As I mentioned yesterday, several of us got together at the Dallas Chop House last night to judge some barbecue. The seven pitmasters (three from Oklahoma, four from Texas) got their smokers out to Main Street Garden early yesterday, pulled onto the Great Lawn (except for Big Daddy’s, whose 46-foot smoker was unable to fit on the lawn), and got to work. They were each given St. Louis-cut ribs and told to cook for five hungry judges.
We reaped the fruits of their labor last night. (We being Cathy Barber from the Dallas Morning News, Teresa Gubbins from Pegasus News, Robert Wilonsky from the Dallas Observer, and Dave Cathey from the Oklahoman.) We judged the ribs on texture, tenderness, appearance, and sauce. We judged the crust, the cut, the rub. We wondered if the ribs were too spicy. Too sweet? Was the fat cooked down? Was there too little fat? Did we like the pumpkin-y sauce? What about the hot sauce? How about that pickle? After about two hours and sampling 35 ribs apiece (don’t worry, we didn’t all of them), we were stuffed. And we’d made a decision.
The winners are all below. Go.
We went out to the patio (one of my favorite patios downtown) and the winners were announced. The Texas winner was Cousin’s Barbecue from Fort Worth. The ribs are picture number 6 (I took the pictures as we went, but never knew whom the ribs belonged to. I found out the order this morning). These ribs had a deep smokiness that won most of us over. Some of them were just slightly overcooked, but the great flavor of the meat and the barbecue sauce was enough to make it the winner. That pickle may have had something to do with the win as well. Have some water nearby if you try it, though. It is a spicy vegetable.
The Oklahoma winner was Leo’s BBQ from Oklahoma City (picture number 3). I liked how they presented their sauce. On the left side, you had a medium sauce, and on the right, you had their hot sauce. The hot sauce’s texture was a bit grainy, but the medium was just about perfect, as were the ribs.
So now it’s your turn to do some judging. The winning pitmasters have been at work in Main Street Garden since 5:30 this morning. They’ll be out at the park tonight from 5 to 10 p.m. Get a plate of ribs from both Leo’s and Cousin’s. Then vote for who you think is the best. The winner will get $1,000. (And all proceeds that DRG Concepts makes will go to Kidd’s Kids.) You can also talk to and test the barbecue sauces and spices from the other pitmasters. And while you’re there, you’ll hear performances from bands from both Texas and Oklahoma.
My only little bit of advice: don’t even look at 35 ribs. You’ll smell like barbecue for the next day and you may get a little sick.