Monday, July 20, 2009

Illinois State BBQ Championship, Shannon, IL

On July 10 & 11 we headed out to Shannon, IL for the 18th Annual Illinois State BBQ Championship. Shannon is a small community southwest of Freeport in Northwest Illinois. This is the oldest and largest BBQ competition in the state of Illinois. In addition to the Illinois State BBQ Championship Shannon also hosted the 11th annual Butt-to-Butt Invitational. The Butt-to-Butt brings in the top pork cooks in the country each year and they cook on Thursday and Friday. The winner of the But-to-Butt earns $1000 cash and the coveted Boar's Tooth trophy. This year our sponsor, Pork Pullin' Plowboys, was invited to compete in the Butt-to-Butt after winning the pork category at the Great American BBQ and the American Royal Invitational.

The competition at Shannon is held at the BBQ Field of Dreams, which is a nice park with great facilities including abundant electrical hookups. Since it is only about two hours from home we planned on hitting the road at about 8:00. that would get us to Shannon with plenty of time to set up and relax before getting to work. I was awakened at 5:30 by a text message from Todd of the Pork Pullin' Plowboys askin about dinner plans! So much for sleeping in :) Todd also mentioned that it was starting to rain in Shannon. We were on our way by about 7:45 and drove in heavy rain almost the whole way. the rain ended as we arrived at the Field of Dreams and we were directed to our requested spot next to Todd.

Because of the heavy rain the field was very wet and with all of the tricks and trailers cruising around things were pretty muddy. By the time we were in our space both the truck and trailer were quite dirty.

As were were settig up or equipment the wind was blowing hard enough for us to decide to keep the canopy in the bag for a while We were glad that we did! About 15 minutes later the wind kicked up from the northeast and was blowing at lest 30 mph. A couple of teams suffered some canpoy damage and others scrambled to either secure theirs or take them down. Our neighbors were trying to find a place to strap theirs to so i told them to tie it to our trailer. If the trailer was moving because of the wind then we had bigger problems that saving the canopies! :)

Todd had a flag pole up with a US flag and a Kansas state flag and it was almost at a 45 degree angle in the wind. He said that is was rated at 90 mph, I helped him brace it with a tie down jus in case.

That wind lasted for a couple of hours and then dies down to a gentle breeze. then the clod cover cleared and the wind switched to the west and was blowing even harder than before! That lasted for an hour or so before dying down for good. We finally decided to put up our canopy.

Since the Butt-to-Butt was going on the cooks meeting for the BBQ Championship wasn't until 8:00. Todd asked me to help him with his turn in box for the Butt-to-Butt so I helped out and then we started working on dinner. Todd had brought some giant ribeye steaks with him and Amy and I brought fresh sweet corn and fresh berries for dessert. We cooked the corn on Todds pellet grill and then put it into one of his FEC-100s to keep hot while he grilled the steaks.

After dinner we went to the cook's meeting and then stayed for the announcement of the Butt-to-Butt results. We were thrilled to hear Pork Pullin' Plowboys announced as the winner! After getting congratulations all around Todd went to his trailer to call his family and his cooking partner, Andy, who was cooking in the Chest-to-Chest Brisket Invitational in great bend, Kansas. Pork Pullin' Plowboys had also received an invitation to the Chest-to-chest so Todd and Andy split up to cook both. A while later Todd came out of the trailer to announce that Andy had just called an Pork Pullin' Plowboys had als won the Chest-to-Chest! What a great weekend for the Plowboys!

OK... Back to the Illinois State BBQ championships! We stuck to our normal schedule and put the big meats into the cooker after the cooks meeting and broke out the Margaritaville Frozen Concoction Maker and shared margarita love with our neighbors. We visited with the guys from Cook's Bay, Smokey Joel, Logjammin BBQ, Duce's Wild and Brew-B-Que. One of the great things about these competitions is the people that we meet. After that it was time for bed.

I was up early to check on the big meats and to start the coffee. Several teams visited us for the traditional Roastin' Ronnie's coffee! Later that morning some friends fro Batavia came to visit us. Ken and Gayle drove out in their camper and they stayed with us through the awards ceremony before heading off for a couple of days of camping. We always enjoy visitors but we're especially glad to see Ken and Gayle since they are always willing to pitch in when it is time to pack things up :).

