Villa Grove Ag Day redemption

After our last competition we took a moment to regroup our thoughts and plan of attack. We agreed that since we were only missing higher spots by just a point or two, that we should go back to what was working.

I went back to the routine, as superstitious as it may be, that always seemed to work in the past. I washed my truck on my last day of work, got my pre-comp haircut on Saturday instead of Tuesday and packed everything the night before. I even had a bit of anxiety the night before, so that got me feeling good about the next day.

My checklist got marked, and even second guessed myself a little bit about whether the items actually made it into the box or not. Printed of my timeline and put it with the checklist on the table. The only thing we needed to get in the morning was ice and our chairs out of the camper.

Morning comes around and we continue our routine. We hit the road right on time and off we went. Fully loaded with ice.

……and no chairs

…….or that timeline that I printed off and placed with the checklist on the table. Even thought about putting it in the box to be safe, no need I wont forget it. Again.

^$$#*(@*&^@ (yup there were some bad words said)

Soooo the chair issue was resolved by a quick stop at Wal-Mart. You’re welcome Wal-Mart, you made money off of the Villa Grove Ag Days. The timeline issue was rectified by my backup plan of using my laptop. It’s funny when teams look at you and make comments like “You seriously use a computer?” while you are cooking on an offset.

We got to the park and were expecting to be first or second, nope. There are some overachieving teams that compete. I am starting to think they are coming in the night before to party.

Hmmmm I might have to look in to that.

Got our site set up, Leslie got her walking in and the process began. Yeah for trimming chicken.

One of the fun things about competing is the friends you make and jabbing that goes on between teams. This event’s receivers of my jabs were the team members of Smokin’ Wine-Os. Nothing like trying to throw the other guys off of their game, than by repeating false turn in times. Then making them start to believe that they didn’t know about the mandatory bratwurst category. At one point I had even made myself mess up the turn in times and I was running my timeline an hour early.

You know that one time when you had a great idea to bungee cord your paper towel roll to the canopy? PSA: When doing said idea, make sure it is tight against the canopy during windy days.

At least it made for good jokes throughout the day.

I believe we had everyone attend the good luck shot at 0900. That is everyone but one of the ladies from DB BBQ, she apparently was partaking in them the night before and may have been in recovery mode at shot time.

To be noted, I brought back the lucky 10:00 beer, as well as, the lucky turn-in beers.

Can’t hurt right? Stop judging me! Why are you yelling at me?

The day was about perfect, warm with a slight breeze and everything was cooking on schedule. The only bit of irritation was trying to foil and box entries while fighting the perfectly times periods of increased winds.

One thing I love about turn-ins is getting the hopeful opportunity to taste the other team’s entries. It’s nice to see the difference in flavors and to think at how they compare to our’s. Especially when a team kick’s our butts. One team that stood out was Midwest Smoke. Marlon is definitely making some improvements and am honestly eager to hear his name called. Everyone’s entries that we tasted were awesome this time. The judges picked a great day to come out for sure.

Chicken as usual was first up. We went back to including the breast meat if it’ good enough. As you can see we thought it was. It was tasting just like what we had been turning in to get at least 3rd place this year.

Our chicken scored a 127, much below our prior average of 130. Our appearance scores averaged an 8.8, I’d really like to get them up to at least a 9.

Ribs, the category we can’t get a call in to save our butts, were turned in looking like this.

I thought this box was amazing. Everything about it was spot on and thought for sure we were going to get a call. I was shocked to see that one judge gave it a 5.5, out of a possible 9.5, on appearance. SMH WTH? Really? Oh well his score was a low score and gets thrown out.

The time comes and the awards are ready to be announced.

Out of 11 teams we finished as follows:

4th in chicken

4th in ribs, woohoo finally got a call. I’m gonna say the lucky shots, beers and the addition of Judgement Day played a roll in this finish.

and drum roll please…………………………………………..5th overall. Hmmm well that isn’t where Leslie thought we were gonna finish.

The rep for the contest did make the announcement prior to the awards that the scores were pretty crazy because they had a majority of first time judges judging that day.

Congratulations to OINK & DOINK for their 2nd GC in a row. I told you it was going to happen and to DB BBQ on their RGC. Both of you guys kicked everyone’s butts. Awesome cook and scores. Also congrats to Sermer Stout BBQ for finishing 3rd place overall. You guys are gonna blow some judges away soon.

Next competition is August 19th. On a good note I won’t have to worry about DB BBQ as they are missing that one.


Change isn’t always a good thing


After missing out of money in ribs, during the past couple of competitions, by a mere couple of points, I decided to tweek a few things. When I say tweek I really mean redo my flavor profile and my presentation. Presentation should be the easiest to correct, and seeing how the categories aren’t weighted, it should be the easiest area to make up the shortfall that we were having. We tried a different box prep at home and thought it was pretty decent and added a ‘POP’ to the picture. Flavor would take a bit more of an effort. After running a few test cooks with some new rubs and sauces, I felt we had something worth taking to competitions.

