Smokin’ In Mesquite – Judgin’ ‘Cue

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ELV learned something last weekend in Mesquite (Nevada, not France). He learned that the KCBS-sanctioned barbecue contests are taken very seriously by the contestants, the organization, and the multitude of judges that show up to sample and rate the ‘cue.

He also learned that a lot of the competitive stuff (at least as it appeared in a parking lot in Mesquite), isn’t better or worse than the backyard stuff he’s eaten hundreds of times over the years…..and most of it isn’t in the same league as the ribs in Memphis, the pulled pork in Lexington (North Carolina, not Massachusetts), the brisket in Lockhart, TX, or tons of commercial ‘cue we’ve eaten from South Carolina to K.C..

Another lesson was you have to have some serious stomach stamina to judge 24 large plates of four different catagories: chicken, ribs (St. Louie fatbacks), pork shoulder (usually presented two or three different ways), and finally, including 6 large strips of brisket — four of which we found of supermarket quality, and two of which weren’t even in the same league as Kreuz’s boffo brisket.

The disappointments were many: much of the chicken was undercooked, none of the pork exhibited or tasted much of smoke, and most of the rib rubs were so bland and banal, we thought we’d stumbled into a Mormon social.

We should’ve gotten a clue when we toured the contestant area the night before the event, and saw not a single brisket smoking. Anyone who’s ever smoked a brisket knows these thick, fatty slabs can sometimes take up to eighteen hours of 195 degree smoke to get them done right.

But our table of judges was a hoot and a half, the organization of the event was impressive, and we met some mighty fine folks.

As unimpressive as most of the barbecue was, the kits and smokers that many of these contestants haul from one contest to another ranged from the pedestrian to the jaw dropping — as you’ll see from the snaps above.

ELV got invited to the Lake Havasu event, and was even asked if he wanted to become a certified/authorized barbecue judge for future events. (Some of the judges travel from contest to contest, and have judged dozens of events – a feat of gastrointestinal fortitude if ever there was one.) We begged off, claiming our plate was too full…and it was at the time, of eighteen different portions of pork shoulder.

Why no pictures of the food, you ask? Because none were allowed. Too bad. We would’ve liked to illustrate what we’re complaining about.

But perhaps we should stop complaining. These events are social gatherings as much as anything else, and no matter how mediocre the ‘cue, a good time is generally had by all, and we at ELV can safely report that barbecue, despite Calvin Trillin’s fears (expressed twenty years ago), has yet to jump the “Chili Line” into abject absurdity, self-promotional and clownish behavior.

Congrats to the winners, and we hope the also-rans learn to up their game:

Smokin’ in Mesquite BBQ Championship


Mesquite, NV
Starts: 09/03/2010
Ends: 09/04/2010

Prize Money: $39250.00
CBJ Percentage: 100%

Contact Information:
Arlie Bragg
PO Box 846
Mt. Juliet, TN 37122
Phone: 615-758-8749

Contest Results: [View Printable]

Grand Champion: Smoked to the Bone
Reserve Champion:

1 Smoked to the Bone
3 Santa Ynez BBQ
4 Smokin Triggers
5 R & R BBQ
6 Left Coast Q
7 All Sauced Up
8 The Smokin B.A.R.
9 McFrankenboo BBQ
10 Sweet Peppers
11 Rib Tickler BBQ
12 Notley Que
13 Rhythm ‘N Que
14 Jerry King Midland, TX
15 Big Pappa Smokers
16 Richard’s RoundupBarbequ
17 Whiskey Ranch
18 Mad Max’s BBQ
19 Slap Yo’ Daddy BBQ
20 Butcher BBQ
21 Smokin Goatheads
22 I. A. B. 30 BBQ
23 Rooftop Barbeque
24 The Pit Stop
25 NV Q’n Crew
26 Flyboy BBQ
27 Big O’s BBQ
28 Tropical Heat
29 Pork U BBQ
30 Casual Smokers
31 West’s Best BBQ
32 Barbeque Heaven
33 Otis and the Bird
34 T & J’s Backyard BBQ
35 Smokin Red Rockers
36 HQO
37 Tommy’s Texas BBQ
38 Texas Rib Rangers
39 Two Loose Screws
40 The Rib Doctor
41 BBQ Junkie
42 Squat and Gobble BBQ
43 Big Tease BBQ
44 Cooters Country Catering
45 GreatBasinCookingCompany
46 Insane BBQ
47 Big Daddy’s BBQ of Tempe

1 McFrankenboo BBQ
3 Whiskey Ranch
4 Smokin Goatheads
5 Smoked to the Bone
6 R & R BBQ
7 Left Coast Q
8 Notley Que
9 Big Pappa Smokers
10 Casual Smokers
11 Otis and the Bird
12 All Sauced Up
13 Rib Tickler BBQ
14 The Smokin B.A.R.
15 Jerry King Midland, TX
16 NV Q’n Crew
17 The Pit Stop
18 BBQ Junkie
19 Smokin Red Rockers
20 Santa Ynez BBQ
21 Flyboy BBQ
22 Slap Yo’ Daddy BBQ
23 Sweet Peppers
24 Mad Max’s BBQ
25 Tropical Heat
26 Texas Rib Rangers
27 Smokin Triggers
28 Butcher BBQ
29 West’s Best BBQ
30 Pork U BBQ
31 Rhythm ‘N Que
32 I. A. B. 30 BBQ
33 Two Loose Screws
34 HQO
35 Richard’s RoundupBarbequ
36 T & J’s Backyard BBQ
37 Tommy’s Texas BBQ
38 The Rib Doctor
39 Rooftop Barbeque
40 GreatBasinCookingCompany
41 Cooters Country Catering
42 Barbeque Heaven
43 Squat and Gobble BBQ
44 Insane BBQ
45 Big O’s BBQ
46 Big Tease BBQ
47 Big Daddy’s BBQ of Tempe

