066 Live @ Hammond BBQ Challenge 2019

Hammond BBQ Challenge

066 Live @ Challenge


This is Episode One of Season Six, my U.S. Road Trip Part II. In this season I kick things off with two weeks in New Orleans where I head to a couple of competitions and spend some time hanging out with the who’s who of Southern BBQ. From there it’s up to Kansas City for four days of BBQ Nirvana at the NBBQA’s Annual Conference and Excellence Awards. The final two weeks of the journey see us head into Arkansas for some R&R, including bass fishing; monster trucks, a Steak Cookoff Association competition, an AK-47 and a brush with a tornado! And of course, you’re all coming with me!

This episode sees me head out to Hammond, an hour outside of New Orleans, for the Hammond BBQ Challenge 2019. We’d arrived in New Orleans from Australia at 4pm on Friday, and by 8am Saturday I was meeting some absolute legends of the game. What impressed me about this competition was the complete community backing of the event. Hammond is a small town. There is one main street in and out, split right down the middle by a parallel train line. Both sides of the road are shut down and filled with BBQ teams. This year, there were 47 professional teams, 45 amateur teams, and 4 kids’ teams. The town was packed as the whole community came out to support the event and raise money for the local community which was heartwarming to see. And in true Louisianan style, the trophies were pyrographed Crawfish Pot Paddles!


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With Mike from QUAU

  • They hadn’t cooked for 5 months, but Hammond BBQ Challenge 2019 was like riding a bike
  • They’ve done 490 comp, starting 20 years ago
  • Cooks on a Deep South and a high temp grill
  • Has a rotisserie on the grill and liked the results 
  • They cook everything inside and have a 460 cubic foot exhaust fan
  • Hammond BBQ Challenge 2019 was their 14th year at Hammond
    • They love the seafood
    • The people have become family and a lot of the ‘original folk’ too
    • The organisers are great hosts
  • Brisket is their strongest hand-in
    • They were team of the year for brisket and have been KCBS team of the year overall too. They have won TOTY for all 4 categories
    • He cooks his brisket to 185F, wrap and rest in Cambro, and allow to cool slowly then bring up to final temp the next day
    • Collagens break down between 170F and 190F so you can hold it at that temp for longer

With Adam from Cajun Blaze

  • Louisianan local
  • Doesn’t bring Cajun flavours to comps – just cooks KCBS
  • His trailer has four bunk beds,kitchen and bathroom and a shower
  • Had an Ole Hickory and a Backwoods Smoker
    • Ole Hickory is better for Beef and Pork as it’s a dry heat
    • Backwoods has a water pan so is better for chicken and ribs
  • Chicken:
    • Bunches up the thighs tight in a pan with butter
    • Smokes for an hours
    • Wraps for one hour to tenderise 
    • Dunk and sauce and back in smoker to set
  • They won Hammond in 2014
    • They’ve been in Top Ten every year
    • Hoping to take out the GC at Hammond BBQ Challenge 2019
  • Consistency is their key to success
    • Don’t miss a step
  • Present on Kale
    • It’s easier and takes less time to make a box

With Darren from Iowa Smokey D’s

  • Their trailer was behind us at Houston World’s BBQ Championships in 2018
  • They cook with the same flavours no matter where they cook
  • They do mostly KCBS, but also do some FBA and IBCA
    • No Pork in ICBA
    • FBA has no garnish and 10 pieces in the box
    • KCBS requires garnish
  • They were at Houston again in 2019
    • They were in Champion’s Corner
  • Cooks on a Jambo 
    • They cook everything at 275F – 300F
    • It’s simple to use coz there’s no electronics to fail
    • Can raise or lower the temperature 50F in 10 minutes
    • Has excellent draft
  • Their trailer
    • They compete at 35 – 40 comps per year
    • Had living quarters to ensure good sleep
  • Advice: competition BBQ is mostly about tenderness so cook for that

With Brad from Couchon 225

  • They are a native Louisianan team
    • Grew up down the street from Hammond BBQ Challenge 2019
    • Lives a half hour away
    • Runs a business in town
    • They add a little heat and not much sweet
  • Different state’s judges have different flavour profiles
    • Sweet in Florida
    • Bland in mid-States
    • Lots of black pepper in Texas
  • Uses Stix Drum smokers
    • Hexagonal
    • Runs Guru’s
    • Will run 24 hours at 275F on 1 basket
    • Thicker metal than regular drums
    • Performs very similarly to Gateway drums
  • Also has a RecTec pellet grills
    • Runs Pecan pellets through his RECTEC
  • Brisket is his game
    • Imperial Wagyu brisket
    • Starts with a heavy brisket, around 18 pounds
    • Separates point and flat
    • Uses three layers of rubs with Cajun Blaze’s steak rub as the top coat
    • Cooks at 300F for 3 hours, then wraps til he hits temp
  • Hammond was his first ever cook 4 years ago
    • Finished bottom 5 in every competition
    • Was motivated
  • Has won a few RGC’s but never cracked a GC

