This post is the last in our Memphis in May 2016 Trilogy. I’m using the title “The Pork Awakens” because as a grillmaster, pitmaster, Kamado expert, and all around live-fire cooking guru, few can match the way Author Chris Grove of NibbleMeThis.com uses words and images to relay a story of good food cooked with passion and enthusiasm. (See all parts of this Memphis in May Trilogy here.)
I hope you enjoy this last Memphis in May 2016 post Chris has done an excellent job, and I thank him, Shane Draper, and Jason Schouweiler for their contributions to this year’s coverage.
2016 Memphis in May Trilogy: The Pork Awakens
This year (2016) was my third time going to the Memphis In May World Championship BBQ Cooking Championship but it was my first year being there as an integral member of a team. In previous years I was just taking in the sheer spectacle of this crazy event with over 200 teams and 100,000 people. But this year I was fortunate to be invited to compete with Team Grilla.
In addition to competing, Grilla Grills was at Memphis In May to roll out their newly expanded line of grills including two pellet cookers – the original Grilla and Silverbac – and their new kamado grill – Kong. Our team was made up of several teams/groups, including Drapers BBQ, Crow Creek BBQ, Susquehanna Blue Smoke BBQ, Charcoal Cowboys, Brother’s BBQ & Brewing, and associated friends of those groups.
My “team within a team” was my sister, my wife, and myself. While everyone on the whole team pitched in where needed and no one took a “that’s not my job” approach, our group had 3 main tasks – decorate the site, cook the wing category, and cook a BBQ dinner for the whole team.
Decorating The Site
Rhonda and Alexis did all of the decorating and they did a bang up job. They picked a jungle motif because where else does a Grilla live? They had grass skirts for tables, rope light trees, greenery, 12 little monkeys, and all sorts of stuff. They even had decorations for us to wear! It really complemented the corporate tents and signage making it all look fun.
Alexis putting the finishing touches on the site.
The Kong hanging out in the jungle we made.
Of all the decorations, I think this was my favorite…yes, we decorated our facilities.
The final result looked fitting and it was inviting to the crowds who stopped in to check out the awesome line up of grills.
I thought the rope light palm trees were a cool touch too. Yeah I know palm trees aren’t indigenous to gorilla habitats…it’s a theme, not a documentary 😉
Re-decorating for Judging on Saturday morning was lots of fun with 30 mph wind gusts sweeping in off of the Mississippi.
We even carpeted the site to make it look nice for the judges. No detail is too small with these events.
Of course, being a bit of a kamado guy, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on this new kamado, Kong, that people had been talking about and what better way to try it out than to cook on it. I was cooking the team’s entry for the ancillary category for wings so we went with our Thai Sticky Wings which has won for us at other contests.
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I had brought along my adjustable rigs in anticipation that I would need them for space. I was surprised to find that the Kong is HUGE! It’s closer to an XL Egg in size and comes standard with a double rack so I didn’t need the rigs I brought.
The Kong held cooking temps very stable.
Cooking a small test batch of our wings on the Kong. I usually do these indirect but did them direct at the contest because I didn’t have a heat deflector.
The test batch came out really well and everyone loved them.
Rhonda helping cook the Thai Sticky Wings.
During the cook for the wing turn in we had a temperature problem that had nothing to do with the Kong itself. By the time we got the temps back down, it wasn’t burning cleanly and the wings had to go on so they ended tasting a bit like charcoal. I knew they weren’t great as I was putting them in the box. That’s 100% on me and it won’t happen again. But the wings ended up finishing in the middle of the pack.
Cooking the Team Meal
Next we cooked the team’s meal which was a traditional BBQ with ribs, chicken, beans, and potato salad. This was immediately after the wing turn in but fortunately we had a lot of help from other team members. I didn’t get many pictures at all because we were just a tad busy.
We cooked the ribs on a Tucker cooker cooking hot and fast about 300 to make up for our lack of time.
We roasted bone in chicken breasts on one of the Kongs.
Rhonda finishing off the ribs.
I cooked on pellet cookers at Memphis in May and the world didn’t end. I’d only ever cooked on a pellet cooker once (also at MIM in 2014).
This is the Grilla Silverbac – a horizontal style pellet cooker.
This is the pellet cooker that I used, the Grilla.
Alexis and I both loved cooking on the Grilla. It was super easy to use and we like the way the smoke and air circulates inside.
The most memorable moment for me had to be when Team Grilla got called up on stage for a 2nd Place award in tomato based sauce. Awesome view up there….
This monkey just LOVED the award.
Cooking on a team at MIM is a completely different experience than our previous trips and I highly recommend giving it a shot if you ever get the chance. It is so busy that before you know it, the Sun is setting across the Mississippi River and the contest is over. On the bright side, it’s only 358 or so days until next year’s event.
[FTC Disclosure] I received a Grilla pellet cooker as a thank you for our participation on the team.
About Chris Grove
Chris Grove is the resident pitmaster of the popular BBQ and grilling blog, Nibble Me This. Chris is a certified BBQ judge, competition BBQ cook, and is the author of The Kamado Smoker and Grill Cookbook(Ulysses Press). He has created recipes professionally for national brands. Chris’ recipes and photos have appeared in several national media outlets. But most of all, he just loves cooking great food in his back yard.