Only one call and a 15th Overall in West Virginia

The beautiful sky after the storms cleared out.

Pickin in the Panhandle 2012 brought 43 skilled competition teams into Hedgesville, WV, all hoping for a shot at the Jack Daniel’s invitational. The invite automatically comes with the grand champion trophy at this competition because it is the only KCBS sanctioned competition in WV.  We knew, like always, that because of the chance to get to ‘The Jack” that there would be a good mix of skilled teams competing.  Looking to the left of our camp we saw three teams: Pellet Envy, Cool Smoke, and Hambones by the Fire; maybe “skilled teams” was an understatement.


The BBQ was smelling so good Cosmo couldn't stop drooling.

The weekend started off very hot and humid.  We were very happy to have our air-conditioned (and waterproof) RV.  We arrived with our meat already trimmed, but we had two ancillary categories (anything meat and dessert) that we had not even practiced, so we spent Friday doing food prep and finalizing the recipes for the extra categories.  Erin was prepared with some good ideas that were quickly revised into plans B and C.   Saturday rolled around and everything was right on schedule.  We knew that there was rain on the horizon and possibly even severe storms.  As turn in time approached the rain closed in.  We were able to walk chicken while it was still dry, but once the ribs came off, Erin checked the radar one more time and all I remember hearing was, “There is a red cell coming!”  We looked at six beautiful racks of ribs that had just come off the smoker and knew outside was not the place to be.  Within minutes we moved our operation inside.  The rain started just after noon and I stepped outside to make sure everything was waterproof.  I barely made it out the door and everything started shaking from the wind.  I saw our 10’x10′ canopy raising off the ground and was able to grab hold of it, but the 50 mph force was enough to pull me off the ground with it.  By the time I landed, two of the legs had folded and I wasn’t far from becoming a human kite.  Erin came out to assist and during the downpour we were able to pull the walls down and lay the 10’x10′ on the ground.  Ribs had to be cut in four minutes, so we headed back inside soaked to the bone.  High winds and rain seem to be a common scenario that has played itself out at almost every competition this year, except this time we lost some equipment AND it happened right in the middle of turn in time.

The aftermath. If you look close there are broken canopy legs, a torn tarp, and everything is soaked.

Back inside we were able to towel off and focus on the ribs with only a few minutes until turn-in.  Our ribs looked and tasted really good this week.  I told Erin on Thursday, after I trimmed the ribs, that it was going to be a good rib week.  After we built the turn in box, my feelings had not changed.  Pork and brisket were both decent, but we weren’t sure if there was enough wow factor to win over a table of judges.  After turning in our brisket we weren’t done yet.  We still had to turn in our ancillary categories.  Finally at 2:30 we were done with turn ins.  Still soaking wet, we sat down in our wet chairs and had a beer.  It had been a long day and dealing with cleaning up from the aftermath of the storm was not a motivating thought.

Our chili cups came in 3rd, but that didn't even earn us a ribbon!

After all that work we only heard our name once at the awards ceremony, it was for the ribs which we knew were top ten ribs.  We ended up with 16th in chicken, 8th in ribs, 23rd in pork, and 22nd in brisket for a 15th place overall.  We had mentioned to a newer team just the day before that with the level of competition that comes to Pickin in the Panhandle, anything in the top 15 is a good accomplishment.  I think deep down we were hoping for a little better, mostly because we had such a strong finish the week prior at Tracy’s Landing.  We certainly won’t hang our heads for finishing 15th overall; however, we will be putting pressure on ourselves to do better at our last two competitions this year.  Congrats to Tuffy of Cool Smoke for a very strong Grand Champion finish.  Tuffy is having the type of year that we all dream of in the competition world.

We learned this week that Smoketoberfest had been cancelled due to circumstances beyond the organizer’s control.  We decided we would still like to compete a couple more times this season, so we have added Smokin’ on the Track in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley to our schedule.  This is the first year for this competition, so we are excited to see how things will be set up at the speedway.  After that we will finish the season at the Keystone Classic in Harrisburg, PA.  Hard to believe the 2012 season is almost behind us.

