D’s Butcher Block Hosts BBQ Cookoff

D. Melton, center, owner of D’s Butcher Block, awards the first place trophy and $150 to Otis Johnson, left, owner of Big O’s Grill. Joining the celebration, at right is Johnson’s barbecuing partner Reginald Robinson.

WINNSBORO — Open for business for just over a month, D’s Butcher Block meat market in Winnsboro hosted a barbecue cookoff on Saturday in front of the market at 324 S. Congress St., or, as owner and Winnsboro native D. Melton likes to call it, Main Street Winnsboro.

Five Winnsboro cooking teams fired up their cookers in the early hours of Saturday morning. About 11 a.m., a Fairfield County Sheriff’s deputy drove into the parking lot and hit his siren to signify the barbecue was ready – ribs, chicken, wings and more.

The judging, organized by Ridgeway’s J.W. Joy, began at 1 p.m. There’s not much Joy doesn’t know about barbecue. A local cooking legend, he earned his way to the world barbecue cookoff’s five times.

The six judges, too, had many years of experience cooking at major barbecue events. While D’s Butcher Block’s cookoff didn’t rival Pig on the Ridge in number of entries, the judging was no less intense.

“How’d you cook the ribs?” judge Marion Robinson asked Otis Johnson of Big O’s Grill.

“Gas, charcoal and wood. All three,” Johnson responded.

“All three,” Robinson said, smiling. “That’s good. The wood puts the flavor in.”

“Did you use a rub?”

“Is there a little honey in the sauce?”

“How long did you cook it?”

“Where are you from?”

The big question that separates the cooks from the wannabe’s was asked at each cooking station – “Have you cooked at Pig on the Ridge?”

A ‘no’ answer was followed by serious silence as cook teams and spectators watched for the judge’s reaction. A ‘yes’ was followed with, ‘How many times?”

The more, the better.

Then there was the two-part taste test. First, at the booth with the team watching the judges’ every bite, trying to read the silent nods and serious facial expressions as they munched the meaty ribs or tore the meat from the bone to check for tenderness.

Then there was the blind taste test inside the market. One judge commented that he was looking for a lot of smoke in the meat indicated by “a beautiful red smoke ring around the edge.”

Robinson commented on Big Boy’s BBQ chickens. “That’s about the best golden color I’ve ever seen on a beer can chicken,” Robinson said.

After 30 minutes of tallying scores, Melton announced the winners: First place winner of $150 and a trophy was Otis Johnson’s Big O’s Grill. Second place was Keith Green’s Big Boy’s BBQ. Also cooking were Willie Mickle of Devine Grilling, Tony Parnell of TBA Barbecue and Alvin Richmond Jr. of A&J Barbecue.