Drum Roll Please!
Little Rhody’s first National Barbecue Championship was held at the University of Rhode Island’s Kingston campus on Sunday July 22. This Kansas City BBQ Society sanctioned competition was proudly sponsored by the Wakefield Rotary Club, and combined with the 34thAnnual South County Hot Air Balloon festival.
Additionally, the Grand Champion winner became eligible for an automatic invite to the Jack Daniel’s World Championship Invitational Barbecue. The “Jack” is considered one of the most prestigious barbecue competitions in the country. As far as bragging rights are concerned, an invitation to this event means that your team smokes “wicked-good” cue!
Rhode Island is the last remaining New England State to finally host a KCBS sanctioned State BBQ competition. It’s worth noting that the IQUE BBQ team from Hopkinton, MA and Smokin’ Hoggz BBQ team from Abington, MA were both named Jack Daniel’s World Championship Invitational Barbecue – Grand Champions in 2009 and 2011 respectively.
Let me be more candid; a New England BBQ team winning a National competition is like North Carolina, Kansas City, and/or Texas winning a National Chowder Cook-off! It’s blasphemous!
As a Certified Kansas City BBQ Judge who always travels out-of-state to participate in competitions, the opportunity to judge an event in my own backyard was too irresistible to miss. The URI campus is not only a beautiful location to host this event; it’s also my alma mater! I can tell you that in my four years at URI, the only smoking going on was generally limited to plant life.
In what seemingly could have been described as a picture perfect day with mild temperatures, low humidity, and light winds, the 41 BBQ teams (representing 13 states) had exceptional “smoking” conditions for which to compete in four categories – Chicken, Pork Ribs, Pork, and Beef Brisket.
The competition BBQ judging can be brutally honest because all meat categories are individually and meticulously scrutinized and scored for Presentation, Taste, and Tenderness. All entries are presented to judges using a “blind-box” method. This means that every entry turned in by the BBQ teams are presented to the judges anonymously. This allows all competing teams to be judged in an unbiased manner.
Competition BBQ quality often varies from restaurant quality because of the painstaking attention to every detail of meat preparation, flavor profile of dry rubs and sauces, juice injections, sauce mopping, moisture sprays, wood combinations, smoker rigs, smoker temperature adjustments, completion timing, and box presentation. This “smoke-dance” begins the night before the competition begins and continues until the last meat category has been turned in. At the conclusion of this exhaustive process, the teams generally retire to relaxing lawn chairs and beers while they wait for scores to be calculated and awards to be announced.
It is important to note that many teams own restaurants, and winning competitions like this one offers tremendous opportunity for promotional advertising. These teams should be commended for their time, dedication, and talent – not to mention the financial commitment to participate. As judges, we feel privileged to sample and score their efforts.
One of the reasons that there aren’t more BBQ restaurants in Rhode Island is because this type of cuisine is not as familiar to our dining public, and may not assure restaurant owners profitable margins. Additionally, the origins of Barbecue maintain loyal roots in the American South and Midwest.
The dining public is both loyal and territorial regarding the regional choices of meats smoked, rubs, and sauces utilized in preparation.
Competitions such as the Rhode Island State BBQ Championship brings much needed attention to this mouth-watering cooking method. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a few more restaurants smoking a pork shoulder before the 2013 BBQ event!
Most importantly, congratulations to Mike Boisvert and the Lakeside Smokers from Methuen, MA for a Grand Champion win in this year’s RI BBQ Competition! The RhodeCrew wishes you good luck competing in the Jack! Bring another one home for New England!