2012 Quick Recap and Looking Forward to 2013


It’s hard to believe that we are four plus months into 2013 . It seems like no time since the end of our 2012 season and all the excitement. But here we are a few weeks into the fourth season for Degüello BBQ, and I am finally honoring my promise to do a season recap.

I won’t dwell too much on the finer details of 2012, other than to say we had a successful season. On the plus side, we won our second and third career Grand Championships. The Swinetastic GC was huge in more ways than one. Not only was the Chalice of Victory huge in size, the payout from that comp basically funded the rest of our season.


In September, we won our second GC at the inaugural Smokin’ on the Track Cook Off in Shenandoah, VA. It was awesome actually being set up on the track’s infield. I will leave out the result of the “illegal lap” I took in the truck on Thursday night. No damage to the track, but I can’t say the same for the content of my truck bed.


And thanks to our big win at Swinetastic, we received an invite to the American Royal Invitational. The trip to the Royal was an adventure in and of itself, but getting a 15th place call in chicken at the Invitational made the drama of a stripped tongue jack the night before leaving, faulty gas gauge outside Indianapolis and transmission issues on the return trip pretty much OK.

Our Swinetastic GC put us in the draw for the Jack Daniel’s World Invitational Barbecue for the second year in a row. And against the odds, Degüello BBQ was pulled in the Maryland draw and three weeks after the Royal we made our way back to Lynchburg.


I would have liked to report that our 2012 Jack was as successful as 2011, but that was not the case. It was really tough to end the 2012 season in the bottom half of the field at the Jack, but we made it there and we cooked our best.

A few more highlights from 2012:

Degüello BBQ was named the 2011 5th place Ribs Team of the Year at the annual Mid-Atlantic BBQ Association meeting. This award meant a lot to us, as it was a great indicator of how far we’d come since finishing 124th in ribs at our first career KCBS comp, the 2010 Pork in the Park.


On the Friday before our first KCBS comp of the year I attempted to amputate my finger with a Weber stainless steel grill pan. Since it was my left hand, this made knife handling a little problematic. In addition I had agreed to cook for the judge’ school on the Thursday before Naptown, but I was fortunate to have a lot of help from Don Chomas, Mike Richter and Chris Owen. Thanks guys; I could not have handled that class without you.


As if that wasn’t enough, three months later I tried to amputate my right index finger on Thursday night before the Bluemont BBQ Bash. I decided not to go to the ER this time, but I probably should have because my finger bled for two days and it hurt for a week.



We welcomed two new members to the team this year. After two seasons of success cooking on Weber Smokey Mountains, we decided to go to an all-Backwoods cooker lineup. Our Extended Party smoker quickly paid dividends as we took a 2nd place in brisket at Naptown. As for the Fatboy? Much thanks to Mason Dixon BBQ Services for delivering the Fatboy to the Frederick County Fairgrounds on Thursday night. I did a test run that night, and I liked it enough that I decided to use it in competition that weekend. Thanks to the resulting Swinetastic Grand Championship that Fatboy paid for itself just 36 hours after delivery.


Actually we added a third member to the team late in the year. We’d been struggling with logistics for awhile, and I will freely admit that is a lot on me for being unorganized and having too much of everything. But we finally decided that if we were going to pursue the sport of competition BBQ full time then we needed to have a purpose-built trailer. Freedom Trailers built us a really righteous competition trailer, with an 8′ porch, plumbing and toilet and shower. We are still working on organizing our new trailer but it’s been a really nice upgrade. And now we can say we compete in The Yellow Submarine (credit to Mike Fay for coining that nickname).

So that’s the short version of the 2012 review. I am actually finishing this post at a brauhaus in Augsburg with iPad in one hand and a Riegele dark in the other. So any typos, omissions, etc. please blame on the German beer. The 3rd Annual Naptown barBAYq is almost upon us, so we are looking forward to seeing all of you out there. And of course I saved the best for last. Sharon and I want to thank our sponsors for their incredible generosity. You all believe enough in our team to spend your hard earned dollars helping us, and for that we are grateful beyond words. So thanks to all of you:

Oakridge BBQ
The BBQ Equipment Store

Published in: on April 17, 2013 at 1:26 pm  Leave a Comment  

Worshipping at the Altars Of Supreme BBQ


I recently visited San Antonio for business, and while there I took the opportunity to visit several iconic BBQ establishments in Lockhart and Luling. After visiting some pretty incredible smoked meat shrines in North Carolina (Backyard BBQ, Allen & Son Barbeque, Lexington Barbecue) and Kansas City (Oklahoma Joe’s) over the past few years, I have decided the best places have much more in common than difference. The best practitioners of BBQ know their pits, and they know how to use the type(s) of wood available to them. Finally, they understand that sauce may complement a perfectly cooked piece of meat, but there is no sauce in the world that will save bad BBQ.

