Southerners say the trinity of wood, smoke and fire is what makes up real barbecue -- and it's a calculated science. This weekend, 22 teams will go to battle at a barbecue competition in Westbury to see who can fire up the best fare. But there's an added hitch: They must keep kosher.
Organizers of the event, now in its second year at Temple Beth Torah, supply teams with the same stable of kosher meats -- so pork is not on the menu -- grills and other cooking gear. A kosher supervisor will oversee the prep to ensure everything used stays within kosher guidelines. The lone variable: Each team gets to submit its own four-page request of secret ingredients to dress and sauce their food with.
"The kosher element changes things dramatically. It takes every advantage you have -- besides the intellect -- out of it," says Eric Devlin, 45, of Dix Hills, from the Schloimey's Schmoke House team. "Everyone is on a level playing field."
Prep for Sunday's competition starts tonight, when teams gather to prepare their sauces and rubs for the meats. Contestants will use crazy ingredients like ginger ale, ground coffee, bourbon, Dr Pepper, cardamom and orange juice powder to bring out the flavor of the meats, ranging from beef ribs and brisket to chicken.
They'll come back Saturday night to light the grills and start cooking, which goes overnight into Sunday. The meat is cooked at a snail's pace with a low flame to properly capture that smoky barbecue flavor and texture. Most teams cook with a mix of charcoal and a variety of wood chips.
"It's all timing -- slow and low," says Hope Greenberg, 46, of Merrick, from last year's championship team, the M.O.B. (Mavens of Barbecue). "You have to really watch it."
When the morning comes and the event opens, the public is invited to watch the teams scurry around their grills, preparing dishes to meet turn-in times to the judges, who are either professional foodies or certified by the Kansas City Barbecue Society.
"We encourage people to interact with teams," says event chairman Marvin Rembo. "The visitors walk around and chat with the competitors, who will share barbecue secrets and techniques."
MORE THAN MEAT
Sunday's event is surrounded by a festival atmosphere that includes live music and family-friendly activities such as inflatable rides ($5, unlimited rides), hot-dog-eating ($5-$10 entry) and pickle-eating (free) contests, and a basketball skills competition ($5).
Watching masters barbecue is bound to make you hungry. Although teams are strictly cooking for the judges, you can head to an on-site concession for kosher eats such as pulled brisket sandwiches, smoked turkey legs and grilled chicken wraps. There also will be a pavilion handing out free samples of kosher products.
Another element that makes the competition interesting is the fact that it draws people from different states and skill levels.
"You will see people that have never done anything like this before next to those who do this for a living," says Brandon Unger, 28, of Seaford, captain of team 50 Shades of Flayshik. "Everyone is competitive but friendly. That being said, you don't join a competition to lose. We're all in this for the win."
Last year's overall winner, the M.O.B., beat out professional food vendors, even though it was their first barbecue contest.
"We didn't think we had a chance," says Greenberg. "I literally jumped in the air when we won. We were both thrilled and blown away."
WHEN | WHERE 11 a.m.-3:30 p.m., Sunday at Temple Beth Torah, 243 Cantiague Rock Rd., Westbury
INFO 516-334-7979, likosherbbq.org
NEXT ON THE BARBIE
WHEN | WHERE 10 a.m. Aug. 3-4, Maples Bar and Grill in Manorville
INFO 631-247-6653, bbqbattleli.com
If you missed your chance to compete in the Long Island BBQ Championship, fear not because this summer you will get another shot. "Smokin' at the Maples 2013" -- the seventh annual Battle of the Barbecue Brethren -- will be at Maples Bar and Grill in Manorville Aug. 3-4. This non-kosher event has two pork categories: pork ribs and pork shoulder.