We traveled to Fredericksburg, VA last weekend to compete in the BBQ Jamboree for the first time. This was a large competition with 60+ teams battling for bragging rights. It was a fun competition and we enjoyed seeing some old friends that we haven’t seen since last year. After a strong third place finish in Annapolis the week before, we were less than thrilled to never leave our seat during the awards ceremony.
Our chicken came in 20th; our ribs were scored at a near all-time low for us at 43rd. This was surprising because the cook went well and we were pleased with the box we turned in. Pork placed 11th and brisket landed at 13th. All this added up to a 22nd overall finish. Further evaluation of the scoring sheet showed that there were high and low scores coming from the same table in the same categories. Even appearance was ranging from 9 to 7 which we normally have a little more dialed in.
We are going to write the Jamboree off as a bad day for us and not make any changes heading into Middletown, DE this coming weekend. We evaluated how our entire cook went and will ensure that we really focus on every detail and take nothing for granted. When 60+ teams of this caliber come together, letting any minor detail slide could cause scores to wander. Congrats to Beerbeque and to Hog-IT-Up BBQ on their Grand and Reserve Grand finishes. These guys really cracked the code on consistency as they got calls all day long at the awards ceremony. We were also happy to see Dizzy Pig only a few points behind for a strong third place finish. Great job to all! We also enjoyed cooking next to Cooter Jackson’s BBQ, a new team cooking at their very first competition. These guys had obviously done their homework and we expect to see them cooking at more competitions this year. As for us… we are prepped for our third competition in a row and will be showing up to Middletown with our game face on!
Our first full KCBS event this year left us thirsty for more competition by teasing us with a 3rd place finish. With two more back to back competitions coming up in the next two weeks, we’ll get to see if we simply had a lucky opening day or if we are still cooking as consistently as we were at the end of 2012.
Although we left last season with a Reserve Grand Champion finish, we made some pretty significant changes this year to most of our recipes. Primarily, we were not happy with the rub we had been using. Granted, the rub is only part of the equation, but it is still an important part to us. Thanks to our Dizzy Pig sponsorship, we are now very happy with our flavors and getting far better color on our meats than we were last year. Thanks Dizzy Pig!
We also made the decision in the off season to expand our cooking space. We invested in our 7th … yes 7th, big green egg, and most recently added a BBQ Guru Onyx Oven to the collection. Having another egg allows us to cook each meat separately which some would say is too much work, but with green eggs managing four or five fires is not that difficult (if you are doing the math we can now leave two smaller eggs at home)! The Onyx is too new for us to really know the best way for us to use it, but we will be slowly working it more and more into our cooking schedule.
So the results … First place chicken! We had a good chicken cook and tweaked our presentation which the judges seem to really enjoy. Our ribs came in 6th. It was a pleasant surprise that they made top ten, so we were happy to hear our name twice in a row at awards. Then came a second place pork call! It will be exciting to see if our pork can keep scoring well. We broke the unwritten rule about making more than one change at a time to any category in order to keep track of how the change affects your scores. This year we changed it all because we were bored with our pork. We came to Naptown with new rub, new injection, new cooking technique, even a new box design, and at least this time it payed off. Brisket was the category that sank us, we ended up 24th and were not all too surprised. Of course we tried something new here too, but rest assured, we are going back to our mildly successful 2012 recipe for the next few competitions.
We cannot complain about our 3rd place overall finish. Jacked Up BBQ took Grand Champion and 3 Eyz BBQ took reserve. These guys are some of the best, so hats off to both teams for another great day of cooking. We are already packing to head to the BBQ Jamboree in Fredericksburg, VA next weekend, and then the Middletown BBQ Cookoff in Delaware the weekend after. Hoping we see some consistency throughout these competitions.
Well here we are; the 2013 competition season is upon us and we will once again start another quest for a Grand Champion trophy. We had many top ten and even top five finishes in 2012, and managed to place 9th overall in the Mid Atlantic Barbecue Association for the season, but we have yet to break through for 1st place overall in a KCBS competition. We kept with our annual tradition of making the 1st competition of the year the Go Naked BBQ Show in the parking lot of Mason Dixon BBQ Services. We loaded up the, ‘BBQ House’ and headed to Green Castle, PA in hopes of starting the year with a bang! Our first bang came less than a mile from our trailer storage area when oncoming traffic hit a deer which then bounced off our trailer and off to the side of the road. Somehow we got very lucky, and besides having to remove a little venison tartar off the bottom frame, we came out of it unscathed. I’m not sure how well Big Green Eggs can handle a direct deer strike, but had it been two feet higher we may have found out.
GoNaked is organized and hosted by Eric Forrester which means it’s always a fun competition and things are almost guaranteed to run smoothly. Despite a little breeze on Friday (something like 35 mph gusts) the weather was nice and sunny. By Saturday it was calmer and nearly perfect for BBQ … Sauceless BBQ that is. No, we didn’t forget anything on our packing list, NO SAUCE was the rule this year. Only chicken and ribs are cooked with no electronic assistance at Go Naked. The added twist for 2013 was that it was, “Even more naked” meaning no sauce was allowed for either category.
