A couple of weeks ago, we attended the Maitland River BBQ Championships in Listowel, Ontario. This was going to be our second CSBBQA sanctioned BBQ competition this year, and after a month with no BBQ competitions, it felt like it had been forever. The weekend ended up being a strange one, full of ups and downs, good news and bad.It all started on Friday. During the day at work I had been seeing storm warnings for my area. I didn’t take them seriously until I was driving home and was a few minutes away, when I noticed that the left side of my view was almost completely darkened over by fast moving clouds. As I drove past a gravel parking lot, I watched the winds whip up all the loose sand into what looked like a sandstorm. I turned down my street, and started to notice things flying around all over the place: trash cans, papers, leaves, and even small branches. Just before my house, a tree had snapped a branch large enough to block the entire street, taking our power line out with it as well.
I got home after a detour, and hung out for a while with my wife and friend, who was over waiting for the storm to pass. The winds were some of the strongest I had ever seen, and the rain was really coming down hard. Did I mention that I hadn’t packed at all for the competition? When the rain died down, I took advantage of the timing to get all the big things packed in the car for the competition, then made some dinner. I finished grilling just in time, as the rain started again right when I was taking the food off.
This ended up being the theme of the night – intense storm, followed by a brief quiet moment, then more storms. I’ve never seen a storm like that in my life. Without power or lights, I got all of our competition stuff together, and made a batch of sauce and brine. Luckily we have a gas stove, but the immersion blender I use for the sauce was a no-go. By the time I finished packing and preparing in the dark, it was already about 1:30 AM, and we had a 5 AM wakeup to start the drive to Listowel for the BBQ competition. The night was hot and humid, and having the windows open for a bit of relief didn’t help when the storm kept coming back again and again. I finally fell asleep at 3 AM, then got woken up again when my little brothers finally made it to the house at 4 AM. After that, I never really fell asleep again, so for the whole competition, I was running on about an hour of sleep.
At 5 AM we got up, and headed over to Listowel. It was a nice drive, and when we arrived, I was thankful to see that the field we were setting up in had dried out from the previous night of storms. It actually ended up being a fantastic day for weather – more like an early fall day.
We got setup, and got our 2 racks of back ribs and 2 whole chickens that we were going to cook for the BBQ competition. The quality was great on both. The chickens were from Costco, and the ribs were provided by the organizer, Dave Kloostra, who raises pigs. For the first time this year, I didn’t have to pick big chunks of chine bone out of the ends of the back ribs.
Rib prep went smoothly: remove the membrane, trim any weird chunks of excess fat or meat, square it up, light coat of mustard, then a heavy coat of rub, and into the cooler.
Chicken is more complicated. I part the legs into drumsticks and thighs, then remove the skin, trim any excess fat, and try to trim everything nice and evenly. The chicken goes into a brine for an hour without the skin (it’ll get rubbery!), and then it’s time to put the ribs on.
Usually for back ribs, I cook at 225 F, and put them on for 2 hours over smoke, then an hour wrapped with margarine, honey, brown sugar, and chili sauce, then an hour unwrapped. I had some temperature problems this time, with the temperature shooting up, and then I tried to compensate for it by not putting the ribs on right away after wrapping them. Unfortunately I waited too long, and the ribs cooled off too much and ended up undercooked a bit. The bite on them left some meat on the bone, but otherwise I thought they were good.
Everything that day seemed to be a little off – between running on an hour of sleep and chatting with my little brothers, I was more distracted than usual, and kept missing little details. Luckily for me I had written out a check list and schedule the night before, so I had that to fall back on.
Eventually we got our boxes turned in, and then it was time to relax. On the CSBBQA forum, we had been talking about doing a pot luck, so everyone started getting their contributions ready. We had it just a bit before the results were announced, and it was a great spread! From memory, there was: brisket, pork tenderloin, double baked potatoes, cornbread, buttermilk pie, pastrami, beans, and salad. It was a really great meal, and it’s something I hope we can add to all the other competitions as well.
Finally – it was time for the results. They announced the Fire Fighters and Kids divisions first – and Dave Kloostra and his kids cleaned up winning first in both divisions. The amateur results were as follows:
- Super BBQ Bros
- James Jackson BBQ
- Uncle Ritchies
- Uncle Ritchies
- Super BBQ Bros
- James Jackson BBQ
We ended up winning grand champion, which was really exciting, and we won some cash and another Weber Smokey Mountain. We ended up with a score of 889 overall. So added to our first score of 935, gives us 1824. The first place team Blue Collar BBQ has 2725 right now, so we need a score of 902 to take first in the amateur virtual circuit. We’ll be doing at least 1 more amateur event, and possibly 2 – so we’ve still got a shot at it!
It started out rough, but we pulled it off, and it ended up being a great day overall. It was great to hang out with our BBQ friends, and it was nice to meet a couple of the new teams, who from the sound of it got hooked and I’m sure I’ll see them again.
Thanks to Dave, Mike, Barb, and all the judges and everyone involved in organizing and running the competition. We had a blast, and it was great to see everyone as always!
On another note – we came home and there was still no power on Saturday night. We ended up not getting power back until early Tuesday morning!