Wet and Wild Competition BBQ
June 7, 2011
When it comes to cooking barbecue competitively, one thing you learn very quickly is how to deal with whatever Mother Nature throws your way. And that’s especially true when you live in the Northeast. I’ve competed in 10 degree cold and I’ve cooked in 110 degree heat. Wind, rain, darn near hurricane force winds…you find a way to make it through the night and hope for the best at turn-in time.
Below is a video from one of my latest foul weather contests and while it may seem intimidating at first, with a little proper planning, you can make the most of almost any situation.
Tip #1: Never assume your competition site is there to stay. My very first KCBS contest was held in the middle of a terrible wind and rain storm and I put way too much trust in the tiny ground spikes provided by the pop-up canopy manufacturer. The result? A 12×12 foot canopy rolling down the road while my drenched teammates gave chase. Today I strap everything to anything, using ratchet straps to tether canopy legs to water filled buckets, attach to coolers, tie to the trailer and whatever else might keep them from being destroyed by the wind. Also consider spending a bit more for heavier gauge canopies and carports versus the less expensive and lightweight options that rarely survive the storm.
Tip #2: Know the lay of the land. If there’s an area that teams don’t seem to be setting up in, there is probably a reason. I made that mistake once and found myself in a lake at 3am as all the water from the higher grounded sites ran down towards me. It’s also good to know what nearby permanent structures could provide temporary shelter should things get way too out of hand.
Tip #3: Come packin’. Weather is a fickle friend. I always make sure to pack a wide array of clothes in order to deal with whatever might come my way. Layers for late night dips in temperature, extra footwear for drying off after massive storms, and so on. There’s nothing worse than trying to get a brisket on the smokers at 2am after the temperature suddenly dropped 20 degrees and your hands won’t stop shaking because you’ve got nothing warm and dry to change in to.
Tip #4: The cookers come first. Sure you may get a little wet, a little cold, a little sunburned or otherwise, but if your goal is to ultimately win you have to put the cookers and the competition meat first. A little extra protection from the canopies when the rains are intensifying, maybe a wrap in your favorite blanket when the temperatures are dipping too low…It’s all down to what you are willing to do to make sure your entries are the best they can be even if it mean a little wear and tear on the pit master overnight.
Tip #5: Black out. This is actually my favorite tip because it has happened too many times to count. While most contests provide electric to teams, the ability to maintain that power during severe weather is suspect at best. Sure I could invest in a portable generator and rely on no one but myself and my ability to fill the generator with gas. But what’s the thrill in that? Supply yourself with plenty of backup lighting, try to minimize the amount of onsite late night work (i.e. do as much meat trimming as possible before you arrive on site), and don’t be afraid of the dark!
- Clint Cantwell, Grilling.com Guest Editor