2018 Kicks Off In Bainbridge, GA
A long winter of work on the cooker and some practice cooks ended on March 7, 2018 as the team loaded up and headed south to Bainbridge, GA to cook in the 5th annual Flames on the Flint. The bbq contest is the marquee event of the towns Riverdays celebration. This event marks the beginning of a three contest road trip for Smoke This and has been on the schedule for four years now. Once arriving in town early Thursday morning and getting some rest, the guys moved into their cook site and soon after began a final round of practice for the contest. This was mainly due to giving the cooker one last cook in its new configuration before it really counts. It's amazing how differently the cooker performs now that it has been rebuilt. The final test went well and the team was eager to get started on Friday!
For those that might not be familiar with how a KCBS sanctioned bbq contest works, on Friday morning a representative from the contest or KCBS must come by your cook site to inspect all four of the meats that will be cooked. While you are allowed to trim the meats, there can be no marinating, injecting or other form of flavor enhancement done to the meat prior to inspection. Meat inspection is also the usual time that you are provided the emtpy turn in boxes for Saturday. Each team is provided four boxes that have a number on them. This represents the team's number for the weekend. Upon turn-in, this number gets changed to a number only known to representatives of KCBS. This changes ensures that no one will know whose box of food they are judging. After inspection is complete, teams are allowed to do any final trimming and can begin soaking, marinating, injecting, applying rub, etc. The processes are left to the team's discretion. It is also up the to teams to decide when to begin cooking. Some choose to begin Friday night while a new trend and process allows for cooking of large cuts (pork shoulder or butt and brisket) to start around 5 am Saturday. The only requirement is that meat must be turned in during a set time. Chicken is turned in at noon, ribs at 12:30 pm, pork at 1:00 and brisket at 1:30 pm. Teams are given a window of 5 minutes before each time and 4:59 after to get their food to the judging tent. Failure to do so results in an automatic disqualification.
In 2015, a cooker from New Jersey named Bill Allen won the chicken category with a perfect score of 180. It was his first ever 180. Moments after the awards were finished, Bill was at his trailer beginning to pack up when he suddenly passed away. Bill had told folks on Friday that he would die a happy man if he'd win chicken with a perfect score. The organizers of the Flames on the Flint event heard the story and made the decision that beginning in 2016, the winner of the chicken category would receive the Bill Allen Memorial Trophy as a way to memorialize and honor Bill. Smoke This has been fortunate to receive four perfect scores in the chicken category over the past few seasons. On Saturday, Smoke This received the most meaningful 180 ever as they won the chicken category! There are no words to describe the emotions of receiving the Bill Allen Memorial Trophy. What an honor! The awards for ribs, pork and brisket went by without hearing Smoke This again. As the overall awards began, the organizers called the top seven, in random order to the stage. Smoke This was not a part of the group. Later, the final three were called representing the eventual grand champion and reserve grand as well as SMOKE THIS! How could this be possible? A team with four top 10 finishes had already been called as the 4th place finisher. Did Smoke This have three 11th place finishes and a 180 chicken? Well, not exactly. Smoke This finished 3rd with two 12th place finishes in pork and brisket. Those finishes, along with the 180 in chicken were enough for 3rd overall!
The guys left Sunday morning enroute to Pensacola, FL from Bainbridge, GA. The three hour trip was much better than the 9.5 hours it would take to get back home. They will spend the week in Pensacola preparing for the next weekend's contest while relaxing on the beach and eating plenty of fresh, local seafood! There are several other teams taking advantage of the week for a mini vacation between the contests.
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