The rain boots are dry, the stench of smoke has dissipated and showers and laundry and done. This could only mean one thing – the BBQ competition has wrapped up! This year, we had the unforeseen pleasure of working in muddy, and VERY swampy conditions (the giant puddle was affectionately known as “Lake Q”).
It’s been 3 years since there was a Chicago Kosher BBQ competition and this year, with the incredible help and organizing (and kick-off, I should say) from our very own Daniel Peikes, the ‘Q became part of the Greater Chicago Jewish Arts Festival! And it made sense – why not include it into a Jewish arts fair, where you know you’re going to get lots of people coming by to check it out. Granted, it wasn’t a total wash out, but the rain did prevent a lot of people from showing up, but needless to say, the BBQ event is NEVER cancelled – this is a “rain or shine” event! We don’t stop because of monsoon conditions. BRING IT ON!
This year was no different. Same 4 categories – brisket, ribs, chicken thighs and turkey. Sanctioned by the KCBS (Kansas City Barbecue Society). Yes, it’s a thing. Prep on Thursday night at Congregation KINS went well – I was in autopilot, making the rubs and sauces (and of course, through a bit of miscommunication, I added 1 CUP of cayenne to our brisket rub, instead of 1 TBSP. Yup, it was spicy, but we mellowed it out with some more brown sugar and apple juice). Almost-major crisis averted.
Although this was my 6th Kosher BBQ competition, I felt a bit anxious knowing that one of our teammates was out for the BBQ season, due to a broken foot (get better soon, Debbie)! And she’s our “chicken queen”, so I felt a good amount of pressure to take her place on that task. And it’s been a few years since I’ve prepped the chicken. But once I got back into the rhythm of trimming off the knuckles, removing the rib bones and cleaning the skin, I ended up with 12 beautifully portioned (and all equal in size I might add) chicken thighs. So that’s what I did for 2 hours that Saturday night – what were you all up to? 🙂
The next few hours were a bit of a blur. A few zzzz’s (maybe a half hour), thunder, lightning, rain, mud, MORE rain, driving home to get my rain boots (best decision I made that day, so yay for dry feet), smoke, more drizzle, and finally…it’s time for turn-ins.
The brisket smoked for 10 hours, and rested. The ribs and turkey smoked for 3 hours, and chicken smoked for less than that, with rub and sauce. The ribs were looking good – nice smoke ring and adding Mendel’s sweet BBQ sauce really made the difference. Tender, juicy, sweet, smokey and a bit spicy (so I’m told, since obviously I didn’t taste any of the meat, haha). 7 portions are plated, spills and drills were wiped away carefully, and brought to the judges.
Now, we sit and wait. And by sitting and waiting, I mean, getting as much of our stuff packed up as we can. Oh I love being efficient! And here we go – results are in!
As much as we just hoped to get everything cooked and submitted on time, results were…
#1 in RIBS!
Honestly, it was shocking. This is the best we’ve ever placed and with a good group of competition around us (and even though the ribs weren’t great quality), hey, this is our first, first place win!
Overall, it was a good competition with great company. Sure, it wasn’t perfect and sure there are some things that could have been tweaked or organized better (not Daniel’s fault, just a lot of details to work out with the Arts Festival on it), but my favorite part of these BBQ competitions are the camaraderie and friendships that come out of this. I’ve made some close friends through these events and it becomes a big family and feels like a family reunion when we all get together every summer. There’s no ego here, always great sportsmanship and everyone helps each other out. I offered my friend Mordy (who came here last minute by himself and of course swept the competition), with any help he needed, even though my team was short a person too, so I made his foil squares for his turn-in boxes. It’s easy, I know, but something that you can easily forget! We all give each other advice and truly, we all want each other to do well. The congratulatory hugs at the end are honest and heartfelt. THAT’s why I love doing it. This underground world of Kosher BBQ, a level playing field competition where everyone’s a winner (yea, yea, so cliche, but so true).
Who knows…maybe you’ll see our team, 5 Dudes and a Vegetarian at the Dallas BBQ competition in October!
Until next time… this is Rachel signing off!
Check out some highlights from the event!