September 11, 2012  |  Brisket, Chicken, Dessert, Events, KCBS Competition, Pork, Ribs, Uncategorized  |  No Comments  |  Share

Reserve Grand Champion at Tracy’s Landing!

Our first ever reserve grand champion – and an awesome hand carved trophy to show for it!

This was a week of redemption for us.  Just three weeks ago we were driving back from Pittsburgh trying to figure out what went wrong after completing our worst competition of the year.  It is hard to look at your scores for your dead ass last pork and not want to make drastic changes, but we knew deep down we had to stick with the logical advice we’ve received from other successful teams all season long (Thank you Deguello, Dizzy Pig and 3Eyz).  We knew our pork at Pittsburgh was not consistent with what we had cooked all year, and our very minor changes to our chicken seemed to have brough our chicken closer to the top than it had been in the last few competitions.  So what did we do different at Tracy’s Landing?  Answer: Nothing.  We pushed our last competition out of our minds and focused on the task at hand.  We had the added pressure of making sure we didn’t embarrass ourselves in our home town and in front of family because Erin’s dad and stepmother (Tom and Renee) flew into town from Florida just to see us compete.  This was our first time cooking in front of family.

The Mullins’ and crew did a great job of organizing the event and getting everyone in position as early as Thursday night.  They hosted a competition that really went smoothly from our perspective.  Kudos to everyone that volunteered to support this Elks Lodge sponsored competition, we think it’ll be even bigger and better in 2013.  We ended up setting up camp next to Big Bully BBQ, a team we had never met, but hope to cross paths with again.  A great group of guys (and gals) who shared a few tastes of some delicious home made sauce in exchange for a few box building tips.  Friday night the weather was warm and clear and after the eggs were set up we cooked a great salmon dinner for Tom and Renee and welcomed them to the neighborhood.

Erin saucing our chicken as her dad looks on hoping for a sample.

Saturday was the prep day because Tracy’s Landing is unique in having the actual competition on a Sunday (If you are taking votes Dave, we’d still like to see it happen on a Saturday)! We were happy with all our meats so prep was a non event.  With all the dirty work done, we again cooked for the family and then settled in for a relaxing evening of storm watching and chatting over a few drinks with Dan from Drilling and Grilling.  We always enjoy our conversations with Dan and appreciate his laid back attitude.  Just before we called it a night we checked the weather radar just in time to throw on a t-shirt and get outside to hold down our 10 x 10 and our awning as a powerful storm cell passed directly over us.  We, along with everything else, were completely soaked; luckily the rain doesn’t really affect the eggs, so all was well.

The big day arrived and it was business as usual.  Chicken went as planned right down to the minute and within one degree of where we like to see it.  Ribs came off on time and we had more than enough to choose from.  Pork made us nervous only because we had dead ass last in the back of our minds, but it wasn’t talked about and we did the best we could.  Brisket gave me a short moment of panic.  As I started slicing, the flat turned out to be about 1/2″ thick from top to bottom.  No worries at first, but after the fifth slice I still was staring at 1/2″ thick slices due to a rather large fat pocket in the middle of the flat.  I stopped, we brain stormed an alternate plan just in case the slices never improved, then I started hacking away hoping I’d find a few good slices.  It turned out that we were able to get just enough ‘normal’ slices out of the end of the flat.  The mysterious fat pocket vanished and all looked good.  In the end our box looked identical to every brisket box we’ve turned in all year.

Erin and her Dad walking the first box to turn in … Erin is hard on herself when it comes to boxing, so seeing a smile is a good sign!

The work wasn’t done after brisket turn in because it was time for peoples choice pork which was served up right at our cook site.  Tom and Renee went out to pimp PepperMonkeyBBQ to the locals, and our friends Peter and Jane even stopped by to offer extra hands and serve up pork to the crowd.  Our allotted cups sold out very quickly and we were feeling good about the samples we gave out.  We truly could not have pulled that off without everyone’s help.  It really turned out to be a group effort and we no know we could not have done that with just two of us.  Thanks everyone!

