The 2nd Annual Ark-La-Tex Ambassadors BBQ Cook-Off will be held this Saturday, April 26, in downtown Shreveport’s Festival Plaza. Along with dozens of BBQ teams competing for awards in the categories of chicken, pork ribs, pork and brisket, there’ll be one solitary vendor selling barbecue plates to the public. In an instance of quality trumping quantity, this sole BBQ vendor happens to be one of the winningest teams in competitive BBQ – the Texas Rib Rangers of Denton, TX.
The Texas Rib Rangers have been cooking competitively since 1977, and in that time, they’ve collected more than 1,000 awards. There’s not enough room to go into their list of accomplishments in detail (you can read a list of awards here), but one achievement does stand out: In 1999, their Spicy BBQ Sauce won the Jack Daniels World BBQ Championship with the first and only perfect score ever awarded to a sauce in the 25-year history of that competition. That’s something.
I spoke with Bill Milroy, co-founder of the Texas Rib Rangers, about what he’ll be serving in Festival Plaza on Saturday and what it takes to win 1,000 awards in the world of competitive ‘cue.
20X49: What will you all be selling on Saturday?
Bill Milroy: Brisket, ribs, pulled pork, chicken, and probably sausage, as well. And, of course, we’ll have our bottled sauces and spices.
20×49: Do you adhere to any specific style of cooking? What kind of tactic are you using to win these competitions? Is it “slow and low”?
BM: Slow and low, that’s it. I do it the same way all over the country. I’ve cooked in 38 states and taken home a first place prize in 29 of them. Everybody says ‘Well, Carolina’s different.’ Well, I’ve got news for you. This Texas boy has won the North Carolina Whole Hog Barbecue Championship five times in 13 years. We’ve won 77 national, international or world titles.
20×49: You’ve been involved in cook-offs since 1977, so you’ve seen a lot change in the world of competitive BBQ. What’s that been like?
BM: Our first contest, there were six of us (barbecue teams) cooking under a Mesquite tree at a county fair. The biggest competition that we’ve won was in Kansas City at the American Royal, where we beat out 493 teams for first place in pulled pork. I keep thinking that competitive barbecue has hit its peak, and it couldn’t possibly keep growing, but every year it just continues to get bigger and bigger.
The Texas Rib Rangers will be on-hand in Festival Plaza, 11 a.m.-5 p.m., Saturday, April 26. Admission to the Ark-La-Tex Ambassadors BBQ Cook-Off is $10 for ages 12 and older and free for ages 11 and younger. Paid admission includes three BBQ samples from People’s Choice Award competitors. People’s Choice Award judging takes place, 12:30-3 p.m. (so, arrive between those hours if you want your three BBQ sample tastes from competitors).