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Where theres smoke, theres a prize
Competitive barbecue events allow this Gainesville resident to take his tastes on the road
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The Smokin' Chili Cops cooking team, from left, are Eddie Lynn, chief deputy; Duane Fry, self-proclaimed high sheriff of the team and former director of the major fraud unit with the secretary of state; and Brett Copeland, director of SWAT. Not pictured are chief jailer Neil Copeland and chief detective David Patterson. - photo by Tom Reed

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Duane Fry talks about his secrets on winning any type of cooking contest.

Pulled pork, pork ribs, beef brisket and tangy sauce have become Duane Fry's life since his retirement a year and a half ago.

Fry said he has always been an avid chef at home but now he has taken his skills to the road.

"I started last year and I entered 10 different competitions total," said Fry, a Gainesville resident and the self-proclaimed high sheriff of his team, the Smokin' Chili Cops. "It was a fairly successful year. I did two first place, two second, three third, a fourth place and ninth. This year I've done three - I've got two first place and a third place."

Fry, the former director of the major fraud unit with the secretary of state, also competes in chili cook-offs and recently won the Dearing Hamburger Cook-off, in southeast Georgia, for the second year in a row.

"One of my secrets to winning that two years running now is I smoke 'em," Fry said of the hamburgers. "Nobody else down there smokes them. I put them on the grill for about five minutes on each side and then I put them in the smoker for 20 minutes at around 200 to 220 degrees ... I think it dramatically enhances the flavor."

Fry typically stays in Georgia for his cook-offs, just like this weekend's Georgia Barbecue Classic in Cartersville.

"I'll be cooking Brunswick stew, Boston butt, pork ribs and beef brisket and sauce," Fry said. "I'll be entering five competitions; only did three last year."

For his first year of competition at the Georgia Barbecue Classic, Fry won awards in a couple categories including first place in the Open Pit Challenge, an event where contestants cook anything not covered in the other categories, according to Andy Lipscomb, the backyard committee chairman at the Georgia Barbecue Classic.

"It has been a little surprising this year because three or four years ago almost all of our teams were from Bartow County," Lipscomb said. "But now, over half, nearly two-thirds are from outside Bartow County."

The Georgia Barbecue Classic will feature nearly 40 amateur and 60 professional teams.

"It's a fundraising event for Good Neighbor, which provides help to homeless families," Lipscomb said. "The main portion of it is the cook-off and there are two divisions of it - there's the backyard division and the professional division.

"They (the pros) compete for cash prizes; backyard guys are competing for bragging rights."

The event is sanctioned by the Kansas City Barbecue Society and is one of many state championships where amateurs and professionals can compete using the same point system.

The barbecue cook-off also features festival activities, a craft fair, live entertainment and concessions.

Fry said one of the highlights of the competitions for him is socializing with other contestants.

"Most of these things are overnighters anyhow," he said. "You camp out and you visit all these folks and this is where you pick up little tidbits of information. I'm a former investigator so I'm pretty good at interviewing folks and gaining information."

Other members of the Smokin' Chili Cops are chief deputy Eddie Lynn, chief jailer Neil Copeland, chief detective David Patterson and director of SWAT Brett Copeland. The team members typically assist Fry in preparing his award-winning dishes.

"It's usually a lot of fun to sit around and tell stories and talk," said Neil Copeland. "This (the Cartersville event) is a big deal because there will be a lot of professionals there. Most of the ones we go to are more amateur events. I'm looking forward to see what kind of rigs and set-ups other people have."

Lipscomb also will be competing in the competition with his five-member Team Goat Roast. He has been cooking noncompetitively for years and started a few years back in amateur competition.

Two recipes he suggested for the amateur cook at home are his Quick Brunswick Stew and Basic Barbecue Sauce.

The Brunswick Stew calls for a rotisserie chicken, smoked pork chops, butter, onions, chicken and beef broth, potatoes, creamed corn, salt and pepper, lima beans and the Basic Barbecue Sauce.

Lipscomb said grits are optional and other ways to improve on the recipe are to use home-cooked meats, including barbecue or barbecue leftovers. Use fresh vegetables or make your own broth by simmering the meat trimmings in the canned broth with fresh herbs and vegetables before adding to the pot.

The Basic Barbecue Sauce has a ketchup and vinegar base with Worcestershire sauce, yellow mustard, brown sugar, garlic, salt and pepper, lemon and smoky chipotle peppers.

Lipscomb added that chipotles en adobo can be found in the Mexican food section of most supermarkets.

He also suggested adding honey, cane syrup or sorghum syrup along with bourbon or caramelized Vidalia onions to add flavor.

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