The days leading up to the HOOAH Deer Hunt  for Heroes BBQ Cook-off I followed my routines, mix sauces on a certain day, wash the truck on a certain day and get a haircut on a certain day. Yeah I am a bit OCD about routines. The only thing that wasn’t the same routine was how I felt the night before. Typically I go through a bit of anxiety, can’t sit still, questioning everything that I have planned for. I also didn’t seem real excited about it.

That night we loaded everything up, it’s no fun trying to do that at 0’dark 30. Smoker was attached and all that was left was to get a good night’s sleep. While emptying my pockets out I noticed I still had my trailer keys, Normally I put them in the truck but while loading everything I must have forgotten about it. No biggie I’ll just put them in my Cubs hat with everything else out of my pockets including the truck keys and wallet. I’m not going anywhere without those items.

We made it to bed early and woke up rested and ready to get going. We loaded up the remaining items, you know all the cold things that can’t sit out overnight. I grabbed my wallet, truck keys and my BBQ hat, and off we went.

The BBQ competition was in Clinton, IL and it was about a 1.5 hour drive, this was going to be the farthest comp of the year. WOW I haven’t been able to say that in like forever.

A little background on this comp. This was a fundraiser for HOOAH Deer Hunt For Heroes. This is a group that helps veterans with anxiety and difficulty interacting in public spaces. They take veterans on fishing and hunting trips at no cost whatsoever to the vets, and provide them with all the gear, minus firearms, that they will need. They said it costs about $1000 per vet to do this.

While driving to the comp, my mind kept going over everything and wondering if I didn’t miss something. Yup I sure did, I forgot my timeline, CRAP!!! Good thing I should be able to fudge it off the top of my head.

Oh and my list of what rubs to add to the meats.

Oh and my laptop that has everything backed up on it.

Damn this is not starting off very well. Hopefully it is a sign that we are going to do well at the end of the day.

We arrive at the comp right on time, back up to our site and get ready to unhook the smoker. Wait, where are the trailer keys?

*&$%^#@* I didn’t grabbed them from the Cubs hat. Thankfully I have a 2 piece hitch and was able to drop the smoker to the ground and get it off of the truck. SMDH.

Finally gt all setup and work on getting our meats trimmed. The weather was actually a lot better than we were thinking it was going to be. The forecast had been calling for hot and humid and a 10% chance of rain, what we initially got was mid 70’s. It was so cool that Leslie was asking for a blanket. I know that doesn’t say much LOL, but even I admitted that being in shorts was a bit cool.

Oh just a suggestion, maybe someone should use a high visibility device to block traffic instead of these.

Someone ran right through it, then went through the parking lot, went around another one as she hopped a curb. SMH. And I was just thinking as I used the porta-potty right by there, that it’s a good thing the road is blocked so no one would get hit leaving a porta-potty.

It didn’t take long to start questioning the weather channel, sounds of thunder in the distance prompted a RADAR check. Good thing we did, some pretty good thunderstorms looked to be heading our way. So we made sure to batten down our hatches and gave a heads up to the other teams. Fortunately there wasn’t much in the way of gusty winds. Just a good amount of rain for a bit. The rain gave us a break right about shot time.

The 0900 good luck shot was well attended and even had some fun with the toast. Lucas said we should include prepping chicken into it. His reasoning, I’m sure came from my request to make an exception to the “No trimming meat prior to meat inspection” rule, as I was concerned about the possible hot air temperatures. His request was honored:

“To those of you that served in the past,

and those of you that still protect our ass.

To the judges that trust our prepping skills,

and hope that our chicken doesn’t make them ill.

To the teams that travel near and far,

I’d like to give you all a big HOOAH!”

Turn in times came and the moment of tasting did as well. I couldn’t get happy about anything we were turning in. Nothing was bad, but nothing was great either. Chicken seemed juicy with great tenderness, but lacked a pop in flavor. Got a comment from 1 judge saying that the chicken was a bit under done. Does anyone know if the USDA changed their safe chicken temperature recommendations? Each piece was at least 160*. SMH oh well, their score wouldn’t have helped me much.

Clinton chicken '18

After getting mixed signals from the judges about the chicken breasts, anywhere from the best ever to leave it out, we opted to not cook it this time.

The ribs overcooked a bit and by luck I caught them early enough. Again no real pop in the flavor. I was hoping that it was just my taste buds being stubborn.

Clinton Ribs '18

On the boxes we tried to do a green leaf base with a parsley border. Honestly it looked better in person than the picture.

I told Leslie I felt this was going to be a mulligan competition as I didn’t think our entries were that great. Good but not great.

Award time came around and our thoughts were right, the judges agreed with my taste buds.

Chicken – 127.50 for 8th place

Ribs – 125.50 for 7th place

Overall – 253.00 for 7th place out 11 teams.

