Gearing Up For the Second Half of 2014!

Big Green Egg Sponsored Team !

Big Green Egg Sponsored Team !

We started our 2014 season early and then hit a very long lull in our competition BBQ season primarily due to a couple of our favorite competitions being cancelled this year.  Work and life quickly filled in the available time on our calendar but starting in August we will be back at it!

We’ve competed in three KCBS competitions this year and it seems that the category we struggled with in 2013 (ribs) we are now scoring well in, and the category we routinely scored high in (brisket) we are now struggling with.  Chicken and pork seem to be hit or miss for us on any given day.  We’ve been doing some practicing during our couple months of down time and hope we have found a way to bring everything up to the top.  We shall soon find out how we match up amongst the other cooks as we have three competitions in August against some of the best teams On the East Coast.

Can't have enough Dizzy Pig!

Can’t have enough Dizzy Pig!

We have some of the best sponsors any team could hope for and we absolutely must thank them for having the confidence in us to represent them.  Thank you Dizzy Pig for providing us with the freshest and most flavorful rubs available.  We’ve been cooking at home for years using the various Dizzy Pig flavors and it’s all we use on our competition meats.  Over the years, our personal collection of Big Green Eggs has led many to believe that we were a BGE distributor or dealer.  Although that is not true, this year we are fortunate enough to have full sponsorship by Big Green Egg and they have been very kind to us.  We hope we can make them proud and represent the brand well!  Finally, we need to thank Smokeware for providing us with custom engraved caps for our family of Green Eggs.  The only downfall to our competition set up is that the Green Eggs are exposed to the elements.  These caps ensure that wind and rain have zero affect on the consistency of our cooks and will be very valuable to us throughout the season.  Thanks to all of you and we look forward to a continued relationship!

Awesome custom engraved caps!

Awesome custom engraved caps!

It’s time to get to prepping for this weekend’s Southern Maryland Brew and BBQ in Leonardtown, MD.  We are hoping that when they are calling off the top ten teams overall that PepperMonkeyBBQ is the last team to be called!

July 31, 2014  |  Brisket, Chicken, KCBS Competition, Pork, Ribs  |  2 Comments  |  Share

Pickin’ in the Panhandle 2013

The Dizzy Pig crew full of smiles after a well deserved Grand Champion competition.

The Dizzy Pig crew full of smiles after a well deserved Grand Champion competition.

For the past couple years we have always left Pickin’ in the Panhandle empty-handed.  This caused us to really second guess competing in West Virginia this year, but after some discussion we decided to give it one more try.  Our results were eerily predictable.  Actually, our scores were all over the place, which seems to be the trend for us and others this year; however, our overall placing was 16th … in 2012 it was 15th … in 2011 it was 14th … It doesn’t take an analyst to see we are trending in the wrong direction here!  Ok, we all know that one place here or there is simply the name of the game in competition BBQ, so actually this shows we’ve been very consistant overall in WV, it’s just too bad that it’s consistantly out of the top ten.  Next year we could be easily convinced to seek another competition during this week.

We did manage to get two calls at awards, 9th place chicken and 8th place pork.  Our ribs hurt us at 29th and brisket was not muvh better at 26th.  We were 16th overall out of 37 teams, but it wasn’t because the rub we were using wasn’t the best there is!  We did get a chance to celebrate a victory this weekend when our sponsor and good friends of the Dizzy Pig crew heard their name three different times:  1st place ribs, 2nd place pork, and GRAND CHAMPION!  These guys did an awesome job and hopefully they will be cooking at ‘The Jack’ in 2014.  We had a great time cooking adjacent to them (except for that stupid fence they had in between the teams) and really enjoyed celebrating late into the night on Saturday.

Some people really know how to celebrate a GC!

Some people really know how to celebrate a GC!

We opted to cook at an Eggfest instead of cooking at Shenandoah this year, so the pressure will be off for a couple of weeks, then we are going to build on our record for most comps in a season and do three back to back cooks in October, starting with the Keystone Classic in Harrisburg, PA.  Really hoping to finish strong this year after a summer of ups and downs.