1 Smoked to the Bone
2 Sweet Peppers
3 Left Coast Q
4 All Sauced Up
5 Big O’s BBQ
6 Tropical Heat
7 T & J’s Backyard BBQ
8 Barbeque Heaven
9 The Smokin B.A.R.
10 Butcher BBQ
11 McFrankenboo BBQ
12 Texas Rib Rangers
13 Smokin Goatheads
14 Smokin Red Rockers
15 Smokin Triggers
16 Rhythm ‘N Que
17 The Pit Stop
18 Richard’s RoundupBarbequ
19 R & R BBQ
20 Big Pappa Smokers
21 Santa Ynez BBQ
22 Mad Max’s BBQ
24 Tommy’s Texas BBQ
25 Whiskey Ranch
26 Notley Que
27 Slap Yo’ Daddy BBQ
28 Squat and Gobble BBQ
29 NV Q’n Crew
30 Big Tease BBQ
31 Rooftop Barbeque
32 I. A. B. 30 BBQ
33 Flyboy BBQ
34 HQO
35 Otis and the Bird
36 Big Daddy’s BBQ of Tempe
37 Rib Tickler BBQ
38 Cooters Country Catering
39 Two Loose Screws
40 West’s Best BBQ
41 Insane BBQ
42 Jerry King Midland, TX
43 Pork U BBQ
44 Casual Smokers
45 BBQ Junkie
46 The Rib Doctor
47 GreatBasinCookingCompany

1 Santa Ynez BBQ
3 Jerry King Midland, TX
4 Rooftop Barbeque
5 Rhythm ‘N Que
6 Mad Max’s BBQ
7 GreatBasinCookingCompany
8 Rib Tickler BBQ
9 Smokin Triggers
10 R & R BBQ
11 The Smokin B.A.R.
12 Casual Smokers
13 Butcher BBQ
14 Notley Que
15 Smokin Goatheads
16 Slap Yo’ Daddy BBQ
17 The Rib Doctor
18 Whiskey Ranch
19 I. A. B. 30 BBQ
20 Big Pappa Smokers
21 West’s Best BBQ
22 McFrankenboo BBQ
23 Big O’s BBQ
24 Squat and Gobble BBQ
25 Richard’s RoundupBarbequ
26 Tommy’s Texas BBQ
27 Sweet Peppers
28 Big Tease BBQ
29 Tropical Heat
30 Left Coast Q
31 T & J’s Backyard BBQ
32 BBQ Junkie
33 Flyboy BBQ
34 All Sauced Up
35 Smoked to the Bone
36 NV Q’n Crew
37 Pork U BBQ
38 HQO
39 Otis and the Bird
40 The Pit Stop
41 Big Daddy’s BBQ of Tempe
42 Barbeque Heaven
43 Insane BBQ
44 Texas Rib Rangers
45 Smokin Red Rockers
46 Two Loose Screws
47 Cooters Country Catering

1 Smokin Triggers
2 Richard’s RoundupBarbequ
3 All Sauced Up
4 Pork U BBQ
5 Jerry King Midland, TX
6 Rib Tickler BBQ
7 Santa Ynez BBQ
8 I. A. B. 30 BBQ
9 Rhythm ‘N Que
10 R & R BBQ
11 Smoked to the Bone
12 Flyboy BBQ
13 The Smokin B.A.R.
14 Cooters Country Catering
15 Big O’s BBQ
17 Left Coast Q
18 NV Q’n Crew
19 Barbeque Heaven
20 Sweet Peppers
21 West’s Best BBQ
22 Big Pappa Smokers
23 The Pit Stop
24 Notley Que
25 Rooftop Barbeque
26 Two Loose Screws
27 Slap Yo’ Daddy BBQ
28 Mad Max’s BBQ
29 Whiskey Ranch
30 HQO
31 Otis and the Bird
32 McFrankenboo BBQ
33 The Rib Doctor
34 Casual Smokers
35 Butcher BBQ
36 Tropical Heat
37 Smokin Red Rockers
38 T & J’s Backyard BBQ
39 GreatBasinCookingCompany
40 BBQ Junkie
41 Big Tease BBQ
42 Insane BBQ
43 Tommy’s Texas BBQ
44 Smokin Goatheads
45 Texas Rib Rangers
46 Squat and Gobble BBQ
47 Big Daddy’s BBQ of Tempe

3 thoughts on “Smokin’ In Mesquite – Judgin’ ‘Cue

  1. Sorry to hear that the BBQ wasn’t great. I have been a Memphis-circuit BBQ judge for over 15 years, and in my experience, the food you get at a contest is far superior to what you find at even an excellent restaurant–primarily because the cook can spend all of his time working on one shoulder, (or 6 racks of ribs, or whatever) to make the best possible product, as opposed to trying to cook 25 at once, hoping they all achieve excellence.

    However, the contests I have been to are in the South, in Tennessee, Mississippi, and North Carolina.

  2. I feel lucky I live reasonably close to the Central Texas meccas to make an occasional weekend jaunt south to put myself into a meat coma.

  3. ELV responds:

    Wethinks Southerners (especially African-American Southerners) have wood smoke in their bones, and soppin’ sauce for blood. As such, we’re not sure white folks, especially Western white folks*, have the same in-bred facility for smokin’ superior meat.

    Perhaps in a hundred years or so, we’ll catch up to the South.

    * ELV makes a glorious exception for those Krauts down in Texas!

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