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[Photographs: Joshua Bousel]

When I saw pizza as a category in the grilling competition I partook in last weekend, I knew exactly what I wanted to make. A barbecue chicken pizza I had seen in Lucky Peach in the spring. It had a simple topping combo of pulled, barbecue chicken, sauteed onions, and cilantro that looked beautiful and seemed like the right mix of flavors to impress the ever picky judges.

On a test run, I changed things up a bit to fit my tastes, starting with a barbecue pizza sauce recipe, my standard dough recipe, and smoked mozzarella instead of fontina and parmesan. While my lack of stretching skills ended with an amorphous blob of pie, the flavors were spot on, having a present, but not overpowering barbecue flavor that paired well with the meaty chunks of chicken, sweet onions, and fresh cilantro.

This had me going into battle with a fair amount of confidence, at least in the taste department. All entries are scored for appearance, taste, and tenderness.

On the day of the competition, my wife and I (OK, mostly my wife, because I'm a spaz under pressure) took more care in stretching the dough, although we didn't achieve the masterful shape I imagined would come magically in a time of need. Still, the dough grilled up well and we then spent some time trying to artfully arrange the toppings. Back on the grill, the pie finished cooking in under ten minutes, but when I pulled it off, disaster struck—a dreaded hole formed in a thinner portion of the crust, engulfing oozing cheese and valuable toppings.

With less than five minutes until the pizza was due to the judges, there was no time to start over, so we sliced the pie in a manner to try to hide that glaring mistake, and loaded it into the box, turned it in, and hoped for the best.

A few hours later, when judging was wrapped up and we were kicking back with beers after the grilling insanity was behind us, the moment of truth came: the awards.

Names were called out starting in tenth place, and with each call came an increasing sense desperation to be next. One-by-one, the places went with out a call: tenth, ninth, eighth, seventh...

Then it came, "6th place, The Meatwave!"

Yes, I would have liked to rank a little higher—5th place and up would have sent us home with a trophy and money—but still, in the barbecue and grilling competition world, just getting a call is a big deal. As I thought, we faltered in appearance, but were solid with taste and tenderness, making this a truly winning pie.

About the author: Joshua Bousel brings you new, tasty condiment each Wednesday and a recipe for weekend grilling every Friday. He also writes about grilling and barbecue on his blog The Meatwave whenever he can be pulled away from his grill.

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