Dizzy Pig, Dizzy Pig, Dizzy Pig!

September 26, 2013  |  Brisket, Chicken, Events, KCBS Competition, Pork, Ribs  |  No Comments  |  Share

5th Overall at the Blue Ridge Music and BBQ Festival


Taking home a 5th place overall at Harrisonburg.

Thank you Dizzy Pig for helping us take home a 5th place overall at Harrisonburg.

“Maybe we should add Blue Ridge even though that would make it four weekends in a row.”  That was the discussion we were having as we pulled out of the Sam’s club parking lot after a less than stellar performance.  Experienced teams will tell you, although it seems like an unbearable amount of time and effort, it’s almost easier to just keep cooking every weekend because you get into a rhythm that makes everything run more smoothly.  We have done three in a row more than once, but never four in a row.   After some discussion, we decided to give it a shot.  Although we were in a ‘rhythm’ of cooking, a variety of factors made this weekend anything but normal for us.

We signed up only days prior to the event, and I was out of town up until Thursday evening, so we were already out of our routine by having to pack late Thursday night not having trimmed any meat at all.  We arrived early Friday to the fairgrounds and had our choice of spots to set up the battle wagon.  We chose the nice grassy spot with easy access to electricity and water.  The rain was still coming down but appeared to be letting up.  We were happy to see our friends from Old Virginia Smoke setting up right next to us as the final rain shower kicked up, then got heavier, and heavier … and heavier.  Next thing we knew, water was building around us and then we saw the dreaded flash flood forming.  It was moving slowly, but steadily towards the battle wagon.  The drainage ditch didn’t have a chance at handling that volume of water and I scrambled to ensure the eggs were off the deck in case it sank into the ground, and I managed to get our electrical cord a foot above ground just in time.  30 seconds later, our grassy spot had been consumed by water carrying all sorts of debris.  Thankfully, the rain subsided and the water actually drained off completely within a couple of hours.  We did have to wade through some water to help move the Old Virginia Smoke camp to high ground, I ‘m guessing Lucas will add water wings to his packing list after this.  Hopefully this was not a sign of how the rest of the weekend would go.

Our nice grassy spot instantly became waterfront property.  Taken from the porch of our trailer.

Our nice grassy spot instantly became waterfront property. Taken from the porch of our trailer.

With our new water front property drying up, I rolled the eggs back onto the deck and started prepping them for cooking.  The first one I opened was our rib cooker and I found that our plate setter had broken into many small pieces.  This is the key piece that allows us to cook indirectly vs. grilling right over the coals and isn’t something we that we keep as a spare part.  We decided to wrap a cookie sheet in foil and hope that it was enough to keep direct heat off of our ribs.  I finally started trimming meat around 3 pm and couldn’t help but to feel really behind.  Between meat trimming and injecting and the cooking we did for Erin’s work function the following Monday, we were busy right up until 9 pm which is usually when we are trying to take a quick nap prior to cooking.

A broken XL Plate Setter ... Time to improvise!

A broken XL Plate Setter … Time to improvise!

The actual cook went well.  There were no surprises and our jerry-rigged rib cooker seemed to be working just fine.  We did discover that our ribs came out a little darker than they normally do, which may or may not have been due to the slight change in our set up.  They weren’t overdone, just dark.  By the time we turned everything in, we felt fairly confident in all categories and knew that regardless, it was in the judges hands.  We had made a prior agreement with Old Virginia Smoke to taste each others brisket after turn ins.  We both complimented the other on what seemed like a really good brisket cook. Lucas told us he felt we would get second or third and we said they were right there with us.

Luckily everything dried up within hours and it turned into a beautiful weekend for cooking.

Luckily everything dried up within hours and it turned into a beautiful weekend for cooking.

