Sunday, June 20, 2010

2010’s 8th annual Big Apple BBQ!

Last weekend, 120,000 hungry barbecue enthusiasts came out to Madison Square Park for New York’s 8th annual Big Apple Barbecue Block Party. Little Scarlet was lucky enough to be sent to cover the Big Apple BBQ as a Foodie Correspondent for Foodbuzz, and that media pass was certainly put to good use!

The delicious smell of smoked meat was thick in the air as 17 of the country’s most talented barbecue pitmasters churned out mountains of brisket, pork, ribs – even mutton! Heartland Brewery had its beer garden up and running around the Madison Square Park fountain, right next to the music stage where blues and country twangers like Secret Country and The Derailers were rocking out.

As a newly minted KCBS Certified Barbecue Judge, the best way to become a better judge is to eat as much barbecue as you can and really pay attention to what you’re eating. With this aim in mind, I rallied together a crew of like-minded barbecue lovers to help eat a plate from each vendor over the course of the weekend, so that Little Scarlet could pick favorites for brisket, pulled pork, and ribs.

Best Brisket: Jack’s Old South
Pitmaster: Myron Mixon

Pitmaster Myron Mixon is a fierce competitor on the barbecue circuit, and his brisket is a reflection of that dedication to barbecue. Hill Country’s brisket gives Jack’s a run for its money, but ultimately Jack’s brisket delivers just what you want: it’s tender, juicy, and full of great fatty, beef flavor (although it would be preferable if the brisket were not sliced with an electric knife). The baked beans had a nice dash of heat, though the addition of sliced peaches made them a little too sweet for this Northern girl.

Best Pulled Pork: Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q
Pitmaster: Chris Lilly

After Pitmaster Chris Lilly’s pulled pork brought him eight World BBQ Championships, it should come as no surprise that Big Bob Gibson had the best pulled pork at the Big Apple BBQ. Lilly takes whole pork shoulder, a cut that includes the butt and the picnic, and injects it with an Worcestershire sauce-apple juice liquid, and then rubs the shoulder all over with a dry spice mixture. After the meat spends 14-16 hours cooking in a rotisserie smoker at 225° F, Lilly chops the pork and serves it up on a bun with a side of brightly colored coleslaw. This pulled pork is juicy and fatty, and flavorful enough that it doesn’t need anything extra, but Big Bob’s terrific sauces have brought home Championship titles, too – you really can’t go wrong!

Best Ribs: Pappy’s Smokehouse
Pitmaster: Skip Steele

As you might expect, Pappy’s Pitmaster Skip Steele is also well-known on the competitive barbecue circuit; his team, Super Smokers BBQ, has done particularly well at the Memphis in May competition, consistently placing in the Top Ten. (Fun trivia: Steele’s Super Smokers BBQ catering business counts country legend and heartthrob Randy Travis among its clients!) These St. Louis-style ribs were the talk of the Big Apple BBQ, and they did not disappoint. Prepared with a brown sugar-based dry rub that caramelizes during the low-and-slow barbecuing, they have a beautiful shine to them, and the meat pulls easily from the bone without falling off.

Crowd Favorite: Jim ‘N Nick’s Bar-B-Q
Pitmaster: Drew Robinson

These smoked sausages are a true Southern delight, right down to the Duke’s mayonnaise used to make the pimiento cheese. The sausages are smoked over hickory for an hour and then finished on the grill for that perfect snappy bite – to get the full effect, spread a liberal dose of pimiento cheese on top of a Saltine, then top with a generous bit of sausage and a slice of Serrano pepper. You’ll be craving these all the way until next year’s Big Apple BBQ!

To see other pictures from 2010’s Big Apple BBQ and to read about Little Scarlet’s interview with Chris Lilly, click on the “Read More” link below!

(or if you’re already viewing this article in full, just scroll down!)

Additional pictures from 2010’s 8th annual Big Apple Barbecue Block Party!

Texas Salt and Pepper Beef Ribs, being prepared by Blue Smoke’s team

Smoked sausages over hickory wood, from Jim ‘N Nick’s

Pitmasters from Jack’s Old South (Unadilla, GA) prepare their brisket for hungry barbecue lovers

Pork shoulder straight from the smoker, at Dinosaur Bar-B-Que’s stand – phenomenal!
If you live in NYC, make sure you visit their restaurant in Harlem.

Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint pulling apart their Western Tennessee-style Whole Hog

Little Scarlet was able to steal a quick moment to talk with Chris Lilly, which was fantastic. My favorite thing about judging barbecue competitions and attending events like the Big Apple BBQ is getting the opportunity to hang out and talk with people who so clearly love and enjoy barbecue. It’s such a pleasure to see so many people so excited about the same thing, and it’s really a completely unadulterated passion for the food and the whole cooking process – I’ve never met anyone who cooked barbecue for a living or for competitions that did it for any reason other than love.

Chris Lilly, hard at work – smiling and choppin’ hog!

I asked Lilly what brings him all the way from Alabama up to New York City every June for the last eight years, and he replied without hesitation, “The people! It’s too much work to come out here and do it for money or anything, we’re working, cooking for four days to get everything ready for this many people and it’s just - it’s the people, the New Yorkers who come out here and get excited about our food and about barbecue, and that’s why you do it.”

Lilly was assisted by barbecue team Smoke in Da Eye, and Corrine Trang (pictured above)

Lilly says his two favorite things to make are his pulled pork (which has obviously done very well, winning multiple World Championships) and a chicken with white gravy that’s very popular at Big Bob Gibson’s. He said it’s too difficult, though, to prepare chicken at that consistent level of quality for over 100,000 people in the course of two days, that you have much more control over something like pork shoulder. “Besides,” he added, “I don’t think they’d let me cook anything else here!”

Lilly takes a moment to catch up with Little Scarlet, and even poses for a quick photo

Little Scarlet had a wonderful time at this year’s Big Apple BBQ. Thanks again to Foodbuzz for helping procure a media pass – can’t wait til next year!

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