Monday, August 31, 2009

One Minute Monday...almost

Last weekend Chris and I drove four hours from home, stayed up too late cooking, slept outside and froze our butts off (temps dipped in the low 50's! It's August, right?) and tried like hell to make everything we cooked perfect for a discriminating set of judges. No, we didn't cook in a BBQ contest. We cooked for a party of almost 150 people at my Dad's shop in rural North Bend, NE.

We had an absolute blast. We cooked a 135lb whole hog, a few racks of ribs, sausage, chicken and mess of stuffed jalepanos. We had as much fun cooking for this crowd as we do cooking a contest. The occasion was a combination preharvest party and my sister (S)Melissa's engagment party.

I'll have pictures up soon. I don't get a chance to cook for groups of of this size where I know almost everyone there, so this was a pretty cool experience for me. Competition cooking is still my favorite reason to light up the smoker, but this was a pretty cool experience.


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

BBQ & A: Round Three

Before we get started this week, I would like to thank all of the interested cooks and BBQ followers who have sent me notes expressing their enjoyment of the new "BBQ & A" feature. I started this as a trial idea and it seems to be working out. I'll try to keep it going and feature the best BBQ cooks with an emphasis on competition cooking.

This week I received contributions from three cookers that I really admire. All of these guys are top-notch competitors and extremely versatile cooks. I asked them if they ever had a nightmare experience or if things just ever went sideways while they were at contest and how did they react?

Our three featured BBQ'rs this week include Rob "Rub" Bagby of the extremely successful Florida BBQ Association team Swamp Boys, Steve Farrin, best known for his work with perennial New England BBQ Society championship contenders I Smell Smoke and finally, one of the best cookers from a state that boasts more than a few quality competition teams, Donny Teel of Buffalo's BBQ in Sperry, OK.

One will notice two more in-depth answers and one answer that could be considered...well, less than wordy. So far I have found all of the cooks that have taken part in this deal to be extremely honest and their answers reflect their personalities. This week is no exception.

Rub: I have had my share of misfortune. I had a grease fire at 5:30 AM Saturday in 2005, and came so close to packing up all my stuff and heading home. It threw my timing off and charred parts of my butts and briskets. I was able to salvage some of it, and it turned out not to be as bad as I thought; I came in 6th overall. Two other contests I was DQ'd in chicken for having blood present near the bone. Came in DAL in both of those. If you've never been DQ'd at a contest, it's kind of like taking a kick in the nads. I don't recommend it.

Steve: Oh I've had a few of those. In Harvard Mass in 2008 I was short handed, it poured all weekend, our site was a total mud pit and around midnight the ground fault on the contest generator kept tripping every 15 minutes. I run an FEC100 without any battery backup or generator of my own. The FE was just not going to work out so we lit my Backwoods smoker moved all the meat over and finished the contest on it. We were the Grand Champs that day. I actually wrote about it on my blog (click here).

Donny: I really have never had that many problems at a contest. ‘Course some things go wrong - but that is when the real good cooks separate themselves from everyone else, knowing what to do to overcome the situation.

One Minute Monday...a few minutes late

I am typing this just a few minutes into Tuesday this is technically not titled correctly. But who really cares? Me neither.

We arrived back from Bristol, TN and the Prilosec OTC BBQ Shootout Series around 5am on Sunday morning. Sunday was spent resting and cleaning up and we were back to work on Monday. As for the results, I'll go into more detail in a later post, but there were 9 teams and we finished 7th. I would be lying if I said that finish didn't burn me up a little bit, but there were some other parts of the scoring that did take the sting out of it...again, more on that later.

As for the trip - we had a blast. Pictures can be found here: BBQ Shootout Photos

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

BBQ & A: Round Two!

This week's BBQ & A features 3 very good cooks that I feel fortunate to have participating in my little experiment.

Barbecuers really are great people. All three of these guys got back to me right away when I reached out to them. They all needed a little time to answer their questions, but each of them got back to me right away to say they would love to be a part of this and that they would shoot over their answers as soon as they could. Within a few days, I had heard back from all three of them.

The Round 2 instalment features Greg Anthony, who teams up with Eric Westervelt to form the team Ribs 4 U. I am also proud to have Scottie Johnson, the winner of the 2006 Jack Daniels World Championship Invitational and pitmaster for the Cancer Sucks Chicago team. Lastly, John Nilges of the Parrothead Smokers team from South Dakota is the third cook you will hear from.
I asked each of these champion cooks if there were two or three people in the BBQ world that they really admire or have learned a lot from. Their answers were as varied as the cooks themselves...

