Competition Barbecue Has Become Huge

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Don Wick


Bill Kessler, Pig Farmer, Mexico, Missouri




Don Wick:  00:01  From the Pork Checkoff in Des Moines Iowa it’s Pork Pod! Pork Pod, a look at the hot topics in today’s pork industry. The Pork Checkoff offers working for you through various forms of research, promotion and consumer information projects. This is Don Wick on behalf of the Pork Checkoff and today our guest is Bill Kessler, who is a pork producer, farrow to finish operator from Mexico Missouri. He is also on the competitive barbecue circuit and we learn more about that in today’s podcast.

Bill Kessler:  00:26  Well we compete all in some of the local contests, mostly in the St. Louis area. The bigger contest and then we usually qualify every year, well we were qualified automatically because we got third place last year at Memphis in May. So that gives you three years to keep going back there. So we always compete in Memphis in May. They call it the World Barbecue Contest and then we compete at the American Royal every year too.

Don Wick:  01:00  Of course you know pork is king when you get to these kind of contests. Why is that the case do you think?

Bill Kessler:  01:10  Well in Memphis in May, pork is king because there’s  three really contests.  I mean they do have professionally things but Memphis in May is the whole hog, pork shoulder and ribs. And that’s the three main competitions. That’s what you get judged on and then you go to American Royal. It’s ribs, pulled pork or shoulder and then they throw in brisket and chicken there. So you got four co-optation there with two other meat.

Don Wick:  01:39  What are you and your fellow contestants looking for when you’re looking for competition pork to put on the smoker.

Bill Kessler:  01:49  Both  myself and Jim Compart are on the National Pork Producers Council Board. We both raise hogs and then he takes his hogs though and he has what he calls the Angus of pork. They raised meat that they sell to a lot of competition teams and we use his pork there. And so he is on that side and I use his pork then and I compete and barbecue. So it’s odd that you know two pork producers go different ways one for the meat for the competition and one one we use his meat to compete with with our team.

Don Wick:  02:27  That is an interesting take. So what do you think pork producers should would like to know about some of these contests?

Bill Kessler:  02:35  If you’ve ever been to one of these national barbecue contests or even some of the local and state Cook-Off you know you’re talking tons of pork cooked and consumed in a weekend. I mean you talk about the volume of pork that that these teams you know like in Memphis in May if you are in the whole hog category they don’t want you did two, just in case something wasn’t right on the other one you had the other one to fall back on. You know and it was like for ribs we only needed 12 for the turn in different times, but we cooked like 20 so we had an extra one just in case. Same way with the shoulder and you know a lot of these when you go to American Royal or the Memphis in May, that’s the big thing. Companies pay so much a person and then they bring their employees there and then they eat the competition barbecue or that what the barbecue teams cooked there.  So that’s a big part of it too that with the PR with the people that go there.

Don Wick:  03:40  It’s got to be interesting with your background obviously in the pig business as well. What do you get some feedback from some of the other contestants?

Bill Kessler:  03:49  Oh yeah I mean it’s you don’t ever want to tell everybody you trade secrets but you know you work together. I mean you’re you’re in close quarters they’re side by side competing, and you know there’s there’s a lot of things you look at there’s there’s you know certain certain guys they’re in there and worth the Smokey D’s winds a lot of championships. Mark Lambert, Big Mo you know we go to the American Royal and Memphis in May, we’re competing with all these guys you see cooking on the TV channel. You know they’re there with their teams.

Bill Kessler:  04:26  I mean you know the whole secret is getting good quality pork and then it and it ages right.  And then whether you inject it are put you dry rub on it. And then you’ve got to make sure you maintain your slow slow temperature so you get the smoke flavor. And you know we do a lot of ribs and then you know people think, ribs, oh they’re really good, meat fell off the bone. Well if you did that on a barbecue contest you wouldn’t hardly get any point you got to be able to on ribs, they got to be, you got to have a smoke rig on there. You’ve got to be able to bite through the meat and you should have your teeth marks on there. But yet the meat comes off the bone. So there’s just a fine line there. Temperature wise how how that works you know. And that’s what you get judged on. Every judge looks into those categories.

Don Wick:  05:19  Thanks to you for listening to this edition of Pork Pod. For more information on this topic or the Pork Checkoff itself, visit