Barbecue aroma wafting from the Show-Me Tent behind the Women’s Building at the Missouri State Fair enticed onlookers Friday to come take a peek at the competitors who were grilling up tantalizing entries in the fourth annual Show-Me Throwdown Tailgate Barbecue Contest, sponsored by Sonic Drive-In.
Beginning at 7:30 a.m. 18 teams spent the morning grilling up an assortment of bratwurst, burgers and chicken wings. The grilling teams christened with monikers such as “Barnyard Buddies,” “Burnt Finger,” Grillin’ and Chillin’” and “Meat Too Good To Beat,” were happy to talk about their technique and and their barbecue style.
Dale Anson, of Sedalia, with Grillin’ and Chillin’, went on to take Reserve Grand Champion with his barbecue. Anson isn’t a first timer at winning barbecue contests — he had several of his trophies placed next to his grill Friday.
Anson, who has been competing for three years, said he was grilling a Best Ever Burger with a mushroom topping served on an onion bun.
“My second year at the Blues and Barbecue we won with the Best Ever Burger,” he said. “My last trophy was at Smithton (Fair) Barbecue Pit Masters, I took first in brisket.”
At a recent contest in February, Anson’s Drunken Duck was a hit.
“It’s just a bourbon marinade,” he added. “I’d never cooked duck before, so I thought I’d try something out. It’s a lot of fun.”
In Friday’s competition Anson also entered dry-rub wings and brats. He said he prefers the dry rub for wings over a sauce.
“That’s what judges look for,” he said. “Dry rubs and marinades.”
He said his rub is made with common basic ingredients such as onion and garlic salt, pepper, seasoning salt and chili powder.
Seth and Lindsey Tyre, of Slater, members of the Meat Too Good To Beat team, placed first for their spicy-hot chicken wings prepared in a special sauce. The wings also won first place at the Apple Jubilee in Waverly last fall.
“It was the first time we’d ever tried them,” said Seth, who co-owns Tyre Farms with his wife. “Our wings have a sauce to them where a lot of people like to turn in the dry (rub) wings. And then my wife’s long family history of barbecuing … her dad was the state champ at the Missouri State Fair when they used to have the big barbecue contest.”
The wing’s excellent taste comes from the sauce, Seth said, which cooks down until it creates a crusty caramelization.
“It creates a hard crust,” he said. “I really don’t know anything about cooking, but she does, she comes up with the recipes.”
“It’s basically … a sauce with some barbecue sauce and a couple different kinds of hot sauce, and a little bit of sugar,” Lindsey said. “We sit them in there and let them go, until they get kind of sticky and they thicken up a little bit.”
Lindsey added that the contest was fun and less stressful than some barbecue contests because of the tailgate theme.
“That makes it easier for us, because we don’t cook brisket and ribs,” she added. “But everybody can throw a burger on the grill, so it’s a lot of fun. I love the wings, they’re my favorite.”
New comers to the barbecue scene, and placing second with their brats, were team Barnyard Buddies, of Jefferson City. The team consisted of friends Mark, Sherri and Mary Russell, and Max and Kathleen Stroup.
The team said they were actually making up the recipes at the competition as they grilled.
“We brought everything out of our kitchen, it’s very hilarious,” said Mary Russell, of Rocky Road Farms in Jefferson City. “I bet we have 20 sauces! We love the fair.”
Their photogenic Bacon Brats on Pretzels Buns were topped with caramelized onions, homemade tomatillo salsa and homegrown sweet peppers.
“Sherri Russell actually home-baked the pretzel buns,” said team member Max Stroup.
For their hamburgers the team mixed in onion soup mix and caramelized onions and added a topping of brown sugar and butter melted together. Then additional toppings of shredded cheese and candied bacon.
The Burnt Finger team consisting of Theo Asbury, of Sedalia, and Andy Abney, of Smithton were feverishly working on their homemade apple flavored brats served with sauerkraut and the square beef and lamb hamburgers they would serve on poppy seed ciabatta buns.
Abney said they had been competition in barbecue contests for approximately five years.
“We’ve tried a lot of different combinations over the years,” he said. “We make our own rubs and our own sauces.”
Asbury said he believed the secret to making their team’s brats stand out would be the apple flavor.
“We put bacon on it and Theo just put the sauerkraut on it,” added Abney.
“We may not win but we’re having fun,” added Asbury. “It’s a nice day for it.”
“This is actually the fourth year for this particular contest,” said Fred Utlaut one of the MSF barbecue superintendents. “They used to have a big barbecue contest for years. Mark Wolfe called me about four years ago and he said ‘do you want to do a barbecue contest — and lets make it fun.’ So the idea of the tailgate throwdown came out. And so instead of really cut-throat competition it’s hamburgers, bratwurst and wings.”
He added that the contest has grown since its beginning and having 18 contestants was a perfect.
Awards were announced at 1:30 p.m. Friday; winners were presented with plaques and cash prizes.