2016 Season Comes Ends With A Thud - November 21, 2016
Following the weekend of November 18-20 and the Que'n in Cumming double, the 2016 has mercifully come to an end. This was the teams busiest season yet with 24 competitions, and eight major catering jobs. The guys are ready for a break. However, the break will be short and they are scheduled to hit the road January 12 enroute to Sanford, Florida for the Sonny's Smokin' Showdown. That event will be followed on February 3-4 by the Georgia BBQ Banquet and accompanying contest in Young Harris, GA.
As for the results in Cumming, GA they were not good at all. We have had good cooks there each year but this time it was different. One Saturday, the team was just plain bad in everything. Chicken had little flavor, ribs were overdone, pork was overdone and had no flavor and brisket was all but falling apart. The finish of 28 out of 47 was not completely unexpected. On Sunday, the team sought redemption and at the conclusion of the cook they felt really good about awards. Those dreams were crushed in a matter of 22 minutes, in one of the fastest awards ceremonies every. Thanks John!! Anyway, no call for any meat except for a 6th place in brisket. The finish of 25th out of 37 teams was shockingly bad! It was certainly not the way we wanted to end the season.
Mt. Pleasant Yields Disappointing Finish - November 14, 2016
Smoke This was in Mt. Pleasant, NC this past weekend for their 1st annual Polar Pig contest. We should have stayed home. Aside from a 5th place in ribs, which was a welcome call considering the frustrations we have endured with ribs this season, the judges were less than impressed with the rest of our food. We had an excellent cook, however. The brisket and chicken could not have been any better on Saturday. Both were phenomenal! The pork was really good too but not where it needed to be. The bottom line is this; we were 9th out of 25 with 8th chicken, 13th pork and 15th brisket.
Thankfully our final two contests are in Georgia where we have had a great year, especially compared to NC contests. We will leave Thursday for Cumming, GA and the first double we have ever done. We look forward to the event hosted in Cumming each year. Randall Bowman and his staff do a great job and this year, for the first time, they are doing it on back to back days.
Goldsboro, Salisbury In The Books - September 19, 2016
Smoke This finished 7th in Goldsboro, NC with 4th place ribs leading the way and finished 12th in Salisbury, NC with a 2nd place chicken and 6th place brisket.
Athens, GA: Great City, Poor Result; Team Leaves To Help With OBR -August 22, 2016
This past weekend, Smoke This traveled to Athens, GA for the first time. While the city is awesome and the venue too, the results were less than stellar. It happens. The team did improve their Georgia BBQ Championship standing in three meats and overall so the weekend was not a total loss. The best result was a 7th place in ribs followed by 12th in pork. These helped yield a 13th overall finish.
Immediately following turn-ins, two team members packed up and left the contest enroute to Hammond, LA to assist Operation BBQ Relief in feeding folks that are in dire need of help. OBR deployed on Monday, August 15, 2016 and at 9:45 am on August 22, 2016, the group and all its volunteers packed meal number 144,000! Operation BBQ Relief was founded in May of 2011 in the aftermath of the tornados that ripped through Joplin, MO. BBQ teams from eight states rallied together to feed thousands who were displaced by the destruction. To date, around 800,000 meals have been prepared and distributed.
It appears that the guys in LA will be there through the week. Therefore, the other members will be heading to Boydton, VA on August 26 to cook the 4th Annual Big Bad BBQ Bash. While this is the 4th year in exisitence, this is the first year that the competition is being sanctioned by KCBS.
Perfect Chicken, Sold Out Vend Highlights Weekend - August 23, 2016
Franklin, located in the southwestern NC mountains is a great place to visit for some R&R. The second Saturday of each August, the small town comes alive with the annual Mountain High BBQ Festival and car show. This event usually draws 40-50 competition bbq teams and 30 or so beautifully maintained cars for the two day event. Despite four periods of rain, usually heavy downpours of 10 minutes or less, there was a great crowd on Friday. As the gates opened to the public at 11:00, folks were lined up waiting to come in. Saturday was "Chamber of Commerce" weather -- that is, blue skies and brilliant sunshine. Not only did this help the competition teams, but it provided an excellent recipe for vending to the public. By the end of the day Saturday, Smoke This was out of food. Over 200 pounds of pulled pork and brisket, 60+ racks of ribs and 200+ ears of corn were sold. Thank you to everyone that helped and to everyone that bought!
