VISTA — More than 50 teams will heat up their smokers and compete in fifth annual Smokin’ Q Classic on Main Street on Aug. 2 and Aug. 3.
The competition is a mix of fun and a fierce cook-off for a $10,000 prize purse and trophies. Competitors must bring in their own smokers, meats and everything needed to slow cook chicken, pork and beef to perfection.
The contest adheres to Kansas City Barbeque Society sanctioned rules.
Smokers are fired up the first evening of the two-day event, judges inspect meats, and then the cook-off begins.
Slow cooking can take from eight to 15 hours.
Competitors are told the time certain that meats must be turned in to judges and figure their start times for cooking from there.
“You bring in the raw product,” Dale Ginos, of team When Pigs Fly, said. “Once meat inspection is done you can season it to your heart’s content. Then cook it low and slow. At 225 degrees it takes a long time for the meat to break down and get tender.”
Smoked chicken, pork rib, pork shoulder and beef brisket are graded on a point system for taste, tenderness and presentation. Rules state that meats cannot be marked in any way to ensure blind judging.
The winner is the cook who has the best overall score on all four meats.
Careful selection of raw meat is important. Competitors say they have their sources and spend up to $700 or $1,000 for meats, supplies and contest travel costs.
Dave Malone, of team All Sauced Up and the event’s reigning grand champion, describes the competition as an expensive barbeque with friends.
In addition to the best meats, competitors also need to develop a flavor profile. Ginos said this determines the winner and allows first-time competitors as much of a chance as seasoned cooks.
Experience also has its advantage.
Fellow competitors say Matt Dalton of the Left Coast Q team of Banning is one to watch.
“He’s a stiff competitor,” Ginos said. “He’s won five to six grand championships this year.”
Still the cook-off can be anyone’s game.
“Everyone has a different setup,” Briana Wagner, president of Artist Eye Events, said. “Some have elaborate rigs. They use specific rubs and chips. It’s a high-level barbeque you don’t get to taste often.” The intensity of the competition heats up at noon on the final day when the time-certain entries must be garnished and serves to judges. At this point many cooks choose not to interact with the public and some draw a curtain around their final preparations.
“It’s big money to be made and they take it seriously,” Wagner said.
“It’s a pretty exciting event,” Ginos said. “It’s stressful, fun — it hits all the emotions.”
Competitors serve a slice of each of the four meats to a team of six judges. They can choose to serve samples to the public.
Taste tickets are available to spectators.
Malone said it is best to get to the event before noon because samples of the best barbeque food can run out.
Samples range from meats to deserts.
Ginos serves a peach cobbler sample to the public.
“It’s amazing the things that can be cooked on a smoker,” he said.
To add to the fun, actor and comedian Mark Christopher Lawrence will join the When Pigs Fly team. Ginos said he would be showing Lawrence the ropes.
The Smokin’ Q Classic will be held from 5 to 8 p.m. Aug. 2 and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Aug. 3.
The annual Blazin’ Bike Show and Vista Rod Run, which features 350 classic cars, will be held on Main Street Aug. 3 and Aug. 4.
All events feature street fair vendors, live entertainment and a beer garden. Admission is free.