Barbecues are known to bring friends and families together, and the Horgan family is no exception.
Brothers Kevin and Shane have bonded over brisket, so to speak, as they set out on a new venture last year as competition barbecue masters.
The Barn Burner Barbecue Competition in Yarrow this time last year was their very first foray into competing for judges, as the Serial Grillers. Kevin says they’re happy to be returning at the same event this weekend, with a bit more experience and even a win under their belts.
“We didn’t know what to expect (last year),” he says, chuckling. “What we found was, we were … very ill-equipped.”
While other competitors rolled up with completely outfitted RVs and fancy trailers, they were operating a smaller scale. Much smaller.
“We had a pretty ragtag setup,” he admits.
But it doesn’t really matter what your work space looks like. What matters is how your finished products taste. Each competitor is required to make beef brisket, pork butt, chicken and St. Louis style ribs.
“I think what we’ve learned with the competitions is that a lot is dependent on the presentation,” Kevin says. “Obviously the judges see it first, before they try it, and if it looks good that starts them off.”
And from there, it’s all about the taste.
As one might imagine, there are secrets behind each recipe that shouldn’t be shared. And Kevin won’t give up the secrets to the Serial Grillers’ success — they earned second place in the national championships in Whistler for their beef brisket.
But he does talk a bit about the complex process that goes into making the dish.
“It takes a long time. Arguably it’s one of the hardest meats to cook,” he said. “We do it over approximately 14 hours, and at a very low temperature. We just keep our eye on it all night, and slowly, slowly smoke it, and cook it.”
“We have some little secrets, of course,” he says.
While the Barn Burner BBQ competition is set up for the judges to test out the meats, there is also an opportunity for the public to join in. For a donation at the entrance, visitors can meander through the site and taste test each chef’s creations — although in smaller amounts.
“It’s the same product the judges eat,” Kevin says. “It just doesn’t look as pretty.”
It’s the first event of the season, and the Horgans have been gearing up for it for a while with taste testings among friends and family.
While Kevin lives in Surrey, Shane lives in Yarrow — nice and close to the Barn Burner site.
“He has a great set up out of his house,” Kevin says. “We call it the grillzebo. We spend a lot of time together there. It’s been fantastic to find something that we both enjoy that much. Even the family and friends get together and try our recipes. And you know, the mistakes are never that bad.”
Kevin has been grilling for 20 years, and always wanted to do it professionally. When the Barn Burner started up in Shane’s backyard, it was the perfect opportunity.
“We thought we better give it a try,” Kevin said. “We both share a passion for cooking that not many people have.”
The Serial Grillers are the only local team competing this year. Cheeky names are all part of the fun, and some of the 23 teams on the lineup this year include Pigs n Heat, and the Smokin’ Grill Next Door, both from Surrey; War Pig from Arlington, WA; Motley Que from Grande Prairie, AB; and of course, the 2015 Grand Champions, Prairie Smoke and Spice from Pilot Butte, Sask.
The Barn Burner BBQ competition opens to the public at 10 a.m on Sunday, March 20 in Yarrow, at Yarrow Central and Simmons Road. There is parking near the event but there is also two free shuttles, from Yarrow Alliance Church and Yarrow MB Church, operating after 12:30 p.m.
The event will be emceed by Chef Dez, and there will be live entertainment, a climbing wall and face painting.
The BBQ chicken, which will have been cooked for about four hours, will be given to the judges at 11 a.m. The ribs, cooking for six hours, will be judged at noon. The pork shoulder, cooked for 12 hours, is judged at 1 p.m., and finally, the brisket competition will be held at 2 p.m.
And because this is a cooking competition, at 3 p.m. each team will receive a black box with four mystery ingredients to be incorporated into a single dish. The judges will award points based on originality, taste, and presentation.
Finally, at 4:30 p.m., ribbons and trophies will be handed out, with a $5,000 cash prize.
This free-to-attend, family-friendly BBQ extravaganza is officially sanctioned by the Kansas City BBQ Society. Donations will be accepted upon entry for Envision Financial’s Full Cupboard, which benefits the Chilliwack Food Bank.
If the samples aren’t enough to satisfy, Poomba’s Smokehouse Food Truck will also be on hand selling even more barbecue.
For more information on how to get there, where to park, and how to take the shuttles, visit barnburnerbbq.ca.