Not how we wanted to do at all. Sometimes making bigger changes isn’t always the best strategy, maybe just a small tweek might be all that is needed.

On the positive side, between all the teams donating their winnings and the CIBCC making a donation, HOOAH received $700 and nearly enough to pay for a vet’s hunting trip.

Congrats to Oink & Doink BBQ for the GC and to Smokin’ Wet BBQ for the RGC.

We’re still not out of the running for TOY, we just need to get some judges to be generous. Top 5 scores get counted. See you guys in Villa Grove.

Smokin Wet 257.5 266 254.5 264.5 1042.50
Oink & Doink 263.5 260 249.5 267 1040.00
DB BBQ 271.5 257.5 249.5 258 1036.50
Smokin’ Wine O’s 267 263 247 246 1023.00
Smokin’ Buds 266.5 258.5 262 787.00
82’s BBQ Crew 269.5 260.5 253 783.00
Dragonfly BBQ 247.5 240.5 261 749.00
Midwest Smoke 251 243 252.5 746.50
Twisted Smoke 261.5 262.5 524.00
Sermer Stout 225 258 483.00

It feels great to be good

Mahomet, IL 4-21-18, 2nd Annual Mahomet Beer Fest and BBQ competition, (CIBCC)

We started our season with a new sanctioning body, not saying we’re given up on KCBS events, but I just feel the Central Illinois Backyard Championship Circuit will suit us better for the year. It is cheaper to enter, closer to travel and will actually have a shot at a Team of the Year spot.

So you would think that a smaller comp, with only 2 categories, would lessen the anxiety and stress.


Remember my blog post on pre-comp anxiety a few years ago? Yeah it was still in effect, maybe I wasn’t cowering in a corner with a blankey, but it was still present.

The days leading up to the event, I tried to be as prepared as possible. I had everything packed and ready to be loaded into the truck the night before so I could just wake up and drive. I had the ribs and chicken out of the deep freezer in plenty of time thawing, wait Crap!!!! I was suppose to do that a day earlier, panic ensues and I call my wife, “Leslie I need you to get the 2 packages of ribs, the package of thighs and the chicken breast out of the freezer like now and put them in the fridge”.

Leslie: So you need the 2 single ribs or the double rib package?

Me: There should only be 2 packages of ribs. There should be 4 ribs total, I need them all.

Leslie: OK so you need the 2 single packs and the 1 double pack.

Me: UGH, just put every rib package in the fridge.

I’m thinking I had purchased (2) cryo packs of ribs equaling 4 slabs of ribs, so worse case I am now going to cook 6 slabs of ribs. I guess that’s just more leftovers for the future.

I get home and look in the fridge thinking I am about to have evidence to win a discussion, Low and behold, there are 3 packages of ribs in the fridge. (2) single slabs of extra tender Smithfield and (1) double pack of regular Smithfield ribs. Yup I guess I should do a little better at remembering what I bought.

Crisis theoretically averted, it will be close, but they should be thawed in time. Good thing we can’t pre-trim our meats cause that would have been a problem.

The night before, I get off work and run home to get the last couple of things we need done finished. The truck gets loaded up with everything using the checklist, except for the cold items that will need to go in the cooler. I finally sit back and try to relax about while thinking about fun it’s going to be in the morning.

The morning plan is to be on the road by 5:30 am, so we could get there for the 6:30 am check in time.

Yeah you read that right, boy is that early lol.

We set the alarm so Leslie could get up early and get her walking in before hand and off to bed we go. Sweet dreams of teams clapping for us as we walk to the trophies filled my mind. Tried not to be too overly optimistic, but ribs and chicken were great categories for us in the previous years.

The alarm goes off and Leslie hits the snooze button and tells me she’s just going to lay there for a little bit and then will get up. I ask if I should reset the alarm for an hour later for myself and she told me no I’ll just wake you.

OK cool back to trying to get a little more sleep. I felt like I couldn’t sleep. I just laid there and thought about the comp. The grandfather clocked chimed for 15 after. For 30 after and for 45 minutes after the hour. I finally said forget it I’ll get up, after all I was planning on being up at 4 anyway. So what’s an extra 15 minutes?

Playing on the phone while going through my morning routine, I see that the time is 5:10 and not 4:10.


I haven’t had enough coffee to move at the speed required to get back on time, but I am sure gonna put forth the effort. I finish getting ready, run into the kitchen to get some coffee and finish getting the cold stuff into the cooler. Leslie said she grabbed all of the meats and everything was good to go.

At this point I was even worried about the marking off the checklist. I don’t have time for that I need to go get ice still. I still have a feeling that we are forgetting something, but it’s probably just the rushing that’s making me feel that way.

All things considered if waking up late is the only problem we have then I think we’ll be OK. After all, we usually do good when we have our hiccups.

Made it the comp right at 6:30 and got set up to our good friends Smoking J’s BBQ. You better believe I was cooking next to him, he promised us homemade pizza on his pizza oven.

