Some Mighty Fine Swine (and Chicken and Brisket) – GC at Swinetastic for Degüello BBQ


On June 15-16, Degüello BBQ competed in the second annual Swinestastic BBQ Festival in Frederick MD and it’s funny how our mindset coming in to this event was virtually identical to last year.  After a second consecutive disappointing finish at the Middletown Barbeque Cook-off in Middletown DE we were looking to Frederick for redemption.  69  teams competed in this event, and Degüello BBQ took 2nd place in chicken, 4th place in pork and 2nd place in brisket.  And that was good enough for us to win our second career Grand Championship, punching our ticket to the American Royal and securing a spot in the Maryland draw for the Jack Daniel’s World Invitational Barbecue.  Huge congrats to Fred Bernardo and Tasty Licks BBQ for their first career RGC.

We had a key addition to our team this weekend, and he brought it big time. Thanks to Mason-Dixon BBQ Services for delivering our new Backwoods Fatboy to the fairgrounds on Thursday.  I was able to burn it in on Thursday night, and I liked the way it cooked so much I made a decision that Dan Hixon characterized as a “gutsy move” to cook on it in the competition.  In retrospect I’d say it was a good decision.

Here’s the contest rundown:

Chicken: 2nd out of 69 (172.0002)

Wagshal’s has been providing us with outstanding chicken, and we’ve been very happy with our finished product.  Unfortunately the judges haven’t been quite as happy, but that changed this weekend.  After two non-calls in chicken this spring, I got some key advice from my neighbor and friend Brad Bender and it really paid off.  And for the first time in competition, and the second time ever, I cooked my chicken in the Backwoods Extended Party.  The box was beautiful, the taste and tenderness were superb, and we were thrilled with the call, our second consecutive 2nd place chicken call at Swinetastic.

Ribs:  37th out of 69 (154.2856)

These were good ribs, or so I thought.  We cooked the ribs in the Extended Party with the chicken, and I liked them.   I think “ouch” sums up my feeling on this category.  Moving on……

Pork: 4th out of 69 (168.0000)

We are cooking a completely new pork recipe for 2012, and I really like the flavor profile.   Unfortunately, we’ve had a few cooking mishaps with this category, not to mention learning the hard way about the top rack of the Backwoods (or as I call it “The Incinerator”).  This week, however, everything came together.    Some fabulous butts from Wagshal’s, a good flavor profile and a solid cook got us us our first pork call of 2012.

Brisket: 2nd out of 69 (170.2858)

2012 has been “Year of the Brisket” for Degüello BBQ.  We’ve had success in this category, so I was hesitant to make changes.  But one thing I’ve always thought was missing in our brisket was a more pronounced “umami” flavor component.  I experimented with some different cooking techniques (anyone interested  a 1000′ roll of 36″ wide red kraft paper?  Anyone?  Anyone?), rubs and injections, and two weeks before our first 2012 KCBS comp I hit the jackpot. The rub, injection and sauce combo we’ve been using this year has a much more well-rounded flavor profile, and the judges are really responding to it.  The only near mishap of the weekend was totally related to unfamiliarity with cooking times on the new Fatboy. I didn’t get my big meats on until almost midnight, and as a result the brisket we turned in was still on the Fatboy at 12:30 PM.  I would think the brisket would’ve benefited from a longer rest time, but it didn’t seem to have much of a negative effect.  The brisket was a little less full-flavored than weeks past, and I suspect that had something to do with its placement in the Fatboy.  We punched it up with some extra rub and that seemed to help as well.

This was a huge weekend for Degüello BBQ.  We faced a real “Murderers Row” of  mid-Atlantic heavy hitters, not to mention the one and only Scottie Johnson.  Scottie was the very first person to congratulate us, but that is only because he elbowed Dan Hixon out of the way (go to the video of the GC announcement for proof of this).  They’re both Chicago guys, so go figure.  I’m trying to figure out how to best incorporate the Holy Grail, Massive Chalice, or whatever it shall be named, into our living room decor.  Sharon suggested putting a piece of glass on top and making it into a side table for the recliner she got me for Father’s Day, but it’s about three feet tall so she may have to rethink that.  Another nice job by Chris and Jess Carter organizing this event, and we will of course be back in 2013.  Next up for Degüello BBQ is BBQ Bands & Brews in Palmyra VA on June 22-23.

