There are many things to like culinary-speaking about Brooklyn. It’s a huge melting pot for different cultures and many of New York’s food traditions, and most of the country’s best and most iconic ethnic dishes originate from there.
It has some of the best Pizza imaginable in the entire country and is the cradle of Jewish cuisine as we know it in the United States. Arguably the best hot dog on the planet originated in Brooklyn. And so on, and so on. Brooklyn is America’s premium brand name for ethnic culture.
However, I don’t normally consider Brooklyn to be a huge barbecue town. But last Saturday, my views on this were seriously challenged.
Click on the read the “Rest of this entry” link below for more.
Grillin’ on the Bay is a relatively new New York KCBS-approved cooking event that is a pre-BBQ season cooking contest that pits 30 teams from the greater NYC metro area against each other in mortal combat at St. Mark Catholic School in Sheepshead Bay. The event was sponsored by RUB BBQ restaurant in Manhattan.
Unlike most KCBS BBQ contents this event is a GRILLING contest rather than a BARBECUE contest. In other words, instead of the traditional low and slow smoking that occurs that these teams are used to, we’re dealing with hot and fast. Therefore, even the best competitors are completely out of their element, so it’s everybody’s game.
Each team has to turn in fish, chicken and ribs at certain times or face disqualification by a panel of six KCBS certified judges. Additionally, another round, “Chef’s Choice” allows the team to supply any kind of grilled meat dish that they want which brings a major element of creativity to the picture.
I was privileged this year to accompany my friend Doug Keiles’ team, the Hillsborough, NJ-based Ribs Within and to be able photo-document what was going on at the event. It turned out that it was good that my wife Rachel showed up as well, because Doug’s majordomo, Laura, ended up having to stay home with the kids last minute, so she ended up becoming part of the team this year.
Ribs Within’s Doug Keiles, in one of his rare relaxed moments. Because this was a pre-season event it was still during cold weather — it reached a high of about 36 degrees in Sheepshead Bay that day, and we were all glad to have dressed warm.
Grilled Fish was one of the more challenging categories for competitors at this event, as many of them opted for variations on Salmon. Salmon is one of those fishes that goes from perfectly cooked to overdone in less than a minute, and I was impressed with the fact that many of these teams were able to get the filets off the grill at exactly the right time. While many of the entries used traditional BBQ sauces, this entry which I had the privilege of tasting had a really nice herb mustard sauce on it.
This is one of the teams’ chicken entries during a critical phase. I love how this shot came out.
This was Wildwood Barbecue’s chicken entry, which took first place. Wildwood is a popular BBQ restaurant in Manhattan that often competes at local events.
When it comes to grilled meats I’m more of a beef and pork guy, but I have to say that the chicken entries at this event really made my mouth water.
Team Purple Turtle’s chicken entry which was stuffed with cheese and Italian herbs. Very creative.
Purple Turtle doing its box presentation just prior to turn-in.
Rigs and equipment varied tremendously at this event. Some people brought some pretty large apparatus with them while others went with traditional Weber kettles and bullets.
Ribs Within was one of the few (if perhaps the only) team that brought along Big Green Eggs for all of its cooking. After having seen them in action in competition and practice, I’m compelled to ditch my beloved Weber Bullet and pick one of these up. The BGE is made out of heavy ceramic and is extremely efficient at retaining heat and maintaining temperature, and can be used for both Smoking and Grilling applications. It can maintain very low temperatures and also be used for very high temperature cooking, such as baking bread and pizza.
Ribs is what I believe truly separates the men from the boys in these types of events. It requires a large amount of preparation and tactical changes to grill ribs properly, as moisture has to be maintained constantly, unlike BBQ events where the ribs are being mopped/misted periodically and there is less adjustment going on.
Beef Shortribs. Several competitors, including Ribs Within had entries with them this year.
I believe these are baby backs. I love the way the rub came out nice and dark on these.
Ribs getting a last minute dose of rub spices prior to turn-in.
Rib’s Within’s rib entry. I thought these came out phenomenal, and tasted even better as they cooled down.
Grillin’ on the Bay is also a chili cook-off. For $10 you are issued a styrofoam bowl and can eat UNLIMITED amounts of chili all day. There were so many good entries here it was really difficult to pinpoint a favorite, but I really liked the entries that used heavy chipotle and large amounts of dried darker chiles rather than those that emphasized the tomato base with a sweeter flavor.
This chili, which took 3rd place entered by Virgil’s BBQ had a distinct Mexican chipotle flavor which I really loved.
The Chef’s Choice entry is where things really got hairy for the Ribs Within team. Their creative submission was a Bacon Grease cornbread (my contribution) that was hollowed out and filled with Morel Mushroom Grits and then topped with Grilled Shortribs which were then simmered in a Red Wine sauce. Rachel ended up being assigned cornbread carving duty and I thought she did a fantastic job.
Rachel and Doug working on the stuffed muffins.
Last minute seasoning check on the meat. Needed more salt, so we amped it with some rub.
The tension in this phase was incredible, one of our muffins lost structural integrity and we had to re-do one with only 3 minutes before turn-in. In the end, we got it in on time.
All in all, it was a good day for Grillin’. Ribs Within took 5th place overall out of 27 teams, and they put in a Herculean effort and did extremely well considering not having a key team member present. Peace, Doug. Peace.