It’s always nice to meet up with friends and talk about similar concerns, it brings a bit of comfort that we’re not the only ones overthinking it.

The common razing took place between teams and the laughter helped to secure the memories. Things were going pretty smooth. The only big thing was trying to figure out what to do with the extra time we had.

The organizer comes around and is getting the ribs out to the teams that said they would cook for the people’s choice category. I always try to do these categories, as they help the organizer make money. Plus, it hopefully will keep the events repeating each year.

He brought us our’s and I look at them and see that we aren’t cooking spares, but baby backs. I have never cooked a slab of baby backs much less eaten a slab. So this ought to be fun. Good thing this doesn’t impact us in the competition. Don’t stress and don’t worry, this will just be a fun learning experience.

So sitting around I thought well I guess I could trim the chicken. So I pull it out of the cooler and almost immediately could tell that the chicken was still frozen. UH OH! That’s no bueno.

Well all I can do is try to get the trimming done. Worse case scenario is to clean up the trimming after it thaws more in the cooler.

I’ll have next level of anxiety please.

What else can I do? Hmmmm, Oh I know we can get our boxes built. Just have to grab the garnish from the cooler.

“Ummm Leslie, where’s the garnish?”

That bright eye, deer in the headlight look of OMG I know where it’s at, but it’s not here, came across her face.

FYI garnish is required at these events.

So I hop in the truck and hope that the local IGA has what I am needing. First looks weren’t appealing, but fortunately the produce guy had some more in that back that seemed to be not great but good. We can make them work.

Get back to the site and start making the boxes. Took about a whole 5 minutes of time. Well that was fun. Still had 2 heads of green leaf lettuce leftover also. I thought I’d be nice and offer it up to a new team, in case they didn’t have anything. They said they were getting some parsley. No biggie, I’ll hold on to it just in case.

We did get to introduce a lot of the teams to the 9:00 am ritual. Yup it was the good luck shot time. I can use all of the good luck I can get, as there were some decent competitors. I didn’t bring the 10:00 am good luck beer though, but I felt we’d be alright with just the shot.

Not too long after that, the real fun of competing began. The smokers were hot and the food was starting to hit them.

I had to stagger the different rib categories, so that created a little bit of a pain, trying to remember to stay on track.

Chicken came out of the cooler, thawed thank goodness, and only needed minor touch ups.

For the most part the cook went pretty well, the smoker started to go drama queen on me and couldn’t decide how much wood was satisfying. Well that’s the joy of using an offset.

5 minutes before chicken turn in, we get our box out and find that the lettuce has popped up and out of place ruining it. Good thing we had the extra heads of lettuce that nobody needed, except us as it turns out smh. We were able to fix our box and even turned in chicken breast, man did we think it tasted good.

Mahomet chicken

Next up was ribs, we were smart and remade our rib box after we saw what the chicken box looked like. It too was messed up.

1 hour in between turn ins really messes with your momentum. Your routine of rushing until the end comes to a screeching halt after the first one and you think to yourself, and each other, hmmm well what do we do know.

Got our ribs out, looked them over and instantly went with the extra tender slabs. They were a little overcooked, but we hoped they would tighten up a tad before hitting the judges table. We also noticed a cinnamon flavor on some of the ribs and plan to make the obvious change in our rub combination. We’ve had it appear a few times and just don’t want to taste it again.

Had to pull the ribs from both slabs, but they looked pretty nice.

Mahomet Ribs

Ribs were turned in and just as we got done, we got a visit from our friends Jana, Michael and their kids. Great timing as our site was just getting ready to need taken down. They were paid in leftover ribs. For as much as they tried to say they didn’t like them, I sure heard them ask for more. LOL. Thank you guys for the all that help.

Awards were an hour after the last turn in, that’s really nice when you want to get home at a decent hour.

First up was People’s choice. We didn’t make the top 5. I really didn’t think we were going to do much in it as it’s just an extra category for us.

Out of 13 teams here is how we finished:

Chicken – 2nd place but lost the tie breaker, so 3rd place with a score of 136.5

Ribs – 7th place with a score of 133, 2.5 points separated us from 2nd place

Overall – 2nd place with a total score of 269.5, 2.5 points would have gotten us first place. So close.

It kinda proves what was told to me when I started competing, “You don’t have to be great, you just have to be good consistently”. Our cook wasn’t great, but it was good and at the end of the day, that’s what carried us to the top.

We had a great time and really look forward to competing in more of them.

Congrats to DB BBQ and their GC.

Indy 4-8-17 (Missed Que)

WOW I can’t believe it’s been over 1 year since we’ve competed. We took a little hiatus last year due to needing some good old family time and to vacation a little bit in the new camper. After some talking Leslie and I agreed we needed to get back out to compete. We’ve missed the friends we’ve met and the thrill of the competition in itself. We only had 1 issue to consider, what are we going to cook on?