At awards they only called the top five in each category so we were not sure how we were doing because we didn’t hear our name for a while.  Finally when they got to brisket they called Old Virginia Smoke for 5th place … Then we got our brisket call, 4th place!  His forecast was slightly off, but we got a kick out of the fact that we felt our brisket tasted similar and then we placed side by side.  We ended up getting three top ten places and 5th place out of 28 overall.  9th place chicken, 21st place ribs, 9th place pork and 4th place brisket.  Not a bad finish for us in Virginia.  We do our best to remain objective and unbiased about the judging because it is out of our control.  We must bite our tongues after this competition because it would be very easy to say, based on the information on the score sheets, that there seemed to be some issues with one of the tables of judges and with ensuring some teams didn’t have their food landing on the same table more than once.  But, like I said, it’s old news and out of our control. 5th place overall is one of our better finishes in the state of VA so we will take it!  Congrats to the Fire Fighting BBQ Team for RGC and hats off to Hollywood N Swine for their first ever Grand Champion.  We all know you have put in more than your share of blood sweat and tears over the years and it was good to see you holding the trophies!

Overall, we had a good weekend in the beautiful Virginia countryside with good friends.  We certainly laughed a lot and we were blessed with the opportunity to try the “best cheese fries” which interestingly enough have been hiding from us at the Sheetz gas station.  It was a memorable weekend to say the least.

With Tracy’s Landing cancelled this year, we will spend a rare weekend at home over the Labor Day holiday.  Most likely we will be doing a practice cook or two in hopes of really dialing in our ribs and pork for the remainder of the season.  Next stop, West Virginia!

September 3, 2013  |  Brisket, Chicken, Events, KCBS Competition, Pork, Ribs, Uncategorized  |  1 Comment  |  Share

Catching Up On a Hectic Summer

Finally!  We are back to getting some rib calls!

Finally! We are back to getting some rib calls!

“I think I found our trailer” was all I heard as Erin rushed into the door over the 4th of July weekend.  It’s no secret that we have been jealous of everyone with a dedicated competition trailer, and many people have heard us complain about not being able to store our RV at our house which has been a point of frustration for us for a very long time.  We had a dream list of what we wanted in a custom trailer and we had not been able to find one that met all our needs to include being built on a compact 20 foot frame.  This new find had nearly everything we wanted, it was used which meant it was about 1/2 the price of having one made.  After many discussions, phone calls and Facebook messages, we were headed to pick up our new trailer ……… In Louisiana!  It was well worth a three day round trip of doing nothing but driving.  Now we have a trailer, it’s time to get back to the competitions!

St Mary's Battle Wagon 2

All set up for our very first cook with the new battle wagon.

We have been told for years, “You have to compete in Louisa, it’s beautiful down there.”  We finally made it there this year and it was beautiful, but man was it HOT!  Note the photo of the thermometer, yep, that’s 118 degrees.  We decided not to take the new trailer with us because we would have had only a few days to make the transition from the RV; so we were cooking in the sun as we have for the past few years.  The ‘Virginia curse’ was still with us as we finished 19th overall out of 45 teams.  We have yet to figure out why judges don’t like us in VA, but we will keep trying.  Our category results were: Chicken – 22nd, Ribs – 23rd, Pork – 27th, Brisket – 7th.  We were happy to get that brisket call otherwise it would have been another day of just watching everyone else get awards!  Congrats to 3 Eyz for taking the grand and a special congrats to Pavone Brother’s BBQ on their first ever reserve grand champion placing!

Look closely, yep, that says 118 Degrees!

Look closely, yep, that says 118 Degrees!

With our new ‘battle wagon’ prepped, the next weekend we headed down to southern Maryland to the beautiful St. Mary’s area.  This was the first ever competition down there, but it won’t be the last. It wasn’t a full KCBS event, it was only a chicken and ribs competition, and that was the perfect time to break in the battle wagon.  Mike did a fantastic job of organizing this and with plans for making it a full sanctioned KCBS competition in 2014, he’s certainly on the right track!  We learned a lot about the battle wagon and were able to iron out the minor nuances of our cooking process while getting a couple calls and a 4th place overall out of a field of tough competitors.

