An Absarokee tradition returned with the 19th Montana BBQ cook-off on Saturday.
The event was canceled in 2020 because of COVID and came back this year on the downtown street.
Texas Smoke Whisperer beat 27 teams for the Grand Champion title and gets a chance to compete nationally with the Kansas City Barbecue Society (KCBS).
Buchmaster BBQ is reserve champion.
Complete results are on the society's website.
Montana Outlaw BBQ led the teams in a pre-judging toast.
"All the teams get together," said Rick Hamilton of Montana Outlaw. "We wish you all good luck. We're competing against the perfect sample. It's competitive, but it's not competitive against another team. It's competitive by yourself."
Montana Outlaw BBQ several titles, including 2016 reserve grand champion for the open American Run the World Series of barbecue in Kansas City.
"Bone-in chicken thighs, trim them down so they can get all get this even size," Montana Outlaw BBQ's Tyler Hamilton and Rick's son said about the first entry. "Brine 'em. Take out of the brine. Then a rest. Season them for a couple hours. Go back in. Cook process. The sauce process. It all takes that time. In my opinion, competition barbecue chicken is the hardest meat to cook."
After that they move on to the presentation, preparing the chicken for the judges.
"The ultimate tell is I always take a picture," Tyler said. "Because a picture is going to show me imperfections that I just can't see to the naked eye.
Rick and another competitor wished each other luck after taking their boxes of chicken to the judges.
"They have to judge the appearance first," saidl Forrest Bruce, KCBS contest representative. "Then they'll get a piece of sample, and then they'll judge their taste and tenderness. But it's very fair. It's a double blind contest, we've got 27 teams here today that are competing, and we've got we've got about 30 judges that are not known whose product they're going to get. And the cooks don't know who their foods going to the judges."
They repeat this three times with a half hour in between for ribs, pork and brisket.
And for the Hamiltons and the others, it's time to enjoy the festivities in Absarokee.