Pork and Hops: Q & A with a pit master
The Colorado Pork and Hops Challenge continues at Lincoln Park on Friday and Saturday, Sept. 10–11, with the professional Kansas City Barbecue Society competition with 50 teams competing for more than $20,000 in cash and prizes.
The lure of cash is why Johnny Trigg, featured in TLC channel’s “BBQ Pitmasters,” has scheduled a stop in Grand Junction. Trigg has won nearly $550,000 in his competitive barbecue career. His team, Smokin’ Triggers — Trigg and his wife — is excited to compete in this year’s challenge.
Trigg, 71, is from Alvarado, Texas. He recently finished a competition in Mesquite, Nev., when he spoke about the best barbecue in the country, the biggest prize he’s ever won and the trick to smoking award-winning ribs.
Melinda Mawdsley: Sorry to have bothered you during breakfast. What did you eat this morning?
Johnny Trigg: I had a bowl of strawberries, cream, wheat toast and coffee.
Mawdsley: Oh. I thought maybe you’d eat smoked sausage or bacon or something.
Mawdsley: Do you eat barbecue when you aren’t competing?
Trigg: Yeah. I love eating barbecue.
Mawdsley: You hear people arguing about barbecue being better in some parts of the country than others. Where is the best barbecue?
Trigg: Where do you think? Texas. But you don’t see much pork in Texas.
Mawdsley: But you smoke pork. What all do you barbecue for competition?
Trigg: I do chicken, ribs, pork butt and brisket. You have to do all four to be a grand champion.
Mawdsley: How did you do at your last competition in Mesquite?
Trigg: I won $1,800. I got first in brisket, ninth in pork and 15th in ribs. Last year, I won $8,000.
Mawdsley: Last year? How many competitions do you do a year?
Trigg: I do about 45 contests a year. This year, we’ve been to Colorado four times, counting (Pork and Hops.)
Mawdsley: Are you ever home in Texas?
Trigg: We are gone most of the time.
Mawdsley: How long have you been competing?
Trigg: Twenty-one years. (On Sept. 14), I’ll be 72.
Mawdsley: Happy early birthday. Why keep doing this?
Trigg: Why? I love it.
Mawdsley: It must get pretty expensive to buy everything and travel the country.
Trigg: It is. You have to win. Because it’s expensive to go to these things, I go where I have a chance to win a fair amount of money.
Mawdsley: What’s the most money you’ve ever won?
Trigg: Three years ago in Mount Pleasant, Iowa, the grand champion got a $24,000 Harley. I won that and $18,000 in cash.
Do you still have the motorcycle?
Trigg: No. I’m alive aren’t I? (Laughing.)
Mawdsley: The money must be why you’re coming to Grand Junction then?
Trigg: I would have been there before, but the date was the same as a competition in Decatur, Ala. The people that run that are super. I won it twice and was reserve once. I guess that’s a reason, too. (Laughing)
Mawdsley: Where do you get the meat for all those competitions?
Trigg: Sam’s Club has good meat, but I don’t like their chicken. I’m hoping one of the grocery stores there has Foster Farms chicken. I bet they do.
Mawdsley: (Laughing) We have a Sam’s Club. And I know I’ve seen Foster Farms at a grocery store. So how will the competition work? What time do you have to start everything?
Trigg: I put my pork butt and brisket on at 3:30 a.m. They are done about 10 to 10:30 a.m. Ribs are on at 8 a.m. and done by noon. Chicken only cooks for an hour.
Mawdsley: Do you do everything?
Trigg: I do all the cooking, prepping. My wife helps clean up. She does the boxing.
Mawdsley: Oh yeah. Boxing for the judges. What about for people to taste test?
Trigg: People don’t eat this. If I started doing that, I would have lines and lines, and I couldn’t do what I want to do.
Mawdsley: So I guess I’d have to become a barbecue judge to taste it?
Mawdsley: I’ll keep that in mind.