A 14th Place Beat Down at the Pittsburgh Sam’s Club Competition

The temperatures in PA were much cooler than we anticipated for an August competition.

We had high hopes for ourselves heading up to Pittsburgh.  This was our first attempt at the Sam’s Club National BBQ Tour and we picked an unfortunate contest to have an ‘off’ day. Laurel, MD would have been the closest Sam’s Club event for us but we had a conflict, so we decided to make the road trip to Pittsburgh knowing full well that for some reason, when our food is judged in PA, it often does not do as well.  Not sure what the explanation for this is, but it’s been proven to be true once again.

Truth be told, we didn’t really have a bad day.  Not having competed since late June, our cook went surprisingly well.  We spent our off time tweaking our chicken recipe.  Our chicken has been in a downward spiral since we took first in Annapolis.  We changed back to our original chicken supplier and changed the cook times to try and keep it from drying out.  The chicken came out with good tenderness, but the taste still wasn’t ‘wowing’ us.  We took 11th which is about where I thought it belonged.  There may be a few more tweaks in the future to get more flavor into it.

Our ribs have been consistent all year and this week was no different.  We had several good racks to choose from and had no problem filling our box with ribs that had great color, good tenderness, and were fairly moist.  The judges decided they were worthy of 7th place.  Would have loved to get them into the top five, but overall, we were pleased with the ribs.

A few ribs left over after slicing and boxing … 7th place

Skipping ahead to brisket, we have been fortunate to get some good calls in brisket this year.  We did hear our name called in brisket, but it was for 10th place, so not worthy of a walk. While trimming the brisket before the cook; we both noticed it was even more fatty than our normal slab of meat.  When it came time to slice and box, we had to trim a lot of fat away, and the burnt ends were also more fatty than we would have preferred.  There was also an issue with a hotspot in the XL egg.  Luckily it was noticed early on and I was able to place some foil to protect the end, but because of this, we were limited in where we could get our slices from.  I think it may have been due to the fairly strong wind blowing into the lower vent.  All in all, we were accepting of 10th place knowing it wasn’t our best brisket of the season.

Our brisket passed the bend test, but wasn't our best. 10th place.

So onto pork, which has had us scratching our heads since we were handed the score sheets.  We certainly didn’t walk in pork.  We actually didn’t even get a call in pork.  Why?  Most likely because they don’t recognize LAST place in any category.  Yes, 26th out of 26th.  I take full responsibility for a bad cook any time it happens, and it does happen, but last place really shocked us.  We did have issues with the pork.  The butts weren’t like our normal butts.  Once we had them prepped we knew we’d have to make some changes to our normal boxing.  Because they’ve been coming out a little overdone the last few comps I pulled them two degrees earlier than I have been.  I’ll take the blame for assuming this was a good move and not doing a close examination of them once they came off the cooker.  We could tell they were undercooked and much tougher than usual while we were pulling it.  That being said, there were some very flavorful pieces with good moisture and texture.  Because it was less tender than our usual product, we decided sliced was the way to go.  We knew other teams had done well with sliced pork, but we had not turned in sliced up until now.  We did not expect a call in pork because of all the issues, and assumed we had turned in a middle of the road product.  Quite obviously, the sliced we turned in was not like the slices that other teams are doing well with; our overall score for this category was a peppermonkeybbq record low, 138.8570, and that equates to Dead Ass Last.

On the bright side, we got the memo on the Tyson’s Best Wings on the Planet contest a little late, but we were up for the challenge.  After the cooks meeting friday we ran into Sam’s Club, grabbed some wings and sat down to build a wing recipe with what ever we had on hand.  I blended two of our favorite rubs, Erin whipped up a mixture of our regular BBQ sauce and a spicy fruit glaze … and we made wings!  We ended up getting third which was rather surprising considering the effort that went into them, but they were tasty!

Our Best Wings on the Planet entry, 3rd place overall.

We had a good time and will look forward to doing Sam’s Club again.  Troy did a great job putting the event together.  Besides the fact that there was no running water, there isn’t anything we could complain about.  Our pork certainly crushed any hopes we had of moving on to the Chesapeake invitational, but we will lick our wounds and get ready for the next battle. Congrats to the reserve champ, Lo-N-Slo’ BBQ, and to 4:20 Q for the Grand.  These teams crushed the rest of the competition by 12 and 17 points respectively.  Very impressive. Next up is Smokin on the Bay in our hometown competition.  We set the bar high for ourselves last year and are hoping to have a strong showing again in 2012.

August 13, 2012  |  Brisket, Chicken, KCBS Competition, Ribs  |  Share


  1. That’s a tough one on the pork. An all sliced presentation is a high-risk venture, but I understand why you gave it a shot. Now I’m surely the last one to opine on the topic, but overdone is always better than underdone. Of course, just right beats everything. Have you thought about staggering your butts and cooking one longer than the other? Different parts of the butt cook at different rates, so that might be an idea. Again, I’m not exactly the King of Pork, but it’s something I’m experimenting with. I predict a strong bounce back for you guys at Tracy’s Landing!

    • Hey Kit,

      Good advice on the staggering. We have pulled them at different temps before and it seems to help with the options. A chain of events lead to this pork disaster and you touched on two of them. The butts were all pulled at the same temp, and they certainly weren’t ‘over.’ To add to it we rested them in a cambro that was vented as if it were a 95 degree day; in reality it was a 60 degree day with wind blowing. Lessons learned. I went through the trouble of dragging the XL egg home last night to do some practice prior to tracy’s landing. Redemption of our pride is the number one goal on Labor Day weekend!

  2. Good effort, no matter how it turned out. The wings look exceptional!

    • Hey thanks for the words of encouragement Chris! It’s funny, the wings were almost an afterthought and we certainly hadn’t practiced anything. We got lucky with a good flavor profile and and a sauce that carmalized just right in the smoker.

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