Sunday, August 22, 2010

2010 Diamond State BBQ Championship

Pigheaded BBQ just finished doing the 2010 Diamond State BBQ Championship at Dover Downs, in Delaware. It felt a little strange being here in the heat of August, as this competition has always been held in October. The organizers changed the dates, due to the historically bad weather conditions in the past years. I do feel that the late change in dates hurt the number of competing teams this year. The competition started out with 62 teams the first year and had grown to 83 teams I believe last year. This year there were 52 teams. Many teams had already set their schedule and had committed to other competitions being held in the weeks immediately preceding and following this one. It's very hard to do back to back competitions, let alone three weeks in a row and many teams decided to forgo this one for just that reason. Maybe with the change now in place, teams will have time to decide which competitions to do next year. Dover is just too close by for us to not do this one and the venue is very good.

This was a good competition for us. There were many family members in attendance and isn't that what this pastime is all about. The team worked well together as usual and everyone pitched in and performed their duties in the efficient manner that comes over time working together. My wife Norma and son Ron v2.0, came with me to the site early and helped set up our site and then stayed on for the duration. Mike, Trina, and Stephanie arrived later and preparations were begun. Meats were prepped, drinks iced, dinner cooked and the team settled in for the work ahead of us. Due to prior commitments, Brian and family arrive on Saturday and Brian jumped right in and pitched in with turn in boxes.

There were some very well known teams there and some we met for the first time. BBQ friends are some of the best people you will find anywhere. There is a true feeling of family there and we always enjoy seeing our friends at these competitions. I enjoy seeing the many different cooking rigs and BBQ pits and always learn something in the way of fine tuning our setup from seeing the thought out and sometimes ingenious layouts of the other teams. Little tricks can make competition life so much easier and efficient.

As night falls, teams wander around, socializing, sharing liquid refreshments, food and stories before getting down to the reason we're there. Then the business of putting the big meats on starts. Brisket and pork butts are put on first and this week brought some new twists for us. I had bought 2 large packer cut briskets from a new source and this would mean some adjustments. I usually cook brisket flats and these new ones were much bigger and would take more time to cook, so they would go on earlier than our usual ones. Mike had gotten some really big Boston Butts also, so these too had to go on earlier and we both set about putting these meats on, hoping we guessed right with regard to the timing of the cook. Then we sat around for awhile talking and catching up on each other's lives. I'm usually the first one to retire for the night after making sure that Raquel, our Stumps cooker is dialed in and humming along at the desired temperature. I will lay back in a reclining chair, in the trailer, but will generally only get about 1-2 hours of sleep. Mike, Ron v2.0, Brian, Steph and anyone else that's there will usually stay up longer and tend the fires. I think it's due to their younger age, but they will tell you it's because they're more dedicated and diligent than I. I think that's the drink talking myself, since our smoker is rock steady and needs very little effort to maintain temperature and we have an alarm that will alert us to any fluctuation.

As dawn approaches, I get up and Mike will get some sleep. I check on the brisket and butts, then start making preparation of the ribs and chicken that will be the next meats to go on the smoker. I rubbed the ribs and put them on the pit next. After that, since Dover had the facilities, I grabbed a quick shower, which is a real luxury at a competition. Most competition's are held in fields or parking lots and showers are a very rare treat.

We have a little time after that, so we eat breakfast, start making our turn in boxes and wait for the time to put the chicken on. If you haven't changed any of your meat preparations, or changed to larger pieces of meat, you usually have a pretty set timeline for when to prep and put the meats on the smoker and will have a set routine. We're getting there finally and this will make it a lot easier for future competitions.

Crunch time come quickly though and chicken is due in at noon, ribs at 12:30, pork at 1:00 and brisket at 1:30. This is a pretty hectic time for us and we, or at least I go into a zone and pretty much tune out the rest of civilization as we get our turn in boxes just the way we want them and do our best to get the boxes to the turn in table on time. Nothing is worse that being disqualified for trying to turn in an entry too late and that has happened occasionally, but fortunately not to us. Now there's nothing to do but have a toast to our efforts, start to do some cleanup up and site breakdown and wait for the awards ceremony where our fate awaits. Thanks to the friends and family how pitched in to help with the always tiring cleanup chores and thanks to the friends who came out to support us again.

Pigheaded BBQ assembled at the judges tent, where the awards ceremony is being held and wait with baited breath to hear our names being called. Chicken is first and we hear PIGHEADED BBQ for 5th in chicken. We erupt and myself and my grandson Michael walk up and receive out ribbon and check for our finish. We don't hear our names being called for ribs and later find out we placed 13th in this category. Pork brings us another 5th place finish and big Mike and myself walk up for that ribbon and check. Well at least I walked up, I think Mike floated up as he's had a great run lately as our pork cook, placing 10th, 10th and 5th in our last three comps. Brisket which we had high hopes for is a let down for us. We finish 21st in that category and we thought our brisket was spot on. As the top 10 overall finishes are being announced, we heard PIGHEADED BBQ announced as the 7th place overall. We are very happy with this finish, because as I said, there were some very good and well known teams here and we feel that we're steadily improving and really feel like we're in the mix of things right along with them. Well done team, now let's keep this momentum for next week in New Holland, PA. If any of you reading this is in the New Holland area on 8/27-28 stop on by and say HI. We enjoy visitors and would like to see you.

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