Ben Pace (right), with the Smokin’ Bones cooking team, cuts up chicken as Ronny Huff prepares ribs to be turned in during the Meat Ya at the Gap cookoff on Saturday, April 12, 2014, at the Red Dirt Pavilion in Buffalo Gap.
Last weekend in Abilene there was a whole lotta barbecue going on. If you weren’t one many Dyess airmen and their families to get fed the thousands of pounds of meat cooked up for the World’s Largest Barbecue at the Abilene Civic Center, there was still meat to eat.
I went out and covered the Meat Ya at the Gap cook off at the Red Dirt Pavillion in Buffalo Gap and found some great Q out there. Sadly, I had a pretty busy day and couldn’t spend a whole lot of time there, but I did happen to get there just in time to see some of the teams getting their rib entries ready, and boy was I glad I showed up when I did!
The great thing about pitmasters is they are proud of the product they put out and love to “force” their wares on you. I ended up sampling some really great ribs and even a little chicken from the Big JAM BBQ team, Son of a Dink and Smokin’ Bones teams.
It’s really great to talk to pitmasters and see their differing opinions on everything from cooking time to sauce to wood. The latter usually being the most varied. Of course, you can smoke with any kind of hard wood, but the flavors given off in the smoke differ in the flavor of the final product. I’ve always smoked with either hickory or pecan, mostly because that’s what I have. Pecan is pretty easy to find and I have a few friends happy to give it away after a big thunderstorm.
Ronny Huff, of the Smokin’ Bones team from Buffalo Gap said he uses mostly mesquite because it so easy to find. The key though is making sure it’s pretty dry. “A little green is ok, to make more smoke, but if you get too much it will give it a real bad flavor,” Huff told me. I was also told apple and cherry woods are good to throw in, especially with ribs to add a sweetness.
As you get further down south, towards the Hill Country many of the places are using oak. It’s all a matter of taste, and I have found some meats work better with different woods. However, the most popular, hickory, mesquite and oak seem to work well with almost anything. And, as long as your putting enough smoke to it and smoking it for a long time, chance are it’s going to be good… just some will be better than others, but it’s fun (and tasty) to experiment.