Indio State BBQ Championships Here We Come!
The BBQ Learning Curve
After we finished the Ontario Backyard BBQ event we decided to take a leap, joining the big boys at the Indio State BBQ Championships in November (2015). Our goal was to finish in the top 50%, we really did not know if this was attainable, but you need to set goals. Our cook performance progression is as follows, we are best at ribs, followed by pork, then chicken and finally brisket (my job).
We arrived Friday around 2pm for set up, the meat inspection and to just soak in our first competition as a professional team together. In an effort to stay on track we revisit our timelines often, when to start our cook site set up, food preparation, injections, rub application, when to light the BBQ’s, when to start the cooks for each meat, spritz times, wrap times, when to pull, when to trim, when we build the boxes, who is making SPAM for breakfast, and do we have enough ice for the C-. These are many of the critical elements of a BBQ event. This preparation made a big difference at the Ontario event and helped us stay on track at Indio.
This would be my first competitive brisket cook, and yes I am nervous and unsure of my process as I really only have a few cooks in at this point in time. All of that said the test cooks have gone well and the feedback from friends has been positive, I am excited to see how my brisket performs at the professional level. Well at least I had high hopes for my brisket, to date I have been solid my cooks and my Vision Kamado temperature management. I light the Kamado late Friday night, my plan was to cook the brisket at 225 to 160 degrees, wrap it and pull it around 203. Well these would be benchmarks knowing that I must follow the motto “brisket is done, when it is done“.
I light the BBQ and within a few hours the temps on my Kamado are jumping up and down, I am freaking out as this has never been a problem (I do not have a BBQ Guru to help manage the BBQ temps). I am running high then low and then lower all night. Every hour I am up to iGrill alarms notifying me that my temps are off. I am sure this is due to my inexperience and I am over adjusting the Kamado vents, but I start running low all night and I am in fear of missing my milestones. The meat should be 160 degrees around 6am and I am closer to 140 degrees. Uh oh, we try and pull the meat to see if the coals are out and discover the burn is not going well (shocker), we reload the coals to get the temp up, but we are cooking way too slow. By 10am we are just getting to 160 degrees, we are four hours off schedule, the low temps threw us off in a big way. We wrap the brisket and throw it back on the grill. The wrap is done to help accelerate the cook and prevent the infamous brisket “stall”. The “stall” is caused by moisture evaporating from the surface and cooling the meat just like sweat cools you on a hot day.
In an effort to get to the brisket to temp we crank up the Kamado to 350+ degrees and the meat slowly rises in temperature. It is 1pm, our turn in is at 1:30pm, we are stressed as the meat should have been steamed off and rested for at least 2-3 hours minimum. The meat temp is around 195 degrees, not close to the correct tenderness. We crank the Kamado to 500 degrees and by 1:15pm we get the meat to 198 degrees. We pull it, slice it, test it, taste it, and get it in the box. The meat was not ready as it missed on tenderness which affected the taste as the meat did not have time to render the fat and get all of that goodness brisket gets when it breaks down.
The biggest frustration here was I really wanted to nail the brisket to see how it stood up next to the competition. I really did not get great feedback as this was really my worst cook to date. I did take a big chunk home and slow cooked it wrapped for two more hours to see what would happen and presto that extra time let the meat breakdown and all that flavor we missed came right out. This was encouraging as I knew if I had cooked it right, at least I would have turned in a pretty good brisket. The score may have no been much different, who knows, but I think after this cook the process is on track now it is just a matter of mastering my BBQ, trusting my process and refining my flavor profiles.
Here are our results:
- Overall: 29 out of 34
- Chicken: 29 out of 33
- Ribs: 13 out of 34 YES!
- Pork: 22 out of 34 Sweet!
- Brisket: 32 out of 33, well we were not last!
Here is a gallery from our time at Indio
We are planning on competing at the Guinea Pig in Rancho Mirage (GP3) in February, wish us luck!
Team Slave, Apprentice and Brisket Cook