Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Grand Champs: Battle of the Brisket - Mission, KS

I spent the last week leading up to the Battle of the Brisket in Mission, KS really looking forward to cooking again.

Two weeks ago Chris and I scored a reserve grand championship in Fairbury, NE. That competition kicked off a string of contests for us where we’ll cook every other weekend leading up to the American Royal and beyond. That is a pretty frequent pace for our team, but it’s our hope that we can really hit our stride and do well as we approach the big one.

With that reserve grand champ finish in Nebraska we were off to a good start, but Chris and I both felt that we could have performed better and there was plenty of room for improvement. We took good step toward being where we want to be last weekend in Mission as we finished on top of the heap at a 57 team contest – by far our biggest win.

It was more than four years ago when I got the mail one afternoon and opened up the city newsletter that’s sent to every household in town. I saw one little article about a small, unsanctioned contest being held at the Sylvester Powel Community Center, which stood less than three blocks from my front door. It was the perfect first foray in competition barbecue for me and my little smoker. My neighbor, Chris, showed up and gave me hand and we scored a 4th place ribbon in brisket that weekend…the rest is history.

Fast forward a few years later…last year the city decided to hold another contest at the same location and this time it was sanctioned by KCBS. We jumped right in and even ended up in the same spot we had that first time out. We lucked out and finished in the reserve grand champion slot and we could not have been happier! That is, until we finished in first place!

I can’t say enough about the Mission Arts & Eats Festival and Battle of the Brisket contest. I am really very proud to call this my (adopted) hometown contest. I think the coolest part about the contest was the attention they gave to recycling. There were receptacles every where you turned for cans and plastic bottles. They even sponsored a contest with-in the contest, offering $50 to the team who turned in the most recycled materials (by weight) at the end of the weekend. I wish more contests would do this. We end up throwing away so many plastic bottles and aluminum cans, just because we have nothing else to do with it.

Because the contest is so close to home and my office, I ran down and set up our spot over the lunch hour. I worked almost a full day and got back down to the contest in time to get ready for our guests on Friday night. We had a nice crowd and much food was consumed and many beers drank. It was a lot of fun.

Unlike a few of our most recent contests, Chris and I stayed pretty much on track as far as our timeline went. Trimming, injecting, marinating and seasoning all happened right on time. The evening weather was perfect, allowing our cooker to perform just as we expect and all of our categories went on and came off the smoker on time.

We both had that uneasy feeling as mid-morning came and went...nothing had gone wrong. We've had that feeling before. If nothing goes wrong during the contest, then it must mean it's gonna happen at the awards.

Our chicken was OK. We are trying to achieve a few things with that entry and I thought we did them all - just not as well as we could. Ribs were not quite there in my opinion. The presentation was lacking a little. Pork came out pretty good and our brisket was also good. Overall I thought we had a decent chance at getting some calls.

We collected awards in three of four categories at the awards ceremony. We just can’t seem to nail down our chicken. Our last chicken call came back on May 3rd in Lansing, KS. It’s been a pretty dry spell since then, but I think we’re improving. We did score a fourth in ribs, third in brisket and second in pork and it all added up to a Grand Championship on this weekend!

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