File photo Smoker’s ribs at the Cache Food Pantry on Thursday, February 24, 2022.
WELLSVILLE — This Saturday, among many Pioneer Day celebrations in the Valley, the Cache Food Pantry and the American West Heritage Center (AWHC) are joining forces to host a pellet smoking contest.
This event is a fundraiser for both organizations and with the growing popularity of the garden cooker, they hope people will take advantage of it. the public is welcome to visit with the teams at any time. but if they want to be part of the People’s Choice Award, the tasting will start at 2:30 p.m. The awards will be presented at 5 p.m.
The Smokeout will take place at AWHC located at 4025 S. hwy 89-91 during the Pioneer Day celebration.
This first annual Cache Smokeout attracted 28 teams who will pit their meat smoking skills against each other.
“This is the first home barbecue like this in northern Utah,” said Matt Whitaker, event organizer and Cache Food Pantry executive director. “We have two different sets of judges, there are certified judges and for fun we have assembled a VIP panel.”
There are around 20 VIP judges and they are representatives from businesses, non-profits and government. They will select one winner for a $5,000 Gozney Pizza Oven.
“I’m extremely excited about this event,” said Whitaker, who is an avid smoker. “I’ve been thinking about it for a few years as a fundraising opportunity for the pantry.”
The People’s Choice Award winner will receive a $1,000 Traeger Smoker. He hopes it will be popular enough to attract people from across the region.
Whitaker connected with a guy who has software for cooking contests, and he agreed to help organize the event. JBS Swift agreed to supply the meat. Each team will smoke ribs and chicken thighs.
“We have $8,000 in prize money. The Grand Champion will win $2,000 and the Reserve Champion will win $1,200,” he said. “We have other cash prizes; second place receives $750, third place receives $500, and fourth place receives $150.
Whitaker smokes several racks of ribs each week and donates them to generous pantry donors. He attended the Kansas City Barbeque Society World Invitational held at Fire Lake Arena in Shawnee, OK. And I wanted to bring that excitement to Cache Valley.
If someone won both the chicken thighs and the ribs contest, they could walk away with $2,000.
Two companies acted as main sponsors: Wilson Ford and BBQ Pitstop.
“We also have two Gold level sponsors: Camp Chef and Kimerbell Designs and a Silver level sponsor Fox Pest Control,” he said. “The money we receive from sponsors will provide the prize money and awards.”
BBQ Pit Stop manager Jack Carlisle said backyard smokers are popular and the pellet stove has allowed people to smoke stuff on their patio.
Utah pellet smoker makers Camp Chef made in Cache Valley and Traeger made in Salt Lake have made strides in replacing gas grills that have been popular for years with pellet smokers.
With the popularity of backyard pellet stove cooking, Whitaker hopes the Cache Smokeout will catch fire and attract smokers from across the area.
As the Smokeout unfolds, the AWHC will have live history interpreters dressed in period clothing teaching the history of Cache Valley from the early settlers from 1820 to 1920. The interpreters will be dressed in period clothing to add to the experience.