Ben Lierman of Indianapolis moved a pan of mushrooms and vegetables from the heat and placed foil-wrapped pork steaks back on to finish cooking.
"You hear that?" he said, referring to the mushrooms and vegetables as the sound they made went from a sizzle to a simmer. "They tell you when you're done cooking."
Lierman stood with Dustin Lynch of Urbana and Jason Ishcomer of Mahomet, three members of Big Papa's BBQ at their tent and grill at the BBQ Cook-off Championships Friday at Legacy Harley-Davidson sanctioned by Kansas City Barbecue Society. With most of their meat for the day's event already turned in, Ishcomer said this event is another chance to show off food they've they've been perfecting for more than five years.
"We entered one contest last year and won with our chicken," he said. "That really kick-started us. We've improved on everything. You just can't do everything the same every time."
For the guys of Big Papa's BBQ, those improvements have come from near constant trial and error tests with ribs, brisket, chicken and much more. For backyard grillers wanting to step up their game, Ishcomer said practice and refining recipes can lead to serious results.
"Cook every day," he said. "You can find all sorts of stuff on the Internet. I probably have 100 cookbooks, but once we started seeing what people could do online, we really had some ideas."
Practice seems to be the main word tossed around many of this weekend's barbecue grillers and smokers as they turn in food for judging.
"We've been doing this for seven years," said Scott Hageman of St. Louis, a member of Smokie Bros. BBQ. "One day, my brother and I started talking about doing this, and we just went for it. We started tweaking recipes, but we didn't really know what we were getting into."