Let’s take a quick break from the history of Lane’s to talk a little about a One-Legged Chicken. This is one of my favorite stories and it came about before I stepped away from insurance to pursue my dream of BBQ. Like I said earlier, I have always had a passion for food and sharing a meal with friends and family. I also had an itch to compete in a BBQ competition. Plus, now that Brett and I had a smoker that we could tow anywhere… it was time to give it a shot. Now I should set the stage by telling you that we had zero idea how BBQ competitions work. My buddy, Tyson, found one that was close by and would be perfect for our group to attend and compete. I’ve always made it a habit of getting into things that I really know nothing about, and the good news is I end up having a blast most of the time. Sidenote: I believe that there is winning and learning.
While failing at things is never ideal in the moment, it’s not really failing if we can learn from the experience and take it into the next adventure.
That’s really something that Stacey and I preach to our kids. Most of the time we don’t want to try new things for fear of looking stupid or messing up. The truth is it doesn’t really matter. Typically, no one even notices as they are focused on what they are trying to not screw up.
Anyway, we started making some calls and it wasn’t hard at all to get a group of guys together for a weekend of fellowship and BBQ. Tyson booked the camper (I could probably write a whole post on just the camper and what happens when 7 guys who are just trying their best to stay hydrated for a couple of days… well maybe another time) and I worked on sourcing the food, snacks and tried to get a better idea of what all is involved in a competition. Looking back now, it probably would have been best to simply ask someone who had competed before… but where is the fun in that? I did know that we were to arrive Friday around lunch, get set up, and then we had the People’s Choice part of the competition Friday night. Then the judged part of the competition was Saturday mid-morning.
We had entered the Backyard Division for the competition, so we were supposed to turn in a pork plate, rib plate, and chicken plate. So, we gathered everything we thought we would need for a fun weekend and headed to the fairgrounds in Cumming. We really had no idea what we were getting into and that set in even more when we arrived at the event. It was massive and there were tons of teams on site to compete with some serious BBQ setups. We are talking teams with RVs and competition trailers with sponsor banners hanging all over them. We pulled in and got our site assignment and made our way toward the spot. I’m sure we were getting looks the whole time as we looked the part of being newbies! Like the Clampetts just rolled into town. However, we were so blessed to get an awesome spot with 2 incredible teams on each side of us. It’s so cool cause I still talk to a few of the guys all these years later. Ryan, Herschell, and Jason were on one side and Randy was on the other. As we were getting unloaded, they were so quick to walk over and introduce themselves. Funny enough, we didn’t even have to tell them that this was our first competition. Apparently, we looked the part, and it turns out that the BBQ competition world is a super tight community. We could not have gotten set up next to two better teams. They were so unbelievably gracious with their knowledge of competing and gave us a ton of tips on trimming and how to set up a box to turn into the judges. We got settled in quickly and started working on a plan. Yeah, I know it was probably a little late for that, but you live and learn.
First up was the People Choice part of the competition which was wings. We were pumped about this cause we all loved wings and a buddy of mine, Anthony Hensley, had brought this amazing mayo-based BBQ sauce that we were going to use to set our wings apart. We had to make a couple of tweaks to the recipe along the way to make it shelf stable, but this sauce would go on to become Sorta White, which is one of our top-selling BBQ sauces today. It was super cool as guests would walk around get to sample the wings that were being cooked up, we got to talk to them about the flavors we were using and how we cooked them. Plus, we got to see them enjoy the food right in front of us. We ended up winning the People’s Choice award for wings that weekend which was unbelievable as there was some serious competition present.
Now it was time to focus on the turn-ins for the judged part of the weekend. We had already prepped our pork butts and got them on the smoker a little earlier in the evening as they take the longest to cook. We knew ribs would take the next longest and already had them trimmed, seasoned, and ready to go on the smoker early in the morning. It’s time to talk chicken. Now before I embarrass myself too much on this next part…let me start by saying again it was probably around 4am, we hadn’t had any sleep and I must have missed this part in my vast research about the chicken turn-in...most everyone preps and smokes a chicken thigh. The process that they go through is incredible and so much fun to watch. However, I failed to watch anyone prep a chicken thigh before 4am. It was then that I pulled out a case of whole chickens to cook to turn in. I’ve never seen a grown man laugh as hard as Randy did when the whole chickens came out. He was like what the heck are you planning on doing with those? He then reminded me that the turn-ins needed to fit in this to-go container and there wasn’t any way that I was going to get 6 whole chickens, much less one of them into that box.
It was time to make a game-time decision. I knew there was no way we were going to be able to expertly remove the chicken thigh from the birds, so it was going to be best to just do the legs. Randy suggested that we go ahead and remove the legs first before putting them on the smoker, so they cook evenly and present well. So, I grabbed a cleaver and started hacking the legs off the chickens. Now is probably a good time to mention that there tend to be 18 or so whole chickens in a case and we didn’t want anything to go to waste. The goal was to cook everything so we could all enjoy it throughout the day and feed our families as they stopped by. Apparently, my stamina for hacking off chicken legs came to a screeching halt at 17 ½ yardbirds. I grabbed the last one, cut off one of the legs, and just tossed it on. Next thing, I hear Randy (and it’s one of those deep-down belly laughs) say to me… “Hey man, what the hell you planning on doing with that one-legged chicken?” He said it loud enough for Ryan, Herschell, and their crew to hear it as well. We all had a big ole time laughing at me early that Saturday morning. Looking back, most people wouldn’t find it all that funny, but it’s still something we talk about to this day. Probably just a lack of sleep, too much hydration, and the fact that we showed up to a BBQ competition thinking we would turn in a whole chicken. We had them laughing all weekend. We even tried to put the one-legged chicken in the turn-in box with the parsley, but it just wouldn’t fit. We>might as well have given that our chicken legs came in dead last. In fact, our overall scores were dreadful all weekend, but we still got to walk across the stage when we won first place for the People’s Choice award. All the while, there were several people screaming "One-legged chicken" from the crowd. My tip for this post is never take yourself too serious and always be able to laugh at yourself. Once again we always come back to the smiles…