Through a combination of malfunctioning equipment and poor garnish-selection we did not meet our 47th-or-better goal. In fact, we came in 54th out of 59overall. So why were we so happy with the results?
1) It wasn’t all our fault. The plastic handle to the smoker’s access door – where you add wood, lump charcoal, etc. – broke off Friday night. Not only did this make opening and closing the door a risky proposition, the door itself would randomly pop wide open. A jerry-rigged fix in the form of a clothespin did the trick, right up until it didn’t. Sometime in the morning hours – while we tried to snag a couple of hours of sleep – it fell open, flooding the smoker with oxygen. A third grader could tell you what happened next: mega-temperature spike and grease fire. Things were brought under control, but the briskets and pork butts were clearly affected.
UPDATE: It should be noted that Weber has already – no questions asked – sent out a free replacement door assembly. Quality customer service, folks.
2) It was all our fault (specifically, my fault). Kansas City Barbecue Society rules clearly prohibit garnishing the meat you turn in with red-leaf lettuce. I forgot about that and as a result, we lost all points in the “appearance” category for brisket and pulled pork. Both placed much closer to the bottom than they otherwise would have.
So why did we come away feeling pretty good about things?
1) The stuff we didn’t screw up was GOOD. Out of 59 contestants – many of whom take these competitions far, far more seriously than we – our chicken placed 29th and our ribs 35th. Very solid on both counts.
2) Even with the flare-up, we coulda been a contenda. The margins in these competitions are pretty minimal, so the garnish error dropped us from the middle of the pack in overall standings to near the bottom. A moral victory, sure, but we’ll take it.
3) We had a good time. We, our friends and our family had a place to chill out and relax, we had a great time meeting and hanging out with the other contestants and we learned a thing or two. Not a bad way to spend 36 hours (even if it took two full nights of sleep to catch up).
As for next year, we need a little more practice, some decent luck and maybe we’re capable of cracking the top half. And if we don’t, it’s still a two-day tailgate and there’s nothing wrong with that.