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Proud to be a smoker

By Staff | Nov 5, 2010

Harlyn Janssen, of Hampton, shows some of the regional and national awards he’s won since he started entering barbecue contests in 2004.

HAMPTON – In this county seat town of Franklin County Harlyn Janssen had long had an interest in cooking.

In 2004 he entered a barbecue cooking competition in nearby Mason City, cooking a chicken, brisket, pork rib and pork shoulder.

The next year he entered more contests, winning fifth place for his pork at a competition sponsored by Cabela’s at Owatonna, Minn., his second contest. “I was pretty much hooked from then on,” said Janssen.

Those early experiences led to more contests with more awards and purchases of better equipment. Because of his awards, Janssen received requests from friends to serve his barbecue at events. “You can’t make a living doing barbecue contests,” said Janssen and his catering service received its start.

Today, Janssen cooks out of a 17-foot trailer that has four sinks in back and is state inspected. He tows the trailer to catering events in an area of 25 to 50 miles from Hampton and to weekend barbecue competitions.

Janssen checks two of his favorite smokers, which are variations of the familiar Weber grill.

His catering customers include seed days, reunions and gatherings of families and friends. Weddings are not as common as he saves his weekends for cooking competitions.

He prepares his barbecue ahead of time so the meat can be picked up in advance of the event.

The barbecue competition events are held by standards established by the Kansas City Barbecue Society. There are four categories that can be entered – chicken, brisket, pork rib and pork shoulder. To be eligible to win the champion or reserve champion trophy an entrant must enter all four categories.

The barbecue meat is judged on taste, tenderness, and appearance with tenderness receiving twice as much weighting as appearance and taste receiving twice the weighting of tenderness.

A judge will take one bite for evaluation and give it a value of between 1 to 9, with 9 being the best. The numbers are meant as a measure of quality and not used to place in a ranking.

“You can’t make a living doing barbecue contests.” —Harlyn Janssen Caterer, competitive cook

Entries are submitted in a plastic foam clamshell frequently used with takeout food. Only a number is on the clamshell for identification and numbers are changed through the judging to keep the judges from knowing who cooked the entry.

Janssen has been a judge twice, but prefers cooking over judging.

He enjoys participating in the barbecue competitions so much he still considers them fun and wants to keep the fun in it. “I don’t want to turn it into too much work,” he said.

His catering business keeps him busy enough that he does not need to advertise, relying on word of mouth from satisfied customers to spread the word.

Janssen also cooks the meat for family events and will be smoking a turkey for his family’s Thanksgiving meal later this month. Cooking for his family is easier as the judges are looking for a “wow factor” in the competitive cooking events.

Janssen is a native of Ackley where he farms with his brother Hollis raising corn, soybeans and a few hogs.

Janssen’s wife, Charlane Janssen, said that when they were married 12 years ago, her two sons were enrolled in school at Hampton and, rather than have the boys change schools, Harlyn opted to move to Hampton.

Harlyn Janssen offers his advice for barbecuing beef brisket, pork ribs and pork shoulder.


  • Certified Angus beef or choice grade beef brisket.
  • Indirect heat for cooking. A deflector plate keeps the fire to the side keeping the intensity down so as to not burn the meat.
  • Cook at 275 degrees. Season the brisket an hour ahead of time according to desired taste. Put the meat on the cooker, fat side down.

A 12-pound brisket will require 6 to 7 hours of cooking time to reach 165 degrees internal temperature.

  • Once 165 degrees internally is reached, remove the meat and double wrap it in aluminum foil, meat side down.
  • Mix a sauce made from 8 ounces of beef broth from a can with one tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce and pour over the meat.
  • Put the meat back on the smoker for another 2 to 2 1/2 hours until the internal temperature is 195 degrees.
  • Remove to a small cooler for one hour of rest. Remove from the foil and cut the meat across the grain to eliminate toughness.

Pork ribs

  • Janssen prefers St Louis cut ribs.
  • Cook the ribs at 275 degrees. Season according to taste and cook for one hour.

Spray liberally with apple juice until moist and flip, meat side down. Cook for another hour.

  • Remove the ribs and coat both sides with brown sugar and honey. Double wrap in aluminum foil and place meat side down.
  • Pour a small amount of apple juice on and put back on cooker for two hours.
  • Remove from foil, brush on barbecue sauce, and put back on smoker for 15 to 20 minutes to caramelize the sauce. Cut and serve.

Barbecued pork


  • Janssen prefers to start with a Boston butt, bone in.
  • Cook at 275 degrees. Season an hour ahead of time according to taste.

Cooking time will require 6 to 8 hours depending on size until the internal temperature is 160 degrees.

  • Remove from smoker. Mix equal parts of apple juice and pineapple juice mixed with brown sugar to make a paste.
  • Coat the pork with the paste and double wrap it in aluminum foil. Cook until internal temperature is 180 to 190 degrees. Cut and serve.

Contact Clayton Rye at crye@wctatel.net.

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