A recurring theme in our travels is the fine art of barbecuing. Not my own; I just travel with a small Weber spherical grill that allows me to do the bare minimum. To our good fortune we have camped with a few folks for whom bbq is an obsession. Can you imagine paying an hundred bucks for a whole brisket because "finishing third sucks". These competitions are well regulated, professional operations that have some significant prize money even at the small regional level.
Today I wandered over to the NH Rockn' RibFest held on the grounds of the Anheuser Busch brewery in Merrimack, NH. I did not know if any of them would be there. First I spotted the Judge's tent with the atomic clock outside. If the ribs are to be judged at XX00:00.00, ribs that arrive at XX00:00.01 will be DQ'd. Typically, an equivalent clock is mounted prominently in each competitor's prep area.
As I wandered through the competitors' area, I ran into a familiar logo.
Note the clock in the upper right.
This is the operation of Tom and Michelle Perelka. Year after year they have pulled down single digit national rankings out of 7,000 competitors. The next two shots show the four ovens that they will be using this weekend. There's at least a half dozen more at home that didn't make the traveling squad this weekend.
These are serious competitors and great cooks. They will be camped with us in Maine over the 4th of July weekend. To give you an idea of some of the prep work, I'm about to show you the before and after pictures of a rack of ribs as Tom prepares them for a uniform presentation.
Here's the rack as it came from the butcher. Next, Tom will trim it and remove the "silver skin" and excess fat and make it uniform. The trimmings, by the way, go home with them to become sausage.
Now the result.
They don't just cook one rack. To increase their odds of creating a few perfect ribs for the judges they cook typically six racks.
Tim and Wendy Boucher of "Feedin' Frenz" will be joining the party in Maine. I believe my diet is going to take a serious hit. Let me tell you that this grillin' and competin' community is the most sociable and congenial group around and we are most fortunate to know some of them.