It’s heating up at the Berea Rib Cook-Off
BEREA, Ohio — Seasoning, sauce and a little smoke are all key to perfecting a slice of rib, which 10 ribbers aim to do at Berea’s National Rib Cook-Off. With fresh slices of meat rubbed with spices and loaded into smokehouses, food isn’t the only thing heating up at the Cuyahoga County Fairgrounds.
Cleveland native Dennis Carrino has been coming to Berea’s BBQ Ribs Fairgrounds since its debut in 1999. Boasting awards at his Blazin’ Bronco BBQ Stand, Carrino has been in the food business for even longer. that. He recalled the origins of the ribs craze that took over the nation and claimed its claim in their start in Cleveland.
With a history deeply rooted in barbecue competitions, Carrino said the competition participants are like family.
“You know what we’re all friends here and it’s a great family and camaraderie of cooks,” Carrino said. “We see the same cooks whether we’re in Cleveland, Ohio, or Reno, Nevada.”
Seeing the same faces in these cooking contests is bound to create deep friendships, friendships that also come with a little healthy competition.
“I think that’s part of the reason why rib kitchens and everything has grown because it’s part of a big family. We help each other. When it comes to judging, the gloves are off,” Carrino said. “But it’s that fun part, that we get into judging — altering this a little, doing that a little, stealing the secrets of someone else – May the best man win.”
Kevin Gift of West Salem’s Pigfoot BBQ agreed that they’re all friends when the weekend begins, but there’s a goal at the end of it all, and it’s a goal they all have in sight.
“It’s a lot of fun, we’re all friends here until competition time and then it’s a little different,” Gift said. “We are all competing to win.”
Prizes for Best Ribs, Best Sauce, and People’s Choice will all be awarded, and the 10 rib teams will battle it out to have their name next to at least one of the prizes. This includes the new ribbers, which bring fiery passion to the great cook.
“This is our third year here,” said Josh Crall of After Hours BBQ in Orrville. “How are we going to do this weekend? We hope we’re going to do great. Like I said, the people here have already given us a chance, it looks like the weather is going to be a great weekend. .”
Walking through the fairgrounds, customers will immediately notice the trophies and signs adorning each rib team’s stand.
“I won one, won two, five, 10 and it just kept going from there…so it really got fun,” Carrino said. “We were the only team to win the Cleveland National Ribs Contest four years in a row and that’s a record and I’m pretty proud of that.”
Gift would have something to say about the accolades mentioned by Carrino, boasting that “my ribs are the best”.
Crall lets its flavors do the talking.
“It’s just sweet, spicy, a little smoke with it, that’s all you need,” Crall said.
There will be more than enough (as well as other staples like chicken wings, brisket, mac and cheese, and other tasty barbecue options.
“Probably do about 1,200 slices of ribs, about every vendor, so hopefully everyone comes in hungry because we have plenty,” Crall said.
Ribs that Carrino says will be more reasonably priced than other cuisines across the country, as organizers have secured reduced prices on the heavily inflated meats served this weekend.
“We got better prices for ribs than we can even afford and he passed that on to us and we pass that on to our customers and that’s a big feature of this rib kitchen,” Carrino said.
With prices set and stalls built, crews got to work on Thursday, rubbing on seasoning, loading smokers and preparing sauces because a good BBQ Is arrive overnight. And on Friday morning, the competition begins, drawing the community in for good food and lasting memories.
“Everyone goes out for this. You see families, then families bring kids, then kids grow up and they bring their kids,” Carrino said.
And the tough competition keeps things fun between the cooks and ensures they stay on their A-game, so the real winners every year are the guests who come in for a few slices of ribs.
“There’s no reason anyone shouldn’t go down and have good ribs,” Crall said.
Berea’s National Rib Cook-Off will take place Memorial Day weekend, May 27-30, at the Cuyahoga County Fairgrounds in Berea.
RELATED: Berea’s National Rib Cook-Off is scheduled for Memorial Day weekend, May 27-30
Download the News 5 Cleveland app now for more stories from us, plus top news alerts, the latest weather forecasts, traffic updates and more. Download now on your Apple device here, and your Android device here.
You can also watch News 5 Cleveland on Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, YouTube TV, DIRECTV NOW, Hulu Live and more. We are also on Amazon-Alexa devices. Learn more about our streaming options here.