Sunday, June 25, 2017

Event: The Big BBQ Bash - Maryville Tennessee

The Big BBQ Bash benefiting the Helen Ross McNabb Center was held this weekend in Maryville, Tennessee.  

The original Big BBQ Bash was THE first BBQ contest that I ever attended. I volunteered and was hooked.  Now this BBQ competition is sanctioned by the KCBS and it has grown into a State Championship.  

We didn't compete or judge at this year's contest because I was supposed to be at the Blythe Ranch in Kansas the same weekend.  Unfortunately, that trip was scrubbed for me due to medical reasons.  To cheer me up, Alexis took me to The Big BBQ Bash to see our friends.  Here are some pictures from the contest.

The Smokers

I love checking out all of the smokers that the cook teams are using at BBQ competitions. There are all kinds.
  • Stick burners
  • Insulated cabinet smokers
  • Bullet smokers
  • Drum smokers
  • Pellet cookers
  • Kamado grills/smokers
Some of the rigs are homemade. Some can be bought at stores for a few hundred bucks.  Some are custom made rigs that start in the $10-15k neighborhood.  But they all have one thing in common - being owned by a pitmaster who loves cooking BBQ.

This is what comes to mind as a smoker for most people.  It's an offset stick burner, called that because it burns split logs.  This particular one belongs to our friends, Greg and Melanie Edmonds of Paradise Que.  It is a reverse flow stick burner made by Mike Lang.

Blount County The Big BBQ Bash KCBS BBQ Competition 2017
A small box or cabinet cooker. These are usually heavily insulated and have tightly controlled airflow for long, even cooking temps.

Blount County The Big BBQ Bash KCBS BBQ Competition 2017
This is a fancy version of the offset stick burner.  This is Chairman of the Boar's smoker.  It is a Champion Smoker made right here in Knoxville, TN.

Another cabinet smoker, this one is The Pit Crew's Southern Q Smoker mounted permanently on a patio style Freedom trailer from QSB Trailers. 

"Ugly Drum Smoker" or UDS is a term for a smoker that someone makes at home from an old metal drum.  These days there are several brands of precision engineered drum smokers that are far from ugly.  This Gateway Drum Smoker belongs to Hickory Prime.

Hickory Prime's offset stick burner, a Jambo.

Blount County The Big BBQ Bash KCBS BBQ Competition 2017
Smokin' F BBQ's Ole Hickory Pits CTO doublwide smoker.  We used two of these beauties at Memphis In May this year, great piece of machinery.

Another nice drum smoker.

Snake River Farms is a wagyu beef supplier that a lot, and I mean a lot, of teams use to source their competition briskets.

Blount County The Big BBQ Bash KCBS BBQ Competition 2017
Southern Q's cabinet smoker - a Myron Mixon model.

Wood Shed BBQ's offset smoker.

This team used a set of Oklahoma Joe's and a few other smokers that you can buy at Academy Sports without having to re-mortgage your house.

A set of Backwoods Smokers - another brand of insulated cabinet cookers.

Blount County The Big BBQ Bash KCBS BBQ Competition 2017
Of course, my personal favorite is the Deep South Smokers, since that is what we own.  This one is the River Road Grillbillies and it's a GC28. It provides long burn times, even cooking temperatures, and the perfect amount of smoke, in my opinion.

Firehouse Smokers' cabinet cooker - a Southern Q Smoker. 

I liked the oddball shape of the 270 Smokers cabinet style smoker. We looked at these pretty seriously when deciding which smoker to buy.

Hickory Hillbillies used a few cookers including this Yoder Smokers pellet cooker.

Friday - Prep and Socialize

A typical Friday at a BBQ competition includes several activities.
  • Check in and meat inspection with KCBS representatives
  • Setting up your team's contest area
  • Socializing
  • Ancillary category turn ins - These are smaller categories and can be anything, such as; beans, sauces, sausage, "anything but", and desserts. They often sponsored by local companies and the rules for these aren't as strict as the 4 main categories.  
So Friday's are more laid back and fun.

Blount County The Big BBQ Bash KCBS BBQ Competition 2017
Friday is when a lot of friends and family come out to the contest.

It was great to see Jeff and Cindy Thompson of the River Road Grillbillies.

Henry Devault of Soggy Bottom Smokers saved our butts the first time we ever showed up with a competition trailer and had no idea how to maneuver it into a tight spot.

