Well this past weekend I accompanied the Pork Barrel BBQ team to Pork in the Park for my first ever BBQ competition. It was a ton of fun and quite intense. The first day was quite relaxing then you realize that the next day you have to turn in all of your meat within a two hour window. Doesn’t seem like much, but you have to present the meat in a fully garnished box. It was a ton of work. Overall we did not do as good as we liked, but we learned a lot. Like one, bring zero gravity chairs as they are easy to sleep in. Two, BBQ is very subjective and what one person likes, another person may not. Three, earplugs are a plus.
Here are a few pictures from the event. As you can see, it is smoke and tents for as far as the eye can see. It was pretty intense. BBQ competitions are not about having the best equipment, they are about having the best final product. Thus, you see the whole spectrum. There were people with full trailer pits with bars, TVs and even Margaritaville Blenders. There were also people with a quick pop-up tent and a single little smoker made from an old oil drum.
The hardest part of the trip was getting used to the blaring music. Not that I don’t like music, I am just not a fan of the same song repeating itself for 12 hours. Constant loops of zydeco and Jimmy Buffet. I was told it was a technique that some barbecuers use to throw off the competition. Based on the results and the people that were blaring the music, it appeared that the music threw them off too.
Here was our camp. We were lucky enough to get a large spot that had ample room for the SUV, trailer, tent and all of the smokers.
On Friday night we had two entries. One in the Anything Butt Category: Basically anything but the main four categories. The second entry was the seafood category. We entered wild boar in the anything butt category and jumbo shrimp wrapped in Iberico prosciutto for the seafood category. I think our highest place came in the seafood category where we took 20th out of 137 teams.
After that we rested for a bit and got our pits going around 11pm. We prepped the pork butts and briskets for a long slow smoke. Around 2-3 Brett and Heath went to bed. I stayed awake to keep an eye on the smokers. At about 4am it started to rain and the temperature dropped by about 40 degrees. A huge variable when using a Weber Smokey Mountain (WSM). I was freezing but the guy next to me didn’t seem to mind. Every two hours he came out of his trailer wearing nothing but Joe Boxers and a pair of sandals to add a few coals to his smokers. Nothing like being startled in the middle of the night by a guy in only boxers. That actually helped me not sleep as thoughts of a guy in boxers walking around was pretty scary.
Well the dawn couldn’t come fast enough. I was freezing and any little bit of sunlight could help warm me up. I was extremely busy during the night as the rain and wind took their toll on the smokers. They were fluctuating between hot and cold for the entire evening. Usually the WSMs keep their temperature forever, but a little wind and rain can be a lot to handle.
The next morning we started to prep our boxes. You need to garnish each box with only lettuce or parsley. This is where you can add a little bit of lettuce to prop up each piece of meat to make it display properly. I have used a similar technique when taking photos for this blog. You have no idea how awesome mashed potatoes can be for this technique at home.
Then around 12:00 the shit hits the fan. First up, chicken. The chicken is due at noon. So we need to cook the chicken, get the skin crispy and sauced and to the judges before the sauce softens the chicken skin. This is extremely hard. The perfect bite needs crispy skin along with a perfectly cooked chicken.
Next at 12:30 was the ribs. We needed to get the ribs sauced and cut and perfectly presented. Seems easy but just 30 minutes ago we were doing this with the chicken. A lot of cleaning needs to be done between the meats.
At 1:00 the pulled pork was due. The butts needed to be rested, shredded and presented.
At 1:30 the brisket needed to be turned in. It needed to be sliced and lightly sauced for presentation.
So many things in such a short time. Remember you can turn things in 5 minutes before, but you can’t turn things in after the time. So your time has to be juggled accordingly. A ton of work. We did it but next time we will do better. A big thanks to Brian from Hot Sauce Daily for stopping by and helping us pass the time. Check out his blog HotSauceDaily.com for Hot Sauce Reviews, BBQ recipes and all things hot and spicy.
Overall it was an adventure. We learned a lot, heard a lot of zydeco and had some great BBQ. We will use what we learned to perfect our timing, presentation and overall product to place high in the next competition.
As always the Pork Barrel Team competes with the Pork Barrel Sauce and rub. It is excellent. Check it out at PorkBarrelBBQ.com.