My buddy, Brian Butts, recently contacted me for a favor. He wanted to know if I would volunteer at a class he’s organizing. Without hesitation, I volunteered my services. This wasn’t any ordinary class, it’s to become a Certified Barbecue Judge for the Kansas City Barbecue Society (KCBS). Being a CBJ myself, I’m more than willing to volunteer my time for expanding the knowledge of barbecue.
After a few days, Brian determined that I can help cook food for the judges. All four categories (chicken, ribs, pork and brisket) were going to be prepared, placed in Styrofoam containers and judged by the students to simulate a KCBS sanctioned contest.
Fortunately, I didn’t have to cook all the meat. Instead, I drew the task of smoking ribs…my specialty. In addition, I will be joining a few worthy cooks to feed the judges. Most notably, I will be barbecuing with Brian, Leo Butts, Al Bowman, Frank & Tracy Bowlin.
As you know, Al and I are teammates when we compete in KCBS events. He also competes solo as Canadian Bakin’ BBQ team. Don’t let the mini van with wife and kids in tow fool you, he can whoop your butt in barbecue any given day on one 18″ WSM cooker!
Frank and Tracy has one of the best team names I have ever heard on the BBQ circuit…A Pig’s Worst Nightmare. They’ve won multiple grand championships, so being the hack that I am, I want to hang out with these guys and learn a little bit about winning. On this day, Frank and Tracy were expected to show up late because Frank recently had surgery…hats off for his commitment!
The ring leader, Brian, brought his Dad, Leo. In turn, Leo brought his pimped out smoker trailer to the shindig. Leo is a BBQ gadget aficionado who proudly displays his auto-feed injector. Look out for these guys, they’re always ready to get their
Kraftig grill on!
I got to the site early and it was already hot at 7am in the morning. By this time, the outside temp is already in the mid 80’s…it’s going to get hotter than 2 squirrels shagging in a wool sock! Fortunately, Brian and a few of his fire fighting buddies set up a large canopy with a few industrial mist fans, we’re going to need them for later.
We all fired up our cookers and started to prep. I never cooked this amount of meat before, but I was looking to test my limits. Just in case I ever decide to get into the catering business, this is some valuable experience. From here on out, I was in the zone of trimming, peeling, rubbing, basting, wrapping and watching 12 St. Louis cut spare ribs. No pictures were taken of the ribs, only the finished stack ready to be devoured by the newly christened judges.
Did I mentioned how hot it was? At one point Leo used his Thermapen and got a reading of 103 degrees around the designated cooking area at about 11am! Eventually, I succumbed to the heat and had to take a breather under the canopy and misting fans. Ahhhhhhh! I felt happier than a pig in shit now that I’m out of that sun.
Minutes later, we heard a loud POP! We all looked at each other as if to say..what the hell was that? Brian walked over to the trailer and held up the remaining scraps of a utility lighter. The outside temps were so hot, the lighter exploded! BRUTAL!
There was only 1 miscalculation for the day and it had to be chicken. Chicken has the most excruciating prep process of all competition meats. Poor Leo, to my surprise, volunteered to prep and cook the chicken, some consider this a prison sentence. Days before the class, the order was doubled! However, we come to find out that original amount was adequate…DOH! All that prep work took hours, maybe half the day and now he has to cook it all in Hell’s Kitchen. So much chicken was cooked, we used 2 large smokers. Leo got blasted with heat from both sides!
Amazingly, all that chicken was turned in on schedule, what a great job! Now on to the ribs. This batch of ribs clearly wasn’t my best, I lost a lot of quality as a result of cooking in larger quantities. A couple were even burnt because my cookers were running hot all day long, for obvious reasons. Nonetheless, they were tender and ready to be sauced. A little while later the volunteers picked up the ribs and I was able to relax.
Later, I went inside the building to cool off and check out the class staffers do their magic. Behind the scenes, we had folks fixing prearranged boxes, in other words, they were preparing boxes to match a picture. These pictures were provided by the KCBS representatives to challenge the class to find flaws (DQ,s) in the turn in box.
I just so happen to arrive as soon as the class was being served some competition pulled pork made by A Pig’s Worst Nightmare. They were nice enough to share some tasty Q with me and I wasn’t shy about it. I helped myself to the large foil pan full of leftover pulled pork.
While I was piggin’ out over the pork tough, Al began to slice his succulent smoked brisket to be served next.
All of us cooks had a great time talking about Q, sharing our musings and debating topics. Most of all, I can’t say enough about Brian and his volunteers who went through great lengths to make sure we didn’t die in this parking lot inferno.
This class took a whole team effort, from the cookers, to the box preparers, the volunteers and the reps. Together we welcomed a new generation of barbecue enthusiast into our world and I couldn’t have been more honored to be apart of it. After the cooking was all said and done, I felt like I worked harder than a borrowed mule. As a reward, I treated myself to a swim in a cool, refreshing pool.