It’s easy to get caught up in a barbecue sauce smackdown: mustard lovers usually just can’t abide by those who rely on vinegar or – gasp – ketchup as their go-to ingredient. But ask serious barbecue aficionados, and they’ll tell you that the magic is in the meat. “Great sauce can’t cover up poorly cooked meat,” says David Campbell, a local advertising executive and barbecue judge. “It needs to fall apart, but without a trace of mushiness, and offer some chew but not too much tug. Ideally, it should be able to stand on its own.”
And that comes from the cooking – smoking meat 8-12 hours over a secret concoction of flammables, all the while basting and otherwise infusing it with flavor, courtesy of another secret brew. It’s hot, grueling work – but the results can be sublime. “I love BBQ because there are so many ways to make it taste great despite the process,” says Jim Harmon, president of the Southern BBQ Network.
This weekend, you’ll get your chance to be the judge at Smokin’ at the Farmer’s Market. On Friday, March 21 the Anything Butt competition celebrates the chicken wing; on Saturday, March 22, 40 cook teams from all over the southeast will show off their skills with pork. Either way, think of the sauce as a complement to whatever protein you choose. “A bad piece of dry meat? That’s the kiss of death,” says Campbell. “Even the best sauce can’t cover that up.”