If you're looking for the future of barbecue, you might just head out to Blue Springs, Missouri. That's the hometown of Plowboys BBQ, the newly crowned American Royal Invitational Grand Champion.
The team of Todd Johns and his brother-in-law Randy Hinck (who compete as the Pork Pullin Plowboys) bested 123 past grand champions to capture the overall crown. And they did it with a mixture of classic techniques and a bit of technology designed by Johns -- an IT project manager by day.
"We cook at low temps for a long period of time. That is the more traditional way of preparing barbecue," says Johns. "However, that is where tradition ends for us. We use 100 percent wood pellets for fuel along with computer controls and temperature sensors on our pits. Our smoke profile is light. We rely largely on the quality of the meat and our own seasonings to liven up the taste buds. Pecan and cherry are our wood flavors of choice. Pecan delivers a familiar barbecue wood flavor while cherry brings the ruby color."
It was a strong performance for a team known for its pork -- they won first place in the pork category at the American Royal Invitational in 2008. This year they placed in the top 10 in three categories: chicken (5th), pork (8th) and brisket (1st).
Plowboys BBQ has been competing since 2001 and is currently ranked 14th in the nation. In 2009, they'll have competed in 22 Kansas City Barbecue Society-sanctioned competitions in seven states, earning five championships including the American Royal win.
In addition to competing on the barbecue circuit, Plowboys has begun
expanding its catering business and selling rubs online. Johns
estimates they'll sell 10,000 pounds of rub this year between their Web site and a partnership with BBQ Addicts (of the famed Bacon Explosion).
"Other than Plowboys BBQ Rubs, the key to good barbecue is passion," Johns says. "You can't shortcut things too much. Good barbecue doesn't come from a cookbook. Barbecue is a quest. You learn something from every cook. We learned a couple of new things at the American Royal that will be incorporated in our future cookouts. Like anything, greatness comes from the amount of passion and dedication you have -- along with a willingness to accept your own failures, or in our case, willingness to eat them."
Images courtesy of Plowboys BBQ.