Thanks to Tom and Renee as well as Peter and Jane for stepping in and helping us serve our pulled pork to the crowd.

So on to the results … We fell a few votes short of  the peoples choice award, but we certainly gave them a run for their money.  Congrats to Baby got Butt for winning over the crowd with their pork!  Out of 47 very good teams, we managed to get 9th place in chicken, 8th place ribs, and 3rd place pork.  We have never had 4 top ten calls in a competition so a brisket call didn’t seem likely; however, we walked for the fourth category in a row to pick up our 5th place brisket trophy.  We now knew this was our best competition so far and when we didn’t hear our name called in the top ten rundown, I knew we either got 11th, or 2nd … thankfully we were called for the reserve grand champion, beat out by none other than the best team in the country, 3Eyz BBQ.  Congrats 3Eyz, you have pulled off the impossible and then some, keep it going!  Congrats to every other team who got to walk as well.

We were grateful for the opportunity to get this call.  The organizers had two large, hand carved trophies for the RGC and GC and the GC got the choice of which one they wanted.  Dan Hixon didn’t hesitate to offer us the first choice of trophies even though his team earned it.  We have always considered 3Eyz a class act since we met them three years ago and they have been cheering us on at every competition.  It’s likely that this was Dan’s way of congratulating us for finally getting close to the top.  The truth is, which trophy we carried away was the least of our concerns, so hopefully 3Eyz is happy with the one we left for them!

Thanks to everyone who has encouraged us all year.  Our hard work finally paid off and now we will see just how consistent we can remain.  There are three competitions left and we will be putting pressure on ourselves to be successful.  Our next challenge is fast approaching as we are packing up to compete in West Virginia this coming weekend.


September 5, 2012  |  Brisket, Chicken, Events, KCBS Competition, Pork, Ribs, Uncategorized  |  6 Comments  |  Share

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  |  4 Comments  |  Share

Swinetastic 2012 Hands Us Another 6th Place Finish

After a call in pork and ribs, 3rd place brisket was our third call of the day. I'm sure the cheerleaders were sad that we didn't get called up for one final trophy!

This year in Frederick, Maryland, 69 teams showed up to compete for cash and trophies; making it our biggest competition of the year.  We knew that with the quality of the teams competing, anything finishing in the top 15 was a good accomplishment.  We had three categories in the top ten, and our chicken bombed for a third time straight since our 1st place finish in Annapolis.  Damn you chicken … Damn you!

First things first, usually the end of  our post is a congrats to the Grand Champion of an event, but it’s fitting to put that first this week.  A very big contgrats for a well deserved victory to Deguello BBQ.  Kit puts in countless hours of research and practice to improve his competition BBQ and it was obvious this week just how hard he has worked.  A great rebound from what he deemed a “middle of the pack” performance in Delaware just a few weeks ago.  Great job Deguello BBQ … we were cheering for you!  We would also like to congratulate Tasty Licks BBQ for coming in a close second for the reserve Grand Champion position.

Our cook went as expected. We made very minor adjustments to our chicken, which we now know should have been MAJOR adjustments. Three consecutive finishes where we placed below 20th … we are going to revisit a few things before our next competition.  Ribs, pork and brisket all gave us top ten calls with our brisket coming in 3rd making it three competitions in a row where our brisket made top 5.  Yeah brisket!  Booooo Chicken!  We will work on bringing our chicken back up over the next few weeks.

Sal missed his chance for the best Smokin' Gnome mascot yet!

We’ve been taking our mutts with us the past few competitions and they are adjusting rather nicely to living in our trailer from time to time.  Our Shih tzu, Cosmo,  is alway curious and ended up under the trailer where our cookers are and got some grease drippings on his head.  Our remedy was to make an impromptu foil hat for him … which ended up looking suspiciously like a real life yard gnome.  This had us worried because Sal from Smokin’ Gnome BBQ was cooking just across the way from us.  We decided that before we caught Sal stealing our real life gnome, we’d offer to trade him straight up for his inflatable gnome posted outside of his camp.  Unfortunately for all of us, he wouldn’t take the bait so we still have our Shih tzu and Sal still has his gnome … our loss.

