these guys are at the top of the game when it comes to smokers. If I wasn’t talking smokers, I’d probably use the “Ferrari” analog here, but instead I’ll use a truck analogy—these guys are the King Ranch F250 Super Duty of the BBQ smoker world. There are other great pit building companies too. DIY can be just as good and maybe a little more fun if you have the time. I can’t wait to burn some meat on that thing.
In the world contained inside my head, I have a few smokers—perpetual beef, perpetual pig, perpetual experiment, perpetual doubt and perpetual veg. Nothing but veggies would touch p. veg, p. doubt would keep my ego in check and p. experiment would remind me to roll the bones and take risks.
If I wasn’t talking smokers, I’d probably use the “Ferrari” analogy here, but instead I’ll use a truck analogy—these guys are the King Ranch F250 Super Duty of the BBQ smoker world.
Q: Would you consider yourself a pit master?
A: As for “pit master,” I’ll never master the pit, but at some point I’ll get to the spot where it feels we’re on equal footing.