Clouds of chicken, pork and beef-infused smoke billowed from black iron spits Sunday afternoon while spice-laden steam wafted from kettles, filling downtown Marshalltown with pungent nodes of chili and barbecue.
The crowd that gathered for the annual Oktemberfest BBQ Contest and Chili Cook-off perused six booths, their tiny sample cups and paper boats in hand, to get a taste of the local flavors.
Cooks chose which of the five categories - poultry, pork, beef, chili and, new this year, desert - in which to compete.
T-R PHOTO BY DAVID ALEXANDER
Ruth Peterson with King Kong BBQ ladles some chili Sunday afternoon to tasters at the annual BBQ Competition/Chili Cook Off.
Six judges scored the competitors on a scale from two to nine in appearance, tenderness and taste and tasters from the public submitted their votes for the People's Choice winner.
Although last year saw 11 teams compete as opposed to this year's six teams, Eric Boone, event chair, said it seemed to him that more people were partaking in the sampling.
"The quality is still high," he said.
Bruce Campbell, proprietor of Bubba's Burnt Ends BBQ, which won both People's Choice in meat and chili, said he makes his own rub and uses a homemade salsa for his chili base. He said it is one part science one part art - taking some creativity but also a lot of trial and error.
"A lot of practice, a lot of eating," he said of perfecting his recipe.
Smokin' G's BBQ Boys took home this year's Grand Champion honor, winning a glass trophy and $200. Smokamotives BBQ earned the champion in reserve designation.
Winners in each category took home $125 for first place, $50 for second place and $25 for third place. Bubba's Burnt Ends took home $75 for each chili and meat in the People's Choice category and first place in pork and beef.
Purveyors of meat and chili said they aim for a product that is pleasing to the Every Man.
"I like a little spice to it," said Dave Espersen, of Marshalltown, when asked what he looks for in a chili.
Mike Haigh, of Marshalltown, said no one competitor has a monopoly - they each play to their strengths.
He said, he tends toward more traditional chili, but when it comes to barbecue one element makes the difference.
"It could be any meat: it's the seasoning," he said.