Happy Father's Day! Always celebrated with SPAM and eggs!

The Swinetastic BBQ competition happens to fall on fathers day weekend, and the proceeds for the event go to the American Cancer Society … So it’s only fitting in memory of my father, a former consultant for Hormel, that we always stay until Sunday and cook a family tradition of Spam and scrambled eggs for breakfast.  You may think you don’t like Spam … or would never try Spam barring some natural disaster … but Spam and eggs is GOOD!  Anyone staying Saturday night in 2013 can come over for breakfast Sunday morning!

Although we wanted to burn our chicken recipe, we promise it wasn't us who started the dumpster on fire!

We had fun as always at Swinetastic, but are looking forward to a few weeks off.  We may revisit our chicken recipe, but Chris, we promise we didn’t burn our old recipe in your dumpster!!!  Our weekends in July will undoubtedly be filled with practice cooks and the freezer will soon be packed with experimental chicken thighs … but that’s what makes ‘time off’ so much fun!

7th Overall For Our First Visit to the Beltway BBQ Showdown

Even the scrap ribs were rather tasty!

With only 29 teams registered for the Showdown, the level of competition was surprisingly high.  We did not have the best cook this week and we knew it even before the meat was off the smoker… but we did everything we could to give the judges the best we had available by turn in time.  The results were 3rd place ribs and 3rd place brisket which helped carry our low scores from 19th place chicken and 20th place pork to an overall 7th place finish.

We tried to be organized this year and sat down with a calendar before the season started.  We planned out each competition knowing we were going to have our busiest season yet.  After a strong finish in Delaware a couple weeks ago, Jeremy from Seadog BBQ unintentionally talked us into adding one more and we ended up competing in the Beltway BBQ Showdown in Fort Washington, Maryland.  Our original plan was to take the few weeks after Delaware to ensure we were 100% ready for the Swinetastic BBQ Festival in Frederick, MD on June 16th.  After Jeremy mentioned there was still room at the Beltway, we changed our mind and decided maybe it was best to just keep in the rhythm of competing.

We pulled in early Friday morning to a very well laid out competitor area.  Sites were clearly marked, water was easily accessible and each team had a power drop right in front of their site.  Weather was going to be a factor Friday night, so we prepared accordingly … At least as much as you can for a tornado.  As the weather warnings went off, all we could do is watch as the clouds began to spin and drop to the ground a mile away from us.  Although they claimed there was a tornado in the same county, we never saw a full funnel cloud hit the ground … but it was close enough for us!

PLEASE don't become a tornado … PLEASE! … Or is it already?

Saturdays cook was uneventful.  Our chicken ended up a little ahead of schedule and our test bites were on the dry side.  we were not too surprised that we were not leading the pack with the yard bird.  It’s frustrating to go from 1st in Annapolis to 26th and 20th the competitions after that.  We had a discussion about it and may have identified the slightest, inadvertent change in technique that may have been impacting the final product.  We are going to make the adjustment for Frederick, but keep the same flavor profile that got us 1st in Annapolis.  In Delaware, we had almost nothing worth turning in for ribs.  This week we cooked better racks of ribs and had plenty to choose from … I guess we chose the 3rd place ribs instead of the 1st place ones! In the pork category,  our pork was a little dry.  The butts cooked on schedule and the temps were right … but they still came out a little over done in our opinion.  This was reflected in our scoring.  On to brisket … guess what … dry.  Not overly dry, and the flavor was right on, but a large section of the flat was more dry than normal.  I sliced the entire thing until we found some slices with moisture.  Although we turned in fewer slices than normal, we still managed to fill the box with good flavored meat and managed to get that 3rd place call.

A huge congrats to 3Eyz BBQ for taking Grand Champion!  With so many reserves, we knew their time was coming and it was well earned.  We keep telling Dan and Chris that someday there will be a competition that we are going to nudge them out of the top seats, but that seems to be quite a lofty goal.  Great job guys!

