Pitmaster fired up about competition

10 08 2010

MacCormick wants Truro barbecue contest to be more about meat, less about sauce
By BILL SPURR Features Writer
Sun, Aug 8 – 4:53 AM

Frequent work-related travel that takes him away from his family has a major silver lining for barbecue fanatic Rob MacCormick, whose job often has him in Austin, Texas.

“The cool thing about Texas is they keep it super simple,” said MacCormick, a Halifax resident who has visited all the major U.S. barbecue belts.

“I sat down last week with the 87-year-old proprietor of a barbecue joint in Taylor, Texas, and asked him about his rub. I didn’t even need all the fingers on one hand to list the ingredients. It’s all about (taking lots of) time, pepper and salt, that’s it.”

MacCormick is in charge of the Maritime Barbecue Competition that’s a part of the Dutch Mason Blues Festival next weekend in Truro. It’s the fourth year for the contest and he wants to take it in a different direction.

“Historically it’s been a sauce competition, and dabbled with some chicken,” said MacCormick. “Now we’re moving into ribs because in my mind, the way we’d like to see it go is toward a real, traditional barbecue contest, with . . . ribs, pork shoulder, chicken and beef brisket, all the good stuff we see everywhere else. First, we need to raise the awareness of the competition end of it.”

MacCormick thinks a dozen entrants would be about right for the Truro contest because many more than that would require a second squad of judges. He thinks the biggest challenges for someone competing for the first time will be developing a barbecue sauce that makes a judge want a second bite, as well as meeting a deadline.

“It’s a timeline that’s strictly monitored,” he said. “You’ll want to please the judges. . . . If your idea is a rib should just slide off the bone, that’s not going to fly with the judges and that’s why we’re using the (Kansas City Barbecue Society) rulebook to lay out the way it should be. For example, a good rib, when you bite and pull away, you should see teeth marks.”

Competitors “have to get past the fact that it’s a judge,” he said. “Just think of it as passing your ribs across the table to one of your friends. That’s what I love about barbecue. (It) is not only having my barbecue but trying someone else’s to see what works for them. Based on my experience, it’s great just hanging out with other barbecue people.”

Competitors will have five hours from the time cooking begins to when they have to turn in their ribs. A $75 entry fee includes a pass to the blues festival, being held at the Truro Raceway.

It doesn’t matter whether the ribs are cooked on a gas grill or an elaborate smoker.

“For this, I’ve had calls from folks who want to bring gas, one guy asked if he could bring a thousand-pound (portable) pit, which made my eyes just light up when I was reading the email,” said MacCormick. “It’s a mix but it’s been cool to see how charcoal and wood has taken off.”

Greg Sullivan of Truro will be competing in his first competition but has done extensive research, making ribs at home at least once a week.

“The family’s a pretty good judge, too. They’re pretty tough. I had a bunch of family over last weekend and cooked up a mess of different ribs and let them choose which ones I should make for the competition,” Sullivan said.

He’ll be cooking on a Weber Smokey Mountain cooker and describes his sauces as sweet with a little kick to it.

“I do a lot of travelling for work and take in a lot of barbecue places, both in Canada and the States,” Sullivan said. “The latest trip was to Kansas and Iowa. I like the traditional small places, not the chains. The roadside joints have the best flavour and the best quality.”

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