The BBQ culture of Central Texas is pure and straightforward. Rubs are simple, and sauce is not typically a part of the equation. Although beef in the form of brisket, ribs and sausage dominate, pork and poultry are making inroads. There’s a lot more to know about Central Texas BBQ, and if you’re interested shoot me a message and I will point you in the direction of resources. For now I just want to share a few pictures and observations from my own trip. Full disclosure, I am a native Texan, but I grew up in East Texas. East Texas BBQ culture has a lot more in common with the Deep South, with pork and chicken being more common offerings. Hickory and pecan are often used in East Texas BBQ joints along with the predominant post oak of Central Texas. Not that one is better or worse than the other, just different. But back to Central Texas….


My first stop was Smitty’s Market in Lockhart. I’m not going to get into the Kreuz/Smitty’s story here, so if you want to read about it you can look it up. The current incarnation of Smitty’s was established in 1999 by Mrs. Nina Schmidt Sells, who named it after her father. I had a great time chatting with Nina’s husband Jim Sells. Real gentleman and he shared a lot of interesting info about the pits, cooking processes and his own competition BBQ team. The sausage was unreal, and Jim also shared some delicious smoked pork loin. I topped off my meal here with a double scoop of Blue Bell Peach and Vanilla ice cream. Yeah, I know you love your Ben & Jerry’s, but get on down to Texas, try some Blue Bell and then let’s talk. I think I know how that conversation will go.


Next stop was just down the road to Kreuz Market. Kreuz is the other half of the family business that was located where Smitty’s is now. Again, I’m not going to get into that story so look it up if you want to know the details. This place is a shrine not only in name and reputation but also in size with seating in the 500-600 person range. The pits at Kreuz are virtually identical to those at Smitty’s, with the exception being the Kreuz pits have metal baffles over the fires and there are more of them. Jalapeño and cheese sausage was the highlight here. One of the employees gave me the Kreuz patch off their work shirt, which I thought was a pretty cool souvenir.


And, of course, I had to have some more Blue Bell ice cream. It set me back all of 99 cents for a strawberry cone.


The third stop in Lockhart was Black’s Barbecue. Black’s is unique in the fact that they have an actual serving line with plates and a large variety of sides.


I’ve actually heard someone claim Black’s isn’t “authentic” because they don’t serve on butcher paper and they offer sides and sauce. That’s a ridiculous statement. Black’s brisket was the best I tasted on this trip, no matter what it was served on. This was also the only place I tried beef ribs, and they did not disappoint. Sides were excellent as well. Why this place is not on the Texas Monthly 50 Best BBQ Joints is a mystery to me.

While I am on the subject of Texas Monthly, a little aside if you will. I have nothing against transplanted/naturalized Texans, just as long as they embody the spirit of my state. My buddy Gary Wolfe is the perfect example of a great naturalized Texan. Heck, Gary put down roots in San Antonio rather when he hails from a pretty great state himself (when you can claim the man who played David Crockett AND Daniel Boone that is something. However, let the record reflect Fess Parker was a native Texan). I’ve recently been bothered by a certain self-styled BBQ expert holding forth on his vast knowledge of BBQ cooking techniques, gained solely (by his own admission) from eating BBQ. That’s like me claiming credibility to critique Dr. Benjamin Carson’s surgical techniques because I watched 15 seasons of ER. Uh, not quite. This same self-styled expert has also offered uninformed, unsolicited and ridiculous opinions on competition BBQ as well. Worse, he couldn’t even keep it in his (adopted) state. Then this same great BBQ mind goes on a road trip to yet another state and while there engages in an ongoing Twitter rant about gas-fired pits and their inability to produce a quality product. Here’s a news flash for you: many jurisdictions are less enlightened than my fellow Texans in Caldwell County, and they will not allow commercial live-fire cooking under any circumstances. So it’s not a matter of wanting to cook on a gas-fired pit but rather one of necessity. And your “bad gasser ‘cue” comments notwithstanding, there are more than a few very good BBQ practitioners out there. Ever heard that phrase “it’s the cook, not the cooker”? Probably not, because you are not a cook yourself.


OK where was I? Oh yes, my final stop at the Luling City Market.


More great sausage here. The staff was very friendly and let me take several pictures of the pit. The brisket I got here was unfortunately a little bit chewy, but I’ll mark that up to just getting a less than perfect slice of lean.

It is too easy to get wrapped up in the flavor profiles of competition BBQ and forget that simple is often better. For me, that’s the big takeaway from this trip. I’m already looking forward to my next visit.

Published in: on April 16, 2013 at 1:29 pm  Comments (6)  

Even More Naked for 2013 – 3rd Annual Go Naked BBQ Show


Well it’s a new year and a new season for Degüello BBQ.  2012 was filled with incredible highs, to include our second and third career Grand Championships, our first visit to the American Royal, our first call in the American Royal Invitational, and most improbably, a return trip to the Jack Daniel’s World Invitational Barbecue.  Along with the highs, however, we suffered some late-season inconsistency that left the year on a bit of a low.  As a result, I’ve been anticipating a return to competition for over five months.

You can’t usually pick your battles or battlegrounds, and if I could, 2013 would’ve started on more favorable terra firma south of the Mason-Dixon Line.  But I was rested, ready and fresh off a trip to San Antonio during which I worshipped at some of the shrines of Texas BBQ in Lockhart and Luling.  The inspiration seemed to have worked, as Degüello BBQ took first place in ribs and 7th place overall at the 3rd annual Go Naked BBQ Show in Greencastle PA.  Big congrats to Drilling and Grilling for taking the Grand Championship and Philly Underhogs for the Reserve Grand Championship.