The whole process of crunch time went smoothly and we turned in all fice categories on time. Shannon has an extra sausage category that goes to the judges at 2:00 PM. With the extra hands we had everything cleanned up and packed by the time the awards started at 3:30. the award announcements started with the sausage cagtegory and we weren't called. Then on to chicken and we sat through all 10 places without hearing our name. Ribs were next and by the time they got to third place and we weren't called we were getting nervous. Then they announced first place for ribs and it was us! We have not done well with our ribs this year and we made some minor adjustments thanks to some advice from Todd, so we were thrilled! Next they announced the pork category and we did not get a call. We were disappointed again since we thought that our pork was very good. For brisket they called the first 9 places and we thought that our goal of being in the top 10 was gone but then we were called for first place brisket for the second competition in a row! The next award to be announed was the Land of Lincold award which is given to the top scoring team from Illinois. We were shocked to hear our team called! Next it was time for the overall results. We felt good that we would be in the top 10, but we had no idea how we did in chicken and pork so we didn't know where we would finish. Mike lake called 10 - 3 and we didn't hear our name. When third place was called and it was, a team from Illinois, I know that we were either Grand Champion or Reserve Grand Champion since we had won the Land of Lincoln award so we had to have finished higher than any other Illinois team. The next spot to be announced was RGC and we heard Captain Ron's Brew-n-Que called! Of course we were thrilled. then they announced the GC and it was Iowa Smokey D's BBQ, a very nice team out of Des Moines. They had placed 1st, 2nd and 3rd in three of the four categories so their point total was higher than ours.

Of course we would rather have been Grand Champion, but Reserve at Shannon and the land of Lincoln Award is fantastic and we're thrilled.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Iowa State BBQ Championships, Marshalltown, IA

For the weekend of June 26 & 27 we traveled to central Iowa for the Iowa State BBQ Championships in Marshalltown, IA. Not only was this the furthest that we have traveled for a competition (280 miles) it was the largest competition that we have cook at with 65 teams. Prior to this the largest was the Illinois State BBQ Championships at Shannon, IL last year with 62 teams.

The competition was help at a campground just outside of Marshalltown. The facilities were nice with power available for every team, convenient access to water and real bathrooms with showers! Because of rain during the two weeks leading up to the competition the organizers almost had to change the location, but the town of Marshalltown came through and helped drain the water off of the campground and get things dried out enough for us to use the original location.

We arrived on site at about noon on Friday and began setting up our site. There were quite a few teams at this competition who are members of the BBQ Brethren so as we were setting up folks would stop by to introduce themselves and say hello. Setup took a little longer than normal :)
Once we were set up and had our meat prep done we took some time to relax. It was a hot afternoon so just sitting for a while felt good. After the cook's meeting i fired up the WSM and made a couple of nice thick pork chops and baked potatoes for our dinner. After dinner we fired up the margarita machine and visited some of our neighbors. We met the folks from Spanky and the Meat Mafia, Shiggin' and Grinnin', Smokin' Caboose and others. The margaritas were a big hit! After that we cleaned up around the site and went to sleep.

Breakfast the next morning was provided by the competition and we had bisquits and gravy and sweet rolls. At 9:22 a bunch of teams gathered at Twyford BBQ and Catering for our traditional good luck shot of Gentleman Jack. The Reverend Twyford was present and presided over the gathering and offered an inspirational blessing.

After that it was time to get to work. At this competition there wre 6 categories. In addition to the standard KCBS categories we entered the sausage and dessert categories. We normally don't bother with these categories since they add extra work and take the focus off of the main categories, but the entry was free so we went for it.

Amy made lemon tartlets for the dessert category.

