Brian Elkins isnâ€™t about to let anyone in on the secret to his special marinade.
Elkins, cooker for EBâ€™s Barbecue Team out of Charlotte, said that out of all the food he grills, smokes and cooks, his chickenâ€™s probably brought home the most trophies.
The key to those prizes, he said, is a secret marinade that the chicken sits in for hours before cooking.
And keeping that recipe under wraps is crucial to his success, so donâ€™t even think heâ€™ll give you a sneak peak.
â€œIâ€™d have to kill you then,â€ Elkins said.
EBâ€™s Barbecue and other professional barbecue teams converged on the courtsquare Friday and Saturday as part of the Doug Herbert Hog Happeninâ€™. This is the fourth year the event has been held in downtown Lincolnton.
Motorcycles of all shapes, sizes and colors lined Main Street Friday and Saturday during Hog Happenin.â€™ Jenny Walling / LTN Photo
Hog Happeninâ€™ is a regional bike rally and Kansas City Barbeque Society sanctioned North Carolina State Championship Cook-off that brings motorcycle owners, barbecue teams and visitors from all over the region to Lincolnton.
Bikers parked their motorcycles along the street. Some revved the engines and cruised around the courtsquare.
Visitors milled around, gazing at the shining bikes and taking in the aromas that filled the air.
Teams arrived late Friday afternoon and began setting up and cooking. They cooked through the night in preparation for Saturdayâ€™s judging.
The team from west Lincolnâ€™s Mitchemâ€™s Kitchen started cooking around 2:30 a.m., said restaurant owner and county commissioner Carrol Mitchem.
Besides competing in the cook-off, Mitchemâ€™s Kitchen offered up its tasty fare for sale to the public.
Mitchem and his team cooked up 100 pounds of barbecue, 50 pounds of chicken and 15 to 20 racks of ribs.
Cookers take the competition seriously.
They cook more than enough food for the contest and then pick out the best to enter. Dishes are judged on taste, tenderness and presentation.
EBâ€™s fired up 18 thighs, four butts, two briskets and three racks of ribs. Since teams could only enter one dish in each category, they then had to pick and choose which was the best.
The brisket, cookers agreed, is the biggest challenge in the competition. You never know how the meat will turn out, so it takes a lot of work, they said.
Mitchem cooks his brisket over an open flame for two hours, applies a special rub, wraps it in tin foil and dumps in a can of beer.
Since itâ€™s the toughest part, it takes â€œlong, slow cooking in order to tenderize it,â€ he said. â€œItâ€™s a challenge to cook the beef brisket.â€
â€œYou can cook two briskets, and one you could eat with no teeth, and the next one you might not be able to eat with a meat grinder,â€ he said. by Alice Smith