Go Naked is a chicken and ribs, no electronics, pits and wits only comp.  No problem, right?  I’d had some success at the inaugural Go Naked.  On the other hand, I struck out at last years’s event.  Add to that the new for 2013 wrinkle that this would be a no sauce comp as well.  Full disclosure, I think sauce is often redundant and/or unnecessary when you have great BBQ.  But I’m not a BBQ judge, and more precisely I’m not a BBQ judge north of the Mason-Dixon Line.  So that was a bit of a concern when working up a plan.  In the end, I decided to go with a straightforward cooking profile and glaze with Texas Pepper Jelly for a little sweetness.  The plan worked great  on ribs and not so well on chicken.  Here’s the rundown on the categories (sorry for the lack of pictures, but I was quite busy this weekend and didn’t get any good ones):

Chicken: 15th out of 24 (151.4284)

Wagshal’s chicken was excellent as always, but in retrospect my cooking method was not the best one for a no-sauce comp.  A central part of my standard comp recipe is a sweet and savory sauce, liberally applied.  When I tasted this chicken, it was oddly out of balance. Not bland, but more like it was missing something.  The missing ingredient was, of course, the sauce.  I’ve already formulated a plan for next year. And sorry, cyber-shiggers, I’m not sharing it here.

Ribs: 1st out of 24 (169.1428)

On the other hand, the no sauce ribs tasted great with a Texas Pepper Jelly glaze.  Really, I feel like I’ve turned in better boxes, but this was good enough today.  And it never hurts to have heritage pork with thick meat and straight bones.  Again Wagshal’s carried the day here.  We’ve had some ribs success, with being our third category win, eighth top five and many more top tens.  But I think I am really hitting stride with the heritage product.  Hopefully we can keep bringing it strong in ribs this year.

This was a good start to the 2013 season, but there is a lot of BBQ to come.   We will cook the best we can, let the judges do their job and try not to let the inevitable clunker(s) get us down too much.  Next up for Degüello BBQ is the Naptown barBAYq in Annapolis MD.

Published in: on April 7, 2013 at 8:15 pm  Leave a Comment  

Smokin’ On The Track in Shenandoah VA


On September 21-22, Degüello BBQ competed in the inaugural Smokin’ on the Track BBQ Festival in Shenandoah VA.  This was a late addition to our schedule driven by the need for a shakedown on our new trailer.  I’ve decided to call it the Big Yellow BBQ Battle Wagon for obvious reasons:

I am really glad we made this trip for a few reasons.  The organizers, led by Carey Verba, put on an excellent first-year competition.  Teams were set up on pit row at the Shenandoah Speedway, with each team getting dedicated water and electricity in a 20’ by 40’ spot.  And we were very happy with the outcome as well.  With 17 teams competing, Degüello BBQ took 6th place chicken, 1st place ribs, 3rd place pork, 6th place brisket and our third career Grand Championship and second of 2012.  Congrats to Mike Fay of Aporkalypse Now for taking Reserve Grand Champion.  Thanks to Mike, Springfield swept the top two spots!

Here’s the contest rundown:

Chicken: 6th out of 17 (163.4286)

Chicken was good, not great on this day.  Wagshal’s chicken was excellent as always, though, which takes the biggest variable out of the cook. I am keeping a closer eye on vertical temperature differentials in the Extended Party, and I now believe we are cooking chicken at somewhat varying temperatures from week to week.  This week, I think we cooked at a lower temp, and this probably contributed to the less than optimum tenderness in the finished product.  It was still good, but I was not completely satisfied.  Nonetheless, we did get a call and I was happy to hear our name early.

Ribs: 1st out of 17 (169.1428)

Ribs keep hitting, and these were spot on.  Our buddy Neil Pappalardo of Grand Slam BBQ took 3rd place in ribs, and as he walked to get his medal and cash I said “hey Neil, know anyone who can cook ribs that wants to go to the Royal with me?”  Neil has graciously volunteered to accompany me to the American Royal this year so Sharon can stay home and save vacation time for our final event of the year, so I was joking around with him.  Nice to see Neil get some recognition, and even better, he’s going to be with me in Kansas City as we throw down with 150-plus reigning grand champions from across the United States.  Hopefully we can keep this level of performance going for the rest of the year.

Pork: 3rd out of 17 (162.8570)

Pork is now officially the new fickle mistress for Degüello BBQ.  After the disappointing pork finish at Shrewsbury, I took the lessons from that weekend and applied them here.  First, I made sure we had properly cooked slices i.e. not overdone.  Second, I simplified the injection.  And third, I added some additional flavor.  Properly cooked product with lots of flavor paid off today, and now I am looking to build on today’s finish.

Brisket: 6th out of 17 (154.2858)

We cooked our best brisket in almost two months, and for our efforts we got our first brisket call since July.  I’m still not happy with the cooking process, as the late cook stall continues to be a problem.  But this was a good-tasting, properly tender brisket and for now that will do.  Also, this was by far the biggest brisket I have ever cooked.  I’m not even sure this was a “cow brisket”; is there such a thing as a “mastodon brisket”?