Tending to the ribs at St Mary's Chicken and Ribs cookoff.

Tending to the ribs at St Mary’s Chicken and Ribs cookoff.

Our first full KCBS competition with the battle wagon was in Bel Air, MD.  We have never competed in Bel Air although it has existed for 12 years now.  We signed up soon after we acquired the new trailer knowing that Bel Air was infamous for cramming teams into small spaces.  The new trailer allowed us to pull in and occupy a minimal amount of space and we were excited to see how we handled cooking all four categories with our new set up.  They placed us next to our sponsor, Dizzy Pig, and 3 Eyz so we knew we were amongst some seriously competitive teams.  Things went well for us and we were thrilled to get a call in both chicken and brisket and to end up 3rd out of 60 teams!  Congrats to 4:20 for their GC and to Firefighting BBQ Team for their RGC.

Showing the hardware after finishing 3rd out of 60 at Bel Air.

Showing the hardware after finishing 3rd out of 60 at Bel Air.

We went into week three of consecutive weekends of cooking by competing in the Sam’s Club National BBQ tour in Laurel, MD.  Sam’s Club has a limit of 30 teams for the local events, then the top six from the local events move onto a regional event, then the Finale.  Because of this bracket style set up and the high dollar pay out, it’s a popular event attracting the best of the best to compete with many left hanging on the wait list hoping for a chance to show their skills.  We were able to get in as one of the 30 teams and the battle wagon proved again that it has really increased our efficiency.  The cook went off without any real headaches, and after turn ins, we were packed and ready to drive away by awards time.  Although we got two top ten calls in both chicken and ribs, that was not enough to get us into that top six that moved on to the regional competition.  We still felt good about our scores and knew that we were cooking well, which left us eager for another competition. Congrats to the BBQ Guru for their GC and to Aporkalypse Now on their RGC.  Hopefully we can put the battle wagon to good use as we move into the fall season and wrap up 2013 with some nice trophies and top finishes.


August 27, 2013  |  Brisket, Chicken, Events, KCBS Competition, Pork, Ribs, Uncategorized  |  No Comments  |  Share

Two June Competitions but Little to Brag About

We are a little behind with the blog, but quite honestly, even though we did two competitions in June, there isn’t a whole lot to say.  In mid June we headed to Frederick, MD for the Swintetastic BBQ festival. We enjoy this competition and have been there to watch it grow all three years that Chris has hosted the event.  We had good weather and had a great time as always.  We had several friends come by and they got to taste all of our food, which of course they loved, but the judges weren’t all that impressed with what we cooked.

We liked the looks of our ribs at Palmyra, wishing the judges would have like the flavor!

We liked the looks of our ribs at Palmyra, wishing the judges would have liked the flavor!

Fortunately we carved out some time  in Frederick Friday night to relax and enjoy some good food with good friends.  We had talked to Brian, marketing director with our sponsor Dizzy Pig, at their semi-annual Dizzy Fest event a couple weeks prior and we mentioned we had some fresh rockfish to cook up at our house.  Brian claimed to make some killer rockfish cakes so we coordinated a Friday night dinner at Swinetastic where he was competing with his team, Brown Liquor BBQ.  We provided the fish and Brian came through with some great cooking.  The Brown Liquor crew are great hosts and certainly a fun group of guys.  Maybe we should have enjoyed Friday night a little more and just headed home because we certainly didn’t impress anyone with our finish of 14th out of 63 overall.  Our chicken came in way lower than we were hoping at 39th.  There’s a common concept on the BBQ circuit that whatever category you think is your worst usually does the best, and we proved that by getting 5th in ribs.  This was truly a shock to both of us.  Pork has been strong for us this year, but it was only strong enough for 23rd.  Brisket did not do much better with 21st.    We certainly could have done worse than 14th, but we left Frederick knowing we didn’t perform like we are capable of, and wanted to completely redeem ourselves in Palmyra, VA.

