RIO RANCHO, N.M. — Thousands expected inside and outside Star Center for Pork & Brew
Andy Bowen said he may challenge some of the barbecue elite at the Rio Rancho Pork & Brew BBQ State Championship, but first, he was doing some scouting Friday at the 10th annual event.
Using a fork to pull apart a sample of pulled pork from Nomad’s Barbecue in Albuquerque, Bowen said he was checking for coloration and penetration, as well as whether it had a “candy” top layer.
“You can see that real good red color, which shows good penetration of smoke getting into the meat,” Bowen said.
Originally from San Diego, Bowen said when he was on the West Coast, he was content to cook fish on a grill. But after he moved to New Mexico a decade ago, he was taught by his father-in-law about the art of slow cooking.
“We’d spend the whole day and night relaxing by the fire and letting the meat go through the process,” he said.
Theo Robinson said he and his partner, Jo Jo Valdez, were competing in their second pork and brew championship.
“We’re known for our ribs, and our chicken and pulled pork dishes,” Robinson said.
He adds that he works mainly special events, and that he’s working toward getting a restaurant location.
More than 15,000 barbecue aficionados attend the three-day event inside and outside Santa Ana Star Center in Rio Rancho.
The event , which runs through Sunday, features world-class barbecue, arts and crafts vendors, popular beers, micro brews, live entertainment and fun jumps and water slides for children.
On the western side of the outdoor grounds on Friday, Texas Rib Rangers Barbecue had its customary lines queuing up for its fare.
Lead chef Ethon Diness said he’s the Albuquerque representative of Texas Rib Rangers, where he has barbecued for about five years.
“We are 12-year world barbecue champions,” Diness proclaimed.
Founded by Bill and Barbra Milroy of Denton, Texas, the company has been competing in barbecue cook-offs since 1997, Diness said.
Millroy said there’s very little difference anymore between elite barbecue chefs, because everybody cooks slow with offset grills and use dry rub recipes to apply a unique spice and flavor to the meat before it’s put on the grill.
Ruthie Mitchell of Rio Rancho and her daughters, Crystal, Kathy and Ona, were offering Navajo fry bread and tacos.
“We came last year and noticed there were no Native American stands, so we decided to offer the people some fry bread,” Crystal Mitchell said. “Once people try fry bread or a Navajo taco, you can tell they really like it.”
Event winners can go on to participate in the American Royal BBQ in Kansas City, Mo., or the Jack Daniel’s World Championship Invitational in Lynchburg, Tenn.