This is not a normal rule for a competition; actually this is the first time we’ve even been in a ‘no sauce’ situation. Personally we like good dry rubbed BBQ … In our house, sauce is served on the side and rarely used, but competitions are different. Teams were asked to ‘stay within the spirit of the competition’ when people started inquiring as to what ‘sauce’ really is. We may have taken the spirit a little more to heart than we should have because we literally turned in dry rubbed ribs and chicken and learned that most teams still had ‘glaze’ on their meat, which based on what we were able to taste, not only blew our flavor out of the water, but also catered to what most judges have grown to expect. Our food was a little spicy because we used mostly the same flavors we use on a sauced piece of meat, but the sweetness was lacking and we did little to make up for it. So needless to say we did not get a call; as matter of fact the only time we heard our name all weekend was when Sal kept asking where PepperMonkey’s beer cooler was! We finished middle of the pack which for this competition is just fine with us. But without question, we are hoping for a strong start to the season in our first ‘official’ competition in Annapolis the first weekend of May.
Congrats to those who did get a call, especially to Dan and the Drillin’ and Grillin’ crew for their Grand Champion victory. Special thanks to Eric for having faith in us to design and make all the custom awards for this years event. We tried to ensure that Dan knew his giant cutting board had a food safe finish on it so it was completely functional, but he made it clear that he would not be using it to cut anything on! Great job guys!
We ended the 2013 season on a high note by placing 2nd out of 58 teams at this year’s Keystone Classic. Keystone is probably one of our favorite competitions that we regularly attend. The staff and organizers are wonderful and very responsive to anything anyone needs. There is always plenty of room for every team and the competition keeps growing and growing. We would not be surprised to see 70 teams at this one in 2014.
The weekend started out a little shaky for us. On our way up to Harrisburg, PA, we almost had an incident just outside of Baltimore. Traffic came to an instant stop as we were cruising along and I had to get on the breaks so hard our trailer tires actually locked up and started squealing. I didn’t even look at the cars in front of us, I was watching our Green Eggs in the rear view mirror praying they wouldn’t come hurtling out of their straps, and flying into the truck. Luckily they held on and we have managed to avoid an incident with our fragile eggs over three years of competing.
The Keystone Classic has many ancillary categories in addition to the main four KCBS categories. Overall we did eight different turn ins this weekend. It’s common for teams to not partake in the extra categories as it can be a distraction from the main event, but we enjoy cooking so much that we always like to try our hands at something new and see what the judges think of our experiments. Friday night was ground beef and bologna. Erin created a killer meatball recipe which was served with a wonderful pasta. Unfortunately, for the first time ever, we missed our turn in window. There is always a ten minute window when everything has to arrive at the judges tent, and if you are one second late, they won’t accept it and you have to take the walk of shame back to your camp holding your completed dish. We were very frustrated because we have never missed a turn in. In this case we pushed it to the limit, and that ended up being about ten seconds too late. The neighbors enjoyed it, and we all of the sudden had plenty to eat for dinner, but we learned a lesson and luckily it wasn’t one of the important KCBS turn ins. We don’t know anything about cooking bologna; our bologna turn in was basically a cuban sandwich and we replaced the ham with smoked bologna. We liked it, the judges seemed to think there were better turn-ins than ours! On Saturday we turned in the people’s choice chicken legs and also a dessert. We didn’t win the coveted “Leg lamp” that the best legs teams receives, but we did get second place with our pumpkin spiced creme brulee. We were given three eggs and told the only rules were to use the three eggs in a dessert. My favorite dessert is creme brulee so this was a no brainer. Luckily the judges liked it too.
This was our second reserve grand champion finish, we have yet to catch the elusive grand champion, but we got within three points of it this weekend. We heard our name on the first call of the day for the official KCBS categories, 10th place in chicken. This was a surprise to us as we nearly avoided a chicken disaster this weekend. That was followed by a 3rd place call in ribs; we were hoping they’d be top ten because they cooked well. We were surprised by an 8th place call in pork. We knew our brisket was good, and were hoping for a top ten place there as well. That would mean a call in all four categories which is pretty rare for us, the only other time being our other RGC in Tracey’s Landing. Our brisket ended up being 4th place. With four top ten calls we knew we had basically hit four home runs. Unfortunately for us, Black Cat BBQ hit two grand slams by getting 1st place in both chicken and ribs. They edged us out by three points for the well deserved grand champion trophy. Congrats to Jen and Jack for an impressive victory!
We used our new Green Egg to cook our chicken this weekend. We had practiced at home and our regular cooking technique seemed to work just fine so that’s what we went with. 45 minutes into the cook we took the temperature of the chicken and knew we were slightly behind schedule. No worries, we cranked up the heat a little and let them cook. The second time we checked, we were still behind, no worries, crank up the heat some more. The third check was getting close to the time where they had to come out, and they were safe to eat … barely, and far from the desired temp we wanted to achieve. Now there were worries, and we really cranked up the heat! We pulled them off the smoker at the very last minute and the last time I checked I was cooking them at 370 degrees, about a 100 degrees more than we normally would! We were surprised when we tried a piece and actually really liked the texture. Unfortunately by cranking up the heat, we ended up with a little more smoke coming out of the egg than we would like, and chicken is like a smoke sponge. It was more smoky than we prefer, so we were actually very happy to get a 10th place call after such a non-standard cook. I guess chicken on the new Egg will require a little more practice.
The other three categories were fairly uneventful. Everything went as scheduled and we were able to take a few deep breaths and relax after our near disaster with the chicken. We had plenty of good ribs to fill the box, our pork was very juicy and flavorful, and our brisket was on point as it has been most of the season. We felt pretty good after we were done turning everything in, but had no idea if we had done well enough to get 2nd place.
We had a great time as always seeing old friends and competing in our last KCBS competition of the year. We are already looking forward to next year and will be practicing much more this winter than we did last winter. We are so close to getting first place, we need to focus on perfecting every detail in order to push us over the edge. Hopefully our neighbors and co-workers won’t be too sick of eating BBQ by next spring!