Friday, August 27, 2010

Will The Real Pitmasters Please Stand Up

Well, we are now 3 episodes into the newly formatted "BBQ Pitmasters" on TLC. I guess the best way to describe what I have seen so far is part game show, part "American Idol" and part "Chopped". It is reminiscent of past barbecue competition series in its format and style but with some new twists.

Gone is the public access to what happens to teams on the competition circuit and in is what happens to these teams in a controlled contest environment. The show reaches beyond a typical barbecue contest by asking cooks to prepare more than just brisket, chicken, ribs and pork butt. By adding a wildcard meat category and side category, the show tries to extend the range of each cook. Thus turning the competition into something that should be called America's Best BBQ Caterer.

I am not a big fan of the new format. I know "chopping" someone after their first turn-in helps build drama but it detracts from the show overall. If I was sent home for what was judged as inferior alligator, without tasting my pork butt entry, I would be hot! Just like Kyle Laval of TheSlabs did regarding his seafood turn-in. In addition, the sides also seem to be getting in the way of the judging too. All of these cooks can produce an excellent barbecue product and the final meat turn-in should determine the winner and not whether someone dislikes mayo in their coleslaw.

Speaking of mayo in the coleslaw, the judges have not been what I expected either. As I thought he would be, Myron Mixon is the best of the three and realizes it is a meat contest and not a sauce contest. Without him there, I really feel the direction of this show would really lose its way. No disrespect to Warren Sapp or Art Smith, but those guys get caught up too much in the sauces and side dishes. I realize this is not a KCBS contest and that the judging process has to be changed in order to account for Sapp's and Smith's lack of barbecue competition knowledge. The whole process seems to come down to who can prepare the best outdoor picnic.

The best part of the show are the teams and they are reason why I am watching. The teams they selected have been terrific. It is a great that my fellow competitors are getting the exposure they deserve. When all is said and done, the winner of this competition will go home with $100K and some major bragging rights on the competition circuit!

I hope that there will be a season three of "Pimasters." It would be nice to see it take place back on the circuit again and to throw in some of the elements of season two with it. Maybe they could sponsor an up and coming team through the competition season and chronicle their quest toward their first grand championship? I know a team that would volunteer for that! When it comes down to it, whatever incarnation TLC chooses, I am just thankful there is a show on television about BBQ!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Springfield, MO Redux - Man v. Heat

It's already mid-August and the summer of 2010 is almost over. It always go by so fast. The posts have been sparse this summer as our activity has slowed down as the heat picked up. However, we have not been totally idle this summer. We have had a few things going on to keep our hands in the smoke.

In July, we were invited to cook at the home of Larry and Donna Reed in Grand Lake, OK. They had a large party for their family and friends in their backyard which offers a spectacular view of the lake. We cooked chicken, spare ribs, boston butt and brisket. It was a very relaxing cook as we set up our smokers with the lake in the backdrop. Watching the smoke rise out of them with the water in the background made for a relaxing day. We all had a great time!

This past weekend we participated in the Cattleman's Ozark BBQ Challenge in Springfield, MO. The event was held at the Ramada Inn Oasis Convention Center on the northeast side of town. Thirty-two teams showed up to do battle. The weather was sweltering with the temperature gauge on our clock reading a cool 111 degrees in the shade! I have never perspired so much. The organizers did a terrific job insuring we had plenty of ice, water and power. We also had access to the air conditioned convention center which was a polar paradise!

The cook itself went well. The rain moved in around 1am and lasted until 430am helping to cool things off for a few hours. The WSM does not like getting wet. I was worried we might run into some trouble trying to maintain our temps but we were able to keep the cookers underneath the ez-up and out of harms way. We did have trouble trying to get our brisket to finish. I can not remember having to struggle so much with one piece of meat. It refused to cooperate and took much longer than normal to finish. Everything else was very cooperative. Once turn-in time arrived, everything went into the boxes very well. I felt all of our presentations were top notch. We did change our pork box presentation. Both of us really liked the new look and hoped that the judges did too.

As the award ceremony started, we both felt that everything came out well but we were a little worried about the troublesome brisket. We were hoping for at least one call on something. The chicken category started off with a bang as we took 1st overall! Wow, what a shot in the arm that was! We heard our names again for ribs in the 6th position followed up with a 7th place call in pork. Well, we are sitting on the edge of our seats now. I was afraid to say anything as to jinx us in brisket. I knew we had a shot at winning but it would take a call in brisket to get it. So we sat as the brisket top 10 was announced and we were not called. It was a little deflating. I thought we still might have an outside shot at winning but ended hearing our names called for 5th place overall. We were still very pleased with the results as we are just that much closer to winning our first contest!
Right now we have one more contest scheduled and that is the American Royal Open. Hopefully with our lessons learned this summer, we can make a good run at it there.