Dessert – 12th
Our first comp in a KCBS event was a success!
Days before the contest, nervousness and anxiety had not yet set in. Only a bout of strep throat kept me from being on schedule and foiled another practice cook. Other than that, excitement managed to keep me up late at night in which I mentally replayed my cooking process over and over.
Wednesday evening, I was feeling much better and packing supplies commenced. On Thursday, last minute shopping and packing the trailer was complete. With all of that out of the way, I was able to sleep well that night. That was important, because it was the only rest I would get for the next 36 hours.
All week long, we watched the weather progress from showers to just cloudy in Washington, MO. However, that morning, it was raining and cloudy. Not exactly great BBQ conditions for our first event of the year. One last weather check before we left indicated the clouds should clear in the afternoon, oh good.
On Friday, our team met up at my house around 7:30am. Al had to make a run to the market on the way because I couldn’t find decent parsley for our turn in boxes. He came back with a lush bunch of parsley after asking the produce manager for a fresh box of greens in the back…that’s dedication!
As the rain eased up, we all left on our quest to win some trophies.
Upon arrival, the rain kicked up again and we started to unload our stuff in the rain. Not only was the rain making things difficult, but it was downright cold too. Fortunately, getting to the event early gave us easy access to our space. We were in the back of the parking lot in the middle of the aisle and surrounded by other teams. The location gave us a great view of what was going on around us.
While we pondered how we want to set up out area, the rain finally stopped for good, but now it was just cold. We were not only rookies in our first KCBS contest, but this was our first time working as a team and setting up our site as challenging to say the least. We all had ideas, but in the end, the site resembled a college tailgate lot than a BBQ team. Our collection of canopies, coolers, chairs, tables, multi colored totes and a fire pit all found a home within the space we paid for.
Jamie got right to work on her dessert, a decadent turtle cheesecake. While Al and I got started on prepping pork shoulders, brisket and ribs.
Before I started prepping the ribs, I noticed a critical error. I thought I had bought 2 packs of loin back ribs, when in fact I bought 1 pack of loin backs and 1 pack of spares. I wanted to pick the best 3 racks out of the 6 presumed loin backs, but I was forced to use just the 3 loin backs after inspecting both packs.
Meanwhile a local newspaper journalist was making the rounds asking questions about the event when she spotted us preparing our dessert to turn in. She took pictures and asked Jamie for her name and the name of our team. The cook was honored and even a little cavalier with all the compliments the journalist was giving her. That’s awesome, I like to see some swagger.
At 7:00 PM, the dessert was turned in. This was the moment I felt the itch for doing some cooking. And by now the meat was almost prepped for cooking.
Afterwards, we took a walk around to go visit some BBQ friends and the competition. Some amazing teams showed up in Washington…B&B BBQ (they won GC), Lion Bout the Q, (won RGC). Other teams such as Pitmaster IQ, Worth Hollar’n BBQ, 4 Smokin Butts, Shake N Bake BBQ, Brewmasters Bar B Que and Ques Your Daddy were all very tough teams that we were up against….gulp!
Then we stopped by team Windswept BBQ where we met my buddy Brian Butts and his dad setting up their site. First thing that caught my eye was their custom trailer cooker. Brian’s dad talked us through all the “mods” he fabricated, very impressive…I don’t want to give any of it away on here, but he deserves an award for having the smartest pit design in the contest! None of it matters however, in the end MLG claimed bragging rights over Windswept BBQ. Maybe next time Brian.
There were some interesting teams there too, Big Wigs BBQ (5th place overall) stood out the most. I observed them playing a game of cornhole while “I’m sexy and I know it” by LMFAO blared from their stereo speakers. As you would imagine, they literally wore big wigs for the entire duration of the contest.
Back at the tailgate site, we got some visitors of our own. Don “The Man, The Grill, The Magic” Parr came up to visit and to pimp out some Mojobricks. I’ve tried the Mojobricks myself and I’ll be posting a review shortly. Fellow BBQ enthusiast John Yeast stopped by to check things out and give me some support. We talked about our passion to do BBQ contests and how we’ll be competing against each other soon.