Our third career GC could not have come at a better time.  It’s a great feeling to be rolling into our next event on positive momentum, not to mention on a little healthier checkbook.  And our next event is one of the biggest: Degüello BBQ will be heading to the 33rd Annual American Royal World Series of Barbecue in Kansas City MO. 

I dubbed this brisket “Cowzilla”

I think the palm tree brings the whole space together

 The very nice JK Adams laser-etched cutting board we received as Grand Champion  

Published in: on October 18, 2012 at 7:02 am  Comments (3)  

4th Annual Southern York County BBQ Cook Off

On September 7-8, Degüello BBQ competed in the 4th annual Southern York County BBQ Cook Off in Glen Rock PA. It’s hard to believe that we’ve been to this competition for three years now, and it is really one of our favorites.  Alicia Herbst, Ben Kauffman and Joe Oaster always make this a fun weekend, and we will make good on our promise to visit you at the market again soon.  Certainly sooner than the 5th Annual Southern York County BBQ Cook Off! With 29 teams competing, Degüello BBQ took 8th place chicken, 3rd place ribs, 16th place pork, 14th place brisket and 12th place overall.  Congrats to Smokopolis for  GC and Drilling and Grilling for RGC.  Here’s the contest rundown:

Chicken: 8th out of 29 (158.2856)

Incredibly, the first AND last chicken call we have ever received in the state of Pennsylvania was in 2010 at this very competition.  That was a pretty good day, and although we didn’t finish as well overall this year it was good to break the Pennsylvania chicken draught.  I thought our chicken was good, and although I would’ve preferred a better finish it was good to hear our name right off the bat.

Ribs: 3rd out of 29 (166.2858)

Ribs were outstanding, and I was happy with the 3rd place finish.  We hit early and often on ribs in 2011, but in 2012 the category has been a little less consistent early in the year.  Not to worry, however; I looked at our last few rib cooks, made two small tweaks to the cooking schedule, and it paid off.  Great taste, tenderness was right on and in a nod to the famous 3Eyz ribs comment card of Middletown 2010, I thought they looked almost like “artificial food”.  We’ve gone 2nd, 1st and now 3rd on ribs at this comp over the past three years  so we will stay the course.  Incredibly, our 2011 1st place ribs raw score was 166.2858, identical to the fourth decimal point.

Pork: 16th out of 29 (148.0000)

Pork continues to struggle. On the plus side, we did better this year than in 2011.  Unfortunately, last year we finished 20th.  And, almost inconceivably, our 2011 pork raw score was……148.0000.  Yep ,the second category where we had an identical score to four decimal places two years in a row.  Sharon and I talked about this category a lot over the weekend, and she thinks that for whatever reason we’re just not getting enough flavor.  I think that the sliced portions going in the box are still a tad overdone as well.  Pork looks good and it’s plenty moist, so we will look at how to get more flavor and keep a closer eye on the doneness.  I still believe it’s little things that are hurting us, so I will resist the urge to make any big adjustments.  Not that’s it’s going to be easy, however…….

Brisket: 14th out of 29 (149.1430)

Easily the biggest disappointment of the day.  We’d won this category two years in a row, so I went back to the same recipe and prep I used in 2010 and 2011.  Despite my best efforts, though, this brisket just wasn’t up to previous year standards.  It wasn’t bursting with flavor, and shockingly it was a little overdone.  Even so, I was hopeful we’d hear our name.  But mediocre brisket gets a mediocre score and for the first time in three years in Shrewsbury we whiffed on brisket.

Today was a classic example of our recent performances.  We’re really hitting on chicken and ribs while struggling on the big meats.  If we were competing in the Kansas City Chicken and Ribs Society, we’d be killing it.  But this is a four-meat society, so we’ll look at our recent results and try to make a few adjustments.  Next up for Degüello BBQ is the inaugural Smokin’ on the Track BBQ Festival in Shenandoah VA.

Published in: on September 30, 2012 at 10:06 am  Leave a Comment  
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Drawing The Inside Straight: 24th Annual Jack Daniel’s World Invitational Barbecue

On Friday, August 31 the draw for the 24th annual Jack Daniel’s World Invitational Barbecue was held in Lynchburg, TN.  Last year, thanks to our first career Grand Championship at the inaugural Bluemont BBQ Bash in July, 2011 Degüello BBQ was fortunate enough to be selected in the Virginia state draw.  We were thrilled to represent our home state, and we made a lot of great memories.  Our friend Randy bought us a bottle of Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel Whiskey in Lynchburg, and I decided that we’d save that bottle for the day we were selected to go back to the Jack.  I expected that bottle to get pretty dusty before the seal was broken, if it ever was.  Yes, we had a bung in this year’s Maryland draw from our win in Frederick MD at the Swinetastic BBQ Festival.  But with six teams in the Maryland draw, I really thought we’d used up our luck in 2011.

I’m a superstitious person when it comes to competition barbecue, so on Friday morning I made sure to wear my “lucky” Go Naked BBQ Show cap.  I wore it the day we won our first GC, I wore it on the day of last year’s Jack draw and so it seemed like a good idea    to wear it on Friday.

