CHICAGO (WLS) --The Windy City Smokeout opens at 2 p.m. Friday in River West and that means a weekend full of bourbon, barbecue and country music.
There are more participants than ever this year, including a favorite from Old Irving Park. Steve went back in their kitchen recently, to see how they prepare for it.
What started as a casual gathering of like-minded barbecue fanatics in a River North parking lot, has morphed into a big-time event with music stages, bourbon barrels and a lot of barbecue. Some 15 restaurants and competition barbecuers have gathered in River West this weekend, and one of them, now considered a veteran in town, makes some of the best brisket in Chicago. They're ready to smoke, slice and serve, starting right now.
Pretty much every day at Smoque Barbecue is a busy one. Now a nine-year veteran of the local slow-smoked scene, they treat every weekend like a big one. But when it comes to the Windy City Smokeout, it's a different ballgame.
"It's a great venue for people to get out and sample a lot of different types of barbecue from some leading Chicago places as well as some of the great places and legendary places from around the country," said co-owner Mike McDermott.
McDermott and his partners know that regular customers demand one thing when they see them at an event.
"Smoked beef brisket, which is kind of what put us on the map here in Chicago, and we're also doing a variation on the Texas sausage we make here which is seasoned with cheddar cheese and jalapeno," he said.
The brisket gets a simple dry rub, containing chili and black pepper, among several other spices; they slowly smoke for about 13 hours until the outside is as black as tar. But slice into it, and you instantly see why there is such high demand: each slice is juicy, tender, meaty, smoky and moist, suffused with the flavor of the smoke that's penetrated the outer "bark" for hours, rendering all of that tough, intramuscular tissue as soft as jello.
The Texas hot links are nothing to scoff at, offering a kick along with the fatty-rich mouthfuls of pork and cheddar, but it's the brisket they're coming for, and after several years of experimenting, they've learned their lessons.
"We have two, 500-pound capacity smokers that we have on site at the event, and we're basically just filling them with brisket, and expect to sell out each day," he said.
And in his Extra Course, Steve shows some of the notable side dishes from Smoque, just in case you decide to head up to their restaurant in Old Irving Park.
Windy City Smokeout
560 W. Grand Ave.
Friday - Gates open at 2 p.m.
Saturday - Gates open at 12 p.m.
Sunday - Gates open at 12 p.m.
3800 N. Pulaski Rd.