BY MICAH MERTES and L. KENT WOLGAMOTT / Lincoln Journal Star
Dennis Carrino had one thing in mind when he headed for Lincoln with his Porky-N-Beans crew and equipment for the 13th Annual Nebraska Pork Producers Capital City Ribfest.
“When we came this year, we came to win Ground Zero,” Carrino said. The Port St. Lucie, Fla.-based rib cooker had won the Ground Zero Best of Show award once before and has a plaque with the front page of the Journal Star reporting the win on his office wall. He wanted another. He’ll get it.
Porky-N-Beans took the annual Ground Zero Best of Show Award, edging out last year’s winner, Johnson’s BBQ of Chesapeake, Va. Porky-N-Beans received 85 of a possible 100 points from the five judges – Ground Zero contest winner Jason Noecker, Nebraska Pork Producers President Dennis Beethe, Journal Star photographer Jacob Hannah and your co-writers.
The win is Porky-N-Bean’s first Lincoln victory with a sauce that it started using a few years ago. The key to good barbecue, Carrino said, is a combination of good meat, smoked just right and good sauce.
“Making ribs is like a strong marriage,” said Carrino, who will mark his 30th year in business next year.
As is the case every year, all the judges were stuffed after the Ribfest rib feast.
“This was totally great,” Noecker said. “I’m ready for a nap.”
Having driven in from his Elk Creek farm to do the judging after scooping out a grain bin Thursday morning, Beethe was happy to be lifting bones rather than a shovel Thursday afternoon.
“Eating ribs and having a cool, refreshing beverage, there’s nothing better than that at the end of the day,” said Beethe, who had a couple beers with his BBQ. “It made scooping out that bin worth it.”
Beethe’s favorite ribs were from Willingham’s BBQ, the Memphis-based cooker that is new at Ribfest this year. Willingham’s serves its ribs without sauce, using a dry rub for flavoring.
“Great meat doesn’t need sauce on it,” Beethe said. “Great meat speaks for itself.”
Noecker couldn’t ID his favorite. After eating a couple ribs from each of eight cookers over two hours without knowing which vendor the ribs came from, things get a little blurry – “I liked the ones with the bolder flavors,” he said.
Porky-N-Beans will get a Ground Zero Best of Show banner, a trophy and $1,000 cash for its win. Johnson’s BBQ will get $500 for second place.
But the win was clearly about more than cash for Carrino, his nephew Gary, who is going to take over the business in a few years, and the rest of the Porky-N-Beans crew. The yells, high fives and smiles of victory that came when they were told they’d won were evidence of that.