We have a weekend of fun and relaxation coming up at the “Dizzyfest” at Chris Capell’s BBQ store in Manassas, VA this weekend.  Then it’s game time in Frederick.  That’s a big one this year and the team list looks like the who’s who of Mid Atlanta Barbecue!  Looking forward to a weekend of serious competition!

June 5, 2012  |  Brisket, Chicken, KCBS Competition, Pork, Ribs, Uncategorized  |  2 Comments  |  Share

4th Overall in Middletown Delaware!

The picture perfect setting as seen from the Peppermonkey camp.

We decided early in the season that we couldn’t pass up Delaware this year.  It’s the only Delaware state tournament so the Grand Champion is automatically invited to the Jack Daniel World Championship Invitational Barbecue … “The Jack!”  Having had top ten finishes in both of our competitions this year, we came into Delaware confident, but well aware of the level of  competition that would be cooking all around us.

Friday evening started with Chef’s Choice and Dessert turn ins.  Our cook went well for both, but apparently the judges weren’t in the mood for what we turned in as the scores showed we landed in the middle of the pack for both categories.  No worries, we knew we weren’t there for the dessert, we were there to compete with BBQ.

Our cooking routine has finally reached the point where we are very comfortable the entire morning of turn ins.  There is always a little pressure as each box nears completion, but being organized and sticking to the same routine helps out enormously.  Our chicken was first place just two weeks ago in Annapolis and when we took a bite, we both agreed, the taste, texture and tenderness were equal to what got us that call.  At awards, as the top ten teams were called off, we realized our chicken may have not been the judge’s favorite this time.  Not only was it not top ten, it was not even top 25.  26th place chicken is not where we wanted to be, but following the golden rule of BBQ, we will not change anything for our next competition and see if we can get some better scores.

Our crystal and clay pigs watch over the meat on our Cambro.

Ribs were next and if there was a moment of stress on Saturday morning, it was when I pulled the ribs to glaze them and realized we didn’t have too many choices when it came to turn in quality ribs.  After the glaze was set we played around with each rack, tasted one or two, and realized we only had one rack that was worthy of presenting to the judges.  Earlier this season we made the mistake of adding a couple of ribs to a box to fill it up more and feel it hurt our overall score as they were not as tender as they should have been.  We learned from our mistake, stuck with cutting up only one rack and Erin did some box building magic.  5th place was the result and we were relieved that we made the right decision.

Peppermonkey camp set against the Delaware sky.

Our pork and brisket went as planned.  There were no surprises with the pork although we weren’t totally happy with some of the meat once we got it pulled.  We managed 13th which is about right where we expected to be.  After a miserable brisket cook in Annapolis, I knew just by touching it this week that we had something better to work with.  The taste confirmed that we had a decent shot at brisket and we ended up with a 5th place call for the beef category.

Delaware was a great site for a competition.  Had we thought to bring a gallon or two of bug killer, it would have been absolutely perfect.  We were very happy with a 4th place overall out of 52 teams, and technically we tied for 3rd, but our tie breaker score dropped us down to 4th. deserves a big congrats for their GC, good luck at the Jack!  Congrats to 3Eyz BBQ for their reserve place.  We certainly feel like Middletown will be a “Must attend” competition for us next year.  Time to gear up for Frederick, MD in just a few weeks!

Season Opener … 6th overall!


What turned out to be 1st place chicken is sauced and resting on the grate.

We warmed up 2012 with the Go Naked competition in April, but the Naptown BarBAYq was our first full KCBS competition of the year, and for the most part, we were happy with how things turned out.  We missed the first Naptown BarBAYq in 2011 because we were at the Waldorf, MD Eggfest.  This year we were eager for a competition and Annapolis was just too close to home to pass up.  Don and his crew did a fantastic job of meeting all the needs of the competition teams.  Seeing how this event was run and knowing it was only the second year (and the first year at the new location) we are certain to come back next year.

