- Associated Press - Sunday, August 6, 2017

HARTSELLE, Ala. (AP) - More than 50 barbecue teams spent two days camped out in downtown Hartselle for the eighth annual Cotton Pickin’ BBQ Cook-Off.

None of the competitors would share their signature sauce recipes, but most said sauce is not the secret to good barbecue.

Cliff Asby of Hell on Squeals Competition BBQ Team from Meridianville said cooking the meat on low, indirect heat is key.

“You hear the saying, ‘fall off the bone ribs.’ You don’t want fall off the bone ribs. Those ribs are overcooked,” he said. “You’ll try ribs cooked the right way one time and you’ll never go back.”

His teammate, Dewayne Lamb, said backyard barbecuers tend to overcook or burn the meat, leading to a foul-tasting, chewy mess.

“Real good barbecue takes more time than most people think,” Asby said.

Smoking a beef brisket to perfection takes about 10 hours, said Rick Morris of The Low and Slow Smokers team from Shelbyville, Tennessee.

“A lot of people tend to try to cook barbecue hot and fast on the grill like they would a steak,” Morris said. “If you do that, it’ll burn before it’s fully done.”

Cooking with high temperatures leaves little room for error, he said.

“By the time you think it may be burning, it’s too late,” he said.

Another common error is putting sauce on the meet while it’s still cooking, said Paul Keltner of Rooters N’ Tooters in Columbia, Tennessee.

“A lot of sauces have sugars in them, and tend to burn or caramelize if you put it on the meat too early,” Keltner said. “That’s how you get the burned, black parts of the meat.”

Sauce should only be added right before the meat is eaten, he said.

With respect to sauces, Keltner said he used to have a signature sauce but stopped using it. He now uses a mixture of different sauces pre-made by a company that designs the sauces for barbecue competition teams, he said.

Morris said he does the same.

“If you ask anyone here, they’ll all tell you that most sauces are 75 percent the same,” Lamb said. “It’s just the small amounts of seasonings that make them different.”

Most sauces have a tomato base and a sweet component such as molasses or brown sugar, he said.

The competition drew 25 professional teams and 30 backyard barbecue competition teams from across the Southeast, said coordinator Danielle Gibson. The competition is the last qualifying cook-off for the Jack Daniels World Championship barbecue competition in October. The competition is also part of the Kansas City Barbecue Society competition circuit.

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Information from: The Decatur Daily, https://www.decaturdaily.com/decaturdaily/index.shtml


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