The day seemed to drag on forever, and although a few updates trickled out at 5:00 PM there was still no definitive word .  And then the word came that, incredibly, we’d won a second consecutive state draw with a single bung.  It’s good our neighbors were not home because they probably would’ve thought I was having a seizure.

So now it’s on to the Jack.  We are going to do our best to do a better job across all four categories, but we’re also going to enjoy this year.  And now, pardon me while I have another little taste of that Single Barrel.

Published in: on September 5, 2012 at 10:42 pm  Comments (2)  

Sam’s Club Pleasantville NJ: Running Aground on the Jersey Shore

On August 24-25, Degüello BBQ competed in the Sam’s Club National BBQ Tour Qualifier in Pleasantville NJ.  This was our first foray into New Jersey and also the furthest north we’d ever competed.  With the Mason-Dixon Line firmly in our rear-view mirror, we were tempting BBQ fate.  But we’ve got to cook where the competition is, and so we came to the outskirts of Atlantic City to try and secure a spot in this year’s regional final in Chesapeake VA.  Alas, our big meat slump continued and the Sam’s Club journey ran aground on the Jersey Shore.  With 30 teams in the mix, Degüello BBQ took 5th place chicken, 7th place ribs, 17th place pork, 19th place brisket and 10th place overall.  We also managed to pull a 3rd place in the Tyson’s Best Wings on the Planet comp with some tasty product.  Many thanks to Shane Draper of Draper’s BBQ for providing us with a fabulous recipe.  And wow what a thrill to be standing right next to our friends Heath Hall and Brett Thompson of Pork Barrel BBQ as they took the GC.  I wish I’d had a camera to capture the look on Heath’s face when Troy Black made the call; I thought I might have to catch him before he fainted. Heath and Brett have some serious pork mojo going on, and anytime you guys want to negotiate a “ribs for pork” mojo swap I’m listening.    Here’s the contest rundown:

Chicken: 5th out of 30 (162.8570)

Our third consecutive 5th place chicken finish.  Yeah, it’d be nice to move up a few spots, but frankly I’ll take a 5th place chicken finish every week and be happy.  I kind of hate to share the secret of Wagshal’s chicken as it gives us a real advantage.  But it wouldn’t be right to keep such great chicken to ourselves.

Ribs:  7th out of 30 (158.2858)

Not quite our best, but it was a nice rebound after the travesty of the previous week at Cumberland.  I found five outstanding bones in a single rack, but as I began to place them in the box I found the fifth bone was short with a weird piece of cartilage on the end.  I started to pull it out of the box but Sharon told me to leave it as it matched the other four bones and the appearance and tenderness were good.  I decided the tenderness and appearance outweighed the weird piece of cartilage, so I placed it back in the box.  Finding a good sixth bone was more of a challenge.  I settled on what I thought was a nice looking bone and placed it in the front of the box  perpendicular to the five bones which fit perfectly.  I predicted we’d get four good scores, one OK and one questionable.  And that is exactly what happened.  When the low score was tossed, the four good scores offset the fifth OK score and we slipped into the top 10.

Pork: 17th out of 30 (152.5714)

Middling pork equals a mid-pack pork finish.   We went with simple pork flavors this weekend, and raw taste scores were 8 7 7 8 7 8.  That says to me “we liked the taste, but we weren’t wowed.”  We’ve struggled all year long trying to find flavors that wow while not being too far out there.  Last year we were all over the place, and in one six-week span we went  2nd out of 26, 27th out of 30,8th out of 47 and 73rd out of 89.  This year we wanted to eliminate the wild swings and keep the good finishes.   Well, for the most part we’ve eliminated the swings.  Unfortunately, however, it’s come at the expense of the higher finishes.  After judging at Tracy’s Landing, I got a lot of valuable feedback on what I may be doing wrong.  We’ll see how it goes this weekend at Shrewsbury.

Brisket: 19th out of 30 (150.2856)

I am now officially concerned with brisket.  I didn’t think we did anything wrong this weekend, but when the judges felt there were 18 better entries than ours they’re telling us we’re not doing something right.  We’re not going to blow everything up; instead, we will do what has worked in the past, pay attention to every detail and put it in the hands of the judges.  That’s really all we can do  at this point.

Tyson’s Best Wings on the Planet:  3rd out of 21 (158.2856)

This was a real nice surprise.  I gave pretty much zero thought to this competition until I was packing the trailer on Thursday.  I’d been wanting to try a new rib/sauce combo from Draper’s BBQ, so I decided to use it in the wings comp.  I gave the wings a heavy coat of Draper’s AP Rub and let them sit in the cooler for several hours.  At 1:00 PM I placed the wings on the Fatboy top rack at 275F for one hour.   I then took the wings out and tossed in Shane’s new chicken sauce.   I opened up all the Fatboy vents to let the smoker heat up, put the wings back on the rack and set the sauce for fifteen minutes.  I took them out, tasted one and I was very pleased with the appearance, taste and tenderness.  I filled the box completely full and turned it in.  The best thing about having no expectations is when you do have a good result is the element of surprise.  Trust me, I was surprised to hear our name.

