Thursday is the last day to register for BBQ on the Bluff, when cooks from across the state will bring their skills and secret sauces to Fair Bluff to vie
Thursday is the last day to register for BBQ on the Bluff, when cooks from across the state will bring their skills and secret sauces to Fair Bluff to vie for awards.
Organizers invite the public not only to attend Friday, April 23, and Saturday, April 24, but also to take home free barbecue plates at the 11 a.m. Saturday conclusion of the contest.
Gene Martin of the Fair Bluff Chamber of Commerce said this year’s drive-through barbecue giveaway is a way of offering a needed “shot in the arm” to the community. The chamber, which has sponsored BBQ on the Bluff since 2012, had to cancel the competition in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
There will be no cake competition or entertainment this year, but the pork-centered portions of the weekend will take place in a socially distanced form.
The N.C. Pork Council sanctions the event as part of its Whole Hog Series, and the overall quality winner will compete in Raleigh at the state barbecue cookoff in October. Defending BBQ on the Bluff winner and two-time state winner Kevin Peterson of Benson has registered for the local event again this year, Martin said.
Calling local cooks
A separate backyard barbecue category is open only to local cooks, Martin said.
Grayson Foley and Wade Stanley of Columbus County Young Farmers won first place in the backyard barbecue competition in 2019.
Foley said last week that he wasn’t sure whether or not he would enter this year as he has a very busy schedule, but he described what he considers to be the crucial factors in pulling off a win. He said judges look for meat that’s fully cooked yet moist, with crisp skin.
Judges award prizes for best sauces separately from the meat, which may not have any seasonings other than salt and vinegar added during cooking, Foley said.
It helps to start out with “a little experience, knowing your grill and having a really good pig,” Foley said. After that it’s a matter of “good prep work, planning and keeping a consistent temperature” throughout the cooking time.
Foley said he learned the basics of whole-hog barbecuing by watching and talking to cooks who knew what they were doing. Then he got some hands-on practice by helping out at large family gatherings. “If you like to eat barbecue, you eventually learn to cook it,” he said.
The best part of BBQ on the Bluff, Foley said, is the judging. The hardest part may be getting the pig carcass ready to cook if the butcher doesn’t clean it up as neatly as a demanding contestant or judge will want.
A schedule of sanctioned competitions in the N.C. Pork Council’s Whole Hog Series is at wholehogbarbecue.com, along with cooking tips and a video tutorial.
BBQ on the Bluff Schedule of Events
BBQ on the Bluff begins with showmanship judging at 7 p.m. Friday, April 23. Contestants receive their butchered whole hogs during the “parade of pigs” at 8:30, and then the heat is on.
Cooking continues all night with judging at 8 a.m. Saturday. At 10:30 judges will announce winners in the categories of overall quality, best backyard barbecue and best sauce.
The public may watch on Riverside Drive and speak with contestants from a distance, Martin said, and the chamber will distribute free chopped barbecue plates Saturday, beginning no sooner than 11 a.m. To receive plates, drivers should form a line at the Fair Bluff Visitors’ Center, where they will request the number of plates desired. Side items on the plates are still to be decided, Martin said. Volunteers distributing plates will observe COVID-19 precautions including wearing masks and gloves.
Martin is accepting competitors’ registrations through Thursday, April 15. To sign up or ask questions, the number to call is 910-649-7202.