August 18th-19th, Sograte BBQ Team (Cary and Steve) went to the Buffalo BBQ Battle held at Buffloa Springs Lake - Lubbock, Texas. There were 104 teams there and most of them were major players that were shooting for one of several major invitaions including the state championship in Meridian, TX and the Jack Daniels.
We were cooking on my new smoker for the first time. We have been working on it for months. Thurday morning (17th), we went out to the shop and wired the trailer, finished some welding, hooked it up and drug it out to the lake. We worked our asses off to get out there as early as possible. We knew that there were only 30 something spots with hook-ups and they were already filling up fast. There were only 2 spots left with full hook-ups when we got there at 11:30 in the morning. The rest of the day was wasted running back to town, shopping and grabbing all of the stuff we forgot.
This cooker was so new that we had not even had a chance to cook on it yet. In fact, it was not even painted yet. Luckily we were there early enough that we had time to get a fire in it learn a little bit about it before we started cooking. We built the first fire in it Friday morning about 10:00. Everything looked great, we were unable to build enough heat it the cook chamber. Now I know that this is a big cooker and built differently from anything I have ever cooked on but after sveral hours have passed and we still could not get over 200 degrees it was time to start worrying. We started discussing some major changes, and needed to get them done fast.
After much brain storming and debating, the first thing we tried was to remove a tuning plate to determine if the plates were not allowing enough heat into the cooker. That was unsuccesful so we we turned the trailer so the firbox was to the wind. This was a big help and we finallly got the the damn thing up to cooking temperatures. We spent about 6-8 hours getting up to 250. Now we were up to cooking temps, but still had a hard time getting much more out of it.
Once we got past that, it was time to start soaking beans, brining chicken, rubbing briskets and all of that fun stuff. We went ahead and started cooking the briskets early because we were not sure of what to expect out of the cooker. Now keep in mind, this whole time we have been pouring keystone light down our necks.
Once all of the prep work was done and the briskets were cooking, we went riding around with a friend on his gas powered golf cart. We were really drunk (well, 'we' was mostly me - Steve was smart enough to stop earlier in the evening) by this time and got reaaly stupid, but had the best damn doing it. Luckily were are all alive to tell about it. That is all a story of its own.
Meanwhile when we get back to camp at 3:30 Saturday morning, the briskets were almost done already so we decided to keep them on the cooker but keep the heat down to keep them from burning up. We went to bed for a couple of hours and got up got everything going. The day was really rough and I did not make the best decisions because I was hurting so damn bad. The good news is that we got everything cooked, and turned in on time.
I over seasoned the beans and they were pretty salty. We had to turn in both halfs of the chicken so we did not get to taste it, but it looked good. The ribs were out of sight. They were excellent. The brisket was far from the best we have done, but still tasted alright.
So anyway, we did not get any top 10's. We final tabled on beans and ribs though.
My daughter Ashlee, 9, cooked our chicken and she was very sad that she did not even get final table. This was her second competition, the first one she took 3rd place out of 8 entries on a basically rained out cook-off. I was able to enter her as her own entry at that one while I still entered mine. Naturally because of this expereience, she had high expectations coming into Buffalo. I tried to keep her down to earth, but that is not as esy as it seems. Beacuse of the $100.00 entry fee, it was not feasable to enter her as her own entry so I let her cook the Sograte entry. She was very disappointed when she did not place and even started crying. I had to explain to her how many people were here and how hard this competition was.
To tell the truth, I was also fairly disppointed in the results until I started looking into what everyone else did. There were no cooks that dominated anything. There was a first timer that won chicken and there were a lot of heavy hitters that did not top ten at all. Really, we were just one of 94 other teams that did not get top tens so getting final table was a pretty big honor. I finally had to listen to my own advice and am very happy with what we did on a new cooker, very hungover and up against 103 other teams.
This was a great experience. I could not have done it without the help of my brother-in-law Steve. He is the best help a man could ask for. We work together in pretty damn good sync. We learned a lot this time out and look forward to the next one. Watch out everybody, 'cause Sograte BBQ is going to be back and better than ever.