I bought a small grill a couple years ago. It wasn’t a terribly expensive one, but I wanted to own a grill.
After many, many uses, I decided it was time to upgrade.
So, I went to Menards and I picked out a bigger gas grill. I was proud of the fact I was “growing up” and got a “big boy” grill.
That idea, of course, changed after Turkey Day.
At the Smokin’ Gobbler Cook Off, I realized my small gas grill didn’t compare to some of the set ups at the Nobles County Fairgrounds that weekend.
I have to admit, I don’t know much about barbecue. I have done some attempts at chicken or steaks or burgers on my grill at home, but that was the extent to it.
So leading up to the Smokin’ Gobbler Cook Off, I was excited to see what “real” cookers could make.
I talked with Kirk Feit, who helped organize this year’s contest and asked if I could take a VIP tour with him of the contestants.
On Turkey Day, I met up with Kirk around noon. At that point, the competition was in full swing, with meats already being turned in.
I can honestly say, whatever I thought I knew about barbecue, I really had no idea.
We started with a team, Shiggin’ and Grinnin’, the team I interviewed for a story when they were featured on TV not too long ago.
They were working on their ribs and brisket. As soon as we arrived, they handed us a piece of chicken.
If Heaven serves chicken, it would taste like that.
It was by far the best chicken I have ever had. Granted, I have ordered a lot of chicken in restaurants, but none of those ever tasted like that.
As Kirk and I made our way around the area, we were able to try ribs. At one camp, the competitors were complaining about the ribs being overdone.
I thought they were delicious. I tried two other ribs and more chicken before we headed to the judging area.
As I tried two more rib entries and two entries of pork.
Here’s what I learned.
I don’t like ribs where the meat sticks to the bone. Some of them I had did, some of them left a clean bone. As I was talking to one of the judges, he was telling me when you bite into the rib, the bone is supposed to appear wet for a few seconds. Then, it’s supposed to dry out. That’s how you know it’s done to perfection.
I realized I liked the sweet flavors more than some of the others. I had some spicy meat that didn’t tickle my fancy quite as much.
I also realized how many different flavor profiles there are out there. I thought all ribs tasted pretty much the same. Oh boy, was I wrong; some have a more smokey flavor, while others are sweet.
On that day, some were under cooked, some were over cooked and others were done just right.
I haven’t been brave enough to try ribs on my own yet — I’m afraid I’ll never be as good as some of the cooks on Worthington on that Saturday. I said many times, I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to order meat in a restaurant again. One of the judges told me he does order ribs at a restaurant, but then critiques them after.
But I did realize how fortunate we are to have a event like this — a contest that brings some of the best cooks in the country — come to Worthington.
I don’t think I’m ready to have my own team at next year’s competition. But I do know I’m eager to try and become a better cook for when I grill at home.