I was one of the lucky guests who Kingsford flew out to the event. I took a bunch of photos, met a lot of people and learned a lot about BBQ. I'll start off by posting some photos of each team. There were only 8 teams competing, as these were the winning grand champions from a variety of competitions. Below are some photos of the teams and various team members who were competing. Kingsford placed pretty cool signs next to each of their BBQ "camps." I was able to get photos of most of the signs. At other times, either the sun or the TV directors wouldn't cooperate with my camera work!
Melissa Cookston is the team captain for Yazoo's Delta Q. Yazoo's Delta Q won Grand Champion at the Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest. This qualified them for the Kingsford Invitational. Yazoo's favorite category is whole hog.
Motley Que Crew's favorite category is ribs. The team captain is Mike "MikeyZ" Zemenick. The team qualified for the Kingsford Invitational by winning the Houston Livestock and Rodeo World Championship Bar-B-Que Contest.
Pig Skin BBQ won the Jack Daniel's World Championship Invitational Barbecue competition. The favorite category of team captain Scott Nelson is ribs. Scott's team consists of his wife and their three sons. Scott's son Gavin came around to give us all some samples of their sliced brisket. It was incredible and easily the most tender piece of beef I've ever eaten.
Smokers Purgatory team captain Doug Casten and his team won the Great Lenexa BBQ Battle, which qualified them for the Kingsford Invitational. The guys from Smoker's Purgatory come from Des Moines, Iowa.
The Shiggin' and Grinnin' team says their favorite category is brisket. Team captain Jeff Vanderlinde and his team come from St. Paul, Minn. and to qualify for the Kingsford Invitational they won the American Royal World Series of Barbecue.
Lucky's Q qualified for the Kingsford Invitational by winning the Sam's Club National BBQ Tour. Team captain Justin McGlaun comes from Denver, Iowa. An interesting note here is that Justin is actually allergic to pork. His wife Kate helps out with the taste and tenderness side of things. The favorite category of Lucky's Q is brisket.
Checkered Pig BBQ qualified for the Kingsford Invitational by winning the Kingsford $40K Challenge in Lincolnton, N.C. Team Captain Tommy Houston (pictured above) says his favorite category is ribs. The team comes from Martinsville, VA.
Smokin' Triggers is run by Johnny Trigg who won Destination America's BBQ Pitmasters. Johnny says his favorite category is ribs. Smokin' Triggers comes from Alvarado, Texas and Johnny is considered the oldest active competitor in the barbecue circuit. He has no intention of slowing down anytime soon. I wouldn't be slowing down either if I was generally considered one of the best BBQ rib cooks ever!
While the teams were cooking their meats, Kingsford had a bunch of activities planned for us. One of which was a tour of the Kingsford charcoal plant. I'll post all about that in a few weeks. In addition to the Kingsford plant tour, there was a lot of time to talk about BBQ, listen to the judges discuss their preferences and judging criteria and to just generally hang out. Luckily Kingsford often teams up with Anheuser Busch so there was unlimited beer for us to drink.
We had a sit down chat with the judges of the competition. The first thing I heard was that one of the judges said that the turn in boxes would have nothing other than meat inside. Wow! No greens at all were allowed. This highlights the importance of gorgeous meat for sure! One judge pointed out her preferences regarding smoke. Amy Mills said she prefers "just a kiss of smoke" on the meat. She said that over smoked meat will be deducted heavily in terms of points. After this discussion I took note that each BBQ pit really did have a light white smoke coming out of the stack. Sometimes there was no smoke at all coming out. By no means were these guys putting out excess smoke.
I got to chat with Tuffy Stone a bit. He's often on BBQ Pitmasters and is a world class BBQ cook. One piece of advice that I learned from Tuffy was to not smother the meat in BBQ sauce. Let the natural flavors of the meat come out and don't hide the amazing smoked meat flavor with too much sauce. Interesting!
I also got to hang out with a bunch of my online BBQ blogger buddies. Here's a picture of me and Robyn, aka Grill Grrl. You may recognize her from Food Network's "Chopped - Grillmaster Edition." She also writes a cool blog called Grill Grrl.
Just one day you may see Grilling24x7 on TV? Huh?! The camera crews wanted my opinion on who the winner might be. They also asked me what I would make if I had to participate in a "one bite challenge." I said that I'd do a stuffed bacon cheddar jalapeno cheeseburger slider... overstuff a mini cheeseburger with bacon, cheddar and jalapenos, put some seasoning on top and then pour some worcestershire sauce all over. Grill it over some hot coals and put it on a little slider bun. Mmmmm. Hey you just may see my face on TV one day! Well, probably more likely on Kingsford's website, but hey - that's cool too!
As you can see, TV cameras were everywhere. In the spring they are planning a BBQ Pitmasters "Kingsford Invitational" edition which documents this entire competition. Cameras were everywhere, directors were yelling and it sort of seemed like Hollywood, just with the wonderful smell of BBQ smoke everywhere.
I thought this was a pretty cool shot of Johnny Trigg walking to turn in his food. Notice that camera following closely!
Here's the room where we all waited for results.
The winner of the Kingsford Invitational was ..... Yazoos Delta Q! Wow! $50,000! Yazoos Delta Q won Pork, Ribs, and Brisket! Lucky's Q won chicken. Overall points went to Yazoos Delta Q. Melissa Cookston and her team get to say that they are the best of the best in terms of BBQ. What's even cooler is that I can say I ate the "best pork in the world!" Right after the official turn in time for the food the directors let me get down near the cooks. Melissa was kindly handing out all of her leftovers before the winner was announced. Since she cooks whole hog she had plenty of leftovers.
Look at that whole hog from Yazoos Delta Q!
Above is some of the leftover winning BBQ. I got to try the pork straight from the whole hog shoulder. I also tried the ribs. All I can say is WOW! The pork pulled apart perfectly and had a really nice smoke flavor. It definitely was the best BBQ I've ever eaten and this was before I knew that Melissa won!
Melissa gave me some "bacon!" This is from the belly of the pig. When it's not fried it really doesn't taste like bacon. What it tasted like was buttery, melt in your mouth, magnificent pork. It was ridiculously good.
More information on the Kingsford Invitational can be found at Grilling.com. They've posted more details about the competition teams as well as the judges.
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By John Thomas
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