The second annual Windy City BBQ Classic is billed as a "premier pit-master competition celebrating authentic, old-fashioned techniques of top BBQ pitmasters and chefs from around the country."
If you've never been to a BBQ competition before, here's how it works: different meat rolls out at different times based on how long each needs to smoke. First comes chicken, then ribs, pork and finally brisket.
The Windy City BBQ Classic runs from 11AM until 9PM on September 1 in Soldier Field. It costs about $50 to eat meat all day (kids under 12 eat free); add another $30 and you can drink craft beer (or Tito's vodka) all day, too. And who knows, you might even learn something about the pitmaster's craft.
There's also music to eat and drink by.
What's notable about this particular barbecue competition is that my friend Gary Wiviott, who organized the event with co-producer Jared Leonard, has forbidden the use of gas or electricity. As his rules explain: "This is a true pitmaster competition. To be a true 'pitmaster.' you 'master' your pit manually. If you have a fan controlled pit, unplug the fan and manage airflow manually. If your pit uses gas/electricity to assist in cooking, simply unhook the gas tank or unplug the cord, and learn to cook without these crutches."
I learned how to BBQ – that is SMOKE – meat using a Weber Smoky Mountain (an excellent beginner's model) supported by Wiviott's very helpful Low and Slow: Master the Art of Barbeque in 5 Easy Lessons.
I've been smoking meat for some years now, and based on that experience, and the fact that I'm so judgmental, I'll be one of 30 judges this year at the Windy City BBQ Classic. There will also be 30 chefs competing and about 3,000 civilians enjoying high-quality Q.