Over Veterans Day weekend, Kingsford made sure New York City celebrated in true American style: with smoky grilled meats and beers served beside a massive military vessel. The second annual Kingsford Invitational brought seven of the nation’s top barbecue teams to Manhattan’s Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum to contend for the winner-take-all $50,000 grand prize for best-of-the-best across four categories. The invitees earned their spots by winning Grand Championships at other qualifying ‘cue competitions across the country, and an eighth team comprised of military vets (competing on behalf of Folds of Honor) was added to make things more interesting.
Before vying for the best in brisket, pork, ribs, and chicken, the contestants battled it out in the One-Bite Challenge, a contest that tested grillmasters’ steak-making skills by allotting only one hour and a maximum of five ingredients to create a remarkable piece of meat. A panel of six expert judges — including Kingsford’s corporate pitmaster Chris Lilly, James Beard Award-nominated author Amy Mills, and the "Godfather of Nuevo Latino cuisine" chef Douglas Rodriguez — decided who produced the pinnacle of protein, and it was no easy task.
Here’s a breakdown of who won what: Virginia’s Cool Smoke Barbecue (Grand Champ of the Jack Daniel's World Championship Invitational Barbecue) took down the One-Bite Challenge with their balsamic-glazed rib-eye; Tuffy Stone and the Cool Smoke team also scored first place for ribs the following day; 3EyzBBQ, the Kansas City Barbecue Society’s 2012 Team of the Year, had the best birds; Sweet Swine O’ Mine (2013 and 2009 Grand Champions of the Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest) tasted victory after judges tasted their porky perfection; and Des Moines, Iowa’s Smokey D’s BBQ (Grand Champions of the American Royal World Series of Barbecue Open Contest) were winners for their succulent smoked brisket.
The "Best in BBQ" finalists were 3EyzBBQ, Sweet Swine O’ Mine, and Smokey D’s BBQ, with the latter taking home the trophy (and the $50,000). Darren Warth of the winning Smokey D’s team already runs three restaurants in Iowa, and after this life-changing weekend, you’d better believe he’s entertaining the idea of expanding the brand to more markets.
Honorable mention goes to Pork 'N Mindy (Great Lenexa BBQ Battle winners) for making it to New York City despite a vehicle breakdown in Ohio; Queology, the military squad that held their own against the pros; Pellet Envy, Grand Champs of season four of Destination America’s BBQ Pitmasters; and the Across the Track Cookoff Team, who won the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo World Championship BBQ Contest. While only one team was crowned as the best of this weekend, every competitor should feel proud to have earned a berth in this prestigious barbecue battle — and when your life revolves around mouthwatering meats, there’s never a reason to stay disappointed for long (and there’s always another contest around the corner).