Once crunch time was over all all of our entries were turned in we started packing up. We were about half way done when it started to rain. It didn't rain for long but it was anough to get everything wet so we left a few things out of their normal traveling cases to avoid mold and we dried them throroughly the next day. The awards were at 3:30 so we grabbed our chairs and headed towards the band stage. We didn't get called for sausage or dessert. Amy was disappointed in the dessert results. Her lemon tartlets were very good! Then we sat through the calls for chicken and ribs without hearing anything. We thought that our turn ins for both were good so were were also disappointed in this. Then it was time for pork and we listed as 10 - 3rd place were called without hearing our name. Then finally when 2nd place pork was announced we heard our name! That made us feel better. Then it was on to brisket and we listened again as 10-2 were called without hearing our name. At this point we were all set to go home with the one call for pork but then they announced the brisket champion for 2009 and it was captain Ron's Brew-n-Que! We were thrilled! Later on we found out that placing first in brisket at Marshalltown gives us an invitation into the 2010 Chest-to-Chest Brisket Championship in Great Bend, Kansas! Back to the results... it was time for the overall awards. One of our goals for any competitin is to finish in the top 10. Of course we would like to be Grand Champion, but we're happy with placing somewhere in the top 10. thanks to our strong finish in pork and brisket we ended up 5th over all out of 65 teams! Not bad considering the strong field of teams competing.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Elk Grove Rotary Ribfest 2009

I'm behind with my updates. In this post I'd like to talk about the Elk Grove Rotary Club Rib Fest in Elk Grove Village, Illinois. It's nice to be at the competition site only 45 minutes from pulling out of the driveway!

The weather during the week before Rib Fest was wet and we all received an e-mail from Ron Nunes (the organizer) telling us that the park district was worried about the baseball fields that we used for the competition site last year due to the rainy week. They were able to re-arrange the festival that is also held this weekend to put the competition on asphalt. This turned out to be a good decision. When we arrived on site at around 10:00AM it had just started to rain. We found Ron in his car and he told us where to set up. We backed the trailer into position but it was raining too hard to do much else. We ended up sitting in the truck for most of two hours!

When we arrived the parking lot and the ball fields were dry. By the time the rain stopped about half of the parking lot was under water. It was still dry where our trailer was parked but the water at the driver's door of the truck was 8" deep and further downhill the water was almost two feet deep and all of that water was now running across the ball fields towards nearby Salt Creek.

By mid afternoon the parking lot was dry again, but Salt Creek had overflowed its banks and was slowly covering the ball fields. As the day went on it kept rising and some of the lower cook sites were being threatened.

After the cook's meeting everyone was getting ready to fire up the pits and start cooking but word was going around that severe storms were heading our way. I looked at the radar on my iPhone and saw the storms were less than an hour away. We decided to take down our canopy and several other teams did the same. We helped each other to speed up the process. While we were doing this some Elk Grove Police officers came around to tell us that the storms would be arriving in about 15 minutes and they were recommending that we take shelter at the local high school.

Of course none of us were willing to leave our stuff unattended so we all rode out the storm where we were. Amy and I went into our trailer and watched the wind and rain through our windows. The trailer was sheltered a little bit by our truck but it was rocking pretty hard as the gusts rose to close to 70 mph! Besides some small tree branches bouncing off of the trailer roof we fared well. Others weren't as lucky. Our friends at Two Skinny Cooks lost their EZ-Up to the wind and everything they had was wet. We went over to help them secure things but they had it under control. They regrouped and went on to finish the competition and place 5th in ribs!

Once the last batch of storms went by we all cleaned up and went on with the cooking. We did keep an eye on the flood waters from Salt Creek. It kept rising until about 10:00AM on Saturday morning before starting to recede. At it's highest the water was about 5 feet from our truck. Several teams had to relocate due to the high water and others found ways to deal with it.

They also canceled the festival activities so there weren't any spectators walking around so the People's Choice was canceled.

We were pretty happy with our turn-ins. The judges agreed for the most part awarding us 6th place Chicken, 8th place Pork, 5th place Brisket and 4th place Overall. Not exactly what we were hoping for but still not bad.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Salting Steaks

I tried something new for dinner tonight. After reading this blog post I tried salting a couple steaks. According to the post the salt will initially draw moisture from the meat, but then the moisture will be drawn back in, carry some of the salt into the meat. Well... Despite an unexpected interruption, the steaks and thee rest of dinner came out great!

