“I want meat! I’m not a fruit bat!” – Lewis Black
“Q” the Pig!, a Knoxville competitive barbeque team, recently completed its 5th competition with the Kansas City Barbeque Society (KCBS). Because team leaders David McCauley and Chris Durfee have their priorities straight, they did not bother with the baked bean and sausage competition. They were all about slow smoking whole chickens, beef brisket, pork shoulder, and bone-in pork ribs. Team member Kimberly Thomas’ banana pudding won first place in the dessert category, netting her a $200 prize and a trophy. McCauley says “Q” the Pig! improved its scores in all categories except for brisket – which is usually their strongest entry.
“Out of 46 teams “Q” the Pig! finished 30th overall, mainly due to our poor showing in brisket,” says McCauley. “I believe we would have finished in the top half if it weren’t for that. Included in the field were multiple KCBS teams that have been featured on The Food Network. It was a highly competitive field, to say the least. Some of these high end competitive teams have sponsors. Those teams travel and compete up to 40 times a year,” says McCauley. “We started entering competitions in 2007. We do this for fun. We don’t want to come in last in any category, and so far we haven’t!”
HOW IT ALL BEGAN
In 2000, McCauley was working on a documentary that took him to a Memphis barbeque. “I thought smoking meat was the coolest thing ever. I wanted to get a smoker, and I started learning everything I could about barbeque. My first smoker was a backyard model called “The Competition.” He has since graduated to a vertical moderate-sized Stump’s Smoker, and to a horizontal 6’ long X 4.5’ wide smoker with an accompanying trailer. He calls it Betty.
Unbeknownst to McCauley, his longtime friend and co-worker, Chris Durfee had a smoked meat habit. “I learned about grilling and smoking from my uncle. Barbeque is a good excuse to get together. I started out with a gas-fueled smoker. My friends were happy with the final product, but I could taste the gas,” says Durfee. Once McCauley discovered they shared this interest, he gave Chris his small wood fueled smoker when he upgraded to the Stump’s Smoker. Both men are also KCBS certified judges. Durfee says they completed the 1-week training program “to learn what judges are are looking for in the entries.”
After a lot of practice, McCauley and Durfee formed “Q” the Pig! as a competitive barbeque team and an on-site caterer for special events. “We go out to cater private parties to raise funds to enter competitions, which typically have an entry fee of $300,” explains McCauley.
We prefer to slow smoke barbeque over hickory or fruit woods like apple, cherry, or maple,” says McCauley. He credits Durfee with being the better fire builder. Wood, wood pellets, or charcoal are allowed at KCBS competitions.
McCauley prefers to prepare the raw meat with a dry rub of herbs and spices, a blend that might include some of Durfee’s homegrown Asian peppers. In competitions “you don’t have to serve meats with a barbecue sauce. If you do use a sauce, it cannot pool around the meat; it must be a light coating.”
According to the KCBS rules and regulations, meats are judged on appearance, taste, and tenderness (and judges may not lick their fingers during the tasting portion of the competition). Rule violations regarding pooling sauce, incorrect garnishes, insufficient meat quantities, and improper labeling of the team’s special serving containers can lead to disqualification. McCauley says, “The four meat categories are turned in individually, every half hour, beginning at noon on the second day of the competition. Teams have a ten-minute window for turn-in. NO EXCEPTIONS. If you are five minutes too late, that’s too bad.”
KCBS is a non-profit organization and local competitions are hosted by a charity. At the recent Rocky Top BBQ Cook-Off, the Rotary Club of West Knoxville received all the proceeds from the event. McCauley says, “Friday is always neat because all the teams are setting up and starting to cook something. The folks who compete are very neighborly and will help with just about anything you might need. Saturday is serious business. Once everything is turned in, everyone breathes a huge sigh of relief. We eat leftovers and crack open a few beers. Sometimes we dance a jig.”
Please visit KnoxZine’s FaceBook page for photos of “Q” the Pig!’s equipment and competition meat entries! You will want to see this!
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© Debra Dylan, 2013