Wednesday, May 28, 2008


After a little less than a month off, Chris and I were really looking forward to the Great American Barbecue contest in Kansas City, KS.

This was the third time that we have had the chance to cook in an invitation-only contest, meaning a team must have won a grand championship at some point during the year leading up to the contest to get in. The invitational was followed by the open, meaning it was "open" for anyone to enter and compete. These double contest weekends are extremely tiring. And couple that with the addition of the World Brisket Open to the line up of contest categories at the GAB and you have one heck of a busy weekend.

Weather-wise, we saw it all. It started off cool, then the winds came (wind sucks), then rain (and lots of it - see the pic above of a bucket catching run off in to our tent) all followed by heat and humidity.

I wish I could blame the weather on our poor finishes in the invitational and open. We got beat up pretty bad by the judges. We didn't even sniff a top-twenty finish. The hardest part to accept is that I wouldn't have hesitated to turn anything we cooked into judges at any other contest. I thought most of it was good enough to score something.

We did have on semi-bright spot in that our brisket fisnished in the top 30 among 125 or so entries in the World Brisket Open. This was our first go-round in the brisket-only side competition. I liked it and I think we'll try it again.

Overall, we did have fun but the weekend was dissapointing in the end. We are already looking forward to jumping back on the horse and cooking again.

Next up...The Dodge County Purple Porkers team invades Des Moines, Iowa in just a week and a half. We are all looking forward to this pork-only event. The competition will be tough, but we are looking forward to the challenge!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

This Little Piggy went to My House...

In preparation of entering the Great Pork BarbeQLossal in June, The Dodge County Purple Porkers got together last Saturday to cook a whole hog - one of the requirements for the Des Moines, Iowa contest.

Actually our weekend project would not be considered a hog, but rather a pig. An oinker "on the hoof" under 180lbs is a pig...over 180, a hog. Our piggy weighed in at 48lbs. The minimum weight that we can cook in the contest is 45. That would put our new pet somewhere in the neighborhood of 75lbs before being butchered.

Jerrod and Chris came over to the Dunker house early Saturday Morning. We got the pig out of my cooler, where it had been chilling out since I had picked it up from Bichelmeyer Meats the day before. Then we got to work cleaning it up and getting it ready to hit the heat. I can say that I pretty much sat back and let Chris do the cutting. He is dangerous with the blade and had the swine ready to cook it in no time.

In order to fit it the cooker, we had to trim a little here and there. Four hooves and a head later, we laid down a little seasoning, injected the shoulders and hams to keep it moist and wrapped it up in chicken wire to help us handle it a little easier. After much discussion, research and a few morning beers, we decided to cook Porky belly down, rather than on its back.

Our purpose for cooking this pig was three fold... First, we had never done one before, so it was practice. Second, we needed to make sure that we could cook all four QLossal categories (pork butt, ribs, loin and hog) on one cooker. And finally, Jerrod's father-in-law is throwing a little get-together and this will be the main course.

Twelve hours after going in to the cooker, we pulled out our test pig. We didn't expect much...maybe that's why I liked it so much. It was surely some good eatin'!

I am really looking forward to heading up and cooking in the QLossal. It will be a great time and something totally new for us. But we before we go we have another pretty big competition here in KC.

Next up for Chris and I will be the Great American BBQ this weekend. We did well at this one last year. We just hope we can keep it up and hear our name called at the awards. But even if we don't, I'll sleep OK. The worst day cookin' is still better than a good day at work!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Teaming up for the QLossal!

For the past couple of years Chris and I have thrown around the idea of going to the Great Pork BarbeQLossal in Des Moines, IA. The QLossal happens every June and it's a contest that is unique in that it is the only Kansas City Barbecue Society sanctioned contest where cooks only deal with pork. No beef. No chicken. No other ancilaries. Just pork.

Pork butt. Pork ribs. Pork lion. And the big one...whole hog. The last one is the category that has scared us off until now. We have never cooked a hog and it seems like a pretty big undertaking.

