Local Barbequer Competes

By: Elizabeth Donatelli
By: Elizabeth Donatelli
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May 11, 2006

These competitors are professionals and don't use ordinary grills. Instead they use smokers that indirectly heat the meat.

"The heat actually cooks the meat. So we're looking at 200 to 255--in competitions we like to stay in the middle at 225," said Pitmaster John Atkins.

This is compared to the 300 to 400 degrees that grills use, so you can imagine it takes a lot longer.

"10 to 12 hours for a pork butt, maybe 12 to 14. Some people do briskets at 24 hours," said Atkins.

There are over 400 competitions nationally and at least five in Virginia this year, which all judge on the same things.

"Taste is number one and then tenderness and then appearance," said Atkins.

The judged meats are chicken, ribs, pork, and brisket, but you can barbeque anything from pineapples, to pizzas, to pies and cakes. But the Pitmaster says he doesn't do it just for the taste.

"I have a passion. I just love it. I think about it 24-7. It's almost, I'm just over the top sometimes," said Atkins.

The next Virginia competition is all day this Saturday at the Richmond Raceway Complex. Tickets are $10 in advance and $15 at the door.

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