After smoking the competition over the past year, a local barbecue team received recognition last week for its accomplishments.
Aiken’s Smokin’ Stacks was honored Friday as the second runner-up in the South Carolina State Barbeque Championships for 2012. George King and Gary Freeman of Winnsboro’s Can’t Quit Smokin’ team captured the championship for the second consecutive year. Up In Smoke, headed by Rock Hill’s Brian Teigue, finished first runner-up.
For Smokin’ Stacks pitmaster Jeff Smith, an Aiken County deputy coroner, the award was a culmination of several years of perfecting his barbecue recipes.
“Back in 2008, Tim (Carlton), our coroner, asked me to cook for an event we were doing for the United Way,” Smith said. “We won Grand Champion at that event, and I’ve been hooked (on barbecue competitions) ever since then.”
The Smokin’ Stacks team, which consists of Smith and his father in-law Larry Bowling, began competing in sanctioned events in 2009.
Smith and Bowling were all over South Carolina’s barbecue circuit last year and enjoyed a major breakthrough. They earned their first win as a team at a sanctioned competition in March and went on to win seven of the 22 events they competed in for the year, Smith said.
Thanks to its victory at the South Carolina Peach Festival’s barbecue competition in July, Smokin’ Stacks earned a trip to Las Vegas in November for the World Food Championships. At that international tournament, the team earned fourth place in the Barbecue Butts category.
Despite the team’s wildly-successful year, it struggled a bit down the stretch, possibly preventing it from finishing first in the state championship, Smith said.
“Barbecue competitions are unpredictable,” he said. “I don’t know why we didn’t finish as strong as we started – it’s just one of those things. You have different judges at different places. There’s a lot that goes into it. But overall we had a very good year.”
Though Smith would not divulge any of his secrets to making award-winning barbecue, he did offer some general advice to aspiring pitmasters.
“It’s a lot of trial and error,” he said. “You have to have patience and try different things. But it’s a lot of fun and very rewarding. It’s just a great time traveling around and meeting new friends.”