Thrilling Grilling

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Mark Bower and David Kanizar pose with Queen Georgialee Quail and Jr. Queen Morgan Schwartz during the annual Snow Queen BBQ competition at Centennial Village.

Two Aberdeen Guys Take Up Competitive Smoking

My latest hobby is entering BBQ competitions. Yep, BBQ competitions. And oh how I’ve developed a huge passion for them. I religiously watch all the BBQ Pitmaster shows on cable TV. I can’t explain why, but I’m infatuated with BBQ competitions, and it’s not just because it includes the use of my beloved motorhome.

Hobbies are a lot more fun when you can share your passion with someone else. David Kanizar had the same passion, and soon we were working together, trying to get some calls (awards) in area BBQ competitions.

My passion started over the last couple summers by entering backyard competitions held by the Snow Queen and Brown County Fair (BCF). I can safely say it was those competitions that got me hooked. Dave’s passion for BBQ started years ago cooking in his backyard, and he blames me for dragging him into competitions. In the beginning, we used Dave’s small Wal-Mart smoker and picked up a few calls. Having some success then fueled a burning desire to buy a bigger smoker and compete at area KCBS sanctioned competitions (like the ones you see on TV).

Most people who start a hobby start small. They, like David, go to a big-box store, buy their first smoker and play until they get the hang of smoking meat. But not me. I go big or go home. My first smoker was a used 200-gallon offset reverse-flow smoker that I picked up in Iowa and pulled home behind my pickup (my family said I had lost my mind!)

Our very first KCBS competition was in June in Huron. At the time, this level of competition was way, WAY out of our league. We didn’t care. Have you ever been so excited about something that you didn’t sleep a week before the event? That was me before our very first KCBS competition.

Finally, the day came to leave for Huron with smoker in tow behind my motorhome. At Redfield my rear camera showed sparks flying. My heart sank. I pulled over to discover a blown tire with further damage to the springs and axle, all caused by a dry bearing. Now what? I unhooked the smoker and drove back to Aberdeen to get my flatbed trailer. Many thanks to my friend JB who dropped everything to help me load and get my smoker to Huron.

We arrived in Huron without further incident. The atmosphere was electric. Smokers and cookers of every shape and size spread throughout the campground. Could heaven be much better than this?

Just like on TV, meat turn-ins started at noon the next day. To cook pork shoulder and brisket low and slow, the cook-time can be 10+ hours, which means firing-up the smoker around midnight. Watching everyone tend their smokers throughout the night was the coolest sight. One competitor, after firing-up their smoker, said they have a ritual of smoking a pizza and invited David and I over for a slice. I told David, “We need a ritual like that!”

In our first KCBS competition, we bombed. We took last place overall of 42 teams. But Huron also had some side-cooking competitions where we got some calls, so that kept us positive. The next KCBS competition was in Watertown in July. There, our chicken and brisket received higher scores, which was encouraging.

At the end of July we competed in the Snow Queen competition at Centennial Village in Aberdeen. Cooking barbeque and hanging with the Snow Queens – who wouldn’t love doing that? The beauty of competing locally is that there are always friends willing to help finish-off the leftovers. Afterwards we had over 50 ‘friends’ just waiting for samples.

The tailgate competition at the BCF will be our next big cooking event. With more cash and prizes than ever before, it’s sure to be an event that will attract more BBQ’ers like us. So as we fire-up our smoker at the BCF and cook that ceremonious pizza, our passions will soon have us looking for the next BBQ competition. // – Mark Bower