Greg: I admire Don and Sharon Will of Smokers Wild because of their attitude about KCBS and our sport. Although as competitive as all of us, they always have a positive attitude, and understand the results are not always as wanted or even as deserved. I am very fortunate to have Don and Sharon as very good friends living in the same small town I do. And having them mentor me in my early years was/is invaluable. I also admire Rod Gray of Pellet Envy. I think Rod has achieved the bbq’rs dream, in being able to support himself and his family by doing what he loves to do: cook, and teach others to cook barbecue. Rod and Sheri are good friends. Finally, I admire Steve Marrs of Denver Cajun BBQ Krewe. Steve entered competition bbq a year or so earlier than I did. After I started, we met and became very good friends and he taught me a lot. Not only has Steve been successful in competition barbecue and achieved the Grand Champion award more than once, he has became one of the Denver area’s most sought after barbecue caterers.

Scottie: Man, I have befriended a lot of great folks in comp cooking. From the likes of Bill Milroy, Ray Lampe, Eddy Maurin and Jumpin Jim Woodsmall. First I would probably be remiss if I didn't mention The BBQ Forum and Ray Basso. While Ray didn't teach me anything per se, it is from his website that I learned how to cook my BBQ. But probably the the biggest influence was cooking with Rod Gray and Steve Farrin at the 2006 Qlossal. I got to see how to win a championship from those guys. They are 2 of the best cooks going out in the KCBS still today. I also learn a lot from Darren "Clone" Warth. Darren can just plain old cook. You know if you are at a contest with Darren, you better bring your 'A Game'... So while I haven't cooked with him at a contest, I have learned a lot from him. Not "shigging" learning either. ;-)

John: It is hard to narrow it down to just a few as there are so many that I look up to. But If I can just name three they'd be:
Quau...Mike and Beth (Wozniak) are great people and very innovative cooks. No one puts in more time, travel and effort than Team Quau.
Johnny Trigg...Even after all the years that he's been out there competing Mr. Trigg still seems to have a passion for competition cooking.
Finally, anyone that cooks alone. I do it and I know how hard it is. So I admire those guys who go out and cook alone. I'd also have to throw in that I admire the wives of those cooks too, mine included, as they sure put up with a lot because of our little hobby!

Monday, August 17, 2009

One Minute Monday

This week we are heading out east to Bristol, Tn for the Prilosec OTC BBQ Shootout. This should be a blast and we have been looking forward to it for some time. Since this is an invitation only event, we will recieve no KCBS Team of the Year points, which is really not that big of a deal - but by the end of the year we will have cooked in 4 events that will not count for TOY. I do like to see how we stack up, but when we only cook 14 or 15 contests, using up resources on 4 that will not count toward the end of the year standings really adds up.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

BBQ & A: Round One

Here is the first installment of the soon-to-be wildly popular "BBQ & A" series.

The concept is pretty simple: I am going to ask three respected competition cooks one question each week and they will share all the juicy details right here. Oh, and for those of you wondering if you can troll out some winning secrets from this...I doubt it, but you can try!

I am going to try and update this each Wednesday with new cooks and questions. I am going to try and keep the questions relatively short and the answer will be too I imagine, so it should make for a quick read. I hope you enjoy it.

This week's featured cooks are David Bouska of Butcher BBQ, Steph Wilson of the The and Rod Gray of Pellet Envy.

Q: Are there any teams out there that you find particularly hard to beat? Could you name two or three?

David: That list shouldn't be limited to 3, when we compete in Oklahoma there is always Twin Oaks, Buffalo's, Head Country II, Little Pig Town, and all the teams that come in from Kansas, you know who you are. I have said a hundred times, "I'm scared of all of them!"

Steph: We were taught by Smokin' in the Boys Room that no matter who or how many teams are there.....they have to beat you. There's a lot of good teams out there and quite a few are our friends.....we cheer just as hard for their accomplishments as we hope to accomplish for ourselves.

Rod: This is an interesting year. Munchin' Hogs at the Hilton, 4 Legs Up BBQ and Pellet Envy have butted heads too many times already. We've traded blows, each of us coming out on top. Iowa's Smokey D's BBQ is another team that's hard to beat. In fact, I predict that Darren will win the KCBS Team of the Year. As for as beating teams or being beat by teams, any given weekend, especially when you cook over 30 events each year, it's all a blur. One thing that nobody, and I mean nobody, is going to beat us in though is cleanliness. When you're sponsored by Greased Lightning, cleanliness leaps past godliness.

Monday, August 10, 2009

One Minute Monday

In a few weeks my sister is having an engagment party. We are supposed to cook a whole hog for it. I am really looking forward to it but I am not sure if I know exactly what to exect. Hogs we have cooked have all been a lot smaller like 50-80lbs. Looks like we'll be getting one close to 200. Give me a shout if you know how long this will take to cook!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Trying to spice it up just a bit.

