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Barbecuing — competition style

By Staff | Jul 3, 2009

John Jerome prepares his smoker for the upcoming Fourth of July holiday. Jerome competes and has recently become a judge for barbeque contests.

GOWRIE – Barbecuing is a big part of John Jerome’s spring, summer and fall, and has been for about the last six years, whether it be for catering, competition judging or for entertaining .

Jerome’s brother, Ken Tallent of Kansas City, Mo., has been entering barbecue competitions for around 15 years and together they compete as a team in normally six or seven contests a year as members of the Kansas City Barbeque Society.

This year, however, they attended a one-day training to become certified judges, which will cut back on the amount of times they compete.

As a team, Jerome and Tallent compete as “Rock’s Famous BBQ.” The few times he competes solo, Jerome goes under the name “Semper Fi Smokers,” a tribute to his days as a Marine.

Although competing is fun, Jerome said, judging is allowing them more of an insider’s view of other competitors’ barbecuing methods, and to help keep up with new, unique ideas.

“We get to see what others are doing and just see what’s out there,” said Jerome. “We like to compete, but it’s also fun to see what people are doing.”

The majority of the competitions they attend are in the Kansas City-metro area and they will begin competing in early April through mid-October and try to attend at least one contest a month.

In KCBS-sanctioned competitions there are four categories chicken, pork ribs, pork shoulder and beef brisket – in which Jerome said they would enter in all of the categories.

Preparation for a Saturday competition will begin early in the week with trimming of the cuts of meat. No seasonings or marinades are allowed on the meat until after check-in, which he said is typically on Friday afternoon.

As soon as all of the meat is checked in, Jerome said, meat preparation begins immediately. The bigger cuts of meat like brisket and shoulder will go into the smoker about 10 p.m. and they will tend to their fires throughout the night until the meat is taken off about noon the next day.

“We do not use pellet smokers,” Jerome said. “We use traditional means and tend the fires all night long. That is the true meaning of barbecuing.”

Typically, competitions will begin at noon and every 30 minutes they will turn their entries in for the next round of judging. It is definitely a team effort with Jerome using his American Barbeque Systems smoker to barbecue the larger cuts of meat for the competitions, while Tallent focuses on the chicken and his specialty, ribs, in his Good-One smoker.

Among many ribbons and awards, Jerome said they have received first place for ribs at a recent competition in Ankeny, but it was the fifth-place award for sausage at the American Royal that was a big accomplishment, mostly due in part to the many teams they were competing against.

Jerome said Tallent, who is head chef at a country club in Kansas City, has also been making a barbecue sauce for himself and friends for years and has made it available for commercial sale.

“Rock’s Famous BBQ Sauce” is available at several locations around Kansas City, but more locally at Jamboree Foods in Gowrie.

Jerome said the sauce is a premium, tomato-based sauce that offers a sweet flavor with a peppery kick, “that will pretty much go with anything,” he said, adding that it has been well received by consumers.

Jerome said for true barbecued meats, he suggests cooking them “low and slow,” at a temperature of about 225 to 250 degrees. Briskets and shoulders will be smoked for up to 12 hours.

He also suggests seasoning meat as early as possible, so the flavors can make their way into the meat and to leave some fat when trimming, but not a lot.

“Fat will actually stop the penetration of the smoke flavor from going into the meat,” said Jerome.

But the number one thing to being a successful barbecuer, Jerome said, is consistency.

“You need to learn your smoker, find out about your temperatures and how the heat runs through the unit,” he said.

In addition to judging and competitions, Jerome also operates Semper Fi Smokers LLC, which is his own catering business.

Jerome is manager of special projects for Union Pacific Railroad, in Boone, and lives on a farm near Gowrie with his wife Donita, a Focus Factory Leader for Antigen Blend at Fort Dodge Animal Health, and their daughter, Haylie, 9.

Full pork loin

Marinade over night in a brine mixture of a quart of water, half of a cup of brown sugar and a half of a cup of kosher salt.

If room is an issue, the loin can be cut in half to store in the refrigerator larger Ziploc bags, Jerome said, will work perfect.

In the morning, take the loin out of the brine mix, pat dry and cover with a prepared mustard then coat with your choice of rubs.

Cook in a smoker for four to five hours until the internal temperature of the loin is 155 degrees and cut as served to keep from drying out.

Jerome said the reason he cooks the loin only to 155 degrees is that after removed from the heat is that the loin will continue to cook.

One of the biggest mistakes people will make, he added, is cooking the loin too long that it dries out.

Contact Kriss Nelson by e-mail at jknelson@frontiernet.net.

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