Friday night we entered two ancillary categories, but we never heard our named called for chef’s choice or for the seafood category.  It seems as though beating 3Eyz BBQ at any ancillary category will be the challenge of 2012.  We chose a dessert consisting of a peanut butter pie filling served over a brownie and topped with a chocolate dipped bacon coil ….. And for the record, it was very tasty!

The chocolate dipped bacon coil really topped off our peanut butter pie dessert!

We were fortunate to set up camp next to a first time team … I believe the team name was “We Beat Your Meat” (sorry guys if I have that wrong).  I say fortunate because we enjoy helping out new teams any way we can.  We realize we are far from veteran status, but we always look back to how nice Chris Capell and his Dizzy Pig crew treated us when we set up next to them for our first competition in 2010.  After that experience, we vowed to always assist a new team any chance we got and ensure they are treated the way we were when we were rookies. Ryan, the chief cook, led the team to an early call Friday night when they got 2nd overall in the ancillary categories.  Well done !!!  There were a lot of seasoned cooks at this event and these guys pulled in a nice check before the true competition even started!

After just a couple hours of sleep, the alarm sounded in the wee hours on Saturday morning, reminding us it was competition day.  The eggs were soon fired up and closely monitored. Our best cooks have been using no electronic temp controllers or fans … so we decided to start this year out the same way and cook using nothing more than thermometers and vent adjustments.  Overall, the cook went really well for the first of the year.  We waited to trim the brisket at the competition site and realized it was smaller and more thin than normal and we weren’t able to compensate enough during the cook.  Our brisket was early and had to rest longer than prefered which resulted in a poor brisket score.  The ribs were a different story; after a history of having them come out slightly over cooked, this time they were slightly under.  We had one rack that was just right, and should have boxed only that rack; but we decided to take a few others to fill the box and in hind sight, that may have affected our scores.  Pork and chicken landed us top ten calls; 6th in pork, and 1st in chicken!  We weren’t 100% confident in our chicken, but that has been a strong category for us and Erin forecasted early on that it would be our best of the day.

All smiles after a 1st place chicken call!

The Annapolis BarBAYq turned out to be a success for us.  With two calls and a 6th place overall, we are motivated to head to Delaware and improve on everything we did this weekend.  Thanks to Don and his crew for all the hard work they put into the event.  This is one that everyone should consider adding to their schedule if it isn’t there already.  See you there next year!

Smoketoberfest 2011

Heading up to Rhodes Grove camp ground for our final competition of the year is always a bitter sweet trip for us.  Exciting because we know we will have a good time at the event and really enjoy the camp ground for a full four day weekend.  Fun because we get to see all the teams that we’ve been competing against all season long.  It is a great opportunity to tell war stories about different cooks and events that everyone experienced during the season.  Sad because we know it’s the final competition of the year for us, and finally there is a slight feeling of relief knowing that it’ll be a few months before we have to load and unload our family of big green eggs again.

This year it was safe to say we felt a little bit of pressure because we had a much more successful season than 2010 with a 6th place and a 4th place overall in two competitions against many good competitors.  Granted, the pressure was pretty much self imposed, but we were really excited to go out with a bang!  Our chicken had consistently been in the top ten, but not the top five.  Our brisket came in 1st last week and we wanted to keep it there.  Pork and ribs have been in the top 5 this year, but they have not been consistent for us.  Our hope was to bring it all together; however, with a 17th place overall, clearly we didn’t meet our goal.

We have done well in chefs choice and other ancillary categories this year.  At Smoketoberfest the only rule for chefs choice was that it must contain apples.  We opted for Monkey bread wrapped around apple slices.  It contained your basic Monkey bread ingredients but instead of balls of plain dough, each ‘ball’ contained a slice of apple in it.  If memory serves me correct, we placed 4th with our Monkey bread.

