The days are getting longer and warmer, for sure. And with that comes the restless feeling that I should take to the back roads of South Carolina and explore. And when I say “explore,” I mean “look for some really good barbecue.”
Luckily, beginning this weekend, I won’t have to drive too far.
Friday and Saturday, to me, mark the official start to the barbecue cook-off season in South Carolina with two events: Smokin’ at the Farmers Market Commissioners Cup BBQ Cook Off and Festival at the State Farmers Market in West Columbia and the South Carolina Barbecue Association Cookoff Competition in Walterboro.
Barbecue cook-offs generally work like this: Friday night is an Anything-Butt night where all sorts of items, other than pork, come off the smokers. I’ve sampled great tasting pizzas, chicken, shrimp (and grits) and vegetables during these evenings.
Saturday is what everyone waits for, the big event: Boston butts and pork ribs. Judging is usually done before noon and if you want to sample some of the best barbecue, you better come early. My dad and I have driven to one or two cook-offs just past a “normal” lunchtime (around 1 p.m.) and some of the teams have been picked clean. There’s almost nothing worse than showing up and there’s no ’Q!
Anyway, Smokin’ is sanctioned by the Southern BBQ Network, a great group of guys and gals who taught me all about the barbecue judging process.
This will be the third year of competition. The winning team receives an invitation to participate in the World Food Championships in Las Vegas in November.
The SCBA event in Walterboro, Smoke in the ’Boro, is new and organized by Lake High, president of the SCBA, and hosted by The Colleton Center and Coastal Electric Co-op.
You can eat your way across the state this spring and summer by attending a barbecue cook-off competition. I’ve listed a few here for your planning purposes (and see an interactive map at thestate.com/living):
Got a cook-off coming up and want to be included in our listing? Email us at email@example.com
21-22 Smokin’ at the Farmers Market Commissioner’s Cup BBQ Cook Off and Festival, State Farmers Market, 3483 Charleston Hwy, West Columbia, agriculture.sc.gov
21-22 Smoke in the ’Boro, Coastal Electric Outback Building, 2269 Jeffries Hwy, Walterboro, www.coastal.coop
28-29 Hub City Hog Fest, Grain District, Spartanburg, hubcityhogfest.com
28-29 Horsin’ & Hoggin’ BBQ Cookoff, Newberry Street, Aiken
4-5 Big Brothers & Big Sisters BBQ Festival, 2502 West Hillcrest Terrace, Florence
4-5 Pawleys Island BBQ Battle at the Beach, Beaver Bar, 3524 Hwy 17, Murrells Inlet
10-12 Bar-B-Que Shag Festival, Hemingway, scbbqshagfestival.org
11-12 Teal Chicken-Pig Pickin’, Coastal Carolina University, www.goccusports.com/trads/Letterwinr
11-12 Come See Me BBQ Cook Off, Wintrop University Lake, Rock Hill, www.comeseeme.org
11-12 Carolina-Georgia Border BBQ Cook-Off, Hardeville
25-26 Project Hose BBQ Cook-Off, Main and Broad streets, Greenville, www.projecthost.org
26 Southern Flame Food and Music Festival, The Ponds, Summerville, www.southernflamefestival.org
2-3 Picking and Pigging in the Park, Saluda Shoals Park, www.icrc.net
2-3 Hog on the Hill BBQ Cookoff, Main and Gadsden streets, Chester, www.discoversouthcarolina.com
16-17 Pig in the Park, Mineral Spring Park, Williamston, www.williamstonpiginpark.com
24 Columbia Warrior Cook-Off, SC State Fairgrounds, www.cockpitbarbeque.com
30-31 Days of Thunder VIII BBQ, Blues & Brews, Thunder Tower Harley Davidson, Elgin, www.thundertowerharley.com
6-7 High on the Hog, White Hall Plantation, Beaufort, highonthehogbeaufort.com
6-7 Hejaz Shrine Temple BBQ Cook-Off, 200 Ranch Road, Mauldin
13-14 The Mighty Moo, Veterans Memorial Park, Cowpens, www.mycowpensgov.com
10-12 Festival of Discovery BBQ & Blues, Greenwood, www.festivalofdiscovery.com
19 The SC Peach Festival, Gaffney, scfeachfestival.net
14-17 FLW Forrest Wood Cup, Lake Murray, www.lakemurraycountry.com or www.forrestwoodcup.com
TBA Edgefield Heritage Festival, Oakley Park, Edgefield, edgefieldsc.net
TBA Smoke on the Water, 300 Senate, Columbia
5-6 Butts & Bluegrass BBQ Festival, Clover, mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org
19-21 Tobacco Festival Cook-Off, Lake City, www.lakecitysc.org
26-27 City of Mauldin BBQ & Family Festival, Mauldin
TBA Kershaw Hog Jam, Kershaw, www.KershawHogJam.com
3-4 Gaston Collard & BBQ Festival, Gaston, www.Gastonsc.org
31-Nov. 1 Pig on the Ridge, Ridgeway, www.pigontheridge.org