Boning up on ribs: Cook-off contestants ponder what makes Western recipes unique
Wood smoke and the aroma of sizzling pork wafted into South Shore skies over the Memorial Day weekend as the Horizon Casino Resort’s Best on the Mountain Rib Cook-Off returned.
On hiatus since 2002, the competition brought a half-dozen competitors from across the Western states to Stateline in the hopes of perfecting a barbecue tradition well-known in such cities as Kansas City, Mo., and Memphis, Tenn.
Each of the competitors cooked up dozens of racks of ribs for patrons and judges but disagreed on what makes Western barbecue unique.
It’s all in the dry rub, said Trail’s End BBQ owner Carl Perry, while Greg Donnellan, a manager of the Kinder BBQ Team, said, “Mostly, it’s sauce.”
Donnellan spoke from inside the team’s booth, which included a display of trophies from past barbecue competitions, some with gold plastic pigs adorning their tops.
Dave Wilson, owner of Sacramento-based Joshua’s Ribbs and a regular competitor in barbecue competitions, uses a wet-rub technique and his Dallas roots as the basis for his California rib recipe.
“I added to the Texas style,” said Wilson, sitting comfortably next to a large black grill. “Wet seems to bring out more flavor.”
Worcestershire and vinegar are the primary ingredients in Wilson’s seasoning, but like most of the competitors in the rib-off, he declined to reveal all the tricks behind his operation.
When asked even the basic ingredients of the material used to season his ribs, Joe Orduna, the leader of the Brother’s BBQ Team, responded, “Just love,” with a grin.
Good ribs should be “juicy on the inside and crispy on the outside,” said Bakersfield resident and rib-off attendee Paul Dickey.
“Consistency, flavor and tenderness” topped the list for his wife, Toni Dickey.
After sampling each of the competitors’ ribs, the pair pointed to the Reno-based Brother’s Team as the top choice during the Memorial Day weekend event.
The Dickeys weren’t alone in their taste for the upstart barbecue company, which was participating in its first competition and won the people’s choice award.
Even so, the team to beat looks like this year’s winners, Carson City BBQ.
The catering company has won the South Shore rib-off the past six years the competition has been held, according to co-owner Phil Hyatt, who has his sights set on the annual Best in the West Nugget Rib Cook-Off scheduled for Labor Day weekend in Sparks, Nev.
The event attracts rib cookers from all over the country, and Hyatt is confident that West Coast recipes can hold up to their Midwestern and Eastern counterparts.
“Those guys come out here every year, and we give them a run for their money every year,” Hyatt said.