Winning BBQ cookoff didn't seem likely after morning misfortune

PAXTON — Cameron Walder and his younger brother, Kendall, had their smokers lit early Saturday morning.

Luckily, they had more than one going.

Cameron, 30, and Kendall, 20, discovered a problem with one of their two smokers after leaving their barbecue cookoff setup on North Market Street for a few minutes to eat breakfast at the nearby Arcade Cafe & Pancake House.

It was then that the rural Rankin men found that the temperature to one of their smokers was dropping “pretty drastically,” Cameron recalled.

“Basically, our smokers are pellet-triggered grills, so there’s an auger on the bottom that feeds the pellets, and the auger got jammed somehow,” Cameron said. “I don’t know if we had some bad pellets or what, but it sheared the pin from the auger, so we had to pull that all the way out and put a new pin back in. Luckily, Kendall had a few tools here.”

The repair took about a half-hour, Cameron said.

“Luckily, we had two smokers, so we had the other one going good,” Cameron said. “So we didn’t lose any time (on getting the meat on the grill), but we lost concentration, I guess.”

Considering what happened — and that “it could have been worse,” Cameron noted — the Walders were quite pleased with how the rest of their day in Paxton went.

Under the team name Smokin’ Walders, the brotherly duo would end up claiming grand champion honors at Saturday’s fifth annual Paxton Swine ‘N’ Dine BBQ Contest & Festival. For their efforts, they took home cash prizes totaling $1,400 — including a $1,000 prize for winning grand champion honors and a pair of $200 prizes for winning first place in both the chicken and ribs categories.

Using the Kansas City Barbecue Society’s points structure, a panel of judges awarded Smokin’ Walders a contest-high 173.1428 points in the chicken category and a contest-high 174.2858 points in the ribs category, giving the Walders 347.4286 total points. Earning second place overall to claim reserve champion honors was Camp’s BBQ-Crew, which took second place in chicken with a score of 169.7144 and third in ribs with a score of 172.5716.

Cameron Walder said he has been smoking ribs and chicken for six years at his home, but he said this was only his team’s second year competing in barbecue cookoffs. In such a short amount of time, however, he and his brother have already seen much success, having won prizes in three of their first four competitions.

“I’ve done pretty good,” Cameron said.

Until Saturday, however, Smokin’ Walders had never placed higher than third in any category of a barbecue cookoff — and no higher than eighth overall.

Cameron wasn’t sure about the key to Saturday’s success — other than, of course, getting one of his smokers repaired.

“We do what you call ‘low and slow’ on the ribs,” Cameron said. “I put them on at 8 o’clock this morning, spread them with apple juice, and we put on a couple of different rubs, just dry rubs. Halfway through, about three hours in, we wrap them in foil very tightly with some brown sugar and apple juice. And then, we stalled them a bit right at the end (before the deadline to turn in the entry) just to hold them over (until the time they were due). We killed our temps at that point but kept (the smokers) closed so (the ribs) wouldn’t dry out.

“With chicken, we do kind of a little bit of ‘hot and fast.’ It takes about two hours at about 250 degrees. We had them in a wet-marinated injection for a couple of hours this morning.”

The Walders said the hope to return to Paxton for the sixth annual barbecue cookoff next September.

This was the first time the Walders had entered the Swine ‘N’ Dine contest. They had hoped to be at last year’s event, but Cameron’s wife of eight years, Amanda, “wasn’t very fond of us wanting to come last year” because she was about to give birth to their third child, Beckett, Cameron said.

Now 1 year old, Beckett was in attendance at Saturday’s event. Cameron also has a 4-year-old daughter, Kinley; and 3-year-old son, Landon.

Cameron has worked for the past two years in sales for KSI Conveyers, based in Cissna Park. Even before Saturday, he had started gaining a reputation as a grillmaster. He can expect that reputation only to grow now.

“All of our sales team’s coming in October, and I’m supposed to cook for them,” Cameron said.

Kendall, who is studying agricultural business online through Colorado State University and also farms with a family friend, Derek Eisenmann, in the Heyworth area, said he helps Cameron “wherever I can” in barbecue cookoffs.

“I don’t do much with the meat,” Kendall said. “I just help him get everything taken care of if he needs an extra hand.”

“He’s learning stuff (about grilling) on the way, too,” Cameron said. “So we make a pretty good team.”
 

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VincentPierro wrote on November 02, 2016 at 8:11 am

 Congratulations!  Guys tried hard to win the prize. This is kinda very good competition. I love to take part in competitions too, the last time I did was academic competition which is where I had to know how to write essays fast because I was given a deadline to complete paper fitting into words limit, at the same time not moving on from the topic. I won $500 for th second place.

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