Portable hot tub - I have to say this is an absolute first for us at a BBQ contest!

Crimson Q doing some final site preparations.

Jay Frankovich of Smokin' F BBQ working on his ancilaries using a drum smoker.

River Road Grillbillies working on their Sausage category turn in.

Blount County The Big BBQ Bash KCBS BBQ Competition 2017
In addition to the BBQ contest, the farmers market was going on, there was a car show, and they had these three old farm tractors.  This started a conversation between my aunts about my granddaddy's tractors back in the day.

Teams use all sorts of logos, banners, and signs.

I absolutely LOVED the retro paint job on the Bailey Smokers trailer.

Poor Chloe wasn't happy that this other dog was getting attention and acted like she was neglected.  Don't let her fool you....she's spoiled.

Bubba Oller of K-town Daddy's BBQ enjoying his brand new trailer.  

Here's an outside shot of his trailer with his harem of drum smokers.

On Friday nights, many teams feed their friends and family at the contest site.

If you ever have a drought, just throw a BBQ contest because some meteorological anomaly causes it to rain at every contest.  Here come the storm clouds rolling in. 

But this wasn't just any old passing shower, this was the remnants of Tropical Storm Cindy.  You see that black dot for 1am Saturday morning?  Yeah, that's pretty much smack dab on top of the contest site.

The strong winds accompanying the storms took out at least one tent and threatened to carry away anything that wasn't strapped, bolted, or welded down.

Saturday - Competition Day

This is the more intense day.  Teams have to turn in 4 BBQ meats 30 minutes apart and if they miss the turn in time by 5 minutes, you are disqualified for that category and your chances of a decent overall score are toast.

12pm - chicken
12:30pm - ribs
1:00pm - pork
1:30pm - brisket

So organization, timing, and teamwork are critical.

Some teams didn't realize they would get waterfront property for their contest sites :)

Henry of Soggy Bottom Smokers hiding out from the rain and checking out the latest weather radar to see when this band would pass through.

The rain didn't stop this young fellow and his sister from getting ready to vend lemonade and drinks to the crowds that do show up.

Small Town BBQ getting their garnish set in their turn in boxes.

Blount County The Big BBQ Bash KCBS BBQ Competition 2017
Jeff Thompson spritzing his chicken.

Sons of Smoke checking on their competition meats.  They were also there vending.

Blount County The Big BBQ Bash KCBS BBQ Competition 2017
Frank Murphy and 93.1 WNOX Classic Hits were there to broadcast and Frank was also the emcee for the awards ceremony.

Pull My Meat checking their chicken with a Thermapen.
The Pit Crew checking to see if it is time to take their ribs out just yet.  Time lines are a rough guide, the real expertise comes in knowing when to pull them earlier or let the food go longer.  

Soggy Bottom Smokers dipping his chicken legs into BBQ sauce.

Time to take the ribs out of their foil wrap.

Uncle Bud's checking on one of their many drum smokers.

Is this kid not adorable? It's wet and rainy but he's got a smile on his face raising money for charity.

Algood BBQ and Catering were there with their award winning BBQ.

Crimson Q checking their meats as turn in times approach.

Jay checking on this chicken.

Most teams do a smoke/braise combination on their chicken to ensure it is smoky enough but still perfectly tender.

These upright smokers are so cool looking.

Our friend, Harry Bryan of Q-We-Do, starting his last minute chicken.

Greg and Melanie of Paradise Que doing last minute touches on their chicken turn ins.

Harry seasoning the chicken.

Greg putting his ribs back in the smoke for just a little longer.

Paradise Que's chicken turn in box.  Chicken is probably the hardest category to win consistently.

K-Town Daddy's BBQ checking his temps.

Pull My Meat making their final decisions on ribs.  

Sons of Smoke has really stepped up their vending services with a huge concession trailer.

Dude uses a bike to chase bad guys for a living....he can eat all the BBQ nachos he wants.

Remember "poor neglected" Chloe from earlier? See, not neglected.  She is a sweetie.

When the smoke cleared and the scores were tallied, the Grand Champions were The Pit Crew!  Reserve Grand Champion was Under The Radar but I couldn't get a good shot of them accepting their award.
It was great to see all of our friends and meet new ones.  Congratulations to everyone for a job well done.  Full results can be found here at the KCBS website.