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.