A little perspective on this weekend.  When we have gotten to the point that a top 10 finish qualifies as a disappointment, I’ve got to look at that as a sign that we’ve really come a long way in a short time.  I truly expect to be in the mix every time we compete, and for that I am thankful.  The next step is to make that expectation into reality.  Simplicity, consistency, controlling the variables we can control and not worrying about the ones we can’t is the path forward.  Next up for Degüello BBQ is the 4th Annual Southern York County BBQ Cook-Off  on September 7-8.

Another beautiful Wagshal’s brisket

Third Place Wings – Thanks Draper’s BBQ!

Fifth Place Chicken

The Kings of Pork AND the Jersey Shore 

Published in: on September 4, 2012 at 9:09 pm  Comments (1)  

Mountain Maryland Barbeque – What Happens When A Great Event, A Good Plan and Really Bad Execution Come Together

On August 17-18, Degüello BBQ competed in the Mountain Maryland BBQ Cookoff in Cumberland MD.  Our participation in this event was a real departure, as we did this as a joint effort with Shawn and Magda Moss of Shawn’s Smokehouse.  Shawn’s a friend of mine and we have been looking for a chance to cook together.  With the Sam’s Club Local Qualifier in Pleasantville NJ the following weekend and our new trailer move prep in progress, we weren’t in a good position to bring our setup to Cumberland.  However, Shawn generously offered to bring his Backwoods Competitor and Southern Pride SPK-500, though so we decided to collaborate.  It seemed like a great plan, but my execution of the plan was somewhere between lacking and atrocious, leaning toward atrocious.  And let me be clear, this was MY atrocious execution.  Shawn and Magda were great teammates and we had a really good time.  But I really blew it this weekend.  With 25 teams competing, Degüello BBQ took 5th place chicken, 22nd place ribs, 13th place pork and 20th place brisket to stagger to a 17th overall finish.  Congrats to Serial Griller’s Mark Breen for his dominant solo GC and Cool Smoke for taking RGC.

Here’s the contest rundown:

Chicken: 5th out of 25 (166.8570)

What more can I say about Wagshal’s chicken?  This is quickly becoming a familiar refrain: great chicken, good recipe, solid prep and a top five call.  Couldn’t be happier.  Well, maybe I’d be happier  if we’d finished a few spots higher.  But based on how this competition went,  I’ll gladly take this 5th place!   Moving on, er, down…

Ribs:  20th out of 25 (146.8574)

Honestly, I have not had a more demoralizing ribs result since our very first KCBS competition.  I cooked our heretofore rock solid rib program, and I even had extra racks on the cooker.  So imagine my despair as I cut into rack after rack and found every one of  them tough, thin and effectively unusable.  I cobbled together a six rib presentation, and frankly I didn’t like a single one of the pieces that went in the box.  Based on their scores, neither did the judges.  We had an issue with the Backwoods Competitor (more on that later), but I don’t think that was the problem.  Moving forward, we’ll continue to cook our ribs program.  I’m absolutely confident it wasn’t the program but rather some combination of cooking on unfamiliar equipment, having too much product to select from, and other unknown/unseen variable(s).

Pork: 13th out of 25 (161.7142)

Another comp, another mid-pack pork finish.   I used two different injections this weekend (one sweet, one more “pork-flavored”)  to give us options at turn in.  I’ve been cooking and turning in the sweet version all year, but I didn’t tell Shawn and Magda which one I’ve been using and let them choose which butt they preferred.  They split on the better flavor, and I broke the tie by choosing the pork-flavored butts.  I liked the product, but the judges were generally unimpressed.  Unsure what we need to do to move the needle, but I better figure something our PDQ.

Brisket: 20th out of 25 (146.2854)

I know exactly what happened to our brisket, and this time it was a problem with the cooker that caused me to make a really stupid decision.   We loaded up the Competitor with charcoal and wood around 9:30 PM, which was later than I wanted, but still OK.   After getting to our cooking temp, we loaded the brisket and pork and closed the door.  Rather than stabilizing at our target temp, the Competitor kept climbing.   As we stood there trying to figure out what was causing the temp climb, I noticed there was a lot of smoke leaking from the upper left corner of the cooking chamber door.  I opened and slammed the door a few times, but the smoke continued to pour out.  I closed the exhaust vent and after approximately an hour, the temp began to drift back down.  I cracked the vent about 1/4″ open and laid down.  When I looked at the thermometer an hour later the temp had fallen about 30F below our cook temp.  I tweaked the vent all night trying to keep a steady temp, with limited success.  At 5:45 AM I opened the cooker and found something I have never seen.  My brisket had turned the color of a boiled hot dog.  The rub had a greenish hue, and where it had washed off in places the meat was an unappetizing pinkish-green.  I pulled the brisket, re-applied rub and placed it on the top rack to try and get some color.  At the same time I threw a fresh chunk of wood in the firebox.  Two really bad decisions here.  One, I put the brisket way too high in the cooker where temp was probably 30F higher than necessary.  Two, I put a fresh chunk of wood on a hot charcoal fire with unwrapped meat still on the smoker.  Actually there was a third bad decision; I forgot about the brisket on the top rack for an hour.  When I finally remembered to check the brisket, instead of pinkish green it was now sooty black.  Foiling and resting did nothing to soften the burnt bark, but  it did cause it to flake off in places.  Based on the slices I got, I think the underlying brisket was cooked properly, but the creosote-enhanced flavor profile wasn’t a hit.

