KY State BBQ Festival

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Melissa Cookston cooks her way to BBQ Pitmasters Finals

Melissa Cookston as a finalist at TLC's BBQ Pitmasters

In an episode of BBQ Pitmasters that Meathead of AmazingRibs.com has called “the best show ever in the series”, Melissa Cookston of the Memphis Barbecue Co. in Horn Lake, Mississippi and one of the star Pitmasters at the Kentucky State BBQ Festivalcame out on top of two formidable competitors to secure a spot in the BBQ Pitmasters Finals on July 8 the Destination America Channel (formerly Planet Green).

There are more prelims to come on Sunday nights at 9 on Destination America so check your listings to see where it falls in the channel lineup on your cable or satellite system.

Quoting the June 4 Meathead post in Huffington Post (Melissa Cookston Wins BBQ Pitmasters’ Best Show Ever), “The judging panel was Myron Mixon, winner of 180 grand championships as head of the Jack’s Old South barbecue team and author of a best selling barbecue book ‘Smokin’ with Myron Mixon’; Tuffy Stone, past winner of BBQ Team of the Year and owner of three restaurants named Q Barbecue; and Aaron Franklin, owner of Franklin Barbecue in Austin, called the best in the nation by Bon Appetit magazine.

“Judges scored each sample on a 10 point scale, on appearance, tenderness, and taste. Scores were weighted with 20% for appearance, 30% for tenderness, and 50% for taste. In case of ties, taste ruled, but according to producer John Markus, there were no ties.”

Moe Cason, BBQ Pitmasters Finalist

Moe Cason
2011 BBQ Pitmasters Finalist

Taped in Memphis, Melissa Cookston squared off against Moe Cason of Ponderosa Barbecue and Donnie Bray of Warren County Pork Choppersin a 10-hour marathon to produce the best bone-in pork butt and baby back ribs. The baby back ribs added an interesting challenge as they tend to be less meaty and less juicy than the spare ribs generally preferred by serious barbeque competitors.

Melissa and her husband Pete prepared the winning pork on a Backwoods Smoker, burning charcoal for heat and peach and apple for flavor.

Moe Cason used an Ole Hickory Ultra Que, affectionately know as a “mailbox”, using charcoal and pecan.

Donnie Bray used a homemade wood burning colloquially known as a ‘stickburner’.

In order of finish, the week’s contestants were:

  1. Melissa Cookston of Memphis Barbecue Co. in Horn Lake, MS.
  2. Moe Cason of Ponderosa Barbecue in Des Moines, IA.
  3. Donnie Bray of Warren County Pork Choppers in Bowling Green, KY.

Big Moe Cason missed going to the finals by a measly 0.6 points. But Moe will be joining Melissa to cook for you at the 2nd Ever Kentucky State BBQ Festival September 8-9, 2012 in Danville, Kentucky.

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