Backyard BBQ Blast
Amateur cooking contest
pits friends against friends
Curvy Bottoms BBQ team aiming for ‘gold’ this year
(August 2015) – The Madison Courier Backyard BBQ Blast could be considered the laid-back, low-key cousin of the professional Kansas City Barbeque Society-sanctioned pro competition each year at the Madison Ribberfest.
And that’s the way the amateurs like it.
“This is strictly a big backyard barbecue, just like cooking out at home,” said event organizer Steve Thomas.
This is the 14th year for Madison Ribberfest and the pro and amateur cooking competitions. Thomas said he expects as many as 60 amateur barbecue teams this year to converge on Madison with their friends, families and secret recipes and rubs for ribs, chicken, pork, beef and game.
Curvy Bottoms BBQ amateur team members are (front row from left) Michael Cox and Trevor Crafton, (back row from left) Rodrick Shiver, James Centers, Travis Clegg.
Thomas said for the “game” category, teams have cooked up everything from elk, moose and deer to more exotic meats as shrimp, oysters, ostrich, bison, squirrel and opossum. “I haven’t seen raccoon,” he said, adding that raccoon meat isn’t bad as long as the critter was eating a natural plant-based diet rather than scavenging from garbage cans.
But that’s a whole other story.
“Basically, we view it as less of a contest and more of an event,” Thomas said. “It’s just fun. Everyone sits around and cooks and talks. They play cards or corn hole. If they choose to, they can enter the competition, but it’s not required. It has as much to do with the camaraderie as competition.”
James Centers agrees. “It’s a chance to spend the day listening to good music and cooking good food,” he said.
Centers’ Madison-based Curvy Bottoms BBQ team is planning to participate for a third year this time around.
“I always do ribs,” Centers said. His teammates include orthopedic surgeon Travis Clegg, who specializes in brisket when not operating on patients, and Clegg’s father-in-law Mike Cox, who specializes in pulled pork. Trevor Crafton of the Madison Chamber of Commerce also joins them.
“He did salmon last year that was unbelievable,” Centers said of Crafton’s expertise.
Curvy Bottoms picked up two second-place prizes last year in ribs and brisket. This year, Centers said, his team is going for the gold with the recipes they have finessed over time.
“We now know what works – recipes that all our families and friends have tried,” he said. “We’re going to stick with what got us there” last year.
Ryan Reddick of La Grange, Ky., is bringing his team – Smokin’ ReddiQUELOUS – for a fourth year of friendly competition. He will be joined by his father, Rick Reddick of Erlanger, Ky. Rick got started in the barbecue game a few years ago with encouragement from his neighbor, Roy Piercefield, who has advanced to the professional realm.
Piercefield’s team, Two Jokers and a Smoker, will be competing on the KCBS side again this year.
Reddick calls his father the King of Brisket, while he specializes in ribs and pulled pork.
“Maybe the professional side is more serious,” but Reddick said he prefers the laid-back atmosphere of the amateur side.
“It’s a lot of people [from different backgrounds] with a shared passion. It’s fun to walk around and meet new people, share secrets and see the different techniques.”
Centers and Reddick both said fancy equipment is not needed to do good barbecue.
“Twenty-five dollars will get you started,” Centers said. He offered this advice for newbies who are thinking about joining the fun: “Don’t be intimidated, just try it. Just come down and have a good time. It’s well worth it.”
Reddick said his father uses “an old hand-me-down” smoker that Piercefield gave him. “The one I use gets a lot of looks. It looks like a large metal beer keg. I call it the Green Egg smoker’s cheaper cousin.”
He said he enjoys looking at what equipment other barbecuers are using. One man last year was using an old oil barrel he’d gotten from his dad, Reddick recalled.
Because of the ingenuity of the amateur teams, Thomas said the Blast competition also has an award for Best BBQ Contraption. The first winner, he said, was a man who had turned a fire-proof filing cabinet into a multilevel smoker, with the fire maintained in the bottom drawer and the meats filling the ascending drawers.
In addition to first-, second- and third-place awards in the meat categories, competitors also can vie for Best Team, which Thomas describes as the “Miss Congeniality” of the event, as well as Best Sauce and Best Rub.
The competition is decided by a team of 36 judges – half of whom are trained and certified by KCBS. “The other half are experienced eaters,” Thomas said.
“The barbecue keeps getting better every year,” he said. “The teams get smarter at it, and every year we graduate one team to the pros.”
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