With Mike from Chix, Swine & Bovine

  • On the Board for KCBS and Operation BBQ Relief
  • They started at Hammond in 2009
    • It’s the organisers that keep bringing them back
    • They take such great care of all of the competitors
    • They were living in Maryland when they started in Hammond, chasing the weather
  • Started in Maryland, now lives in Florida
    • They focus more on a Kansas City flavour profile
    • A little sweet, a little heat and cook it til it’s done
  • Judges dictate what cookers cook
    • Wagyu wasn’t popular but now judges are used to it and everyone is cooking Wagyu
    • When you find something that works well, stick with it
  • Everybody is looking for 9’s on appearances
  • Mouth feel is most important
    • Is it tender?
    • Does it swell in the mouth?
  • Taste and Tenderness are the most important
  • Cooks on a Jambo
    • Jambo has won more GC’s and WC’s than any other
    • They’re not cheap, but they’re well made
    • They did 270k miles on their last pit
    • Current Pit is a J3. Precious Pit was a J5
    • Not a catering cooker – limited by space
  • Ole Hickory Pits can hold up to 80 butts so are better suited to catering

With Eric Phares from Hammond BBQ Inc

    • Originally interviewed Eric for Season 3
    • The weather is a big part of it
    • 49 teams from 14 States, 40 backyard teams and 8 kids teams
    • The train line from Canada to New Orleans runs right down the middle with the Pro’s on one side and everyone else on the other
    • KCBS Judges travel, so if you’re competing in a KCBS comp, you’re cooking KCBS style
      • Sweet, tangy, heat on the back
      • Teams from Virginia for example have had to switch from Vinegar based sauces to tomato-based sauces
    • ICBA comps need a lot of pepper
    • Memphis is wet sweetness
    • Over the years, the size of the rigs has changed 
      • 40 foot truck pulling a 30 foot trailer
      • Competitors will actually live in their rigs
    • Johnny Trigg has been coming every year for 18 years
    • The Hammond comp is a real ‘destination’ on the KCBS competition calendar
    • The hardest thing about putting on a comp is getting the community on board
      • If the community isn’t on board, it’s hard to get what you need from the City E.g. power and water
    • The best thing is the people that you meet and watching the community come together
    • On Thursdays they do ‘Pints’n’Pairings’ with a Brewery for the teams and their families

With Robin from Wink’s Barbecue

  • They love Hammond BBQ Challenge
    • Nothing but praise for the organisers
    • The wider community is very supportive
  • It’s their 3rd year at Hammond
    • Her husband was born and raised in Slidell just down the road
  • They started cooking in 2011 and got into competitions after taking a Myron Mixon class
    • Competed in 4 comps
    • Got 1st place chicken at their first ever comp
  • Trailer
    • It’s a 5th wheel trailer
    • Bed is over the bed of the truck
    • Living area and full bathroom
    • Full commercial kitchen
    • Porch on the back with Gullwing doors where the smokers live
  • They have a custom built drum smoker
  • They have a small RECTEC pellet grill
    • In 15 minutes it’s at temp
    • Can be used like an oven
  • They also have an Ole Hickory Ace

With Matt from Hot Wachula BBQ

  • Had a technical issue with the smoker last night
  • Usually the more problems he has, the better he does at awards
  • It’s not enough to get 1 or 2 good call outs, you need to be top 10 in every category
  • He cooks on a RECTEC and a homemade smoker
    • It was his homemade one that gave him the trouble
    • Started life as a reverse flow cabinet which he added a pellet hopper to the side
    • Luckily it has a small charcoal basket in the bottom so he ran it like a traditional smoker
  • He does his pork start to finish in his RECTEC
  • He comes from Florida
  • Hot Wachula is a sauce company – salsa, BBQ sauce, other condiments
    • He got into competition BBQ to get his name out there and for brand exposure
  • He’s going overseas for competitions in Transylvania, Slovenia and Amsterdam
  • Matt’s forte is Brisket
    • He expects good calls in Brisket and Pork
    • Usually chicken and brisket are his top 2
  • He cooks 30 – 40 contests per year
  • A lot of people will cook something and then completely change it if they don’t get a good result
    • Only change your recipes and methods after handing it in at least 4 times at 4 different competitions
    • Tenderness is the hardest to get right all the time
    • Be consistent!
  • He’s got a 44.5 ft 5th wheel toy hauler with balconies as his trailer
    • 1 bedroom, 2 bathrooms, full commercial kitchen
    • Does about 25k miles per year on it
  • Started with a Dodge Minivan that he converted to hold a small pellet grill and a cot
    • Moved up to a landscape trailer, then a cargo trailer, then a porch / 5th wheel trailer
  • Hammond reminds him of the European contests with everybody walking around and socialising and not just staying in their own trailers