A little history first. With the purchase of a new 5th wheel camper, we lost the ability to tow our offset cooker with us. This forced us to think of different options. One of those options was to go with UDS cookers. It would create a new challenge for me. I would have to learn a new cooker, a new timeline and a new logistical strategy. I like to say, “It’s not fun if it’s too easy”. I’ve had the opportunity to cook on the BPS UDS smoker (smoker #1) at home several times and found it to be a useful tool. The problem was I couldn’t do all of my meats on just 1 cooker, 4 would be ideal, but 2 would suffice. So I purchased one from Sweet Smoke Q (Smoker #2).

Once I got it, I only had time to cook each meat category once on it and tried to put together a workable timeline off of that before our first competition. Seemed simple enough. I knew how to cook, just needed to learn how to time it.

Everything seemed to be theoretically doable.

With any BBQ competition, I get superstitious, and do things a certain way. Good thing, though, is when things go bad, they seem to work out in our favor. Read any of my previous competition blog posts and you can tell. This time is was no different.

About 2 weeks before the competition, I find out we have a water leak in the camper. So I almost cancel our entry not knowing how bad it was going to be. Thankfully it was an easy and quick fix.

Then Leslie had a death in the family. We were ready to call it off, but she heard him tell her “Hey kiddo go ahead and do it.” just as though he was sitting beside her. That set it for her and I.

Tuesday tradition consisted of getting my haircut by Logan Vance. Packing up the remainder of things and relaxing.

This time something wasn’t quite right. The normal pre-comp anxiety never presented itself. I was calm and collect for the most part. Maybe this was going to be a good thing. I kept thinking about the sleep I was actually going to get using the UDS instead of a wood burning offset. I was OK with that.

Thursday morning brought a little bit of anxiety, the local grocery stores were all having problems securing green leaf lettuce due to crop damage in the south. This left us scrambling to find an alternative. Luckily the KCBS changed their rules and allow kale to be used as a garnish. The problem with that is that we have never used it before and didn’t know how to make a box with it. Thankfully Eric Ferguson was willing to take us under the wing per se and show us how they build their kale boxes. What a relief.

We headed out on Thursday without much of a hitch, the only real bit of concern was the 25 mph winds, near freezing temps and a rain that seemed to be tears of laughter coming from up above. This is setting up to be a fantastic contest. As we were cruising along I-70 we were finally allowed to give our brake system the test it deserved. Somebody didn’t comprehend how to merge into traffic, causing the HD dump truck ahead of us to lock his brakes and in return caused me to do the same all while being glad there wasn’t any young ears in the truck to hear my vocabulary.

Make it the comp and get greeted by Aaron like we were family. I have been to very few, if any, competitions that have welcomed us so well.

Our spot was very convenient and as always had the utilities close by.

Normally we like to get to comps on Thursday because it gives us a chance to hang out and talk BBQ with everyone else without worrying about what we have to get done. This day wasn’t like that, the weather seemed to be stronger than the desire to socialize. The 10 teams or so that were there seemed to stay hunkered up in their comfortable spaces. We did the same though. With how much we were in there and the amount of movement the camper did from the wind, everyone probably would think we were newlyweds if they didn’t know any better.

Friday began our normal routine, coffee, breakfast from the competition as well as a lunch. If I hadn’t said it enough in the past, maybe one more time might help, this comp sets the bar.

We even had a surprise visitor from a team we befriended about 4 yrs ago. Had only met him once and when he realized we were there, he said he had to come over to say hi. Thanks Shawn that really made the day.

Friday night we started our cook and everything seemed to be going OK. One thing I hadn’t factored in was how much of an impact the weather would have on the cookers. My plan was to shoot for 325* on both of them. Smoker #1 was running about 350ish, the pork would spend the night there. It always seems to be the meat that struggles to follow a timeline. Smoker #2 struggled to hit 300* and only ran at about 250 with a fan trying to control it. That was making me a bit nervous.

About 4 hours into the cook, I noticed the temperature on smoker #1 was slowly dropping, sure enough out of charcoal. So I started another basket full of charcoal and wrapped the butts. The butts looked kinda odd this time, almost like a ham, there was no real bark on them. I hadn’t done anything really different to them. The only thing that was unusual is that they had been in a deep freeze for about a year or so. I wouldn’t think that would have played a factor, however, I have had some atypical things happen in the past.

Brisket and butts came off and the smaller meats went on. I tried to wait as long as I could to put the ribs on because the new basket of charcoal on smoker #2 was still burning a bit unclean. Time was passing along and I had to gamble it. 2 hours into it at 250* they were wrapped and 1 hour later they were over-cooked *&$#&*, if you have read any of my other posts, you’ll note this is a common thing. I swear I could probably over-cook my ribs in 30 minutes.

Chicken was coming along slowly and actually thought that I might not have it done in time for turn-in time. About 15 minutes before time to make up the box, they hit their temperature. Boxed them up and sent them in.