In some aspects, competing takes a bit of the backburner on vending weekends. The main objective is clearly vending. After all, that pays the competition bills. Therefore, sometimes the results aren't exactly as you would like. This weekend was one of those times, except for chicken. We finished in a three-way tie for 1st with a perfect score of 180. However, after the ties were broken, we were credited with 3rd place as far as points, money and trophies go. Overall, we ended up a mediocre 9th place. Certainly not horrible but also not what we normally expect. Now our focus is shifting towards next week and Athens, GA.
We got the news late Saturday that we were in at the Classic City BBQ Festival in Athens, GA. This is a big deal for the team as they look to improve their standing in the Georgia BBQ Championship. Currently, the team is 4th in chicken, 1st in brisket and 6th overall in the standings. For more information on the GBC, Click Here .
Smoke This Goes Down To Georgia Looking For... - August 8, 2016
Smoke This went back up the mountain this past weekend enroute to the north Georgia mountains and the quiet little town of Dillard, home of the 20th Annual Dillard Bluegrass and BBQ Festival. This event is much more about the great bluegrass music than bbq, but it is a nice venue and the weather is usually much better than being at home. This weekend was no exception. After some rain showers Thursday, Friday was beautiful! Nice mountain breezes and some passing clouds provided a great day to be outside. Most contests that the team attends host special categories of competition on Friday evening. Most of the time they consist of an Anything Butt contest in which teams can prepare anything but bbq, ribs, brisket and chicken. They usually also have a dessert competition. The event in Dillard is a little different. While the dessert category is alive and well, the optional contests also included CABBAGE and GRITS. The event has sponsors which provided the cabbage and grits to the participating teams. While Smoke This usually prefers to focus solely on the KCBS competition, in Dillard the team often participates. This year for the cabbage category, the team prepared a cheesy cabbage au gratin. This dish was made with creamy shredded smoked gouda cheese and was topped with panko. We liked it, alot. The judges did not. For the grits category, yellow stone-ground grits were provided. Using those grits we prepared a traditional cheesy shrimp and grits dish using shredded sharp white cheddar cheese and fresh jumbo shrimp. We liked it, even though we were a little heavy-handed with the cayenne pepper. The judges were apparently opposed to cayenne. They didn't like the shrimp and grits. At all. Our two dishes may not have provided the judges any delight but they gave the team a great Friday evening dinner.
The main portion of the weekend, the KCBS contest, went pretty smoothly. The high humidity provided some higher cooking temps but otherwise things went smoothly. The team felt ok about the cook but was not overly excited about any meat. When awards began, the skies began to open up and a little drizzle accompanied most of the awards ceremony. The team quickly got a call with 7th place in chicken. Then the microphone was quiet for Smoke This until brisket. We thought the brisket was the best we had cooked in a long time but still wasn't convinced the slices were perfect. The burnt ends were however. In the end, the judges liked both and the team WON the brisket category! Getting two calls was great but the field was loaded with top teams and many of them received two or three calls. As places 5-10 were called, reality was setting in that maybe the pork and ribs totally bombed! Others were thinking that maybe the pork and ribs both finished 11th. Fourth place, Jiggy Piggy with two calls. Third place, Hot Wachulas with two calls. All of a sudden, the mood changed. Smoke This is sitting there with two calls, including one that was a 1st place. Maybe, the team thought, we have a chance. Reserve Grand Champions of the 20th Annual Dillard Bluegrass and BBQ Festival goes to...SMOKE THIS! Our 12th place pork and 19th place ribs pulled through. The trophy is the beautifully hand-painted plate in the picture to the right. The team received a similar one for winning the brisket category. After our celebration was temporarily stopped, the winner of the contest was announced as Bald Hawg BBQ from Simpsonville, SC. He won the event with one call, a 1st place in ribs.
Maggie Valley Is Good To Smoke This, Again - July 25, 2016
There has always been something special about Maggie Valley. When the event first popped up years ago, it was a must attend for Pitmaster, Scott Jarrett. Growing up a car enthusiast, he remembered attending car shows in the valley and the sweet serenity of the area. In 2008, Smoke This won their 2nd Grand Championship of the year after winning chicken and ribs and finishing strong in pork and brisket. Then, the contest was cancelled. From 2009-2012, there was no contest in Maggie Valley. Finally, under new management, the event returned in 2013 and has been a mainstay ever since. The event has been moved to July from its origins in September but it is still a special place for Smoke This. Since the event's return, Smoke This has won the Governor's each year it was awarded (2014-2016) as the highest finishing NC team and has finished 4th or better each year.