So while we considered it, we never really considered it. That is until we started kicking the idea around again early this year when a friend of ours, Jerrod Caton of the team Pork Me Purple, brought it up. Jerrod talked us into it and now we're teaming up to cook this exciting event.

We are actually quite lucky to have Jerrod on our side. He's put in over a decade in the pork industry and took first place in pork at the 2007 American Royal Invitational.

Our first order of business: team name. We decided that we'll combine our names for this contest. So, for the first weekend in June, the Dodge County Smokers and Pork Me Purple will be known collectively as the Dodge County Purple Porkers.

We're hoping that our combined success in the two regular KCBS categories of pork butt and ribs thrown in with a little luck in loin and that whole pig will result in a successful day for us all.

Oh, and about that whole hog that has scared us off before. Well...we'll be doing our practice run on a small pig this weekend. Official QLossal rules state that we must cook a pig with a minimum weight of 45lbs. Given the small size, we're hoping we can manage it and we're looking forward to the challenge. Win or lose, it should be fun weekend and learning experience for sure!

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Lansing, Kansas: Grand Champs!

Behind the strength of two first place calls and two more top tens, we are proud to report another successful Dodge County Smokers finish this weekend with a Grand Championship in Lansing, KS!

Back in January Chris won a free entry to the Brew, Blues & BarBQ event in Lansing at the KCBS awards banquet. It worked out well, as Chris, Jenny and Emily had just bought a new home and moved to an acreage about 5 miles south of town. In addition to being close to home, it was going to be nice cooking in a contest with mild spring weather. Well, we didn't get the weather we had hoped for.

Our tent was up for all of about 5 minutes when a gust of wind whipped up and snapped a leg. We didn't even have sidewalls up, coolers unloaded or anything else unpacked. Chris and I spent much of the next 2 hours or so standing around debating how to set up our tent, where to put the cooker and how to anchor everything down. I felt like we were at our first contest again...not knowing what to do or how to do it.

After we finally got everything unloaded, set up and situated, it felt like we were working from behind the rest of the night. We eventually got caught up on everything and the wind died down around 8 or 9pm. I thought it was going to be an OK night. After the family left Friday night we decided to take a walk and spent a few minutes at the Squeal of Approval camp. Around midnight it was time to head back to home base and just as we made our way into our crippled temporary abode, a gust of wind hit almost as if it was set on a timer for 12 am...and it kept blowing through the night and into Saturday morning with out a break.

I hate the wind. I can deal with rain, the cold and even excessive heat...but wind just turns an otherwise good day into a real drag. Wind sucks. Or blows...whatever.

So other than the damn wind, we had a great time. Turn ins went well and we really only pushed it to the time limit on our last box. Our brisket slices were too wide to fit in the box...adjustments were made, last minute touches applied and Chris hit the road with what turned out to be our second top call of the day and the entry that propelled us into the #1 spot overall for the day.

Over the years I *may* have developed just a few little quirks when it comes to our routine. If something works...why mess with it? I guess I just thought maybe no one would notice. Well, my dirty little secret was thrust into the open by Chris's wife, Jenny. In addition to being just a tad embarrassed (but not really...), I was more afraid that the mystical powers that are somehow harnessed by my tendencies would be erased if and when I acknowledged them. As my sister's boyfriend, "Braq," pointed out, they all knew...but you don't talk to the pitcher in the middle of a no hitter.

So when we sat down at the awards and Jenny
invited Jackson to leave my lap and come sit with her...I had to refuse. Hey...that kid has brought me a lot of luck over the past year! So there it was...and Jenny called me out on it! Right in the middle of the awards, no less! But in the end, it all ended up the way we wanted...Though Jenny may have opened up a can of worms...she's going to have to bust my chops at every awards ceremony now. Something tells me that won't be a problem!

The Great American BBQ Invitational and Open are up next. Memorial Day Weekend. Should be a blast!