“Meat” the Competition BBQ Teams!

Saint Robert’s Kickin’ It Route 66 Barbecue Challenge has upped the ante and is now a Kansas City Barbeque Society sanctioned event! Whether you are competing or eating, this event has something for everyone- a kid’s BBQ competition, a military cook off, live music, kid’s bake off, adult bake off, and a Sportsman show!

BBQ Ribs

We caught up with a few of the teams to get a more in-depth look at the competition BBQ lifestyle, and the secrets to their success.

HIGH I QUE

Kickin' It Route 66 Barbecue Challenge graphic for High I Que based in Gardner, Kansas

Pulaski County Tourism Bureau: Tell us about your first BBQ competition win….

Randy VanSlyke: It was in Hays, KS. We thought we had done a decent cook but never thought we had done enough to win. There was a team called True Bud that was unstoppable that year and we beat them for the win. It was amazing. Since then we have had 9 other Grand Championships and 8 reserve grands, and a number of 700+ and 180 scores. 

PCTB: What’s your technique for developing flavor in your meat? A rub? A sauce? 

Randy: It is the entire process. Trimming, injecting, in some cases brining, rubs, and sauces. The bottom line though is tenderness. If you cook your meat to proper tenderness consistently you will place well more often than not. 

PCTB: What’s your favorite cut to cook at competition?

Randy: Ribs

PCTB: What can a weekend backyard barbecue aficionado learn from competition BBQ?

Randy: Fire management, and how to determine when the meat is really done. 

PCTB: For backyard barbecuers who are buying meat straight out of the case at their local grocery—what cut would you recommend mastering and why?

Randy: Brisket is the most challenging to cook because of what it is. But I say get good at what you like to eat.

SMOKIN’ DAN

Kickin' It Route 66 Barbecue Challenge graphic for Smokin' Dan based in Owasso, Oklahoma

PCTB: Tell us about your first BBQ competition win….

Dan Fike: First win was Smoke on the Border in Gravette Arkansas. Got two calls that day a 3 in chicken and 7 in pork. This was April of 2017. My fifth contest.

PCTB: What is a basic hour-by-hour breakdown of your team’s activities during a competition?

Dan: Light fire at 4 am and then it is something every fifteen minutes till we are done with the day at 1:30.

PCTB: What’s your favorite side to cook at competition?

Dan: Banana Pudding

PCTB: Outside of barbecue what is your favorite meal & sides?

Dan: A really good hamburger steak with brown gravy.

PCTB: For backyard barbecuers who are buying meat straight out of the case at their local grocery—what cut would you recommend mastering and why?

Dan: Master brisket. It is the hardest meat to cook. You’re trying to get it tender and keep it moist, while giving it a good flavor.

HEAVY SMOKE BBQ

Kickin' It Route 66 Barbecue Challenge graphic for Heavy Smoke BBQ based in O'Fallon, Missouri

PCTB: Tell us about your first BBQ competition win….

Chris Schafer: My first Grand Championship was at a 1-day event where you cook chicken, ribs, and tri-tip in 2014.  My first true 4 meat grand championship was in 2015. The day is a blur, to be honest.

PCTB: Is there a difference in how you cook for competition and how you cook in your backyard/catering/food truck?

Chris: If I’m cooking BBQ at home, I’m practicing so it’s the same as competitions. My food truck and catering company uses all the same recipes, but we cook low and slow where I’m hot and fast when I compete.

PCTB: Is there a book that you consider to be a BBQ Bible of sorts that backyard BBQers should have in their library?

Chris: Any book by Paul Kirk.

PCTB: How did you come up with your team name?

Chris: Cole Harte, my BBQ mentor who got me in to competition BBQ, used to have a saying when people asked why his BBQ was so good “Salt, Pepper, and Heavy Smoke.”  When I started my own team, I knew I didn’t want the name to be too long but wanted to honor my friend who got me started so I shortened it to “Heavy Smoke.”

PCTB: What can a weekend backyard barbecue aficionado learn from competition BBQ?

Chris: Learn to cook meat perfectly before you worry about flavors too much. Cooking it right is job #1.

PCTB: Do you use charcoal?

Chris: Natural Missouri hardwood lump charcoal from Timber Charcoal.