First, the interruption. I was just getting ready to put the steaks on the grill when my wife and I heard a loud noise somewhere in the house. It sounded like several heavy objects hitting the floor and walls. We looked everywhere, the basement, the garage the upstairs and found nothing. Then I open the closet door in the laundry room and several bottle of rub and sauce came rolling out. We had two shelves in the closet full of sauce and rub and the brackets holding up the shelves pulled away from the wall! T guess I have too much sauce and rub :-D

OK... We now return you to your previously scheduled steaks...

I took two 1 1/4 inch thick choice strip steaks and coated both sides with 3/4 teaspoon of kosher salt.

I let them sit for 45 minutes (total time out of the refrigerator was 90 minutes)

Then I rinsed them thoroughly and dried them and gave them a coating of fresh ground pepper.

After cleaning up the rub and sauce bottles (none of them broke fortunately) I grilled them to medium rare.

I also cooked a couple of small baked sweet taters and scooped out the flesh and mashed it with some butter and cinnamon sugar and sauted some white mushrooms, baby portobella mushrooms, spinach, garlic and sea salt and served all of that with the steaks.

The steaks were very tender, juicy and tasty! Not overly salty at all. I would definitely do this again.

Thanks to the Steamy Kitchen Blog for the idea!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Flat Branch BBQ In The Park, Moweaqua, IL

This past weekend we traveled into central Illinois again. this time it was to the town of Moweaqua, IL, about 15 miles south of Decatur. One of the things that we enjoy about cooking in BBQ competitions is visiting places that we ordinarily wouldn't visit. Moweaqua is one of those places.

The competition was held in conjunction with a town festival which included a carnival and a car show. This was a Saturday-Sunday competition and we pulled into town shortly before 11:00am. Apparently there was a parade that was about to start so we drove down a Main Street that was lined with people waiting for the parade. I waved at some of the people but they looked at me like I was nuts (which I probably am :) )

The competition was held at Central park in Moweaqua and the teams were setup along the street on the north side of the park. Our spot was in front of a house and the organizer told us that the folks who lived there would allow us to set up on their lawn and to park our truck on their driveway. We had a chance to meet the homeowners and thanked them for allowing us to move in for the weekend :)

This was the first year for this competition and the organizer struggled to get the minimum of 15 teams required to make this a qualifier under KCBS rules. At the last minute two local teams stepped up to cook and another team drove over from Hannibal, MO where they competed in a Friday-Saturday competition. With those last minute additions the final team count was 16 teams! We ended up in between Bandit BBQ and the Black Kettle Cooks and across from Gilly's Barnstormin' BBQ and Back Porch Q. One of the other things that we enjoy about these competitions is seeing old friends and meeting new ones. We had cooked across from Gilly's at Taylorville but this was the first time we met Back Porch Q and Bandit BBQ. Jim from Bandit BBQ and I have exchanged messages on Facebook and some BBQ sites but had never met in person.

Overall the competition was well run. There were a few first-time glitches, such as ash and grease disposal, but once the organizer was made aware of these needs he took care of them. The local Boy Scouts were recruited to pick up trash and they also delivered ice as needed.

The weather cooperated this weekend. Saturday was warm and sunny, but a little windy. At one point a strong gust of wind caused some damage to our trailer awning. Thanks to some help from our neighbors we were able to get the awning back into the stowed position and we'll see about repairs as time allows. Otherwise things were calm and pleasant. We did have a few sprinkles as we were packing up, but not enough to matter.

The judges this week liked our food for the most part. We ended up taking 5th place in ribs and brisket and first place for our pork. This was the first time that we came in first in pork and it felt good to break our pork drought :) Unfortunately the judges didn't like our chicken at all. We ended up last in chicken and that low score cost us either the Grand Championship or the Reserve Grand Championship. As it is we ended up third overall. We were very happy with that finish, but GC or RGC would have been better.

This week Amy wore her MOINK slippers.

Our next competition is the Rotary Ribfest in Elk Grove Village, IL on June 19 & 20.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

BBQ Blues and Cruise, Taylorville, Illinois

Taylorville is history! It was a very vice competition! The facilities were clean and water and electric was very convenient. The staff were very attentive. It seemed to me that every time that i went to throw something in the trash that the cans were empty.

