Amateur grillers go for BBQ pitmaster title

You might grill up some mean barbecue on your deck, but do you have what it takes to impress judges?

Small backyard barbecue competitions in Iowa and other states are trying to find the best amateur chefs by having BBQ competitions outside of the larger barbecue circuits.

"It's mainly bragging rights here," says Gary 'Vinny' Vinsand, one of the BBQ competitors.

The backyard barbecue competition in Humboldt, Iowa was put on at the county fair and sponsored by the Iowa BBQ Society. Board member Bill Hoffman was at the contest to make sure all competitors followed rules and judges followed proper judging procedures. 

Hoffman said the competition encourages people who brag to family and friends about their cooking to put their grilling skills where their mouth is. Winners of the contest take home a barbecue trophy, a small cash prize and the highest honor, a year of BBQ bragging rights.

"Get your deck grill out here and show your neighbors and community what you can do," says Hoffman.

As the crews rolled in to the competition, all the raw pork, chicken, and beef was inspected to make sure it followed the contest guidelines. Then the cutting, seasoning, and prepping of the meat moved quickly to get everything on the grill.

Some contestants showed up rolling their deck grills, others had bigger more professional smokers, and one man, Andrew Niles, had a smoker he made out of pieces he found in a scrapyard.  

After the rush to get the meat on, the waiting begins. It can take only a short time for poultry or fish, but the large pork loins can take hours.

"Patience definitely comes into it," says Niles who brought his wife and their two year old son to help him cook up pork loin, chicken and steaks. Niles uses his homemade smoker and tools he bought at Wal-Mart to BBQ. He says creativity and practice are important, not necessarily fancy equipment.  

"Like anything else, until you do it, you don't know you can do it," says Niles, "You just gotta experiment and see what works for you."

Backyard barbecue competitions are meant to show even small, non-professional teams can turn out some pretty tasty 'que. Vinsand said the great part about backyard BBQ competitions is contestants don't need expensive tools, they just need to show up.

"That's what it's all about friends, family, and backyard barbecue. It's fun. Try it, everyone should try it," says Chad Graaf, another competitor. He and his grilling partner, Chris Lau, brought their whole families to the event.

The contests may be smaller than professional BBQ circuits, with only a handful of grillers at the one in Humboldt. But families, friends, and bystanders looking for a free sample of the BBQ quickly fill up the park as the smell of BBQ wafts over the crowd.