Let the battle begin

Let the battle begin

Bones are back for the sixth annual barbecue competition and festival this weekend that benefits Central Point parks and recreation.

Battle of the Bones has reinstated ribs among this year's competitive cooking categories. Eight teams will prepare baby backs, pulled pork, beef brisket, chicken and chili for judging and the chance to win cash prizes. Visitors to the city's Twin Creeks Park can taste all the competitive barbecue for a fee and vote for their favorites.

"It's a true barbecue competition," says head judge and past competitor Butch Frost. "Most everything is going to be slow-cooked."

A $10 ticket buys 1-ounce tasting portions of each team's barbecue with the exception of ribs, which cost $1 apiece. Ribs have been absent from competition for the past two years since the city of Central Point assumed responsibility for the event. Keeping costs down was the driving factor, says city recreation coordinator Sarah Garceau.

But this year the city secured donations of chicken from Foster Farms and beef chuck from Painted Hills, as well as deep discounts on other meat provided for the competition. The eight teams competing will cook 500 pounds of meat over two days. Teams are not allowed to bring their own meats or do any advance preparation. All cooking must be done over briquettes or wood coals.

Judging and tasting kicks off Saturday, June 25, with pulled pork and ribs, followed Sunday, June 26, with beef brisket and chicken. Chili will be available for tasting both days. Winners will be announced at 6 p.m. Sunday.

Frost's winning way with beef ribs scored enough points at 2008's Battle of the Bones to earn him the title of grand champion. The 46-year-old Medford resident stepped away from competition last year to fill the role of head judge. Also founder of the State of Jefferson Barbecue Association, Frost was perhaps the most vocal proponent of living up to the event's name by bringing back ribs.

When it comes to ribs, Frost favors St. Louis-style over baby backs. The former has more meat and is less expensive, he says.

It also pays to buy whole chickens and cut them in half for cooking on the bone, says Frost. That keeps the breast moist and yields better flavor, he says.

As far as true barbecuing goes, cheaper meats are the way to go, he says. Low and slow cooking — ideally at 225 to 250 F for several hours — tenderizes tougher cuts, such as pork shoulder and beef brisket. Save fancier cuts for quick grilling over hot coals, he says.

And there's always room in any grill for a foil packet of moistened wood chips, which imparts smokiness, he says. Soak the chips in apple juice rather than water for another layer of flavor.

"People need to play with their barbecues," he says.

Try these recipes from McClatchy News Service.

Reach Food Editor Sarah Lemon at 541-776-4487 or email

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