Competitive barbecue is ingrained in the culture of the United States of America. No county fair would be complete without a rib cook off, chili cook off or full blown low and slow barbecue contest. In the last decade it has firmly taken root in the UK and Europe fuelled by the huge interest in outdoor cooking and cooking over smoke and fire.
The I.O.Shen Fire in the Valley 2023 contest was at Valley Fest and consisted of two contests that took place across Saturday and Sunday at the festival. A freestyle contest and a traditional low and slow contest testing all aspects of teams barbecue skills, fire management skills and creativity.
The first CompBBQUK Champion Series contest, and one that will be remembered.
Saturday saw the teams go head-to-head in the Kamado Bono Freestyle Champions contest over three rounds, sanctioned and run as a CompBBQUK Champion Series Event. Each team produced impressive dishes to wow the judges in line with each rounds theme. Round one was “Pimp my Barbecue”, with each team looking to take inspiration from or reimagine a British barbecue classic. Round two paid homage to the beautiful surroundings and countryside of Chew Valley where “Great British Picnic” was the order of the day, with teams required to impress with picnic inspired sweet dishes, savoury dishes, or both. The third and last round of the day was in honour of Bristol’s most famous plasticine dog with a round entitled “More Cheese Gromit!”, with teams producing dishes with cheese as the star.
Wonkey Donkeys came out on top and cemented their place as the competition freestyle kings and Grand Champions. (Mrs)Old Man Moore were the Reserve Grand Champions with an impressive array of thoughtful dishes.
Sunday was the pinnacle of worldwide competition barbecue with teams competing in the Angus and Oink Smoke Masters, a traditional American low and slow style contest. The contest was sanctioned by Kansas City Barbecue Society (KCBS), one of the biggest barbecue organisations in the world, and run to their rules and procedures.
Teams produced traditionally smoked chicken, ribs, pork shoulder and brisket and teams ranged from international champions, to teams in their first ever contest. They cooked on a variety of barbecues and smokers over many hours aiming to produce the most perfect, succulent, tender and flavourful smoked meats.
White Squirrel BBQ took home the overall Grand Champion prize with Bunch of Swines taking Reserve Grand Champion.
Joker Smokers are a team made up of married couple Shaun and Jo. After 8 years of competition they love the company and friendly banter.
After seeing American BBQ competitions on the TV, they wanted to give it a go and have been hooked ever since.
Cooking at home everything from simple steaks to porchetta with all the trimmings, their top tip is not to over complicate it.
Northwest BBQ are brand new to the competition scene as this is their first.
After many years cooking American style barbecue at home, they wanted to take it to the next level and see if they could earn their stripes as expert pitmasters.
With beef short ribs a firm favourite, their best advice is that texture is key and you should always see if your meat feels done as well as looking at the temperature.
Andre and Michael have been competing for 11 years and love it for the camaraderie and competitiveness.
Andre's South African roots and love of meat on a fire got him hooked on competitive barbecue.
Top tip: The temperature never lies, always cook to internal temperature and not time.
Ed and Emma from Bunch of Swine's are our resident international Champions. With 13 years of competing under their belt they are seasoned campaigners.
After stumbling across a burgeoning organisation running contests in 2010 they decided to give it a go. With their vast experience across the world, their tip is to learn what temperature your barbecue or smoker is most comfortable at, and work with that rather than trying to force it.
Mel and Gareth from Oldmanmoore won't be travelling far, but they will be crossing a boarder. Representing Wales, they hail from the Cardiff area so its no surprise that Hangfire had an involvement in their BBQ journey. After visits to Smoke and Fire Festival and Black Deer, they took the plunge in to competing, albeit hampered by pesky COVID lockdowns
They like nothing more than a simple smash-burger and run on adrenalin, cider and beer during a contest. Gareth loves a bargain, so his tip is to raid the autumn sales for barbecue discounts.
As well as sponsoring our Saturday freestyle contest, Kamado Bono are also entering their company team in to the contest.
Experienced competitors across Europe, and organisers of their own contest and festival in Lithuania, they bring a wealth of experience in competitive barbecue.
The Barkness have been competing for 7 years. They originally got drawn in after seeing ITV tv show BBQ Champ.
A laid back team, they like nothing more than cooking up a load of chicken wings, and are often heard advising others to ensure they have a cool zone on their barbecue. The camaraderie amongst the teams is a big thing for these guys.
Peter and Lili are our true international team, joining us all the way from their native Germany. Adding a more UK flavour to their team, they are joined by semi-retired competitor and true Londoner Tony who normally competes as his own team Uncle Tonys Cockney Que, making a mash-up team in both accents and nationalities.
Both Peter & Lili and Tony have vast experience in competing internationally and winning, so can they translate that separate success in to combined results?
Tracey and Nick have been competing for eight years and love the challenge of coming up with new recipes and ideas. After initially competing in chili cook-offs here and in The States they got involved with barbecue competitions.
They love a big old pile of chicken wings when they are cooking at home and would recommend being relaxed and taking everything in your stride, especially if things go wrong, step back, assess the situation and make sure you have a beer or wine in your hand.