Engelbrechts smoke cookoff competition

Ron Burtz

When Steve and Shelley Engelbrecht of Custer decided to use a free weekend recently to take their portable smoker over to Wyoming to participate in a barbecue cookoff, their goal was simply to learn how such events are run with the idea of doing something similar here at home. They certainly didn’t expect to bring home the grand prize, but that’s just what they did.
The Engelbrechts won first prize in the first annual Bigiron Rib Cookoff held in Buffalo, Wyo., Saturday, July 30, and in the process managed to smoke the 12 hometown teams in the competition.
In the first ever contest held at Buffalo’s Crazy Woman Square, each team was given three racks of ribs and four to five hours in which to smoke up a winning entry. The event was held as a fundraiser for the Johnson County Fair.
“Long story short, it was really hot,” said Steve looking back on the weekend. “It was like 96 degrees and the ribs almost cooked themselves. We each had to turn in (to the judges) a box of ribs, just like they do on the TV shows. Shelley doctored ours up with lettuce and grilled pineapple slices and it was just beautiful and we ended up winning the contest.”
Shelley noted the ratings were based on three major qualities: tenderness, flavor and presentation.
“We scored a 90 and the next closest was a 70, so we were pretty tickled about that,” she remarked.
In addition to being given a commemorative apron to remember the event, the Engelbrechts brought home a cash prize of $290. Well...to say they brought it home might be a bit of an understatement according to Steve.
“We won enough to pay for our gas and our hotel for the weekend,” he laughed. “It was a small event but it was a ton of fun.”
As with the upcoming barbecue cookoff at the Custer County Fair, the public got to sample the entries and Steve says they consumed a great deal of smoked meat.
“We brought some ribs ourselves and we brought chicken wings to kind of try to perfect those,” he said, “and then the sponsor gave us a couple of extra racks of ribs. I think we went through a total of 10 racks of ribs and 40 chicken wings giving samples.”
Shelley agreed it really was a fun weekend for them.
“We were kind of the outsiders and they welcomed us with open arms and we just had a great time meeting people and getting their reactions,” she said.
Steve added that the event also gave them a taste of the spirit of small town America.
“We went out to dinner that night and everybody was talking about the South Dakota people who won the contest,” he said.
They also said the experience only served to bolster their desire to do something similar in Custer. Steve noted it would be great to do something like a rib cookoff during the first weekend of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally to keep the bikes and riders in town a little longer.
But while they’re happy to talk about their experience in Buffalo, the Engelbrechts are a little more tight lipped when one tries to smoke out their secret for cooking up award-winning ribs.
“The secret is cooking them low and slow,” is all they will say.


User login