Competition heats up for Smoke on the River square-off

Buck Kaelber, left, cuts racks of ribs for Cason Muehring to wrap in foil and place in the smoker Friday as they prepared for Smoke on the River. Both are with Lickins Brand BBQ, one of the 40 teams expected in Saturday’s Smoke on the River competition.
Posted: Sep. 7, 2013 12:15 am Updated: Sep. 21, 2013 2:15 am

Herald-Whig Staff Writer

Chris Allen says it takes a lot to get prepared for Smoke on the River.

Allen is in his sixth year at the contest with Smokin' A's Barebeque of Quincy. He said the group started preparations a week earlier by perfecting their rubs for the meats.

"The night before, we'll go buy all our meats and make our sauces," Allen said. "It's an all-day process."

Cooking at the annual barbecue competition hosted by the Quincy Exchange Club started about 9 p.m. Friday at Kesler Park on the Quincy riverfront, when the smokers were fired up to get beef brisket ready.

Allen said his team will take shifts at watching the smoker overnight.

This is the third competition Smokin' A's Barebeque has entered this year, and the team is entering two more before the season's done.

Mel Dillman, the Smoke on the River chairman, said Friday that many of the competitors were getting set up and started cooking. Gates open at 10 a.m. Saturday.

Barbecue competitors will be getting their entries ready for taste-testing, with the first batch due before the judges by 12:30 p.m. Saturday.

The event boasts about 40 barbecue teams and features pit masters from across the Midwest. Competing barbecue teams will be cooking for $6,500 in prize money, including $1,250 for the overall winner -- or "grand champion."

Allen said one way he and his team attract some people to their booth is by offering maple bacon cupcakes.

"We show them our smoker and show them what we do," he said.

Allen encourages backyard grillers to enter barbecue competitions and helped two teams get started this year.

Courtney Parker of Quincy entered the competition for the first time this year as Rub It Out BBQ. He only recently got involved with smoking.

"I've always liked cooking, but never really did any smoking," Parker said. "It's something different I wanted to try."

After hosting backyard barbecues this summer, he was encouraged to enter the competition.

"We're basically here for a learning experience to see where we're at," he said. "I know there are some good teams here, and (I want to) see where we measure to the nation's finest and see if they like the flavors we put together."

Dillman had some advice for the newer smokers.

"Cook low and slow," he offered. "A lot of patients, and just learn from the teams next to you."