The Meatwave: Barbecue & Grilling Recipes, Reviews, Tips, and Tricks

Tue Mar 29, 2011

Grillin' on the Bay 2011

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Grillin' on the Bay 2011

I'm a creature of habit, often finding it hard to crawl outside of my comfort zone. Ever since getting what I consider to be pretty damn good at making barbecue, I've been unable to bring that skill outside of the safety of my backyard. Even with Grillin' on the Bay, New York City's only professional barbecue contest, so close in comparison to most other competitions, entering it has been something I've always convinced myself to dismiss. Although I still didn't enter this year, I finally got off my ass and made the long trek from Astoria to Sheepshead Bay to see what Grillin' on the Bay and competition barbecue is all about. At the end of a day filled with great eats and even greater people, my problem is less that I'm afraid to compete, but more that I'm dangerously close to taking the leap from reserved cooker to full-on competitor with vigor.

Grillin' on the Bay 2011

2011 was the seventh year of Grillin' on the Bay, which is headed by Robert over at White Trash BBQ. Although an official sanctioned barbecue event by the New England Barbecue Society, Grillin' on the Bay differs from normal barbecue competition because it spreads its wings past traditional low-and-slow and includes straight-up grilling. The result is a competition with a greater variety of foods and friendlier to folks just getting their feet wet in competition barbecue, which there were many there.

Grillin' on the Bay 2011

I arrived at the event just a little after 11:30am, when the temperature had risen to a warm 36 degrees compared to the balmy 28 the pitmasters had to endure when they arrived at 6am. I had made it just in time for the first of four turn-ins—beef. Having only 5 hours from the start of cooking until beef turn-in, there was not a brisket to be found. Instead, a wide array of bonvine cuts covering everything from chuck roast to filet mignon were being given their final touches. Each one I was offered to try was so different from the next, which started to get my own mind wondering on what I would have been grilling up if I had taken to the flames.

Grillin' on the Bay 2011

12:45 chicken turn-in was next. With only 45 minutes since the beef, a more frenzied feeling started to come over the teams as I watched chicken wing, thighs, and legs go from grill to box. Again, I couldn't help but start to think if my chicken wings or barbecue chicken that I've worked hard on refining, might be able to overtake what I had been sampling from the other pitmasters.

Grillin' on the Bay 2011

With another 45 minutes passed, it was time for pork turn-in. Unlike chicken and beef, which seemed to invite diversity, just about every team chose baby backs for the pork category. This made sense, since ribs seem to be the biggest point of pride for each pitmaster, myself included, and with only about 6 hours to cook, baby backs are the safer choice over spare or St. Louis-cut ribs. Despite the similarity in cut of pork, all ribs varied tremendously, ranging from saucy to dry, sweet to spicy, and everything in between. All were good, but only few struck the balance in cooking and flavor that I enjoy, and I found myself questioning if those were the same sentiments of the all-powerful judges inside.

Grillin' on the Bay 2011

Final turn-in was chefs choice. I can't imagine the complexity of judging this category, as lobster newberg puff pastry went up against tacos al pastor. Worlds apart, this category really showed the creativity of each team and seemed to be the most adventurous and defining. Could this be my place to showcase my favorite stuffed meat creations?

Grillin' on the Bay 2011

In between all the grilling, a people's choice chili cook-off was thrown in there. If I had done my homework, I totally would have lugged a couple gallons of my "famous" beef chili down with me and entered this. While most chili's stuck to the Northern bean/ground beef standard, there were some standouts, especially a brisket chili from Swamp Pit BBQ, which is the way chili has to be done in my book.

Grillin' on the Bay 2011

As I ate my way through the day and watched the judges record their marks, I became filled with the feeling that this is no way beyond my reach. By the time I left, I was already running through to process of putting together a team, raising funds, and waking myself up at 4:30am to be down in Sheepheads Bay by 6am this time next year. I came home and shared that sentiment with the wife, who's eyes showed the fear that I was about to be bitten by the competition bug, but when that's doing what I love and sharing a beer or two with a bunch of excellent people, maybe this is an idea who's time has finally come for me. Until we see what next year brings, I'll leave you with some more sights from the day.

Grillin' on the Bay 2011

Here is BBQ Billy, who I've known from Twitter and was happy to finally get to meet in person.

Grillin' on the Bay 2011

Billy's wings for the chicken category.

Grillin' on the Bay 2011

Clint Cantwell from Smoke in da Eye engulfed in smoke.

Grillin' on the Bay 2011

Clint's ribs that didn't make the cut for turn-in, but still tasted awesome.

Grillin' on the Bay 2011

Checking the temperature of chicken thighs at Damn Yankees.

Grillin' on the Bay 2011

Grilling skirt steaks at Swamp Pit BBQ.

Grillin' on the Bay 2011

Swamp Pit's spare ribs.

Grillin' on the Bay 2011

Tacos al Pastor being prepared for the chef's choice turn-in at Brother Mark BBQ.

More sights from Grillin' on the Bay >>

Comments

  • 01
  • SmokeInDaEye says
    Glad we could help you catch the competition bug and let me know if you want to come lend a hand on Long Island later this month! By the way, our ribs did actually make turn-in and came in second!
    Posted Tue, Mar 29 2011 12:16pm
  • 02
  • Josh says
    @SmokeInDaEye Congrats on the ribs! (I just meant the photo was of ones that didn't make it into the box).

    When's the next event?
    Posted Tue, Mar 29 2011 12:32pm
  • 03
  • SmokeInDaEye says
    Williepallooza April 16-17 in Brentwood NY assuming I get my trailer cleaned up and get everything together. Memphis in May after that.
    Posted Tue, Mar 29 2011 12:40pm
  • 04
  • RSA Certificate says
    Oh such juicy goodness! I have GOT to attend this next year :)
    Posted Wed, Mar 30 2011 7:59pm
  • 05
  • BrooklynQ says
    Thanks for the great article and thanks for coming out to the Bay. I'm glad you enjoyed yourself.
    Posted Thu, Mar 31 2011 6:34pm
  • 06
  • BrooklynQ says
    In no way is this out of your reach. DO IT
    Posted Thu, Mar 31 2011 6:50pm
  • 07
  • Chris says
    Great shots from the day, Josh. I'm making the jump and doing my first comp this year.
    Posted Sun, Apr 3 2011 10:49am
  • 08
  • BrooklynQ says
    Details Chris - I want details.
    Posted Sun, Apr 3 2011 10:56am

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