Behind the scenes at the biggest pork barbecue contest in the world.
'Memphis in May' on Serious Eats
Memphis in May, an extremely expensive competition with a thing for sweet meats, is not a benchmark for the world, or even for Memphis-style barbecue, as a whole. Is it still fair, then, to call the victors of this year's competition "world champions"?
I've seen just about everything over the past 48 hours here in Memphis, bouncing from booth to booth, subsisting only on a diet of smoked meats and taking photographs wherever I've ended up. I offer these photos to you as a taste of hog heaven.
"I have a barbecue prenup," explains pit cook Chris Mills when asked how many years lie ahead of him on the competitive barbecue circuit. "I told my wife that until I tell her otherwise, I will always be at the Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest." Chris and I are sitting in the precious shade of a raised tarp in his team The Flying Pig's official contest booth, facing the Mississippi River with ice-cold cans of Bud Light and doing what he's done on the first day of the WCBCC for many years: relax.
Today marks the start of the 33rd annual Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest (WCBCC). In anticipation of the next three days of marinating, dry-rubbing, coal-burning, carcinogen-loving, belt-busting Americana, I'd like to introduce you to Memphis in May. Learn more about the judging process, and the main events for best ribs, shoulder, and whole hog.
Crispy Critters preps its whole hog entry at last year's Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest. The Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest enjoys the saucy subtitle, "Superbowl of Swine." Like the football game that sorta shares that handle, it can be almost impossible for spectators to get up close to the sizzling hot action at Memphis in May, which starts Thursday and wraps up Saturday. It’s like going to a party and being told to stay away from the buffet. After watching the mouthwatering competition on the Food Network, hundreds of ‘cue fans make the pilgrimage to the annual event only to be bummed when they learn it’s not cool to walk up to...
"You eat barbecue; you don’t grill on the barbecue," one Memphis in May competition judge and friend recently enlightened me. "It's a food, not an appliance." You would have been pierced with a grill fork last weekend if you misused the word at Memphis in May, the world's largest pork roast competition. Vying for over $90,000 in prizes and bragging rights, 261 teams gathered, including presence from Estonia, Norway and Belgium. Some categories included: best whole hog, best shoulder and best ribs, with entirely separate titles for best sauces. Team names are almost as important as the meat itself. Some of our favorites include: Sweet Swine o’ Mine, Rib Ticklers, and Rhoda Brown’s Smokie Fatties. Typically, most phrases involving "fatties"...