Indy chicken

I thought it tasted really good and would meet all of the requirements. Even the breast was moist and had one bite flavor.

Next up was ribs. I was hoping that they would have tightened up just a bit to get them turned in and salvaged.

Nope, I struggled to find enough to make a box. Normally like to get 8 in an entry, but could only find 6. The flavor wasn’t good and you could taste the bad smoke on it. Despite what the comment card says, the sauce was not burnt. You can’t burn sauce that never enters the cooker, just saying.

Indy Ribs

This is starting to make me loose my faith in how we were going to do. They were so tender that just touching some of the ribs with a knife caused them to break apart. Ribs got a majority of the comment cards and I couldn’t disagree with them.

Pulled our pork out to start breaking it down. It was tender, but drier than an 8 hour lecture on the evolution of America’s water treatment process. It was so bad that I couldn’t even swallow it. I considered just sending in a box of money muscle alone, but Leslie convinced me to sauce up some pulled and add it to the box. Guess what I forgot to do? Cover my cut up money muscle for the 10 minutes I struggled to figure out what I was going to do with the pulled. Add in 50* temps and that makes for a cold entry. Nothing I can do about it now, send it it off.

Indy Pork


At this point I am about fed up and just want to be done. Even Leslie mentioned that I just didn’t look like I was in a groove. The cook hadn’t gone anything like I had wanted it to, I slept less running the drums than I had running the stick burner and I still hadn’t had a shower.

Oh well let’s get brisket over and done with.

Got the brisket out and got it sliced up, forgot to add the burnt ends back on the heat to caramelize up a bit and made an entry out of it.

Indy Brisket

The flavor, I thought, was a great beefy flavor with a taste of the rub. Tenderness was about perfect, but what do I know I’m just a cook.

The relief came after that last box went in. Tired, stressed and a feeling of disappointment had me just wanting to go isolate myself for a bit. I can’t say how much I appreciate my wife for all of the work she puts in at the end of a competition.

Award time finally came around, not that I was looking forward to it, but was just ready to go home. We sat down with our newly made BBQ friends from BBQ Jedi and listened to a really good christian band from the Indiana Bible College.

The teams started to get called up to the stage one by one, and one by one my thoughts on my cook were confirmed. Deep down I was hoping my entries found tables that were generous with their scores, but that never happened.

As I went up to get our scores, it appeared that just about every score sheet had comment cards attached to them. That is actually a really nice thing to see. Good or bad, we like to hear it, we may not agree with it, but it is still nice to hear.

We looked our’s over and it confirmed what we thought, my cooking was that bad. Out of 45 teams here’s how we finished up.

Chicken – 17th 167.3828

Ribs – 44th 144.5260

Pork – 31st 159.9540

Brisket – 36th 153.6456

Overall – 35th 625.5084

I honestly can’t think of a time when we have ever scored that low. I guess it is back to the training block for me. I never thought I would have had that much trouble with a cook, but I guess it happens. Just bites knowing what we were capable of doing in the past and what we did on this cook. I know what I say about fun and being too easy, I just wish it didn’t have to be too hard.

Well I guess I should stop rambling and get to cooking. Hope to see everyone again and to meet some new people.



All the small things. (Vernon IN)

This past competition started off on the same note as the previous one, a car nearly ran a red light almost hitting us, then on the interstate we had 2 incidents of a semi entering our lane. To say I was a bit on edge after that would be an understatement.

Leading up to this competition I checked our standings in the KCBS TOY for teams competing in 5 or less competitions, this comp was going to be our 4th, and realized that if we had a top 10 call in chicken and ribs that we would make it into the top 100. This is a field consisting of 2004 teams, as of this time. For some teams they don’t pay attention to this, but to us it gives us something to work towards. It gives us a bit pride and a feeling of accomplishment.

As usual, I scouted out who was going to be there and from the stats, all but a handful of teams seem to score on avg about the same. This meant the smallest of mistakes could potentially knock you out of a top 10 call. I wasn’t too worried about the chicken category, as we’ve been consistent throughout the year, ribs made me a bit nervous as I just haven’t been able to knock down the timing for some reason. Every cook they seem to overcook, no matter what adjustments I make.

It was just going to take me keeping my head in the game.

Our spot was right on the road facing out, so we could head out without much waiting. Backing in to get parked next to the curb had only 1 real obstacle, a power pole about 1 foot from the road. Then there was a decent crown in the road that leaned us towards it. It made for a bit of anxiety to avoid rocking into it.

Once we got settled in Vernon, the history of the town made itself known. It seemed every time I turned my head there was a historical marker describing a famous war battle, or lack thereof, or one of the first raised railroads. I had a great time just walking around the town square and exploring different things. I logged about 10,000+ steps and the town is only .24 sq mi.