I’m going to treat this weekend as an aberration and move on.  The concept of the blended team was sound, but cooking on unfamiliar equipment, one serious issue with the Competitor, and bad decision-making on my part resulted in the worst non-DQ fueled finish we have ever had.  The good news is we are back on our own equipment next weekend, and I have absolute confidence in our processes and recipes.  Just in time, too as Degüello BBQ will be in Pleasantville NJ for the Sam’s Club National BBQ Tour on August 25-26.

Thanks to Shawn and Magda Moss for cooking with me this weekend

I had a lot of fun with my “granddaughter “Brianna Moss too 

I thought our bread pudding was a great dessert entry.  But if it’s not cheesecake it’s not a “winner”.

Competitor full of pork and brisket


Published in: on August 22, 2012 at 6:11 am  Leave a Comment  

Putting the “Blue” in Bluemont (And I’m Not talking Blue Ribbon Here): 2nd Annual Bluemont BBQ Bash


On July 27-28, Degüello BBQ competed in the second annual Bluemont BBQ Bash in Bluemont VA.  Bluemont has special significance for us, as this was the competition that got us our first career Grand Championship, put us into the draw for the Jack Daniel’s Invitational World Championship Barbecue and ultimately punched our ticket to Lynchburg last year.  As a result, we were looking to acquit ourselves well in the second year of this really nice competition.   Alas, things didn’t go quite as well as last year.  With 40 teams in the mix, Degüello BBQ took 5th place chicken, 5th place ribs, 15th place pork and a gut-wrenching 31st place brisket to finish 7th overall.  We were happy to add two more plates to our already large collection of Fortessa dinnerware from last year, but I won’t lie; we had higher hopes for our performance this weekend. But as always, I take responsibility and ownership for each and every entry we provide to the judges.  I absolutely refuse to blame distractions, weather, phase of the moon or anything else for the outcome.  OK, I do blame Pennsylvania judges for our near career chicken call shutout in their state (that’s a joke guys.  I don’t really blame you, but it is a fact we have exactly one career call in PA and it was a 9th place call less than ten miles north of the MD/PA border).  But if one WERE looking for excuses, here’s a nice one:

It wasn’t enough to try and slice off my left index finger five days before the Naptown barBAYq back in May.  No, I had to try and slice off my RIGHT index finger on Thursday night at about 10:45 PM.  I embedded my Global boning knife nice and deep right above the first knuckle.  We debated whether or not to go to the ER and ultimately decided against it.  When it was still bleeding the next morning, I began to rethink that decision, but by then it was too late so I just bound it up really tight and tried not to bump it again.  Not a good start to the weekend.  And although it didn’t really impact any of my prep work, I wish I hadn’t done it because it was pretty painful and a real hassle to deal with.  When all was said and done, Bluemont had a new Grand Champion  with 3Eyz securing their sixth overall victory of the year and Cool Smoke taking the RGC.  Thanks again to Great Country Farms for hosting us and to Jaclyn Jenkins for doing an outstanding job running the competition again this year.

Here’s the contest rundown:

Chicken: 5th out of 40 (171.4286)

Wagshal’s chicken was solid as always, and we were happy  to hear our name right off the bat in the friendly confines of Virginia.  I’m pretty happy with our chicken cooks on the Backwoods now, and I feel it’s just a case of a missed point here or there between top five or a higher finish.  We hit it right on with taste and tenderness, and appearance was nice.  We could probably stand to get our thighs looking a wee bit more uniform, but overall chicken is on target.

Ribs:  5th out of 40 (166.8570)

Wagshal’s pork, a great cooker and a proven recipe and process equalled another rock solid rib cook and our third top five rib finish in a row.  We’ll keep the ship on course while trying to find where those missing points are falling out in the hopes  of easing a little higher up the finishing order.

Pork: 15th out of 40 (161.7142)

Pork continues to be “consistently inconsistent”.  We didn’t have a terrible result, but we certainly were not happy with the drift toward mid-pack from our 9th place finish in Gettysburg.  Good taste, uneventful cook, and we had plenty of what I thought was good tasting, tender pork.  After we got our results, Sharon suggested that we look for better pieces from other parts of the shoulders.  I’ve gotten stuck on pulling from only certain areas, and I think we are likely neglecting better product.  We will be more thorough with our evaluation and selection next time out.  Also, I still think we are not getting the really vivid, intense flavor that seems to hit with the judges.  I do not think it’s the recipe, but I have a new adjunct I am going to try next time out.

Brisket: 31st out of 40 (150.2856)

You’d think I would learn after overcooking two briskets in a row, each progressively worse than the last.  But you’d be wrong.  This was easily our worst brisket entry this year and it was the proverbial “turd in the punchbowl” that ruined any chance we had of defending our GC.  Once again, when the brisket feels done, it is done.  It doesn’t matter if it’s eight degrees under or seven degrees over a target temperature; if it feels right it needs to come off the smoker.  I won’t reference the last two write ups because they say the exact same thing.  But I have overcooked my last brisket for awhile.  OK?  OK.

