Go TexanApril 30, 2012
By Candy Weaver
Down in Houston, late every February, one of barbeque's oldest major competitions, the opener of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo has happened since 1974. It has grown from seven teams to well over 400 teams in 2012. Without a doubt it has become the major barbeque gathering! This event celebrates all things barbeque, particularly Texas barbeque, and has as it's directive, furthering Texas agricultural traditions and animal husbandry. With the "Go Texan" banner, many competitors get there by winning a qualifier in their Texas county.
Like another major event, Memphis in May, the HLSR barbeque has a corporate presence. In Houston, local businesses use the barbeque to entertain their customers. Huge setups are assembled in a parking lot in Reliant Park, where the cooking part is really a minor component to the public face of the corporate teams. Corporations fund scholarships through their efforts at the contest. In fact, they "buy" their way into their space by funding scholarships.
Every team chooses the meat they want to compete in, chicken, ribs or brisket. Teams with multiple spaces get to turn in a box for each space. Only the Champions cook all three meats. The Champions present for this year were Texas Pepper Jelly (2010 winner) and Motley Que Crew (American Royal winner 2010). The winner of the 2010 Jack Daniel's Invitational was invited but could not attend. It says much about the barbeque world that these contests honor each others Grand Champions.
There are awards for Dutch Oven, best skit, cleanest area, most colorful area, best pit and others in addition to the three meat categories -- half chicken, pork spare ribs and brisket. Judging has developed over time with ratings given in smell, taste, texture and appearance. A varying scoring system automatically "weighs" the results. Five judges sit at a table, high and low scores are dropped on each entry. Each table gets a variety of chicken, ribs and brisket for about fifteen or more entries per table. Judging is done in rounds, with advancing entries held in an insulated box. When a team makes the Finals, they submit a new box for the finals judges.
There's an atmosphere at this contest that is quite unique. Whether a team is there for corporate purposes or representing their home county, they are there for the Bragging Rights not prize money! There isn't any prize money! And in Texas, those bragging rights are right on up there with winning any of the other "majors." Large Congratulations to Motley Que Crew, champions of the American Royal, for their grand champion award from the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo BBQ Contest!
Who says a KCBS team can't cook a half chicken?