Insider's Guide to Barbecue on the River

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In 2012, we learned about the far-reaching expertise and the international attention of Shane Draper, owner of DBQ. So we asked the pro to offer up a little insight into the world of competitive BBQ. Here’s what we learned.


At most competitions, the Cooks’ Meeting takes place on Friday and by 7 p.m. the work begins. This is a great time to visit your favorite teams. Look at the cook site though. If the team looks harried, rushed, or otherwise occupied, perhaps move on and let the person with the sharp knife and short temper finish whatever he or she is doing.


If everyone seems relaxed and having a good time, introduce yourself as a spectator and teams will happily talk barbecue until it’s time to fire up the pit. However, if they think you’re shigging (stealing secrets), you probably won’t get too many answers, honest or otherwise! 


Cooking starts in earnest for some as early as 10 p.m. while others hold off until early the next morning. These are the “low-and-slow” cookers while the “hot-and-fast” teams might wait for daybreak to get started.


After all the food comes off the pits, is fussed over, arranged in boxes, and carried reverently to the turn-in table, the cooks begin to decompress, surrounded by lots of great barbecue they have no interest in eating.

 We don’t want to waste food so we share it with fellow competitors and anyone standing close by – this is your best opportunity to taste the pinnacle of a pit master’s craft. Teams cook two to three times what we need to get the best of the best in our turn-in boxes. That leaves a lot of truly excellent food available for sampling.


So approach your favorites, wish them good luck and be gracious when they offer some of the finest food on the planet – competition-style barbecue!



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