Our good luck mascot 'Hogan' oversees every cook.  Here he is supporting flag day at Swinetastic

Our good luck mascot ‘Hogan’ oversees every cook. Here he is supporting flag day at Swinetastic

The following week we pulled into Palmyra, VA for the BBQ Bands and Brews competition.  John did a great job of putting this second year event together with 25 teams competing.  We had not been to this part of Virginia and the landscape really is beautiful … this is a competition that has potential to grow and we hope we are able to return next year.  This was a special weekend for us as it was our anniversary and luckily I was able to find a company that was willing to deliver flowers right to the PepperMonkey camp.   Just minutes after they were delivered, we were reminded of just how nice the people we compete with are when Theresa and her husband from Bellwood BBQ came over with a bottle of champagne and some chocolate pigs to congratulate us on our anniversary.  I should add, we had NEVER MET Bellwood BBQ in person and were only familiar with them through the BBQ Brethren forum.  What nice folks.  We repaid the gift by making them mimosas Saturday morning.

Celebrating our anniversary at Palmyra with flowers and our generous gift  of chocolates and champaign from Bellwood BBQ.

Celebrating our anniversary at Palmyra with flowers and our generous gift of chocolates and champagne from Bellwood BBQ.

As far as the BBQ, we did hear our name a couple of times at awards, and barely finished top ten overall at 9th place.  Our chicken did not do well, 20th.  For some reason it came out a bit more spicy than it has during other cooks and that did not get us points.  Ribs were 15th and that’s probably where they belonged.  Our big meats got us the calls with a 10th place pork and a 2nd place brisket.  We started slow with brisket this year, and have since reverted to the recipe that was successful for us last year and low and behold we got second place.  We will see if this category can stay strong for the remainder of the season.

The beautiful scenery of Palmyra.

The beautiful scenery of Palmyra.

We are now on a break for a few weeks catching up on some things around the house and getting a head start on some custom BBQ awards we are making for some friends.  Our next stop is the Que and Cruz in Louisa, VA.  So many teams tell us what a great event this is, it’ll be our first time there and we are really looking forward to it.  And yes, we are really hoping for a strong finish, even if it means we get a little wet !  (That will be explained in the Louisa post in a couple of weeks).


July 9, 2013  |  Brisket, Chicken, KCBS Competition, Pork, Ribs  |  6 Comments  |  Share

9th at Middletown, Delware 2013

We held our own at Middletown and managed to walk away with a top ten overall finish; however, our performance wasn’t really one to brag about.

We always enjoy competing at Middletown.  Mose does a great job coordinating the event.  We commented when we pulled in on Thursday evening that this was one of the few events where we have zero questions when we arrive.  We knew where to set up, where everything was located, how to reach key people, etc.  Great job Mose.

Always a beautiful skyline from our Delaware cook site.

Always a beautiful skyline from our Delaware cook site.

On to the cooking!  Our routine has not changed all year and this weekend was no different.  We were right on schedule with every category.  When it came time for boxing and turn in, Erin was just about to place the last piece of chicken into the container when she noticed the bottom was charred, ok, burnt.  Evidently a grate got too hot while our sauce was setting and it burned on the bottom.  Luckily we always turn in at the beginning of our ten minute turn in window and this is exactly why.  We decided to empty and rebuild the box.  The couple of pieces that were charred were removed, the box was rebuilt, and easily turned in on time.  Had Erin not caught this, our chicken scores certainly would have suffered, instead we came in 8th place.  Our ribs were a little flat, nothing too exciting and our scores showed it with a disappointing 22nd place.  Based on our recent rib failures, we may look at a small change in this category.  Pork has done well for us so far this year and the look on Erin’s face prior to boxing it told me that the streak was about to come to an end.  We discussed our pork as we tasted various parts and the parts that usually go into the box were not up to our standard.  The box did come together although it didn’t have quit as much meat in it as normal.  Erin’s boxing skill helped us pull off a 3rd place and considering the fact that it was a near disaster, we were pleased.  Brisket did not go well for us, and the judges were being kind by giving us 34th place.   Along with ribs, brisket has been a consistent problem area this season.  We’ve already made a change for Swinetastic in June, so we’ll see if we can get our brisket scores up to where they were last year.