Later, Al cooked up some outstanding treats. The bacon wrapped jalapenos, stuffed mushrooms and chicken wings were so good, I stuffed myself to the max!
With the sun down, the party began. One team rang a bell every hour to which fellow BBQ comrades gather around the mobile trailer to share a shot of whiskey. And with the evening getting colder, a shot of whiskey is one way to stay warm.
While I didn’t partake in this tradition, I felt energized by the entertainment being provided around us. But I didn’t really let loose, instead, I began to rub down the brisket and ribs. Al was near by doing the same with pork butts.
Meanwhile, we all started to throw on layers of clothes because it was getting real cold. I took a long look around the parking lot where the mobile trailers parked close together in a circle, like modern day chuck wagons. It wasn’t going to be difficult for these folks to stay warm. All we had was a fire pit and a limited supply of firewood. Oh joy!
Finally, at 11pm, the first meat goes on as Al places the pork shoulders on the smoker, followed by the brisket that I prepped earlier. At this point, there isn’t much left to do other than try to stay warm. Not long after, the whole parking lot falls silent for quiet time. Most of our group fell asleep trying to stay warm next to the fire pit. As I dozed in and out of consciousness the whole night, I did heat checks as often as possible to make sure the heat was up to the correct temperature. Being as cold is it was, I was burning more fuel than usual and if the cooker was too hot, then the brisket would end up done too soon.
At some point, the cooker was running about 50 degrees hotter because I let all the water evaporate out of the water pan…DOH! I filled it back up with water and I also checked the charcoal and wood levels to make sure there was enough fuel for the cook.
Fearing that I would fall asleep, I walked around the parking lot and came across a couple of guys chatting. They seemed a little inebriated so I went over to greet them. It turns out that we all work for the same employer and the topic became shop talk. Greg offered me a beer and I we talked about our careers and even a little bit about BBQ.
It’s a small world to run into a couple of associates in this small town, but BBQ was a bigger priority and I left their site to check once again on the brisket. I wasn’t so tired anymore, I seemed to have got a second wind which was timely because time seemed to pick up from that point on too.
At 6am, I checked the brisket temp for the first time. A few hours ago, the cooker temp was high because the water pan was empty, as a result the brisket already hit 185 degrees. I dropped the temp all the way to 215 degrees to slow the cooking process down. This will come back to bite me when the ribs start to cook.
Somehow, we all survived the cold that dropped to 34 degrees overnight. The sun was starting to rise in Washington and that exposed some great scenery around the parking lot. Smoke was billowing from all the mega huge cookers and the smell was like no other. All the rain and clouds cleared the sky overnight and we were looking at a warm fine day to BBQ.
Jamie started putting the final blind box together…turn ins were just hours away! Excitement was building on our team and so much had to be done. Al and I started the final prep on the chicken and ribs. By the time the ribs hit the smoker, the temp was only 220 degrees due to the brisket being ahead of schedule. I needed all 3 slabs of ribs to be done exactly noon, but I’ve got a tight window to do that.
At this point, I have to check the meat and perform “the process” for my competition recipes. The process is just my schedule broken down into segments of steps such as applying seasoning or foiling the meat…etc. I’ve been mocked for having such a detailed process, but it helps me remember to do absolutely everything.
One hour before turn in and nothing else could be done until then. We waited the final 45 minutes just standing around all looking at each other before all that meat goes into the white foam clam shells. We felt every minute of it, but I was more concerned about the ribs.
The meat was not pulling off the bone as much as I would like to see (an indication of tender meat). This was the result lowering the temp when the brisket got ahead of schedule. As soon as the brisket was pulled from the grill, I opened up all the vents for the ribs, but I don’t know if it’s enough time.