Thursday night we had the privilege of meeting and talking with Indiana’s only town mayor. You could see the pride he had for his small town of 317. He told us about the history of the town and how it was older than the state of Indiana itself. Being surrounded by the river on 3 sides of the town and North Vernon on the other, prevented the expansion of the town. I I asked him how much commerce they had, he kinda chuckled and said for commerce they have parties. This in turn made me chuckle. Apparently they have regular street dances that draw nearly 500 people. Their population grows by 50%, not too many other towns can probably make that claim.

Friday started off with the normal comp routines, except this time Leslie had yard sales on the mind. This weekend the town has more yard sales than historical tidbits and she was in heaven. I got a kick out seeing her come back with her arms full of deals. One trip back involved her being driven by the people having a sale. Who knew there was a customer rewards program, “buy so many items, earn a trip home”. It’s amazing how friendly everyone was, Leslie offered them BBQ samples the next day for giving her a ride home.

Friday ended with the lighting of the fire and the routine walk through the comp to see who was up and who was sleeping. It gives me something to do while the big meats wait to hit the cooker.

Saturday begins with feeling like I hadn’t really slept at all. Good thing I have a pretty good routine and things tend to flow. This comp I opted not to put up our canopy, as I didn’t want to mess with taking it down later. The only probably this creates is where to put cleaning supplies. I usually hang them from the canopy supports. This time I’d just have to hang them off of the smoker.

As the morning went on it was time to spritz the chicken breasts and the whole chicken with juice. I grab the spray bottle and spray away. I get a nice shiny coverage just in time to notice I am using bleach water. “*&%%$^*(@#@!” All I could think is that I just ruined my chance to get a top 100 placing in chicken. The only positive is that I don’t spray my thighs, so I still have a chicken entry. I just hope it’s enough to make the judges happy.

The rest of the cook seemed to go as expected, ribs overcooked again and pork wouldn’t cook.

Award time came around and I stood anxiously waiting to hopefully hear our name.

1st category called was chicken, 9th place, Woo hoo!! we got our call.

Ribs, 4th place.That’s another call. I didn’t think we were going to make it that high. I thought the tenderness was going to kill them.

Pork, 16th place. I am going to spend a lot of time cooking pork and figuring out what to try next. This just isn’t working for us.

Brisket, 6th place. That helps for our overall standing.

Overall 9th place. Man that feels good.

Pork tenderness killed us this time, but I was pretty happy overall. It helped to offset my disappointment with making a mistake with chicken. Now just to make it safely home. Hopefully the semis will see us a bit better.

As I start to pull out into the street to hook up the smoker, I hear a god awful scraping sound. All I can I think of is what in the world did I make contact with? Did I leave an antennae up? Did the trees overhanging tear up something on the roof? I looked in the passenger mirror so I wouldn’t hit the smoker.

Oh yeah I forgot I have a driver’s side mirror. Oh hello Mr power pole that I was so worried about when parking on Thursday. Did I forget to say good bye to you? Well you left an everlasting impression on me and pulled the side paneling away from the motorhome. UGH!!!!!! Another small simple thing that was avoidable had I just paid attention the small things.

With the help of Extra Mile BBQ, I patched it up with duct tape (that lasted long enough to make it to the interstate). This was quickly becoming one of the most expensive BBQ competitions we’ve attended. So with that little OOPS, I think our KCBS season will be done this year.

On the silver lining of it all:

We are a top 100 team in chicken, ribs and brisket. Leslie had a great time shopping and I learned to take my time and appreciate all the small things.

Thank you to our sponsors for helping to get us where we are this year. #bigronsrub #chopspowerinjector #dandjentertainment #madcowcutlery

And a huge thank you to my wonderful wife for being so supportive, even when she may not have wanted to be.

Hopefully a milestone in the making


Here we go again. The last day of preparation before a competition and as such the nerves start to run a bit wild and the gut doesn’t seem to really settle down. I add to it with the thought of how I need to have a great cook. You would think I would be use to this routine by now, but it doesn’t really get much better. We are having a pretty good season and feel like anything less than the last comp isn’t acceptable. Each competition we prove to ourselves that we are competitive, but seem to be just out reach of a GC. If we could just get everything to come together in perfect harmony, at the same time, at the same event, then we would get our chance to stand out among the great teams that compete.

Plus, we are very close to having a bit of personal recognition as being a top 100 team in the 5 events or less division. This little accomplishment to some means a ton to us. All it would take is a 10th place or better finish in the categories to move us from:

Chicken 134th > 75th

Ribs 168th > 88th

Pork 451st > 254th

Brisket 222nd > 115th

Overall 238th > 127th

This would be out of 2010 teams competing in 5 or less events and it will only be our 4th event of the season. It helps to reassure us that we are on the right path in some categories.

Well it’s time to get back to getting the final things ready and maybe have a few beverages later.

Please take some time to visit our sponsors. Without their help we wouldn’t be able to be successful.

Big Ron’s Rub

Chop’s Power Injector System

Mad Cow Cutlery

D&J Entertainment

Orion IL, 7-25-15


There seems to be a theme building for our success. If things are stressful and break the routine, then we tend to do pretty good. This last competition was no exception.