Cosmo is always showing support and being a team player.

Cosmo is always showing support and being a team player.

Although we were top ten, we feel like it was a middle of the pack cook for us because our lows were really low.  We have already brainstormed what needs to change before we head to Frederick, MD in mid June.  This competition is full of 65 powerful teams, so we will have to work hard and have a near perfect cook if we want to hear peppermonkeybbq get called during awards.

Falling Flat in Fredericksburg at the BBQ Jamboree

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.

Although the weather was better than expected, it seemed to rain on our parade in Fredericksburg, VA.

Although the weather was better than expected, it seemed to rain on our parade in Fredericksburg, VA.

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.

Erin was able to give some boxing/presentation pointers to Cooter Jackson's BBQ as they prepped for turn ins during their very first competition.

Erin was able to give some boxing/presentation pointers to Cooter Jackson’s BBQ as they prepped for turn ins during their very first competition.

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!

Always fun to see the filming of Pitmasters.  We won't spoil who won!

Always fun to see the filming of Pitmasters. We won’t spoil who won!

May 15, 2013  |  Brisket, Chicken, Events, KCBS Competition, Pork, Ribs  |  No Comments  |  Share

Near Miss in Naptown with a 3rd Place Overall Finish

Pre-awards photo.  Peppermonkeys were optimistic that they may hear their name called!

Pre-awards photo. Peppermonkeys were optimistic that they may hear their name called!

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.

Pork butt getting good color early in the cook.

Pork butt getting good color early in the cook.

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.

Chicken getting the sauce set.

Chicken getting the sauce set.

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.

May 6, 2013  |  Brisket, Chicken, Events, KCBS Competition, Pork  |  5 Comments  |  Share

Reserve Grand Champion at the Keystone Classic

Reserve Grand Champions at the 2012 Keystone Classic

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 amazing meatballs that never made it to the judging table.

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.

2nd place dessert!

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!



4th Place at Smokin on the Track in Shenandoah Virginia

Cooking at dawn inside the Shenandoah Speedway

We did a better job this year at planning our competitions ahead of time than we have in the past, but there is always room to be impulsed!  After learning that Smoketoberfest had to be cancelled, we were kind of bummed that we only had one competition remaining this season.  We started shopping around for one more competition in September and before we knew it, we were pulling our gear through the Shenandoah Valley to compete in Smokin on the Track.  This was a first time event and Carey and his crew did a pretty impressive job overall.  There were a low number of teams competing, but there was still plenty of good competition!  Congrats to Kit of Deguello BBQ and Mike of Aporkalypse Now for their first and second place finishes respectively.

We were the first team to pull into the middle of the raceway Thursday afternoon and got our choice of spots.  Carey already had everything laid out.  Spots were marked off, electrical drops were in place and load tested, and water was available for each site.  After we got set up we enjoyed the cool evening as we sat around a fire and reviewed our notes for the weekend.  We have gotten to the point where little review is needed because we are cooking the same every weekend.  Because this was a small comp and there wasn’t a whole lot at stake for us, we decided to break the unwritten rule of competition BBQ and do many different experiments, some untested, all at once.  We used a different rub on our pork, we used a different rub on our ribs, we modified our injection for the pork, and we cooked a brisket from a new source which we had never used.  The good news is it all came out pretty darn good!

We were already busy cooking friday.  We offered to assist the Air Force Sergeant’s Association by cooking up about 30 lbs of pulled pork and 20 lbs of pulled chicken for an event they were having at Andrews Air Force Base.  We did the pork ahead of time and froze it and decided to do the chicken Friday night and put it in the RV freezer.  We also threw on some chops and baked potatoes for dinner, then retired early in preparation for the competition.

