61 barbecue teams ready for hot contest

Friday, August 20, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 1:18 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Columbia resident Derick Miles has been barbecuing for years, but today he’s just a rookie. It’s the first time he’ll be competing against — instead of assisting — his father-in-law at the Missouri State Fair’s Backyard Chef Barbecue Contest.

Although the State Fair ends Sunday, it wouldn’t be complete without its annual barbecue contest. The event will be today from 8 a.m. until awards are announced at 4 p.m. This year, 61 teams of four are competing.

The teams will begin setting up at 5:30 a.m. They arrive early because the secret to great barbecue is taking your time, something the public doesn’t always understand.

“Most of what people think of as barbecue is actually grilling,” Miles said. “Barbecuing is slow roasting the meat at a low temperature.”

Martha Hannsz, superintendent of the Backyard Chef Barbecue, said the event has been held since the ’60s. She has been involved with the contest for 12 years.

The public is welcome to visit with the chefs as they work and to attend the awards ceremony. And don’t be shy: talking barbeque with visitors is part of the fun for contestants like Miles. When they’re not busy cooking, they’re talking shop and having a good time.

“Guys get together and try to squeeze secrets out of each other,” Miles said.

Unfortunately, the public does not get to taste the food. There will be 83 judges on hand to evaluate the meat in four classes: beef, pork, chicken and category in addition to awards for grand champion, reserve champion and champion, representing the top three overall scores.

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