This year, Smoke This finished as GRAND CHAMPIONS!
BBQ competitions are usually a couple days of hustle and bustle. Arrive, set-up, get meat inspected, prep meats, clean, cooks meeting, make sauce, clean, put meat on, clean, make boxes, meet turn-in times, clean, pack-up, go to awards, leave. Nonstop action. This weekend was different. Most of the team arrived Thursday and did some prep work. Friday was a pretty leisurely day as BBQ comps go. No one was rushed. Following a 2 hour storm, the team relaxed and decided - at 11 pm - to go to dinner. At 1 am Saturday, they went to bed. After getting up at 6:30 Saturday morning, some team members attended a short cooks church and then the team made breakfast. All along, there was a weird calm amongst the team. As crunch time approached, you could tell nerves were ratcheting up a bit but everything through the turn-in process went as smooth as butter. Not the blue bottled stuff all BBQ teams live and die by, butter! Each meat was a good entry. The team had quiet confidence regarding their cook. No one on the team said it but you could tell that each member felt good about the food they turned in. Thankfully, the judges agreed. At least for the most part. As the award ceremony was about to begin the sky opened and poured rain. By the end of the awards, the rain had ended and Smoke This had finished 2nd in chicken, 4th ribs and 6th pork. What an end to a great weekend. It was surreal to sit back and think about how the weekend unfolded and see end result.
Smoke This Earns 2nd In Pork, 5th Overall and SELLS OUT - July 11, 2016
Whew! What a weekend in Greenwood, SC at the Festival of Discovery. It began with arriving on Wednesday afternoon and culminated with a top 5 and selling out of all product on Saturday. This event is one of a handful that the team both competes and vends during the weekend. The Festival of Discovery is THE event in greater Greenwood, SC. People come in droves...and droves...and droves. The attendance is like being at a county fair on opening night for four days. It is a tremendously well ran event that has the complete support of the city and all its departments. This is the one event of the year that the competition is not the most important thing going on. The focus is solely on the vending. This event basically pays for one-half of the entire season so making sure the vend goes well is of utmost importance. We have pulled pork and chicken, ribs, brisket and roasted corn for sale as well as beans, slaw, mac-n-cheese and drinks. That is a lot of product to prep, cook and serve. Thankfully, we great help from friends and family that made this a huge success.
Despite begin on the backburner, the team was able to have a strong cook. Chicken (11th place) was amazingly flavorful but was a little off in tenderness. It went on the cooker 15 minutes as time got away from the team while making mac-n-cheese. The ribs (21st place) had great taste/flavor/tenderness but just didn't score well. As we have noted, pork is continuing to evolve. We recently made wholesale changes and are slowly getting things dialed in. The pork (2nd place) may have gotten a generous score but was good none the less. Brisket (15th place) was a toss up. Some who tasted thought it was near perfect others thought it lacked in flavor. Who knows with brisket anymore.
Chicken, Whole Hog and Pork Improvements - June 13, 2016
This past weekend in Tryon, NC, Smoke This competed in the Blue Ridge BBQ & Music Festival. This event is one of the oldest BBQ competitions around and draws 75+ of the best cookers around. This year Smoke This entered the regular KCBS sanctioned contest as well as the whole hog event. The team had never cooked a hog in competition and had only cooked a couple hogs ever! The experience was awesome. Despite a long stall during the cooking process, the guys rallied and got the hog done just in time for turn-in. The event sends a "pig police" to your cook site with 45 minutes until time to turn in your product. These folks are VIP's of the contest - sponsors, dignitaries, etc. Their responsibilty is to make sure that all meat placed in the pan comes from the hog. You can't cook a separate shoulder, ham or ribs and include that meat. Everything must come from you hog you cooked. In the end, Smoke This was able to include samples of ham, shoulder, bacon, loin and rib in the pan for judging. Although the hog was done, the stall prevented time to ensure that all parts were at perfect tenderness. We were definitely marked down for some tenderness but finished 5th and were very happy for our first time out.