Cooking up some yard bird for the Air Force Sergeants Association

Our experimental brisket was smaller than those that we normally cook.  We did our best guess at the timing adjustment and were happy when it finished on time, or so we thought.  There was something mysterious about our overall cook this weekend.  We did four butts and one brisket and everything seemed like it needed to cook to a higher temperature than normal to give us the texture we were looking for.  Our brisket and butts reached our initial target temperature on time.  Normally we pull them within one or two degrees of this temp depending on the feel of the meat.  Our brisket had to go almost ten degrees higher than normal before we were happy with how it felt, and the butts had to do the same.  This was the first time this had happened all year, but we knew it was more important to go by feel than by some pre-conceived number on a thermometer, so that’s what we did.  Our brisket ended up getting us third and our pork came in fourth, so clearly we did the right thing by ignoring the fact that our thermometer said the meat was done!

Our chicken came in 8th but our ribs were not so good.  No call on ribs as we came in 12th in this category.  The ribs also were not quite as tender as we like them when we normally would take them off, so we continued cooking them until it time to slice them … we needed 15 more minutes!  We used the best rack we had, but knew they were going to hurt our overall score.  We ended up with a 4th place overall, which wasn’t too bad considering the strange cooking time/temps we encountered as well as all of the experiments we were trying.  We had a great time and the weather held out all weekend which was a nice change compared to the last few competitions we’ve done.  We cooked next to a new team, Life is Good but BBQ is Better.  They heard their named called right away at the awards ceremony and that was exciting.  Good work for your first comp!  We also got to know the crew of Late Empire BBQ at little more.  These guys pulled off a 9th place overall with probably the least amount of equipment of any team at the competition … Well done!  We’ve determined that if this team sticks with it, we are going to be watching them cross the stage a lot more in 2013.

The people’s choice for this competition is worth mentioning here.  We can honestly say, although it was truly an experience, this was the first competition where we have decided that if they don’t make some changes, we will not be doing people’s choice next year!  We went through the health inspection and had the proper forms on file with no problems.  We planned on having three extra pork butts to pull and serve for people’s choice; usually that is more than enough.  Unfortunately the schedule had people’s choice starting at 1:30, which is exactly the middle of the brisket turn in window.  Trust us, the public does not understand when you tell them you are busy and they have to wait for three more minutes.  After turning in our brisket, we scrambled to make our camp presentable and within 5 minutes, we had a line of people waiting for samples that was so long, we couldn’t even see where it ended.  We handed out 1 oz cups stuffed with pork at record pace and went through about 25 lbs of pork in less than half an hour.  We had four racks of ribs in the warmer, so we started handing out ribs … gone within minutes … chicken thighs …. gone within minutes.  We gave out every ounce of meat we had cooked all day in less than an hour and the line was still long when we had to close up shop … sorry Shenandoah, but we had no idea there would be so many people lining up for samples!  All that work and we only got 4th place in people’s choice!  We couldn’t help but notice that the top teams in the competition got the least people’s choice votes; and the lower scoring teams in the competition rocked people’s choice … interesting.

The people’s choice line started like this … and never went away!

Erin happened to check Craig’s List postings for used Big Green Eggs while we were traveling home and discovered a used Egg living less than an hour from our house.  Our normal conversation on the way home from a competition revolves around our desire to have a little more cooking space, so we were excited about the idea of having another Egg.  After contacting the owner, we decided to take advantage of the good deal.  We unloaded the truck and headed out to pick up our ‘new’ Egg.  It turned out that there were mistakes in the ad and the Egg was not quit what was advertised.  After some negotiating, we still came home with our 5th Big Green Egg and after a few evenings of TLC and many new parts, it has now worthy of being our new chicken cooker for our next and final competition!

The newest member of our family!

We only have one more competition left this year.  On Oct 4th we will be on our way up to Harrisburg, PA, for the Keystone Classic.  We really like this competition and this year they have already maxed out their alloted number of teams (over 50) with a waiting list of others hoping to still get in.  We’re hoping to end the season on a high note, so we’re hoping to hear our name in Harrisburg!


September 30, 2012  |  Brisket, Chicken, Events, KCBS Competition, Pork, Ribs, Uncategorized  |  1 Comment  |  Share