In the world of competition barbecue, Jim and Jan Burg are celebrities.
The Evans couple make up Killer B’s BBQ, the top competition barbecue cooking team in the country.
“I used to like to creep into competitions,” pitmaster Jim said. “I can’t do that anymore.”
Killer B’s outcooked 49 other teams to earn the grand championship and $50,000 on Oct. 21 at the third annual Sam’s Club National BBQ Tour, the Kansas City Barbecue Society’s largest-sanctioned competition, in Bentonville, Ark.
“That is the biggest payout in barbecue, period, hands down,’ said Jan Burg, who also owns and operates Janwiches restaurant in Augusta.
The Burgs also took eighth overall in the Jack Daniel’s World Championship Invitational barbecue on Oct. 26 in Lynchburg, Va. There, the team also took home Cook’s Choice for Jan Burg’s seafood au gratin and Best Dessert for her apple caramel cheesecake.
It’s been a great year for Killer B’s. With two sanctioned events left, the Burgs estimate they’ll finish the year having competed in 33 competitions, most KCBS sanctioned events. They’re tied for fourth place in the country in the points competition for KCBS Team of the Year and hope to do well enough to take third.
Each competition typically pays out $10,000-$16,000 in total prize money including grand and reserve winners as well as winners in four categories – brisket, pork, ribs and chicken.
“It’s a damn good year,” Jim Burg said. “In barbecue, it’s a phenomenal year.”
The husband and wife team set goals for themselves. They wanted to win Banjo-B-Que in Evans, which they won in the spring. They wanted to qualify and cook at the Jack Daniel’s competition. Done.
And they wanted to win the Boss Hog State Championship Cookoff in Waynesboro, Ga., where they made their debut in 2009. They took a victory lap in Boss Hog’s signature Mercury Cougar in May.
“It was real sentimental for us to win that one,” Jim Burg said, adding that the Boss Hog was where he met his mentor and former Boss Hog champ “Papa Sam” Grogan, who died in October. “We set goals for three years and we accomplished them in one,” Jim Burg said. “That was a shock.”
In three years of serious competition, Killer B’s has taken home 22 grand championships and15 reserve grand championships.
Before the Boss Hog, Jim Burg said he’d never seen a brisket, but got a 10th place call and was hooked.
Jim Burg said he cooks all meats well. And consistency wins championships.
“Whoever is the most consistent cook of the day is the winner,” Jan Burg said.
The pair prepare for competitions on Fridays by preparing, injecting and rubbing meats. The pork butt and brisket go into the gravity-fed charcoal smoker thet night for a 10-hour cooking. Ribs and chicken go in the next morning.
“This is not backyard cooking,” Jan Burg said, adding her husband has taken a pitmaster class and competition class.
The pair used to enjoy hunting, fishing and “having a normal life,” Jan Burg said before barbecue competitions became a way of life for more than half of the year.
Killer B’s meteoric rise to one of the top teams in the world still hasn’t gotten the Burg’s used to winning.
“You never get used top it,” Jan Burg said. “It’s an amazing accomplishment. When you start off at the bottom like we did and see how far Jim as come in his cooking and how many people think he is an awesome pitmaster, going from one extreme to the other and knowing that all that hard work has paid off for him this year.’’
“It’s a lot of hard work. It was a lot of blood sweat and tears.”