A valuable lesson was learned about the big green eggs; when the gaskets are burned off completely and then the eggs are set out in 50 mph winds, temperature control can be a bit more difficult than normal.  Failing to recognize the wind would be a problem until it was too late set me behind on the chicken cook and our scores in tenderness reflected that.  Our brisket was a little too salty for our taste and the judges seem to agree.  Ribs came out decent, we added just a little more rub to them to kick the spice level up which seemed to improve our scores over last weekend.  Pork.  What the hell happened to the pork?  Nothing in our mind, but we sure did tank in this category!  The only thing I can guess is that because I seem to have been heavy handed with the rub on everything else I did the same to the pork and the box pieces may have been saltier than our samples.

The wind messed with us a little bit, but that certainly can’t be an excuse because 46 other teams were cooking in the same wind.  This weekends results reminded us that at this level of competition, if you don’t show up ready with your ‘A’ game, then you aren’t going to land in the top ten.  Congrats to the D.C. Firefighters for earning the grand champion.  That’s twice this year we ended up cooking next to the GC.  Hopefully in 2012 we will earn that top honor!  Thanks to all our friends for making 2011 our most enjoyable BBQ season yet.  Looking forward to 2012 already.

October 19, 2011  |  Brisket, Chicken, Dessert, KCBS Competition, Pork, Ribs  |   |  2 Comments  |  Share

4th Place Overall at the Keystone Classic 2011!

1st place brisket, 8th place chicken, and 2nd place dessert.

This weekend we travelled to Harrisburg, PA to the Keystone Classic Barbecue competition.  This was our second trip to Harrisburg and we were greeted with the nicest weather we’ve ever had for a competition.  Blue skies, temps in the mid 60’s, and barely a puff of wind all weekend.  If we had a bad cook, we knew we couldn’t be blaming the weather!  The first people to say hello were the same neighbors we had last year, the Thick N Saucy crew.  They are some of the nicest people we’ve met in this sport and we will always look forward to cooking and competing with them.

Our "traditional" hot wings with home made rub and a Schmiggitty sauce blend.

We always enjoy the ancillary categories, and this year the Keystone kept us busy by offering four extra categories and we cooked them all.  Yes, along with the four traditional KCBS turn in categories, we cooked a total of EIGHT turn ins!  Friday night was wings and bologna.  We kept our wings traditional by smoking them with our home made rub and then tossing them in a sweet and spicy Schmiggitty sauce blended with a touch of Jack Daniel’s which our friend and owner of Schmiggitty sauce personally delivered just hours before the turn in.  For our Bologna turn in, we created a simple twist on a cuban style sandwich replacing the ham with the bologna.  Neither of these won us a ribbon, but they were rather tasty!

Saturday morning the Big Green Eggs were lit several hours before sunrise.  Our simplified cooking techniques had proven successful during our last two competitions and we were feeling confident as the cook progressed on Saturday.  The third ancillary category was a chicken cook, “Best legs in town”, which we cooked just like we do our KCBS chicken.  This was a peoples choice and although we didn’t get a ribbon, we did place 5th.

Our KCBS chicken had us slightly concerned as half of the thighs came out darker than the other half and they were a bit dry.  Luckily, we had 12 good thighs remaining to choose from.  We ended up with an 8th place call in chicken which seems to be our most consistent category this year; now we just need to bump that up to a top three!

Sorting our ribs to determine which were the 'keepers'

Ribs were next and we had put together what we felt was our best box this year.  Flavor and texture were good, but not amazing.  Turned out we were spot on with our thoughts because we fell short on our rib score getting 21st out of 47.  The appearance scores were almost all 9’s but taste was all over the board from 9 to 5.  Yes, somehow we got a 5 with a comment card saying ‘too sweet.’  It’s frustrating to get scores of 9 and scores of 5 from the same table, but that’s the name of the game!  We need to find a way to please every judge at the table, and this batch didn’t cut it.

We were pleased with our pork, it had good bark and good flavor.  We were frustrated at judging when we didn’t get a pork call.  When we got the score sheets we realized just how close we were.  We placed 11th.  We were tied for tenth but Chix, Swine and Bovine beat us in the tie breaker and took 10th.

