BBQ Competition

World champion pitmaster Doug Scheiding gives a free barbecue workshop during the Kenyon Noble BBQ championship on Saturday in Bozeman.

After a full 24 hours of cooking for the Montana Pitmaster Classic, Randy Paul said barbecuing is a labor of love.

“Probably the biggest reward is the gratitude,” he said.

Paul, with Broken Barrel Barbecue, was one of several professional and amateur barbecuers from the Northwest and Canada to take part in Bozeman’s third annual barbecue competition at Kenyon Noble on Saturday. To compete in the Gov. Steve Bullock-endorsed state championship, participants cooked up their best chicken, pork ribs, pork and brisket.

After receiving scores from a panel of judges, the overall highest scorer in all categories was named the Grand Master of the tournament and made eligible for the Kansas City Royal, one of the biggest barbecue competitions in the world. Results were not in by press time.

Participants traveled from near and far to take part in the competition, with many tailoring their meat to what a Montana judge would like. John Thomas, co-owner of Big Boys Barbecue with his wife, Jackie Thomas, recently moved back to Montana from Virginia. The pitmaster classic was his first competition in the state.

He said he’s been practicing recently with his friends, coworkers and family, but he wasn’t sure how things were going to go for him, because he’s used to cooking East Coast barbecue. He said he gave judges pork with North Carolina flavors that he hoped they would like.

“But I think anywhere you go, beef’s beef, pork’s pork, chicken’s chicken,” he said.

Tyrel Hamilton, owner of Montana Outlaw BBQ with his father, Rick Hamilton, said the key to good barbecue is the right balance of sweet and spicy. It’s also about the balance of rubs and sauces and the way they showcase the meat.

The father-son duo knew what they were talking about — they were named grand masters the past two years in a row, and they were named reserve grand champions at the Open American Royal World Series of Barbecue in 2016.

Owning a hardware store and working on several barbecue-related projects, much of their lives revolves around meat. It’s about more than just food for them, though.

“Mostly, for us, it’s the camaraderie,” Tyrel Hamilton said. “Barbecue, for us, has always been about family and friends.”

Abby Lynes can be reached at or 406-582-2651. Follow her on Twitter @Abby_Lynes.

Abby Lynes covers business and the economy for the Bozeman Daily Chronicle.

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