Chicken Legs

by Dana ‘Big Papa’ Hillis

So far, the year in BBQ has been busy and definitely interesting. We have had 13 different winners (including 4 first-time winners) in 13 contests held in Florida, Georgia and Alabama.

You used to pull into a contest and know that the winner would likely come from one of a couple of teams that were on a roll. Not anymore.

There is some serious competition in the FBA, with many teams that can truly put out award-winning BBQ. It is hard to pick who’s going to win next.

Here at Big Papa’s World Headquarters, we are back to the drawing board, trying to figure out the edge we need to get back on top.

Last year we competed in 30 contests, winning Grand 8 times and Reserve Grand 2 times – a total of 10 wins out of 30 contests. But, this year we have cooked in 10 contests with 0 Grands and 2 Reserves.

We are working hard to get back on top, and here are some of our ideas.

We have a list of “good luck charms” we bring with us and some things we do for good luck. We always hang our American flags; we know that brings us luck, so I recently ordered two more flag poles, figuring if two is good, four is better!

We use green towels under our turn-in box for good luck, so we ordered some new green towels and sewed up the old ones so we don’t break tradition. I can’t win ribs unless my son Cadin is at the contest to taste and approve the turn-in ribs. (If they are winners, he always ends up with sauce all over his face). Therefore, we have decided that I have to start home-schooling him so he won’t miss any more contests.

We have a couple of good luck pigs we always set on top of our cookers at each contest. Recently, we noticed one had been “pig-napped” and was missing. This caused turmoil and bad karma in our camp, so we agreed to pay a heavy ransom to get our pig back.

It seems the team responsible was willing to do anything to get a chicken recipe. So, we traded one of our chicken recipes to get our pig back. We have now installed video cameras for security!

With our lucky pig back, maybe we can win again. I washed and fixed the holes in my lucky BBQ shirt and asked my mom to find me a new one, ‘cause you just can’t win without your lucky shirt (see Forrest Fine Foods). I am trying to figure out how to get my brothers to attend more contests, because my older brother, Kevin, went with me to one when we won Grand, and my brother Dwayne went with me another time when we won Reserve Grand.

I have a lucky $1 casino chip from the old Golden Gate casino in Vegas (I live in Golden Gate, Florida) that I keep in my pocket at contests, as well as my lucky little rock that we picked up off the Arkansas River when we did a contest in Little Rock.

For a while I had chickens showing up on my cookers at every contest with names like “Big Papa’s Country Chicken.” I have them all collected on a shelf in my trailer, and I know they bring good luck.

When I clean chicken I use my chicken-shaped cutting board, and when I clean my pork or ribs, I use my pig-shaped cutting board. If anyone finds a cow-shaped cutting board, let me know so I can improve my brisket scores.

I clean each category in the same order that they get turned in – chicken, then ribs, pork and then brisket. Maybe I should change the order to shake up a little mojo. There is such a thing as mojo in the BBQ world.

Mad Dawg from “Kick The Tire, Light The Fire” wears this cool little charm around his neck, and every time I see him and rub his charm I do very well. Mike Byrd from the same team has cooked with me twice, and both times we won Grand, so there is definitely some good mojo with these guys.

(story continued below)


Big Papa’s Chicken Legs


• 12 chicken legs

• creamy Italian dressing

• 1/2 cup of Big Papa’s chicken seasoning (or try McCormick’s Chipotle Smoky Rub)

Cooking Instructions:

A fast chicken dinner is always a good meal. Try this soon!

Marinate 12 chicken legs in a freezer bag with creamy Italian dressing and 1/2 cup of Big Papa’s chicken seasoning. Overnight is good, but one hour will work.

Lowe’s carries a chicken leg stand, so use if you have one. Build a hot fire.

Season legs heavily (with Big Papa’s Chicken Seasoning or try McCormick’s Chipotle Smoky Rub) and hang on rack or lay on grill away from actual flame (indirect heat). Cook to internal temp of 170.

Glaze with Big Papa’s Spicy Peach BBQ sauce or any sauce you have on hand.

Let glaze set for 5 minutes before serving with lots of napkins. Enjoy!

(story continued from above)

Rub with Swamp Boys is loaded with good mojo, and so is his cooler (maybe there is a connection between Bud Light and mojo?).

Some guys wear the same clothes, some use lucky knives, some park in the same spot, some make a drink at the same time every contest. Some guys take a walk around the entire contest and wish everyone good luck (see Tuffy with Cool Smoke).

Some guys show up at the same time for every contest (Hot Wachulas).

If Chris with Unknown BBQ did not sing and play the guitar at a contest they wouldn’t have a chance.

If Chad lost his “Bubba Keg” mug he would end up “DAL.” If Myron’s crew wore another color besides black they couldn’t win a backyard contest. Suwannee River Smokers better not lose there green lights, and Mike with the Woodhouse Grill better not leave home without his wig. Terry with Git R Smoked must take five showers and five naps or his luck is bad.

Forrest did not want to lose his good luck charm, so he married her.

Any teams with any top-secret lucky charms they would like to share, please let me know. Also, I must disclose to the team that pig-napped my pig and traded it back for my chicken recipe – I only used it once and took 43rd place!

To B and T BBQ, Suwannee River Smokers, Hot Wachulas and my good friend Thomas with Divine Swine – congratulations on big wins. That first one is special!

When I get done studying all the good luck charms, have all my new flags in place and have a drink in my lucky mug, I might even look at my recipes and see just what I am cooking – maybe there is more to winning then just luck.

To our BBQ family – we suffered a big loss within the Ginsberg family. Ricky lost Karen to her fight with cancer. Our hearts and prayers are with you, my friend. Please come cook with me sometime.

Bless our Troops and bring our families home safe.


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