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Barbecue best

Fri., May 24, 2013, midnight

Nine pit masters, four meats, 24 hours … we call it a throwdown, and our favorites may surprise you

Barbecue is serious business, and by barbecue, we are not talking burgers or flank steak over gas on the deck this holiday weekend. We are talking “real” barbecue: hunks of pork and brisket, chicken and ribs, smoked low and slow for hours. The woods used are chosen specifically for the flavors they impart to the meat: hickory, oak, apple, cherry, alder, birch or mesquite.

Such carnivorous gravitas might have started in the Deep South, but it has certainly spread. Here in the Inland Northwest, nine different pit masters – all with passionate fans – will each tell you their barbecue is barbecue the way God intended.

We decided to test those claims in a straight-up throwdown. Carne a carne.

The scoring was simple: 35 points possible. Five points each for pork, brisket, ribs and chicken. Five points for side dishes, and a final five for the overall experience each place offers. The judges? Four independent tasters whose individual scores from each place were totaled and then averaged.

In a little more than 24 hours the team visited every pit master to try each of the four meats, every sauce offered and numerous sides. Notes were made. Questions asked. Numbers assigned. Then, almost in unison, all four slumped into meat comas.

Great barbecue is one of life’s true joys, unless you consider yourself an herbivore, but multiple pounds of barbecue pork, brisket, chicken and ribs consumed in a marathon sprint borders on life-threatening. We just hope this article will translate our pain into your gain.

Chances are you will be surprised by the results. The overall winner – Log Cabin BBQ and Catering Co. – is an easily overlooked underdog: a tiny mobile smoking shack on Trent Avenue at Freya Way run by a couple without any official barbecue pedigree. Nearly as under the radar are the two pit masters who tied for second place: one (Uncle Leroy) runs a small stand in the Spokane Public Market, and the other (Willie) smokes his meats behind a small converted house in Post Falls. Even Chkn-N-Mo, our third place, is not one of the local big boys in BBQ – operating out of a narrow storefront in downtown Spokane. It climbed into the top three on the strength of its perfect fried chicken and a sweet, tangy, spicy sauce.

Because the tight number spread suggests good barbecue can be found at all nine of our local options, your mission, if you dare, is to gather your own team and head out to confirm or deny our rankings. Just don’t try to do it in 24 hours, unless you have your cardiologist along for the ride.

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