Sams Club BBQ Contest - Chesapeake, Virginia

This year I have competitively barbecuing and have been doing pretty good.  Back in August I won Reserve Grand Champion at a Sam’s Club competition in Medford, NY and received my golden ticket to compete at the Sam’s club Regional in Chesapeake, Virginia.  It was a great opportunity to compete against 29 other teams that had earned their way.  This contest was stacked with some of the best teams in the Mid-Atlantic.  This contest ended up being a huge learning experience for me.

Chicken – 8 out of 30

Chicken was once again one of our best categories.  We placed well and it was the start of a great cook.  If I could have gotten the chicken a tad more uniform, I think we could have been in the top 5.  Need to purchase more chicken next time, to make sure that they are all even.

Ribs – 20 out of 30

I thought ribs were going to be a bit better.  I purchased amazing ribs, they were huge with some of the straightest bones I have ever seen.  The size hurt us in the end, as they just did not get done enough.  Each rack was easily over 5lbs.   Those are some big ribs.  They were straight and beautiful.  If I had just had another 15 minutes they would have been perfect.

Pork – 14 out of 30 

Pork has been surprisingly good to us this year.  I have developed a nice sauce and rub combination that the judges seem to love.  It scored a nice 162.28 giving us a 163 average for the first three meats.  We were kicking it.  All we needed was a 159 in brisket to get us in the top ten with an automatic entry to the finals in Arkansas.

Brisket – 3o out of 30

Easily the worst score that we have ever gotten in any category a horrible 140.  This was my first DAL (Dead Ass Last) ever! After placing ninth in brisket in Medford, I thought I was on track.  The only major change that I thought we needed was a higher quality brisket.  Needless to say I was wrong.  I picked up a nice 15 lb brisket from Snake River Farms.  This is the vendor that the majority of teams use as they are known to have extremely good quality Wagu beef.  Due to the excessively high price, I thought I would get a great brisket.  However, my experience and brisket was far from great.  From the moment that I cut off the Snake River Farms cryovac plastic, everything went horribly wrong.  The brisket flat was 1 inch on one side and 1/8th of an inch on the other.  Due to the dramatic taper of the flat, it was almost impossible to cook.  If the 1 inch side was cooked then 90 percent of the flat would be over-cooked.  If the middle was cooked to perfection, the 1 inch side was underdone and the 1/8th inch side was over cooked.  No matter how I cooked it, I was screwed.  I almost picked up another brisket to cook, but knowing that I had already spent a fortune on this brisket I figured I would risk it.  Man was I wrong.  Still kicking myself in the butt for that one.

I do not mean to bash Snake River Farms, I know many people that use them and have huge success with their briskets.  They are the purveyor of some of the best beef around.  However, the brisket I got was horrible.  Their system works for a lot of people, it just did not work for me.  On a good note, if the brisket had been uniform, it would have placed awesome, due to the intense marbling.  In my case, the flat was so skewed that I was screwed from the start.  Needless to say I will never get a mail order brisket again.  I need to inspect each piece of meat before purchasing.  At least I learned my lesson now and not when a ton of money was on the line.  Oh crap, a ton a money was on the line.  Lesson learned, never test a new brisket when money is on the line.

Overall – 26 out of 30

Overall we did horrible due to the brisket, which gave us the worst score I have ever seen.  Heck we were on track for a spot around 10th place as long as we cooked our average brisket.  10th place was an automatic entry into the finals.  Well this was a learning experience for me.  I need to see the meat before purchasing it.

Hopefully next year we will come out swinging and take a couple more trophies home.  Thanks a ton to my Father Don for flying out to help me in the contest.  Sorry I screwed up the brisket.  Next year will definitely be better.

Rex is an avid griller, barbecuer and bacon enthusiast. He is the Pitmaster for the Rex BBQ competition team. Rex was also featured on the TV show American Grilled. If you have any questions or wish to have Rex decode your favorite dish, click on the ASK REX link in the menu above.


  1. nibblemethis Reply

    I have never cooked a waygu brisket before but in a class I took 2 years ago where Chris Lilly was teaching, he and the host (who makes the best brisket in Knoxville) both talked about how different it is to cook waygu vs choice briskets because of several factors. Add in the odd cut that you got and you already had two strikes against you.

    • Chris – I have cooked at least 5 Wagyu Briskets that have turned out wonderfully. Since I don't currently have a meat sponsor I have been trying to cut a few corners on meat to try to save a few bucks. So I figured that I would splurge for the Regionals. Besides the Wagyu Briskets, I have cooked a huge number of Angus, Prime and Choice Briskets. While there are definitely a few differences between them, I have never seen a brisket with such a malformed flat. I was screwed from the get go. If I could do it again I would have cut off the flat, cooked the point for burnt ends and picked up another brisket for the slices. Live and learn.

  2. nibblemethis Reply

    Well then that REALLY sucks! Especially when I know how much $$$ you dropped on that brisket.

  3. I wish such clubs might start in my city so that I could taste all those tasty recipes. Anyway I am sure that the chicken will be the best among all the categories and the varieties that you adopt within all these recipes is really awesome. Hope I could visit your club at least once.

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