SKUNK RIVER BBQ

Kickin' It Route 66 Barbecue Challenge graphic for Skunk River BBQ based in Paola, Kansas

PCTB: Tell us about your first BBQ competition win….

Andrew Dean: It took 5 years to get the elusive first win. It was in Kansas City, KS at a contest we had taken Reserve Grand the year before. It was an amazing feeling knowing that all the hard work and practice had finally paid off. 

PCTB: What does BBQ mean to you?

Andrew: BBQ brings people together. Have you ever seen someone sad eating BBQ?!

PCTB: How did you come up with your team name?

Andrew: We are a team made up of family members, and we have all relocated to Kansas City from Central Iowa. The Skunk River is a river that has deep roots in central Iowa.

PCTB: What species wood to you prefer to use in competition?

Andrew: Pecan

PCTB: For backyard barbecuers who are buying meat straight out of the case at their local grocery—what cut would you recommend mastering and why?

Andrew: Start with chicken. It’s cheap, and easy to find.

MEAT RUSHMORE BBQ

Kickin' It Route 66 Barbecue Challenge graphic for Meat Rushmore based in Independence, Missouri

PCTB: Tell us about your first BBQ competition win….

Joel Fleetwood: Last year at the UMB Smokin’ Vault in KC. We won the wing category, finished second in sausage, and were top 3 in all 4 main categories to take down the grand championship.  

PCTB: What brought you in the competition BBQ fold?

Joel: Shortly after I got my first smoker, the show BBQ Pitmasters began airing. That really piqued my interest, to keep those competitive juices flowing. In 2012, we were given an opportunity by 2 of our teammate’s (Katie and Eric) employer to cook the American Royal after they had a company party there. After that, we were hooked! 

PCTB: Is there a difference in how you cook for competition and how you cook in your backyard or catering business?

Joel: The flavors are similar, but in competition everything is amped up with more flavor and intended to impress the judges in one bite. 

PCTB: Do you use charcoal?

Joel: Yes. Only the best, Royal Oak Charcoal 

PCTB: For backyard barbecuers who are buying meat straight out of the case at their local grocery—what cut would you recommend mastering and why?

Joel: Pork butt. It’s relatively affordable, provides a lot of meat, and works with a wide range of flavors so you can make it your own. 

GRAY WOLF BBQ

Kickin' It Route 66 Barbecue Challenge graphic for Gray Wolf BBQ based in Springfield, Missouri

PCTB: Tell us about your first BBQ competition win….

Ron Olson: I cooked with my brother, and a friend I went to high school with, in a rib contest in Wisconsin where I grew up. We won. It was exciting and a lot of fun.

PCTB: What is a basic hour-by-hour breakdown of your team’s activities during a competition?

Ron: Up at 5:00 and light the drum smokers, make some coffee and start cooking about 6:00. Brisket and pork on first, then ribs and chicken last.

PCTB: Do judges eat your barbecue differently than John Q. Public?

Ron: Yes. The public generally like fall of the bone and real tender. KCBS judges have a different criterion they judge on. They need to be tender and come off the bone clean with a little tug but not falling apart.

PCTB: Outside of barbecue what is your favorite meal & sides?

Ron: A Reuben sandwich and potato salad.

PCTB: For backyard barbecuers who are buying meat straight out of the case at their local grocery—what cut would you recommend mastering and why?

Ron: Ribs. It does not take as long to smoke them and are generally not too expensive.

TIM’S FULL BELLI DELI

Kickin' It Route 66 Barbecue Challenge graphic for Tim's Full Beli Deli based in Oshkosh, Wisconsin

PCTB: Tell us about your first BBQ competition win….

 Tim Schopp: Red, White and Bar-B-Que at Westmont, Illinois. 72 teams! The win was an unbelievable experience!

PCTB: What brought you in the competition BBQ fold?

Tim: Camaraderie and love of cooking.

PCTB: Briefly describe your equipment setup.

Tim: We cook on a 60-inch Myron Mixon water smoker.

PCTB: Outside of barbecue what is your favorite meal & sides?

Tim: Breaded pork chops.

PCTB: For backyard barbecuers who are buying meat straight out of the case at their local grocery—what cut would you recommend mastering and why?

Tim: How to determine marbling and fat.

Find inspiration for your weekend plans! Plan your Ozarks getaway around one of Pulaski County’s signature events. Food, fairs, half-marathons and more!