The competitors in Saturday's sixth annual Perham Area Cook-off were making no "bones" about their work.
Competing for top honors in ribs and chicken, a parking lot-full of chefs poked, grilled, knifed, brushed, and smoked their meats in the secret recipes which they had devised.
Brad Peterson and his cohorts Randy Lindenfelser and Tom Walter traveled up from Princeton, Minn. for the competition hoping for a repeat championship. Their Old Toad BBQ team takes in four to five contests each summer.
"We want to be the first to repeat," said Lindenfelser as he watched the group's smokers preparing trays of ribs and chicken.
While the Old Toad team begins preparing their grills at around 8 a.m., according to Lindenfelser, some of the contestants are getting ready as early as 5:30 a.m. on cook-off day.
Peterson said the prize money his team was competing for was not the main reason they wanted to repeat as champs. The competition is really about pride.
Lucas Johnson, owner of Papacito's Burritos in Perham and Detroit Lakes, has tasted his share of success in the past five years running his Rico's Ribs booth.
"A little hot and a little sweet," Johnson recommended as he prepared his ribs. "If you can balance those two things you'll be okay."
Most of the booths had plenty of help, but Moorhead's Shawn Fuglseth played a lone hand. He did have the help of his 1948 International Harvester refrigerator, which he turned into a smoker. His Woo Hoo BBQ booth did not have the gaudy signs that many of his competitors boasted because he had left it at home.
"It's fun, it's a blast," Fuglseth said. "Win or lose it really doesn't matter."
The cook-off benefits Perham Activities was under the direction of Mike Peterson for the first time this year. Peterson's group of coaches supplies all of the meat for the cook-off through Perham Locker.
Eighteen teams signed up for the 2018 competition. Peterson said each team made a minimum of eight racks of ribs and the 2 ½ hour competition sold close to 3,000 ribs. The chicken competition called for the competing teams to prepare a minimum of eight drumsticks.
"It was a good crowd," said Peterson who estimated the turnout between 300 and 500. "We raised around $5,000 that will be used for permanent equipment for our new high school and starting blocks for our swim teams."
Preliminary judges conducted a blind taste test for each entry. The top six were sent to the final round.
When the smoke cleared Saturday night the top five finishers in the ribs and the top three finishers in chicken were:
1st Blue Smoke, Fargo ND
2nd KPM, Perham
3rd In-Tents BBQ, Perham
4th Woo Hoo BBQ, Moorhead
5th Pork Ninjas, Detroit Lakes
1st Bully BBQ, Perham/Staples
2nd Old Toad BBQ, Princeton
3rd Ottertail Tents, Perham