The last KCBS category was brisket.  This has been our nemesis since we began competing.  We have worked hard just to get our brisket in the top 50% of the field.  Last year at this competition we placed 43rd in brisket.  This year, Erin commented that she really wanted a top ten in brisket because we needed to prove ourselves in what many would say is the most difficult category to cook.  At judging we’d lost faith when they called 10th – 5th and Peppermonkey BBQ had not been called.  Both of us were stunned when we got the 1st place call.  YES!  Finally a competition where brisket didn’t bring us down!


Our brisket burn ends were so good I wanted to kiss them! They got us a 1st place call!

Erin created a fantastic dessert for our final ancillary turn in.  We sat down and brainstormed what every BBQ judge would like in a dessert.  Sweet, caramel, salty goodness with a warm brownie and ice cream.  What did she create?  A bacon brownie sunday with caramel and vanilla ice cream, drizzled with more caramel and topped with crumbled bacon which we smoked over hickory wood.  A second place call was well deserved and it had to be close to 1st because the judges had literally cleaned out the inside of their jars with their fingers!

Bacon brownie sunday got a second place call in dessert.

We place 4th overall out of 47 good teams.  Our best overall place this year and our first top 5.  Congratulations to Aporkalypse Now on their grand champion with an impressive score of 680!  We only have one competition left in 2011.  We are looking forward to Smoketoberfest next weekend and are going to work hard to have a strong finish amongst a field of quality cooks a very competitive teams!

October 10, 2011  |  Brisket, Chicken, KCBS Competition, Pork, Ribs  |  , , ,  |  No Comments  |  Share

Pickin’ in the Panhandle

Last week as the rain was threatening to flood out parts of Maryland, we packed up and headed to the hills of West Virginia for our first trip to the Pickin’ in the Panhandle bluegrass festival and KCBS competition.  We were coming off a good performance at Smokin’ on the Bay and knew that our competition would be equally as strong, if not stronger in West Virginia.  This is a unique location for a KCBS competition because it is the one and only West Virginia state competition; which means the grand champion automatically gets a ticket into the Jack Daniels invitational next year.  Because of this, a lot of big hitters show up and whether you are a well known team or new to the circuit, you show up to compete!

The teams begin to stack up at Lazy A Campground

We had the pleasure of setting up camp next to the Tipsy Pig, a rookie team who was cooking in their first KCBS competition.  We’ve been so lucky to meet incredibly nice people and teams who’ve helped show us the ropes since we started competing in 2010.  Although we are still considered a rookie team, we’ve made it a point to go out of our way to pay back the generosity we’ve been shown and help out new teams as much as we can.  We may not give up ALL of our secrets, but if we can help, we certainly will.  We shared a taste of all four food categories as well as photos of a couple of our boxes … And we were lucky enough to get a taste of their food as well.  They did a fantastic job by being part of a three way tie for 10th place in pork.  Impressive for a first competition!

A piece of our 7th place chicken.

We were fortunate enough to get two ‘calls’ on this trip.  The very first call of the awards ceremony was for the peoples choice pork butt, and PepperMonkeyBBQ won!  That earned us another pig trophy for our small collection, but more importantly free entry into next years competition!  Our next and only other call was the 7th place chicken, which we were both proud of.  Our other categories did well, but not well enough to place in the top ten:  27th in ribs, 18th in pork, and 16th in brisket.  Overall we placed 14th, which given the level of competition, we were still happy with, but are really hoping to work our way back to the top ten for our final two competitions this year.

Six racks of ribs ready for the smoke!

We really enjoyed our first trip to Pickin’ in the Panhandle.  Jen and the rest of the crew clearly worked very hard to make it an enjoyable event for everyone.  Congratulations to Chix, Swine and Bovine on their Grand Champion and earning another trip to the Jack.  Congrats to Just Smokin’ Around for coming in a close second.  We are looking forward to cashing in our free entry into the 2012 Pickin in the Panhandle.  Now it’s time to practice for our upcoming trip to Harrisburg, PA.

September 21, 2011  |  Brisket, Chicken, KCBS Competition, Pork, Ribs  |  No Comments  |  Share