Thursday, February 28, 2008

Starting the 2008 Season: Great Bend, KS

I was pretty excited when I saw a few posts on the BBQ Forum late last year checking the interest level for a winter contest happening out in Great Bend, KS.

The weekend finally came February 15th & 16th. Chris and I packed up and drove the 4 hours to G.B. where we found the hospitality to be top notch and contest organizer Kent Romaine one of a kind!

This was unique event in that we had the option to set up camp indoors (in 70 degree comfort) while keeping our cooker outside. Quite a few teams choose to stay near their cookers, but a good number set up with us inside too. We were fortunate enough to set up next to our good friends Kyle and Steph from The

Having our cooker outside and the rest of our stuff inside did prove to be somewhat of a challenge. We are so used to working close to our cooker and had to adapt to having it over a hundred feet away. It's really not that far - but you are used to it being three feet away - well, it might as well be a mile! I had brought our wireless thermometers to monitor the pit temperature, but the distance from the pit coupled with the fact that we were inside the build with the receiver rendered it useless. Thank goodness for our BBQ Guru Pit Minder forced draft control. But we couldn't use that with out incident either...

I had sent my Guru unit in to have problem looked at and got it back the the day before we left. I thought the root of the problem I was having was a burned lead wire on my probe. So I ordered a new one and the problem persisted. After sending it in and not finding a problem, it was shipped back and we set it up to cook - but again we ran into a brick wall. Chris then decided to cut out the burned up spot of the lead, splice it back together and we were in business. So new probe lead was the problem and upon learning this, Fred Jr at Guru headquarters offered to ship me a new one.

Back to the contest...once we got the cooker set up we put a tent up around it to deflect the wind and chilly temps that dipped below 20 degrees over night. We made a few trips out in the cold to check on things and I made the rounds checking out some of the other cooks.

The contingent of cookers at this contest was quite impressive. I have to think that the fact that no other cook-off was happening helped bring in some very successful teams. Chris and I were just hoping to get a couple of calls when the awards rolled around. We have some work to do on our brisket, but we did get calls in ribs and pork. Chicken was middle of the road.

We won't be able to make it back to Great Bend for the contest that Kent puts on in July, but I would highly recommend it based on our experience at the Kansas Winter Q. Oh - and it should be noted that Bart Clark of Twin Oak Smokin' Crew took Grand Champ honors at the contest. His winning score of 691 and change in one of the first contests of 2008, fighting the cold and wind on the plains of Kansas in February, was higher than any winning score put up in all of 2007. Quite an accomplishment.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Who We Are...

written by Neal
The Dodge County Smokers BBQ team was established in the summer of 2005. We are Neal Dunker and Chris Nickelson. By chance we became neighbors in Mission, KS when we moved into houses that had backyards facing each other.

Some time later I entered a BBQ contest just a few blocks away at the Mission Community Center. It was a small, unsanctioned event, but I was in way over my head. Chris stopped by to check it out and visit and ended up staying and lending a big hand. We ended up finishing 4th overall and even scored a 4th place ribbon in brisket. I was hooked on competition BBQ and Chris was ready to jump in too. We formed a team and cooked in five more contests in 2005, even winning a few ribbons along the way.

We had a few team name changes along the way, but settled on Dodge County Smokers - named for the county in Nebraska where I grew up and where my dad, Richard Dunker, designed and built our cooker after attending that first contest in Mission. He figured he could do a better job building a cooker than the others he saw at that contest, and he was right.

I am starting this blog to document our 2008 BBQ season. I am really looking forward to it as we'll be cooking some different events for us and we have qualified for some exciting invitation-only contests. I invite you to follow along. It should be quite a ride.