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I’ve always been a fan of barbecue. I could probably eat it every day. I gained a new appreciation for good barbecue at Saturday’s Backyard BBQ Contest, which was part of BBQ and Music at Point Park.
Tourism Director Rhonda Crutcher called me last week to ask if I would be a judge for their first barbecue event. It was an offer I couldn’t turn down.
She informed me there would be training at noon, with the judging to begin at 1:30 p.m.
I had completed work on our special pullout on the event that ran in the newspaper earlier in the week, where I read about the chicken, ribs, pork, brisket and sauces that would be judged. Additionally, I was interested to learn about this category listed as “anything butt.”
I had my chance on Saturday.
I arrived at Point Park just before noon and immediately, I knew I was in for some good food. On my way to the judges’ tent, I walked by the area where the eight contestants in the event had their grills and smokers fired up. My taste buds awakened, and my mouth started watering.
But before the tasting began, there was this training that Rhonda told me about.
I quickly found out that barbecue is serious business.
Chuck McAfee, a certified Kansas City Barbeque Society judge who lives in Madison, Ind., provided the instruction on how to judge. Three categories make up the judging — presentation, taste and tenderness.
How appealing is the meat? How does the preparation bring out its taste? Is the meat tough or over-cooked? These are just some of the things we had to consider.
Most importantly, we had to put our personal taste aside. McAfee explained that we should not judge the ribs, chicken, brisket or pork on whether we like the sauce. The judging is on how that sauce and its preparation brings out the taste of the meat.
Another KCBS certified judge from Rogersville, Tenn., taught me more. Meat that falls apart or off the bone is over-cooked. Meat that rolls itself into a ball in your mouth, making it hard to swallow, is tough and undercooked, he said. Ribs that are perfectly prepared allow the meat to be removed, leaving white dots and a bone that quickly dries.
That “anything butt” category is an open one that can include anything that participants can prepare on their grill. Items ranged from dessert to a shrimp, and a pizza.
We were ready for the tasting. First came chicken, then ribs, followed by pork, brisket, sauce and “anything butt.” I tasted some of the best barbecue Saturday that I’ve ever eaten.
Doug Spiller’s Smoke Signals team from Madison, Ind., won the grand champion award, having placed first in ribs and second in chicken, pork and brisket.
Roger Mogg’s Smokey River BBQ team from Spiceland, Ind., claimed the reserve champion prize, having won first in chicken and third in pork and brisket.
The third place overall went to Best Rack Around, headed by Landon Toombs of Carrollton. His team claimed first in brisket, second in ribs and third in chicken.
Other winners from the day include: CT’s BBQ of Madison, first place in pork; Clint Tompkin’s Boxx Hogg team of Carrollton, best sauce and third place in ribs; and Brett Froman’s Swine Flu team from Carrollton won the “anything butt” category.
While most of the items I just sampled during the three hours of judging, there were a few that I scarfed down because they were so tasty. At the end of the day, I was stuffed. There was no room for supper that night and I didn’t have meat again until Sunday evening.
In addition to a few extra pounds around my waist, I also came away wanting to learn more about judging barbecue. I’m ready to take that Kansas City Barbeque Society’s certification program, which may be coming to Carrollton in the months ahead.
I’ve also told Rhonda that I’d love to be a judge again next year. I can’t wait to see what the teams cook up for us at the 2011 event.
Jeff Moore is publisher of The News-Democrat and The Trimble Banner and resides in Carrollton, Ky.