For our dinner on Friday night we made Moink Loaf (one pound of ground beef and one pound of ground pork and a packet of onion soup mix)

The weather was pretty good. We had some storms roll by on Friday night but we stayed dry.

We weren't as lucky on Saturday, however. It rained for about 90 minutes but stopped before turn ins. Then the sun came out and the afternoon was beautiful.

Amy debuted her new pig slippers this weekend :)

The field for this competition was actually pretty strong. 6 of the 30 teams were in the top 40 in the KCBS Team Of the Year last year. Besides the local heavy hitters like Cancer Sucks Chicago, Dr. Porkenstein, Tyford BBQ (formerly Ulcer Acres) and Quau, we had some very good teams from all around the country. The "celebrity" team was Mike Davis and Lotta Bull BBQ and he was joined by Let's Kick Some Ash and Florida Skin and Bones. Rolling Smoke BBQ came over from Ohio and did very well!

We ended up with 3rd place brisket and 7th overall. I thought that our chicken and ribs were some of the best that we have cooked but the judges didn't agree .

Here are the top 10's. Complete results are at the KCBS site.

Grand Champion: Lotta Bull BBQ
Reserve Champion: Let's Kick Some Ash

1 Lotta Bull BBQ
2 Let's Kick Some Ash
3 Rolling Smoke BBQ
4 Twyford BBQ
5 Smokey Joel/Cubby Bear
6 Florida Skin & Bones
7 Captain Ron's Brew-n-que
8 Quau
9 Smokin' T's

1 Big Chief BBQ
2 Smokey Joel/Cubby Bear
3 It's 5 O'Clock Somewhere
4 One2BBQ
5 Twyford BBQ
6 Let's Kick Some Ash
7 Rolling Smoke BBQ
8 Florida Skin & Bones
9 Quau
10 Lotta Bull BBQ

1 Twyford BBQ
2 Rolling Smoke BBQ
3 Lotta Bull BBQ
4 Let's Kick Some Ash
5 Black Kettle Cooks
6 Smokey Joel/Cubby Bear
7 Dr. Porkenstein
8 Glory Bound
9 Road Warriors
10 Smokin' T's

1 Lotta Bull BBQ
2 Black Kettle Cooks
4 Wild Hogs BBQ
5 Florida Skin & Bones
6 Smokin' T's
7 It's 5 O'Clock Somewhere
8 Twyford BBQ
9 Gilly's Barnstormin' BBQ
10 Rolling Smoke BBQ

1 Boar Cephus
2 Lotta Bull BBQ
3 Captain Ron's Brew-n-que
4 Let's Kick Some Ash
5 Quau
6 Florida Skin & Bones
7 Wild Hogs BBQ
8 Smokin' T's
9 Rolling Smoke BBQ
10 Lion Bout the Q

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

2009 Red, White and BBQ, Westmont, IL

The 2009 Red, White and BBQ in Westmont, IL is history. This year's competition grew from 35 teams in 2008 to 45 teams! The venue also changed a little bit. The competition was still held at Ty Warner Park in Westmont, but because of the addition of a carnival the BBQ teams were moved to the east side of the park. The space was a little tight and some spaces were split between asphalt and grass, but it all worked out. The weather was great this year! Saturday was warm and sunny with a some threatening clouds in the late afternoon but no rain. Sunday was comfortable and sunny.

Our goal going into this competition was to finish in the top 10 at a minimum. Of course we always want to win, but since it was our first competition of the year we were being a little more realistic :). We ended up with 5th place in chicken and 1oth place over all. So we met our goal. We weren't nappy with our finish in ribs, however. We were pretty far down the pack and we really don't know why. We heard from two other teams that they had received comment cards from the judges complaining about a lighter fluid taste to their ribs but neither of these teams used lighter fluid. Both of these teams finished higher than our ribs. I can't figure out how our ribs could have scored lower than ribs that the judges thought tasted like lighter fluid! Oh well... It is what it is and we'll see what the judges think this coming weekend in Taylorville, IL!