Time for Al to box the chicken! He got help from Tony, Jamie and I to make sure he picked the best thighs of the bunch. When we picked 6 perfect pieces of chicken, each was carefully placed on the putting green and Tony walked off to turn in our first KCBS blind box. Tony came back and we sampled the chicken…phenomenal! All judging criteria were met including the highly coveted, bite through skin. I knew right then that we were going to give the other teams a real challenge.
The late motivation wasn’t enough to cook my ribs properly. With no time left on the clock, I reluctantly pulled the ribs off the cooker. Clearly, the ribs were not as tender as I hoped…this is a first! Too bad, these were some really nice, meaty ribs (maybe too meaty). I still felt good about the ribs, the flavor was very good. Who knows, the table of judges may like a slightly chewy rib. A few minutes after slicing the ribs into 8 individual servings, Tony again turns in the next box.
Al is really good at what he does, a bonafide pit master. And he can build one hell of a box of pork. He picked and pulled those pork shoulders like a pro and arranged a healthy amount of meat for the judges. All the judges’ favorites were there for them to taste, including the tender money muscle. After an application of sauce, Tony earns his eats by turning in another box.
Alright, so the brisket didn’t turn out as well as I hoped. This was only the 3rd time I have ever cooked one and this is the 1st time to turn one in. My expectations were not high, but I always think I have a chance to put up a good score. As much as I tried to save the brisket, it was overcooked which made slicing difficult. However, the burnt ends were really good…surprisingly good. They went in the box to hopefully help bring the flat up. Finally, Tony takes the last box up the table.
Our day wasn’t done yet, we still need to sell pulled pork! Why we have to do this cockamamie people’s choice is anybody’s guess, but it raises money for something good I suppose. I was so exhausted, but I didn’t want to be stuck with 15lbs of pork. So, I put my salesman hat on and went to work trying to draw in folks to try our samples of pulled pork.
I made sure that I could be heard by belting out invitations such as “Major League Grilling pulled pork” and “Try some authentic BBQ”. It wasn’t clever by any means, but it was more than what the other teams were doing. In no time, we had a crowd of folks wanting pulled pork. I thought maybe we had a shot to win this peoples choice contest, so I stepped up my game to interact with the crowd. Every time we got a complement, I would respond with”This ain’t the minor leagues, this is Major League Grilling”…which managed to get a chuckle out of some folks. In what was suppose to last 2 hours, we ran out of pork in 45 minutes…thank God!
Still no time to relax…we started to clean up and pack everything away. However, we did manage to get the last shot of whiskey from some generous fellas around the corner from us.
In the midst of packing up, we lost track of time and the award ceremony started without us.
We got there just in time to hear our first call for 8th place pork. Not really sure what to do, we both went up to the stage to receive our ribbon. But when we got to the stage, there was a mix up of awards, so we stood nearby while we waited for our pork ribbon.
After getting our ribbon, we walked to the back to show it off. When all the awards were announced, we made our way back to the stage where we congratulated Grand Champion Jeff Brinker of B&B BBQ and catering. Then we waited to receive our printed scores. When I mentioned our team name, a volunteer overheard it and got our attention that we actually had a 3rd place call in chicken! Woohoo!
I was floored we got 2 calls, unfortunately the ribs or brisket didn’t cut it, but I already knew that it wasn’t my best BBQ…I could do better. On the other hand, as a team we placed 11th overall which beat out some really good teams who have done this for a long time.
I’m proud of my wife too, she took 12th in dessert. It’s not easy for a vegetarian to come in and help cook meat for 2 days, I’m fortunate she finds BBQ competitions as much fun as I do. Tony does a helluva job being our runner, extra set of hands, taste tester and MacGyver. This event was very exhausting and I appreciate all they did.
After a long drive back home, I was so tired. When you’re awake for over 36 hours, something gotta give, so I crashed on my bed. The next morning, I woke up to find my garage was open all night with the car still hitched to the trailer and nothing was unpacked.
There is no doubt I want to do this event again next year. Despite the weather, distance and work involved, I had a great time and Washington, MO is a fun little town to be doing some Q.