This week I have decided to try and ramp up the content of this site. I enjoy writing recaps of our contests, but I rarely get much of anything else on here, so I have been searching for some new ways to make the stuff found here a little more exciting.

I am working on a quick Q&A series featuring some of the best cooks and teams competing today and I hope to make this a weekly deal. I am also going to force myself to write a little more than the contest recaps that I currently put up here, since we don't compete as frequently leading to less content. I will keep ramblings short and sweet, giving myself a limited time to type. We'll call it "One Minute Monday" and it will be just minute to type my thoughts - no spell check, no editing. If a minute runs out mid-sentence, so be it.

We'll see how it goes strating tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Laurie Hillbilly BBQ

The last weekend in July brought the Dodge County Smokers to the Lake of the Ozarks for the Laurie Hillbilly BBQ contest. We were just one of 77 teams to converge on the fairgrounds of this sleepy lake town to compete with some top-notch talent along with several local teams.

I should also mention that this was a unique event for us in that my wife’s family has a deep history in the area. Jammie’s grandfather was born and raised here. His family farmed and scratched out a meager living in the Osage River Valley before it was damned up in the early 1930’s to form what is now The Lake of The Ozarks. The family was forced out of the valley, moving above the water line, some of them even settling on the land making up the present day fairgrounds of Laurie and the location of this contest for the past 16 years.

Chris arrived to the park just a few hours after I did and Jammie and our boy, Jack, also drove down with her parents to join in on the fun. We enjoyed a nice dinner on Friday night and Chris and I got to work prepping our competition cuts and gearing up for the night of cooking ahead.
One would only assume that you would be reading about oppressive heat and out-of-this-world humidity when taking in the account of a BBQ contest happening in late July or early August in south Missouri. Not so this weekend. The weather was really the star of the competition, with extremely mild temps in 70’s. In fact, I was down right cold as I tried to catch a few winks over night.

Precipitation was in the forecast for Saturday morning – some reports even calling for showers right at turn-in time. I even wondered out loud if we should put up the sidewalls on our tent. But our resident amateur meteorologist, Chris “Thunder Head” Nickelson put a wet finger to the air and declared dry conditions moving forward. Indeed, he was right. Other than a light 5-minute sprinkle, nary a drop was felt. I did notice that panic set in over at the Pellet Envy cook site. Rod was ready and waiting for the rain, with his sidewalls up and at attention!

Saturday’s routine went off with out a hitch – right up until it was time to select our turn-in samples. I thought out chicken was pretty decent. We pulled out our best pieces, boxed them up and sent them off. Ribs, however, were an over-cooked disappointment. Chris performed a little cosmetic surgery on a few of the individual ribs and we turned them in, not holding out much hope for an award in this category.

Pork and brisket were next. I thought our pork was OK. Chris did a good job of getting the box presentation in order before running it in. Then I pulled our brisket from the hot box and began my battle with that over cooked slab of beef. The flavor was there…but getting it sliced and in the box looking the way we wanted it was a challenge. We finally got it boxed and Chris took off for the judging tent with just a few minutes to go. He returned several minutes later, and I was really relieved to see him not carrying our box back to our site. He had made it with a few seconds to spare. A few other teams were not so fortunate.

Larger contests like this (77 teams) always have more interesting awards. They always seem to be spread out over more teams and it’s harder to predict a grand champion. Well, most of the time. Andy Groneman took the suspense right out of the afternoon. Smoke On Wheels was the only team to claim top 10 finishes in three out of the four main categories. Andy also celebrated his birthday over the weekend, so he was blowing out the candles on his cake in fine fashion!

We were able to muster out calls to the stage for awards in the pork and brisket categories. A 6th place finish in pork was a nice pick-me-up, and our 5th place called for that brisket was a big surprise. As usual, the category that I personally liked the most, scored the worst. Our chicken was down in the 40’s overall and our overcooked ribs were some where in the 20’s. Total it all up and that will get you a 7th place overall finish.
I felt pretty good about the finish, considering that we really didn’t feel like we put our best foot forward. We did OK, and I know that we have room for improvement – so that is encouraging. We hope to keep getting better as we approach a few pretty important events in the coming weeks and months.

Chris drove back home Saturday while my family stayed the night. Jammie's dad, Jim, drove us around the next day visiting old cemetaries, school houses and homesteads where past generations of the Silvey family once lived. Observant cookers may have noticed that they turned on to Silvey Road in order to get to the contest and the fairgrounds. It was a nice end to very pleasant weekend.