Well, a little slip in the overall finish this time out, but we were fortunate enough to finish in the top ten for the fifth time in six tries this year.  Let’s see if we can right the ship next time out as we head to Cumberland, MD for the Mountain Maryland BBQ Cookoff on August 17-18.

Published in: on August 12, 2012 at 10:41 pm  Comments (2)  

The Gettysburg BBQ Skirmish

On July 13-14, Degüello BBQ competed in the inaugural BBQ Skirmish in Gettysburg PA.  We’d been looking forward to this competition for almost a year.  As many of you who follow my Facebook posts know, my great-great grandfather William Elias Rudd was captured at Little Round Top on July 2, 1863 during the Battle of Gettysburg, so I have a direct connection to the area.  With that motivation, we were hoping for a good finish.  Unfortunately, however, the drama involving our purchase/return of a new truck left us without a way to tow our trailer to the event so our participation in the cook-off was looking very uncertain.  Fortunately, however, our friend Mike Fay generously offered to tow the Work and Play up to Gettysburg, which allowed us to compete (I rented a U-Haul and towed his Spicewine in return).  For our team, drama seems to bring with it good results and this weekend was no exception.  With 48 teams competing, Degüello took 5th place in ribs, 9th place in pork and 4th place overall.  The 3Eyz juggernaut continued to roll with another GC, and the Smokin’ Gnome Sal Gobat took RGC.

With the historic location and venue, this competition has a lot of potential to grow.  But unless there is a tremendous amount of improvement in how it is run, we are not coming back next year.  There are other, ongoing discussions on the problems with the event, so I will not rehash all of them.  I will say that the extremely late setup starting time, failure to mark a large ditch on the event grounds that caused a serious mishap with one competitor’s trailer, almost total lack of any infrastructure at load in, no electricity until almost dark on Friday and the disaster that was the awards ceremony left us with a bad feeling about the whole weekend.  I actually emailed the organizer post-event to offer some well-meaning observations and suggestions for 2013.  The fact that he never responded tells me a lot about how much stock he put in my input.  Too bad, because I am probably in the minority of 2012 competitors that are willing to give this event another shot in 2013.  And truthfully, if it wasn’t the 150th anniversary of the battle next year, this would be a one and done for us.  Dan, I’m still waiting to hear from you, and if you do read this and respond I’ll be happy to acknowledge your reply.

Here’s the contest rundown:

Chicken: 11th out of 48 (161.7144)

Wagshal’s chicken was once again excellent, and this was our third comp cook in the Backwoods Extended Party.  But this was Pennsylvania, the state where we have never gotten a chicken call, not to mention the absolute worst chicken finish in the history of our team.  Our Palmyra chicken was a bit less tender than I like, so I turned up the heat on the Extended Party a bit this week and we got much better tenderness.  But again, this was Pennsylvania, and the chicken drought continues as we finished barely out of the top 10.

Ribs:  5th out of 48 (164.5710)

Ribs are back on track.  The Wagshal’s heritage pork spares are consistently excellent, and with this third cook on the Extended Party I’ve got the timing and temp down cold for this ribs/cooker combination.  No need to go with just six bones this time as we had plenty of great product to choose from.  We are very happy with the ribs, and if we can keep the top five call streak going I’ll be very satisfied.

Pork: 9th out of 48 (164.5710)

After the Palmyra pork result, we tasted a lot of leftovers from different parts of the shoulder and picked up a slightly “off ” taste from the more heavily injected pieces.  For this comp, therefore, I decided to simplify the injection.  We had a smooth uneventful cook, I detected none of the “off” taste I got from the Palmyra pork, and we had a much better outcome.  I’m encouraged by this result, but no way do I feel we are on track yet.  This category continues to be the most “consistently inconsistent” of the four, and I’m not done tweaking the recipe or presentation.

Brisket: 16th out of 48 (157.7142)

I need to review my blog entries for the previous comp before I cook.  Our Palmyra brisket was a touch overdone, and in the Palmyra recap I wrote “Moving forward, I really need to trust the feel of the brisket a little more and worry less about absolute internal temperature”  (Memo to self: read and heed my own advice).  I was too worried about temp and not enough about feel, and once again I overcooked our brisket and paid the price.  A good-tasting brisket that crumbles at the edges isn’t going to score well.

Another top five finish for Degüello BBQ, but as always some lessons were learned the hard way, this week on brisket.  Next up is our closest to home competition of the year, the second annual Bluemont BBQ Bash in Bluemont VA  on July 27-28.


Jefferson Davis, President CSA


Pam the Butcher does a great job prepping our chicken  


Brisket looking good at 6:30 AM


What the well-dressed pitmaster’s assistant is wearing this season


We are very fortunate to have Wagshal’s and Draper’s BBQ as sponsors


The $25 money shot.  And yes we will take it!   

Published in: on August 5, 2012 at 1:24 pm  Comments (1)