We're still processing everything we learned at the Smokin' Possum Cookoff. It will take a while.
We had fun cooking just outside our cabins at Possum Hollow Resort on Possum Kingdom Lake over a nearly weather-perfect weekend.
As for our results, however, the best thing we can say is that it was a character-building experience.
Our first entry into the world of sanctioned barbecue competitions was a crash course in harsh reality. Cooking to maximize the impact of that one bite a judge takes of your food is not the same as cooking for friends and relatives in your backyard. And it's not the same as turing out good barbecue day after day at a joint.
We thought we knew that going in. Now, we really know.
There were about 17 entries in each of the three meat categories -- chicken, ribs and brisket. We didn't place in any, and the places went down to #10.
The really character-building part of the experience, though, came when the I.B.C.A. judge read the order of finish for the rest of the field. We were second to last in each category. That's consistent, if nothing else.
Thankfully, the judge read only entry numbers and not team names.
She also said that one of the chicken entries was raw -- NOT OUR's -- giving us the opportunity to instantly create a new team motto: "Better than raw."
The best part of the weekend was visiting with other cookers, like Brett Davenport of Burleson, who built his own giant smoker that can cook 32 briskets at once. The rig, complete with automatic awnings that shield cookers from sun and rain, weighs about 9,000 pounds.
Saturday evening, well after the judging, we visited with Troy and Amber King, married cookoff veterans from Wills Point who compete separately. Sometimes Troy does better and sometimes Amber, they said. Troy took first in chicken, Amber fourth in brisket.
They passed along some cooking tips and rub recommendations. And they both said that they wouldn't cook their competition barbecue for a meal at home. The taste is too loud, trying to attract the attention of a judge who takes just a nibble. That makes it difficult to eat much more than one piece.
"Competition is all about one bite," Troy said.
"You couldn't eat a whole sandwich made of my brisket," Amber said.
For now, we'll take some comfort in that.
Photos by Chris Wilkins