Once the whole hog was turned in, the team began to focus on the real money event - the KCBS competition. The butts and brisket were resting, the ribs were wrapped and the chicken was being cooked. Time was fast approaching to begin assembling boxes and making last minute adjustments to sauces. Chicken has been a thorn in the side for Smoke This for years. There would be moderate success followed by extended periods where the results were abysmal. Following the recent string of success with two perfect scores, this weekend was somewhat a proving ground. How would the new recipe and process work outside of Georgia? How would a different set of judges like the new profile? By all accounts in the trailer, the chicken was amazing. A balance of savory, salty and sweet that Smoke This just hasn't been able to achieve in past few years. At awards, the team was rewarded for their product. A second place finish and a score of 176.5828 verified the team's feeling. The chicken was great on Saturday. Hopefully, this is the beginning of a great run on chicken. Sometimes simple is best and so far that is working with our new process.
At the beginning of the season, ribs were the meat that the team could count on for a call during awards. Over the past four contests, that mojo has disappeared. Part of the culprit is the raw product lacking the same quality as early in the year, part of the product is human mistake and part is just judging luck. Regardless, ribs are still consistently one of the meats that Smoke This cooks very, very well. Soon enough, the ribs will be back on top. A couple tweaks here and there will make a difference.
Pork, historically, has been very much like chicken. Mainly down, with a few ups here and there. Following the contest in Evans over Memorial Day, a decision was made to start over from scratch. New cook, new process, new recipe. Everything was going to be new but the cooker. Between the day after Evans and the day before leaving for Tryon, 22 butts were cooked trying new stuff. In Tryon, one of those methods was tried. The only issue was that the butts cooked in Tryon were different than the butts cooked leading into the weekend. As a result, the meat changed a little during the resting phase. However, the team was still very pleased with the results. The 12th place finish was the best since starting the year with a 6th in Lawrenceville, GA and the score was by far the highest since then. Higher scores will lead to higher finishes and the quality of this past weekend's pork cook gives hope of good things going forward.
It seems as if brisket has become the category that is most difficult to get calls in. At one time, brisket was considered to be the most difficult to cook. Now it seems that 75% of teams at a contest are really, really good brisket cooks. Now, the smallest mistake or imperfection will result in 30th place finish. Overall, the brisket was very good. The slices were ever so slightly overdone but the burnt ends were awesome.
A 2nd place chicken and 12th place pork led the way leading to a 15th place overall.
Perfect Chicken, Imperfect Everything Else - May 30, 2016
After a weekend of catering, the boys headed south to just outside Augusta, GA for Papa Joe's Banjo-B-Que in Evans, GA. This long standing event is a favorite for many teams. The musical performances were headlined on Friday night by the one and only Willie Nelson. He put on a heck of a show for those in attendance and the crowd was huge! Seeing that concert was a great way to end a busy day of trimming meats, injecting and applying rub and blending sauces. As the big meats went on the cooker and smoke filled the air, hopes were high that Saturday would be a great day. Overall, Saturday would not be a great day on the competition side. Mechanical failures and human error led to the downfall in three categories. However, chicken was perfect. Literally perfect. First place perfect. 180 PERFECT! We know it won't stay that way but how great it feels to finally have a little success in a category that has, historically speaking, been our worst meat. The key now is to work on cooking that recipe and process the same week after week to get consistent.
Kannapolis, NC & Waynesboro, GA Event Wrap Ups - May 16, 2016
Smoke This competed in two competitions over the past couple of weekends. First, on May 6-7, the team assembled in Kannapolis for the Jiggy with the Piggy. Actually, on the half the team attended Kannapolis and Waynesboro as work and vacations kept the team from being full strength. In Kannapolis, Friday night is always chicken wing contest night. Over the years, the team has perfected a recipe that never disappoints as long as the team cooks them correctly. This year at Jiggy with the Piggy, the wings were cooked to perfection. The right blend of spice, smoke and glaze resulted in the wings winning 1st place as judged by the people attending the event. What a great way to begin the weekend! The KCBS portion of the weekend proved more challenging, however. While the team was satisfied with the effort they had, the results were not very good. A second place brisket call was all the guys received enroute to a 12th place overall. While finishing 12th out of 76 teams certainly isn't bad, it's not what the team was shooting for. Luckily, they only had a few days to lick their wounds before loading up again and heading south to Georgia for the Boss Hog State Championship in Waynesboro. For the past three years, Kannapolis and Waynesboro were on the same weekend so it was great to be able to cook each event this season. Hopefully, the schedule remains this way moving forward. Waynesboro hosts a chicken wing contest that is judged by some local "celebrities" and a few KCBS judges on Friday night. Smoke This finished a respectable 5th place in the wing competition. Saturday, during the KCBS event, was a great day for the team. A 3rd place overall was a huge feat considering there were only two calls received. However, those two calls were big ones! A 2nd place chicken with a perfect score of 180 and a 1st place brisket call! The 180 in chicken was the teams first ever!
