Smoking the competition at the barbecue challenge |

Smoking the competition at the barbecue challenge

Breeana Laughlin
Summit Daily/Breeana Laughlin

Another kind of tasting was happening just down the block from the Colorado BBQ Challenge on Main Street in Frisco on Friday.

There was no laughing, music, beer drinking or even much talking going on during this event. It was the judges’ tasting, and they take their meat very seriously.

Sixty-one judges tasted the barbecue of 61 vendors. They sat at tables of seven, sampling six portions of meat at a time. Each person had to take a class to become a certified judge at the event.

They judged four categories of meat: chicken, ribs, pork and brisket. They rated each dish for appearance before touching or tasting the meat. Then they gave each sample a rating from one to nine for taste and tenderness, starting at inedible and ending at excellent.

“You have to try to be objective with each bite you put in your mouth.”
Jan Huffman, barbecue judge

“You have to try to be objective with each bite you put in your mouth,” said Jan Huffman, a volunteer barbecue judge for five years.

Over the course of the competition, the judges consume a beefy amount of barbecue.

“When you judge you usually take one bite of everything because if you ate everything that was in front of you, you’d have consumed about six to eight pounds of food by the time you finished,” Huffman said.

But none of the judges complained.

“When I first went to a judging class they offered me a choice of t-shirts,” Huffman said. “They started at large. They don’t make mediums for barbecue judges. Most of these people like to eat.”

The winners of the Colorado BBQ Challenge were announced on Saturday afternoon. Bailey resident Steve Renfro, with Flyboy Barbecue, came away as the overall barbecue champion.

“Last year we had a great year, but this year we weren’t doing so well and I was really nervous about this event, but it got better and better as we went,” Renfro said. “I thought my brisket was good and they did too, so that was nice.”

The barbecue champion travels about 10 times a year to compete in events.

“I love barbecue and I love cooking barbecue,” he said.

He’s also become close with his competitors.

“Most everybody is friends,” he said. “There is a competitiveness and ribbing that goes on, but it’s a great bunch of guys.”

Renfro said he enjoys coming to Frisco to compete in the annual event.

“It’s a fantastic view looking down Main Street at the mountains,” he said. “It’s just gorgeous and it’s a fun event.”

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