I am getting ready to head to Indianapolis for Smoke Siege BBQ Team's second season on the competition barbecue circuit. My brother's team has already completed one competition this season. This event will be number two of the season. We will be participating in the Wine, Brew, & Bar-B-Que, Too event hosted by the New Palestine, Indiana Lions Club. To get in the barbecue mindset, and ready for a crazy weekend, I am continuing the story of our competition day activities from last year's event. You can read about the event and our initial preparation at http://www.goodcookdoris.com/2012/11/smoke-siege-bbq-team-inaugural.html.
|Official team photo
For this post I will focus on Friday at the competition - the preparation day. Turn-in and judging happens on Saturday. Friday is spent getting organized, prepping all the meats, and of course a little beer and schmoozing with the other competitors. Depending on Saturday's turn-in times, actual meat smoking doesn't start until somewhere between midnight and 2:00 am.
Once we got our work area set-up and ready, the prep work began. Rules stipulate that you can only trim meat before arrival. Kansas City Barbecue Society (KCBS) judges have to inspect your meat and give you the all-clear to get to work. With four meats and sauce to prepare, we started around 2:00 pm. My first task was to season and prepare the chicken thighs. For smoking chicken, dark meat is going to stay more moist and hold up to a few hours in the smoke. The chicken gets a nice rub down both under and over the skin before being put in the cooler to absorb the secret spice mixture.
About halfway through the chicken prep a huge thunderstorm rolled through. We covered the meat,threw a wool blanket over our wood pile, held tight the tent, and rode it out. Thankfully we were just a little soggy and didn't lose any of our supplies.
|Chicken thighs, prepped and ready to chill.
Me, a little soggy from the rain.
Note: Even though you only turn in 6 portions of each meat, you cook a lot of extra. This allows you to select the best looking and tasting pieces for the judges. And it feeds all of the friends who come out to help you during the competition.
While I was busy massaging chicken, my brother Marc was tackling the larger cuts of brisket and pork shoulder. The meats need time to absorb flavors and you want them to stay moist throughout the cooking process. To achieve this cooks use a variety of techniques. Marc injects the meat with liquid and seasoning and then gives it a generous spice rub. I think we cooked 2-3 briskets and 2 pork shoulders.Ribs aren't treated to the injection process but do get a good helping of spice rub. Between 2:00 pm and 4:30 pm we were able to prepare all of the meats and clean up our work space.
One of the perks of this particular competition was a complimentary dinner following the mandatory cook's meeting. All 50 pro teams listened to the rules and regulations before being treated to what I would describe as a very rich dinner. I am fairly certain that everything was cooked in butter. And if it wasn't , there was a giant vat of butter in which you could dunk your corn (or burger buns...).
After swapping stories with fellow competitors and clogging our arteries, the rest of the evening was open. The opening ceremonies of the Olympics were on TV, competitors were checking each other out, and the beer was flowing. As the 11:00 pm hour approached, I bunked in to our overnight facilities and rested up for the long night ahead.
Many other experienced teams had queen size air mattresses with full sheets, others had cots, some had fully loaded RVs. For our inaugural season, we had reclining seats in the car. Around midnight the wood went into the smoker and started a slow burn to reach 250 degrees. Meats got a final prep and around 2:00 am the cooking began.
|Midnight pitmaster in action.
|Seasoning the meat one more time before going on.
After the temperature was satisfactory and the meats were on the smoker, I took over the overnight pit watch duty. This entailed trying to stay awake and making sure the temperature stayed constant. Sometimes the smoker needed to be fed a little extra wood, sometimes the smoke valve needed to open up a little.
|Stoking the fire around 3 am.
We made it through the night and as the sun rose over the smoker we were a little weary, but energized to face the competition head on!
|Ribs, awaiting their dawn cooking time.
Next up in the series are final cooking, presentation preparation, and a lot of good eats. I'll close by showing our schedule for the competition. To have a successful cook, you have to start with the turn in time and work backwards. The meat needs time to rest before slicing, and everything has a different cooking time. As you can see below, Marc had a grid for the meat to go on, get wrapped in foil (prevent too much smoke flavor), if it need to be sauced, and when to take off the grill.
I'll wrap up this series, and then have a recap of our second year. I hope it is as fun as the first! I'll be tweeting & putting pictures on Instagram over the weekend. Follow along!