BBQ Capital Cookoff A Success In Vending & Competition - April 23, 2016
After a rather rainy Friday that kept a large majority of the crowd away, Saturday was picture perfect a boy was the crowd huge. Because of the great weather, and some pretty spectacular food too, our vending effort was a rousing success for our first time in Lexington. We sold out of brisket and ribs! Thanks to everyone that helped and to everyone that came by to make a purchase! On the competition side, things were status quo. Ribs and brisket led the way. Ribs finished 5th and brisket came in 7th out of 54 teams. Those finishes led to a 10th overall.
Ribs & Brisket Lead Way Again In Kings Mountain, NC April 16, 2016
In what is becoming a trend, chicken and pork are proving to be the kyrptonite for Smoke This, while ribs and brisket as dependable as smoke at a bbq contest. This weekend the weather was spectacular in Kings Mountain, NC at the Firehouse BBQ Cookoff, a pleasant change from past years. Forty-one teams were gathered this past weekend at the Kings Mountain Fire Museum in an effort to raise money for the fire department and capture part of the prize money in one of the older competitions around. With a 2nd place in ribs and 3rd in brisket, Smoke This was able to finish overall in 11th place. Finishing in 11th would be great for some teams, but Smoke This has got higher expectations. Top 10 finishes are what makes the team happy. They must regroup quickly as next week Smoke This will be in Lexington at the BBQ Capital Cookoff, which is always a large, difficult competition. This year, for the first time, Smoke This will be vending as well as competing in Lexington.
Florida-Louisiana Results Polar Opposite April 4, 2016
For the past two weeks, Smoke This BBQ has been on the road. First, the team embarked on their maiden cooking experience in the Sunshine State. Pensacola, FL was the host for the Smokin' In The Square event held in Seville Square just off the waterfront in the historic district of the city. While the weather was not the best on Friday, the skies opened to a beautiful blue sky on Saturday. The team felt that their cook was solid. As usual, ribs provided the most confidence but the brisket, chicken and pork were a good, solid efforts. At least the teams felt so. Once awards were over it was obvious that the judges were not fans of the cook. Ribs, again, led the team and finished a respectable 6th. Overall, the result was a 29th place effort out of only 43 teams.
On Sunday morning following the Pensacola event, the team loaded up and headed west on I-10 enroute to Hammond, LA to spend the week. While in Hammond, the team spent time visiting New Orleans and the surrounding area eating plenty of awesome food and hanging out with great friends. On Thursday, the team checked into the contest site and setup. Friday's highlight was a crawfish boil for lunch before the hard work began. Once the big meats were on Friday night and the team went to bed, things went haywire. A probe went bad causing the temperature in the cooker to spike, unbeknownst to the team until the next morning. When it was time to wrap the big meats it was discovered that the butts and brisket were done. With no time to wrap, the team scrambled to make the best of the situation. Luckily, they corrected the problem and the ribs and chicken were unfazed by the earlier glitch. The brisket was done to the point that burnt ends were not a possibility but slices were ok. The butts were actually salvageable as well and made a great box, although the meat was slightly over done. Again, at awards ribs led the way by finishing 4th. The brisket, even though it was never wrapped, came in a strong and very satisfying 5th! As the overall awards were called the team was beyond stoked to hear their names called as the RESERVE GRAND CHAMPIONS just behind their friend Mark Breen of Serial Grillers. That was an awesome way to end a four week marathon of contests, including a three week roadtrip that covered contests in 3 states. Immediately following the contest, the team pulled out and headed east to spend Easter with their families. Arriving home at 9 am on Sunday morning, the team was exhausted but was able to spend the holiday with their loved ones.
Without the love and support of the families, the team would not be able to chase this passion of competition bbq. There is not enough words of gratitude to express the appreciation that the team has for their loved ones. Smoke This would also like to give a special thanks to the Atlanta BBQ Store. Randy and his team have come onboard this year as our first sponsor and we are delighted to have their help. Randy and his crew do an amazing job and have all the products that winning teams use! Be sure to visit their website for all our bbq needs or give them a call at 706.536.2901.