Still tired from my 10-hour trip yesterday to Goldthwaite, for the 13th Annual State Championship BBQ & Goat Cook-Off (sanctioned by the Lonestate Barbecue Society), but it was worth it. It was a beautiful day, and I had a great time meeting folks.
I showed up at 10 am and spent the first couple of hours walking around and checking out the smokers of the 73 teams entered in the competition. Each had a unique look and character. Some were stand-alone smokers, some were built into trailers. Some old and rusty, some new and sleek.
I spent the rest of the time judging all 5 categories: beans, chicken, pork spare ribs, brisket, and goat. I sat at the semifinal table, so I didn't have to eat as many samples as the folks at the preliminary tables, but I ate plenty, nonetheless: 12 samples of beans and 15-18 samples each of all the meats. After taking some fair-sized bites of all the chicken entries, I made a game-time decision to take much smaller bites the rest of the day. Smart move.
I readily admit by bias toward smoked chicken, but I thought that, across the board, the semifinal cast of chicken entries were easily the best of all the categories. A positive of sitting at the semifinal or final tables is that the group of entries has been pared down, but a drawback is that the meats are more removed from the smoker, so they're not as hot and moist as when they were entered. As a result, the beans weren't hot, and the brisket and rib entries were a bit dry. The cabrito wasn't as gamey as I expected it to be, though the taste, particularly on the back end, was unique.
The folks who ran the event were so friendly, and they ran the event quite smoothly. They had all kinds of non-BBQ vendors, games and activities for kids, and a couple of longhorns who, take my word for it, could complicate your day if you didn't watch where you stepped.
All in all, good times in Goldthwaite, Texas.