BBQ Pitmasters on TLC

This episode took place in Murphysboro, Illinois at a contest put on by barbecue pitmaster and legend, Mike Mills. What makes this contest unique and much more challenging for the cooks is that it's dual-sanctioned. It's a standard KCBS four meat competition and an Memphis BBQ Network (formerly Memphis In May) competition all rolled into one furious day of turn-ins and judging.

One of the categories in MBN competition is the whole hog. The clip below gives you an idea of how involved that is. It was Lee Ann's first whole hog cook and she had to face the king of hog cooks -- Myron Mixon. I won't spoil it, but I thought she held her own very well.

Caution: The following clip contains profanity.

Another thing about MBN contests that turns up the heat even further is the on-site portion of the judging. I know how focused and intense KCBS turn-ins are, and I can't imagine doing all that and then have to make a coherent presentation to a live judge. My camp generally looks like loosely organized chaos when I am done with my turn-ins. That's to say nothing of smelling and looking like a smoke jumper dipped in grease and sauce. It ain't pretty.

Early in the episode Johnny Trigg almost came to blows with a fellow competitor who had clearly indulged in copious adult beverages. Encounters like that, and Myron's incessant colorful language, don't do anything to dispell the "Bubba" stereotype of BBQ. Oh, and said drunk makes another appearance near the end and he was still well-lubricated. Mama must be proud.

I feel this installment spent less time on the personalities and more on the craft, which is a good thing. However, the entire episode is largely focused on four teams. Notably absent was "The Professor", Tuffy Stone. I really missed the balance he brought to the first episode.

According to the TLC publicity folks, the premier gave them good ratings. That's great news for competition barbecue, and I certainly hope it continues to do well.

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