With Byron from Bad Byron’s Butt Rub.com

  • The food and hospitality at Louisanan competitions is what makes the competition so good
  • He’s from the Florida Pan Handle about 4 hours away
  • Differences in styles between Florida and Hammond
    • Typically everybody cooks the same style of BBQ for competition
    • Regional influences don’t affect tenderness or appearance
    • Regional influences may affect taste, but competition BBQ has to be a particular style – balance is important
  • Bad Byron’s Butt Rub started in 1997
    • You couldn’t buy BBQ rubs at the stores back then
    • They started at grass roots level and then moved into grocery stores
    • A lot of people end up using their rub as an all-purpose seasoning
  • They have other products, but the Butt Rub is their main product
    • They are developing a Butt Rub BBQ sauce
  • He has a new cooker, being used for the second time in this competition
    • It’s a central Texas style
    • Uses a lot of wood and a clean burn
    • It isn’t insulated by design because that’s how they do it in Texas
    • The emphasis is on a robust fire
    • Robust fire – easier to get a clean burn
    • Adds a lot of bark to the meat
  • At this comp, he’s looking to get a name call in all categories
    • He thinks he needs a bit more experience with this cooker before he’ll start getting good results

With Johnny Trigg from Smokin’ Triggers

  • He’s been coming to Hammond for 16 years – he’s been to every single one
    • He has a lot of good friends who come back every year and so he’s come back with them
    • It’s a well-organised cookoff which brings him back
    • The Mayor and the City Council back it 100% and take good care of the competition and the competitors
    • They have capped the size of the competition which means there is a wait list to get into the competition
  • How has he seen the scene evolve?
    • The people cooking are getting better and better at it
    • For every competition that folds, there’s three more take their place
    • He thinks in the future the competition BBQ circuit will more resemble the PGA
    • When he started, entry fees were $25, there was no prize money and just a wooden plaque as a trophy
    • It’s a much more expensive game now than it was
  • He cooks on a Jambo
    • It’s a stick burner
    • It’s one of the finest cookers in the world
    • Johnny has knows Jaimie Greer since 1963. Johnny owned the second built ever Jambo
    • Right now, Johnny owns 3
  • He quit predicting which hand-ins are going to do the best
  • He’s known as the rib king so he thinks they’ll probably do well
  • He and his wife both just turned 80
  • He has cut way back on this competitions and last year only did 21
  • He bought a motorhome brand new and has done 280k miles in it travelling to BBQ competitions

With Kelly from the Smokin’ Butt Crew

    • Hammond was their first outing for the year and their cook has been a bit rough
      • They don’t care much though, coz they’ve had such a good time
      • The weather, food and music have all been excellent
    • There is a waitlist for entry to the contest
    • The first contest of the year, you forget all the things that you need to bring
      • Every year feels like he’s starting out again
    • Brisket is usually his best category, but this weekend has been hard for him
      • He uses Snake River Farms Wagyu briskets
      • The ups and downs is what makes the competitions interesting
    • He aims to do 10 comps a year, but usually ends up being 8
      • He’s still got a 9-5, putting in about 60 hours a week
      • He has to hit 5 to be Alabama’s team of the year
    • Alabama style BBQ
      • He usually cooks his own recipes the way he likes it
      • Alabama is more sweet than savoury as opposed to Texas style
      • It has a lot less pepper than Texas
      • Alabama is famous for white sauce on chicken
    • He cooks on a Jambo J3
      • He’s had several
      • They’re the best pit out there
      • Jambo’s are very popular with Texan BBQ’ers
      • You don’t get much sleep as you have to tend to them, but they are easy to use

RGC: Cajun Blaze

GC Hammond BBQ Challenge 2019: Razor Rack BBQ


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