On a wet, dreary morning my wife and I are on our way to St. Peter’s, MO for the Lakeside Que-Topia, King/Queen of the Grill backyard contest. Showers have been expected to occur all day long, oh goody! It’s a good thing that we only had a 15 minute drive because my charcoal was in the trailer, exposed to the elements.
We arrive at the park where we were directed to drive to a man in an orange vest. I drive up to the first orange vest I see, however, I missed the orange vest about 100ft behind me. With no room to pull a u-turn and with cars in front of me, I leisurely backed up the trailer in reverse…it was like watching an infant giraffe trying to stand for the first time, you just feel sorry for the little bastard.
When I backed up far enough for the event staff, they informed me that the park had concerns about their new roads getting muddy. As a result, the staff unloaded my trailer and placed it on their trailer to transport it to the grassy, damp field. During this time, my buddy, Tony arrives to help us out. After loading the other trailer, my wife hitched a ride with the staff while I went to park the car.
Upon our arrival to our site, my wife already began setting up (thanks to our friendly co-competitors). The reason I really enjoy coming out to these competitions is to meet great folks. Believe it or not, we are not out here to compete against each other. We’re here to compete against the judges. So these backyard events are nothing more than one big backyard cookout!
By the time everything is set up and the pits are lit, we had just enough time to whip up some lunch. What better to eat than tacos during a BBQ comp…MLG style! I brought only the Weber OTG (One Touch Gold) and the ECB (El Cheapo Brinkman) for today because the WSM was not needed for short cooks.
I did a little too much chatting with our neighbors before I realized that I should be doing the bacon weave…that’s right a bacon weave.
For this event, we are given the meat to be turned in…(2) pork steaks, (4) bratwursts and 2lbs of ground beef. Each item is to be divided into 6 individual pieces. I knew I had enough ground beef, but how was I going to serve 6 judges with 4 brats and 2 pork steaks?
I figured the other teams were going with traditional hamburgers and brats in a beer bath. However, I’m not too good with putting flavors together. Instead, I focus on my grilling strengths…cooking smoky, tender meat. I decided to cook my wildly popular recipes on Grillinfools.com, the blueberry muffin fatty and smoked meatloaf with a bacon weave.
So I quickly turn to the task at hand, the start time was noon and we had a time limit of 2 hours?!?!?
Tony was selected as my “runner” for the shotgun start.
As soon as Tony arrived with the meats, I completed the bacon weave. Next, I start trimming the pork steaks, while my wife worked on the meatloaf. I wanted to put the pork steaks and meatloaf on in the cookers at 12:05, but my lack of preparation caused me to slip all the way to 12:16…ouch.
Meanwhile, we got a visit from Tom stopping by to observe the chaos.
At 12:40pm, the fatty went on the grill. In addition, I check the meatloaf’s temp…76 degrees! An hour left until turn-in and I need this meatloaf to rise about 100 degrees! I’m about in full panic mode, but these things always seem to work themselves out, right? To make up for time, we added 3 heaping scoops of charcoal in to the kettle.
I felt much better when I peeked at the pork steaks, I’ve been on a roll with pork steaks since winning at the Route 66 Challenge.
As time ticked by, I grew more anxious with my meatloaf, afraid of being undercooked. At 1:15pm, the final check before turn-in, the meatloaf jumped to 152 (sigh of relief), but still needs to get to at least 170.
While I was going nuts over the meatloaf, my wife, flawlessly built the turn-in boxes.
At 12:40, it’s go time! I pull the pork steaks first off the grill, the meat was falling off the bone. I diligently pulled apart the meat from its natural creases and sauce them.
For a minute, I couldn’t decide what to do with the meat that had rendered down to small chunks of tender pork. After some thought and with time running out, I decided not to cut it and just put it in the box. Some pieces were small and some were bigger…I’ll let the judges figure it out.
Finally, the meatloaf was done! It reached 173 degrees when I pulled it off the grill, but I made a common grilling error…
Mistakes are part of every contest I have done, it’s almost a certainty. However, compared to the mistakes in the past, we were very lucky on this day. My biggest foul was when I kept the meatloaf and the fatty on the grill instead of letting them rest for 10-15 minutes. As a result, they were not only extremely hot when I took them off the grill, but the fatty was too delicate to handle and the juice from the meatloaf was gushing out of it.
After some trial and error on placing as much meat as I can in the box, we closed them up and sent Tony to turn them in…with 2 minutes to spare!
A 2 hour cook was much harder than I anticipated, there wasn’t anytime to break and mingle with the other teams, but it was sufficient time for what we were cooking. I prefer the longer contests that involve ribs, I’m a low and slow kinda guy.
I liked having this event so close to where I live. I would grill tofu if that meant bringing it back next year (OK, maybe not tofu). Overall, it was a great time at the Lakeside Que-Topia and the staff did an amazing job helping and taking care of us. My Mom brought my boys and they played in the kids play area, then I walked over the KCBS area where I met Jeff Rippelmeyer from team Rippel-Que. He gave me a sample of some outstanding burnt ends (I need that brisket recipe).
We took our chairs over to the stage where a Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young cover band were performing.
During their break, the BBQ awards were announced, and the first to get a call was Major League Grilling…3rd place overall in the King/Queen of the Grill contest.
Another great result for team MLG, but I’m competitive, I always want to win first place. It’s not realistic, on the other hand, it is what keeps me coming back for more.
There were no individual scores or trophies. I can only suspect that my pork steaks were killer, I was very happy with them. I don’t think the smoked meatloaf scored well because the judges were probably looking for a hamburger or they couldn’t see the bacon weave after I sliced the loaf. I’m not sure how the fatty would have scored, from serving it at other events and to friends, you either fanatically love it or hate it.
It was a good day, the rain even stopped at the end of the cook, Can’t wait to do it again!