Reserve Grand Champion – 2008 Ground Hog BBQ Cook-Off

Wow! It’s the day after and I’m still pinching myself! I vaguely remember taking the walk four times at our first ever BBQ contest! Amid the blur from lack of sleep, many things that went wrong (and right), and the howling desert wind and 102-degree heat, I think we placed first chicken, forth ribs, third pork, third brisket, and RC. Thom was so gracious when he congratulated us and let us know he beat us to GC by just ONE point! Kelly said all our fellow competitors were more happy and rooting for us then we were. That’s because my buddy Mark and I were in shock! I couldn’t ask for nor imagine a better day! I was just hoping to have fun, make new friends, share some spicy Thai Chicken Curry, and hopefully turn in four meats that were not burnt or undercooked.

I have to give special credit and thanks to many people. My Ground Hog neighbor Phil (7 Kinds of Smoke) who helped keep us awake during the long night. Gary and Brian (Notley Que) who were my other neighbors who showed me many “field” tricks (yes, I gotta get the Stoker System or BBQ guru so I can sleep too).

When my new WSM was acting weird and overheating my ribs in desert heat (300+ with all bottom vents closed), Brian taught me a neat trick that’s not in the Weber manual to bring down temps.

When chicken was due, it was a cliff hanger as I couldn’t get temps working on my spanking new Weber Kettle in 100-degree heat. At 11:45, my chicken breast was only at 138 deg. At 12:08, I held my breath when I turned it in hoping juices would run clear.

When I killed my Thermapen on Friday (stupid me wet it doing dinner dishes), I was worried that it was not starting well. Brian and Gary were so patient and gracious to let me use their Thermapen many times.

The big lesson I learned is that many things WILL go wrong but you just gotta keep working at it. For example, the howling wind almost blew away our canopy as I didn’t know I had to purchase those cinder blocks to hold them down, it was dark at night and I used the wrong of wood for the long-haul meats, my brisket was done at 7:30 am instead of 3:00 pm so it sat for 7 1/2 hours in my cooler covered in towels. My saving grace was that the weather was so warm it was still 148 deg during turn-in.

I cooked two Costco same-size butts on a single WSM shelf but one cooked to only 175 deg and wouldn’t shred. Luckily the second identical one was OK. Also, Kelly had to turn me away for my pork submission to redo my tray as I had shredded my pork too much per IBCA rules. Fortunately, there was enough time to fix the problem before 2:10 pm.

I also wanted to extend thanks to Thom who helped me over the phone with all my questions before Ground Hog and Glen (Smell My Butts) for his 3-1-1 ribs technique when I met him while observing March Madness; and, for the record, Kristin and Bentley who taught me everything I know since I joined the CBBQA in Jan 2008!  Most importantly, I wanted to thank everyone on the CBBQA forum, the organizers, judges, and everyone who was involved. See you all in two weeks at Wishland!