Delicious and messy
Mindy Hoover, of Fort Dodge, was pretty content with her first sample of ribs Saturday afternoon at The Rural Iowa Barbeque Society Fort Dodge Rib Ruckus in downtown Fort Dodge.
“Oh, these are delicious,” Hoover said. “Fabulous.”
She, like most rib fans, has a “just right” rib.
“I like them dryer and seasoned but not saucy,” she said. “I like to taste the meat rather than the sauce.”
Most rib fans will agree, there is no neat way to eat ribs. The sauce or meat juice is going to get all over your fingers, face and most likely, your clothes. Don’t wear white to a barbeque.
“I just lick my fingers,” she joked. “I’m a Neanderthal.”
In addition to cooking ribs for the judges and public, participant in the Rib Ruckus also had the option of entering steak.
For Jonathan Meek, of Fort Dodge, captain of Team Meat BBQ , the process for doing that takes on the appearance of precisely run drill — he’s got it down to a science of seconds.
Team member Cory Oberhelman, of Fort Dodge, times the grilling.
Meek begins with a bit of rub on the steak and a nice hot grill.
Oberhelman starts the timer for him, set for one minute and 15 seconds, as the steak hits the heat. Meek puts a hot cast iron skillet on top of it as it cooks. The skillet is full of melted butter.
At the mark, he flips the steak, pours the melted butter on it, sets the pan down on the meat again and waits precisely one minute and 30 seconds.
He’s beaming and smiling from ear to ear when he takes the finished steak off the grill.
“I’m shaking right now,” he said. “That’s the perfect medium rare.”
The butter enhances the flavor, he said.
“It caramelizes,” Meek said. “It adds a little extra to the outside.”
Preparing a perfect steak for the judges isn’t easy. He said you don’t really know what their preferences are. He goes for medium to medium rare.
“It’s a crap shoot,” he said. “You’re judged on taste, tenderness and appearance.”
Meek takes his steaks — and ribs — seriously. He’s in his element among the four or five grills, smokers and cookers he brings to a competition.
“These are my instruments,” he said. “This is my symphony.”
One of the youngest rib cookers at Rib Ruckus was Jaxen McNeil, 7, of Fort Dodge.
“We’re barbecuing some ribs here,” she said proudly.
She works with her dad, Rusty McNeil.
It’s quality family time for the pair.
“The secret of great ribs,” he said, “is cooking them with her. I have more fun doing ribs with her at home than any competition ever.”
While she served up samples, she had also sampled some of the product.
“I’ve eaten one,” she said. “I mean two.”
Trent Powers, of Manson, was among the many who share in the philosophy of how ribs should be cooked.
“Low and slow baby,” he said.
He prefers his own spice mixes to store-purchased ones.
“I make my own seasoning,” he said. “I also make my own sauce, lots of different stuff in there.”
Matt Godfrey, of Fort Dodge, also makes his own rub and his own sauce.
No, he won’t share the recipe — it’s a secret.
“Oh yes it is,” he said.