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