This past weekend we competed in Orion, IL and was suppose to be a pretty relaxing comp. It was scheduled in a way that we were able to arrive a day early and stay a day later if we wanted. Man this could be a little vacation for us.

Leading up to the weekend we had mostly everything packed and loaded, the only thing really left to do was to work 2 days and then load up the few remaining items that couldn’t be done earlier (meats, injections, sauces etc). So it should be pretty easy to head out first thing. The ideal plan was to be on the road by noon, but realistically by 2 pm.

1st day of work ended up having me up after midnight for the most part, so I didn’t get totally rested. Plus I seemed to have an intermittent annoying dry cough.

2nd day of work, again, had very little sleep after midnight. Feeling pretty tired, plus the cough seemed to become more regular. Oh well I guess, there is always that risk and seems like it’s a curse. It always seems as though if there is something important to do the day after a shift, you’ll be busy after midnight.

Friday morning I get off work, rush home and take my son to get his school physical that I forgot about. That will set the timeline back a little bit. No big deal though, some things have to be done. Get that done and head home to get a start on the final details. I go to hook up the smoker to the motorhome and find out that someone “borrowed” my hitch without telling me. Crap! So now I have to go spend more money and time. Oh and now I am coughing more with a bunch of sinus symptoms. This is not the time that I need this to start.

Got home, hooked up the smoker and as I was trying to swing up the jack, the little metal triangle used to pull the release pin out, broke. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? So I start to freak out a bit, thinking how in the world am I going to get it swung up. I did manage to get it swung up. That reminds me I need to get that really fixed.

Once we got everything settled and ready to go, we were on the road by 2:04 pm, Glad I set realistic timelines.

As we were on the road and about 2 miles out of town, a semi pulls out in front of us, causing me to nearly lock up the brakes and pray to avoid contact. Good thing he didn’t hit us, but the yield sign didn’t fare as good.He smashed and twisted into the ground it went.

Onto to the interstate we went, only to be cutoff by another semi and again causing us to brake hard. I’m starting to think either we have the unknown cloaking option or we’re a bigger threat than we thought and the other teams have pooled their money together to prevent us from getting there.

The drive takes about 3 hours, and 1 hour before getting there I realize I forgot an important superstitious item at home. The bottle of whiskey for the good luck shot. Crap again. I literally start to have a small anxiety attack.

Before you judge me, I am superstitious enough that I have certain clothes I bring to wear on turn in day.

I tell my wife if this is any indication of how the comp is going to go, we are going to do pretty good.

When we arrive in Orion, we stop to fill up fuel and like a golden ray luck shining down on us, there was a liquor store in the gas station. Again, don’t judge me.

Back on the road and we arrive at the site shortly there after.

We got unloaded and made our rounds meeting new teams and visiting with old friends. Our only real concern at this point was if the weather was going to hold out. They were forecasting possible severe thunderstorms.

We sat around that evening thinking about how the cook was going to go and agreed that a top 10 overall call was our goal. A top 5 would be great though. It should be attainable as long as we cook a good cook.

So with what seems to be like my routine bout of sinusitis taking hold, and hoping to not include bronchitis, we move ahead with firing up the cooker. The temperatures and weather, made running the cooker somewhat of a breeze.

The meats went on and the 1 hour log feeding began.

About 4 hours in I do a check in the money muscles and they temp at 195 and 201. Crap!!!!! They are overcooked. I hope they will tighten up with some rest.

During all of the cooking, my wife gets a call from my daughter that she is going to the ER because the ear ache that she has has now worsened to no hearing and blood coming from the ear. UGH!! Sure just a bit more stress.

Thankfully she was able to get in pretty quick and was diagnosed with a ruptured eardrum.

As each meat finishes, they all seem to have an issue with overcooking. I’m thinking a thermometer calibration may be in order.

The only meat that we seemed to be good with was the chicken.

Ribs were difficult to keep from falling apart as we cut them.

Pork ended up having no salvageable money muscle, so we had to do a box of chunks and pulled.

Brisket couldn’t get a knife to slice through the bark to save my butt. I have to flip it over and slice it from the bottom. We managed to get the slices we needed and added some pretty good burnt ends.

After we were done I couldn’t stop worrying that we may have just messed up our chance to get a top 10 overall call.

Awards were started about 30 minutes early, woohoo!!

I told me wife I wanted to attempt to broadcast the awards live. In my opinion it didn’t turn out too bad and we may try to do it more often. You can see the video here, Orion Awards.

At the end of the day we hit our goal:

Out of 15 teams we finished:

9th in chicken

9th in ribs

9th in pork

2nd in brisket

8th overall

I still think we could have done better, but we’ll take it for now.

I’m just worried about how much stress it will take to GC a comp. I hope I don’t have to have a vehicle stolen or a major breakdown.