The first butt on the new Fatboy

Brisket looked good at 6:30 AM

A pork call at last!

I’ve always wanted one of these giant checks.  The real one was pretty nice as well!  

Celebrating with a margarita at Austin Grill 

The GC Trophy. Soon to be repurposed into a coffee table?

Published in: on June 24, 2012 at 8:28 am  Comments (3)  

Middletown? More like “Middle of the Pack”


On May 18-19, Degüello BBQ competed in the third annual Middletown BBQ Cook Off in Middletown DE.  For 2012 the event was moved from parking lot of the Dutch Country Farmers Market to Frightland Amusement Park on the outskirts of town.  Unfortunately, our performance this year was not particularly amusing.

After our strong showing in the inaugural event in 2010 (see here for the writeup on that day) we were looking to bounce back from a disappointing 2011 MIddletown finish.  That was not to be on this day, though.  With 52 teams competing, Degüello BBQ finished 18th place chicken, 22nd place ribs, 18th place pork and 18th place brisket for an overall 14th place.

Somedays you know you didn’t cook your best, and when that happens it’s a little easier to take.  But I was really disappointed with our results on this day as I felt we had a good, solid cook.  Days like this happen, so we look at what we did, try to fix anything that didn’t go well and move on.  Congrats to Paul Huff of Gone Hoggin’ for getting this GC and punching his ticket to the Jack.  He was so tweaked at Middletown in 2010 he shaved off his beard, and I’m not sure what he did in 2011 (but I know it wasn’t celebrating because we both finished in the teens last year).  I guess they won’t have to rename that highway out in Tennessee for another year buddy:


And huge thanks to Wagshal’s for providing us with some incredible meats for MIddletown.  We wish we’d done a better job for you guys the first time out, but I am confident you’ll be hearing our names again soon.

Here’s the contest rundown:

Chicken: 18th out of 52 (162.8572)

This was the absolute biggest disappointment of the day.  I know when we cook good chicken, and this was some really good chicken.  Appearance, was, well, take a look on the WSM and judge for yourself:


Taste and tenderness were a cut above our Naptown chicken, too.  But like I said in Naptown after turn-in it’s in the judges’ hands, and I have to live with that.  I am still very confident in our recipe and preparation, so no changes there.  I got some good feedback on our box presentation and garnish, and after giving it some thought I believe we’re leaving appearance points on the table, which may be affecting out taste and tenderness scores in turn.

Ribs:  22nd out of 52 (153.1428)

Another batch of good, not great, ribs this weekend.  If I had to compare these to our 9th place Naptown ribs I’d say they were about the same, which isn’t what I’ve come to expect in this category.  I felt I actually had a few more choices this weekend, but we didn’t fare as well I’d hoped.  No changes moving forward.

Pork: 22nd out of 52 (152.5712)

This was the one category that worried me this weekend.  For the first time in my competition BBQ career, after sorting through our pork I was really worried we might not have enough acceptable pieces to fill the box.  This was very surprising, as all our pork was right on temp and felt good going into the Carlisle.  After a lot of sorting and some creative placement we got an acceptable amount for our box.  It actually wasn’t too bad, but not my best pork either.  In my opinion this score most closely matched my assessment.  I’ll keep a much closer eye on the pork moving forward to insure we have enough well-done pork for pulled/chunks.

Brisket: 18th out of 52 (156.0000)

Another puzzling finish.  After we nailed brisket two weeks ago at Naptown I didn’t change a thing in recipe or prep, but we used a different brisket source.  As in Naptown, I felt our brisket was perfectly cooked, looked great and it tasted like beef.  Actually, it had a slightly more intense beefy flavor than two weeks before.  I had trimmed our flats to make sure they fit the boxes, and I felt this was a much better looking presentation.  But my assessment and the judges did not agree, so we didn’t have finish we’d hoped for.  I’m wondering if I need to dial back the “intensity”of flavor to account for our new beef.  We’re very happy with the tenderness and flavor of the beef itself,so maybe a little less rub and injection flavor is a better fit.

After a hot start to 2012, we cooled off a little in Middletown.  That’s OK though.  We’ll make some adjustments and come back strong.  Next up for Degüello BBQ is the Swinetastic BBQ Festival on June 15-16 in Frederick MD.


Prime Brisket from Wagshal’s- it doesn’t get any better than this!


Pork at 6:30 AM
Published in: on June 2, 2012 at 1:55 pm  Leave a Comment