COLUMBIA — Jamey Johnson opened the door of his wood pellet-fired smoker, and a sweet and spicy smell rushed out. He arranged his barbecued chicken thighs in a white plastic foam box and handed them to his wife who was waiting in a golf cart to turn in the contest entry. The chicken had to be turned in within five minutes of the noon deadline Saturday during the 19th Annual Boone’s Lick Trail BBQ Contest.
Forty-three teams entered this year's contest, held at the Boone County Fair. Teams competed in divisions for chicken, pork ribs, pork and beef brisket. Every team put enough meat for six judges in a foam box. The competitors either drive golf carts to turn in their entries or hurriedly walk to the metal multi-purpose building. They turn in their meat as a clock displays the official time.
The Boone’s Lick Trail BBQ Contest uses only Kansas City Barbeque Society certified judges. All the judges have attended a class to learn how to judge the entries fairly.
“We’re not at a restaurant,” contest organizer Aimee Olmstead said before the judging. She reminded the judges to review the entries based on what the team is trying to convey, not their personal taste preferences.
The judges sat at tables behind water, crackers and paper towels as they waited for the entries to come out. First, a table captain displayed the entries and the samples were judged based on appearance without touching the meat. Then, the boxes of meat were passed around as each judge took out a piece of meat and put it on a labeled tasting mat. They judged the meat for taste and tenderness.
At the end of the contest, Border War Smokers, the team of Chris Duff and Rob Keeney, had the highest combined score and received the title of grand champion.