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With Break Over, Team Heads To Florida

After the shortest break between competition seasons that Smoke This has ever had, the team recently competed in Florida at the Sonny's Smokin' Showdown. This event is an invitational-only event comprised of teams that won specific qualifying events. Our grand championship in Maggie Valley in July of 2016 was our ticket to this event. Sonny's BBQ presents this event which was hosted by the Central Florida Zoo in Sanford, FL. The total purse was $68,000 and included a steak challenge on Friday evening and a mystery meat on Saturday, which turned out to be boneless, skinless turkey breast. Fifty-two teams chose to attend this 2nd year event that could become one of the premier events in the country.

On Saturday morning, it became apparent that the day was going to be a struggle as far as the overall standings go. Both of the briskets were overcooked to the point of falling apart. Knowing that the chance for winning a grand championship was over was a difficult pill to swallow. However, there was still a possibility that the team would finish strong in the other meats and with the top-15 in each category and overall being paid, the day wasn't completely wasted. The turn in times were different than normal. Instead of beginning at noon with chicken and having 30 minutes between turn in times, the first meat had to be turned in at 10am and was brisket! Following brisket at 11am was chicken, then ribs at 12 and pork at 1pm.

Once the disaster was discovered with the brisket, it became apparent that the team had to be really careful with chicken and ribs. As was the case with the brisket, both of those meats cooked much faster than normal. The chicken was done over 30 minutes ahead of time! The chicken was spot on! After squeezing nine pieces into a box turning in, confidence was high that the judges would appreciate the product turned in. The ribs were done early too. The best explanation was humidity. After all, we were in Florida was humidity was made! The team suffered a little issue during the saucing process that caused some anxiety but in the end, the product which was turned in, with 20 seconds left before disqualification, was a good product. Pork was the final product to be turned in. The pork had a good taste and was cooked very well. The tenderness of the pork was very good, something that has been a little bit of a struggle at times. Once all four meats were in, the team sat back to relax and left that the overall quality of the cook was good and something to be proud of. Well, except the mishap with the brisket.

In a field of 52 champion level pitmasters, you never really know what to expect at an awards ceremony. In addition to the level of competition, there was also unknowns about how the judging would be. This event was being judged based on the Florida BBQ Association (FBA) rules and criteria. Smoke This had never cooked an event that utilized FBA criteria. Most of the advice that the team received before heading south was to leave the vinegar at home and bet on sweet. The awards got started with the National Anthem, something that more events should do. Finishers 2-15 were called to the stage in alphabetical order. Then teams were called beginning at 15 down to 2nd. Smoke This was ecstatic be called to join 14 other teams during the chicken category. They were humbled to be called last, meaning they finished 2nd in chicken. What a great result! Sauced! from Charlotte won the chicken category so it was an NC sweep for the top chicken awards! Sadly, for Smoke This, it was the last time they'd hear the team called all day. The overall result was a disappointing 41st. Hurt drastically by the brisket but not helped by ribs and pork, Smoke This finished worse than they wanted. The experience of the event, however, offers great incentive to win in 2017 and get another invitation in 2018!

The KCBS points chase begins, for Smoke This, on February 3-4 in Young Harris, GA. This event will also be a little different because of changed turn in times and the fact that Saturday night after the contest will be the Georgia BBQ Championship Banquet. The team finished 6th overall, in chicken and in brisket during the 2016 season in the GBC qualifying events. Not bad considering it was halfway through the season before we even realized that the GBC existed!

Smoke This would like to give a special thanks to the Atlanta BBQ Store.  Randy and his team also go above and beyond to make sure we have the rubs, injections and sauce we need to be prepared! Be sure to visit the website for all our bbq needs or give them a call at 706.536.2901.

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