Summer Drumsticks

by Dana ‘Big Papa’ Hillis

Summer brings hot weather and a little break in the BBQ competition schedule. Hopefully a little time off will get Matt Barber with Hot Wachula’s and Terry McKay with Git R Smoked some time to cool off a little bit.

Matt keeps getting higher and higher scores at every competition and just walked away with his first grand championship of the year at a tough contest in Cocoa Beach.

If you are not familiar with Matt, he is one of the nicest and funniest guys in BBQ. He shows up at a contest in his Bronco and has finally got a trailer big enough to haul a pop-up a table and two little smokers.

He travels light and does not believe in getting to a contest early. Sometimes he is even late for the cook’s meeting! I gave up some secrets on how to beat Matt, but it looks like they don’t work any more.

Several people have asked, “What is a Hot Wachula?” Well, I have done some research, and here is what I got. Wachula is a town in Florida (that Matt is not from and his BBQ team is not named after that city).

Wachula, Florida hosts the Passion Play (story of Jesus) in March and April. Maybe the Hot Wachula team gets some good mojo from that, but that is not where the team name comes from.

Wachula is also the “Cucumber Capital of the World,” but Matt uses no cucumbers in any of his competition meats. Wachula is also the location of the infamous “Baby Swap” in 1978, where two newborns were switched and went home with the wrong parents.

(story continued below)


Summer Drumsticks


• 8 drumsticks (marinate in Italian dressing with 1/2 cup seasoning like Big Papa’s All Purpose, or a spicy chicken rub).

• 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

• 4 cloves minced garlic

• 2 tablespoons chili powder

• 1 cup ketchup

• 1 cup chili sauce

• 1 cup Dr Pepper

• 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

• 2 tablespoons cider vinegar

• 2 tablespoons brown sugar

Cooking Instructions:

Heat oil in saucepan – add onion and garlic and stir 3 or 4 minutes till tender.

Stir in remaining ingredients and simmer.

Cook chicken legs on rack at 350 for about 18 minutes – to about 165 degrees.

Glaze with sauce and cook to 180 degrees.

Brush with remaining sauce.

Serve and enjoy!

(story continued from above)

Matt was not one of these children and is not related to either family. Some say a “wachula” is a large prehistoric fire-breathing bird. This would make some sense if the fire-breathing abilities could be used to start grills or cook hotter. Some say the bird featured on the hood of the Trans Am is a wachula.

I’m not sure if I’ve found the correct answer, but I do know this – Hot Wachula’s is a mighty fine BBQ team that can win anywhere Matt goes, and I am proud to be his friend.

I wonder how a flaming cucumber would look as his team logo?

Since it is summer and hot, we will talk about some things you can cook fast (or that don’t need much tending) so you don’t have to spend too much time in the hot sun with a hot grill.

Cooking fresh veggies on skewers is easy and fast. You just need to flip them once or twice. When cooking fast on high heat, one turn usually does the trick. Make sure the grill is clean and preheated for fast cooking. Also, keep the skewers of veggies (or whatever else you are cooking) dry so the foods will brown better.

Shrimp and scallops only take 8 or 9 minutes on the grill, and can be prepped, marinated and cooked in a very short time.

Chicken breasts can be cubed and marinated for a quick dinner on the grill. If you are using wood skewers, soak them in water for 30 minutes to keep them from burning. Metal skewers can be sprayed with a nonstick cooking oil to keep food from sticking.

Make all your serving cuts uniform and leave a space between each of the pieces for even cooking.

One of my favorite things to cook in the summertime is chicken legs. I have several of the leg racks that you can buy at Lowes that allow you to hang the chicken legs for even, fast cooking. Over hot coals (or in a smoker at 350 degrees) legs can be done in 15 to 20 minutes.

You can’t beat a good burger in the summertime, and remember this: When you fire up the grill and your family or neighbors come home, they can smell it when they hit the driveway. That smell will bring a smile to their faces.

There is a big contest coming up at the Suwannee River Music Park on July 27-28. This one is going to be a classic! There could be 100 teams, and the competition is gonna be awesome! Damon Wooley is going to have a great contest, and there is going to be great entertainment. I recommend everyone come to Live Oak for this not-to-be missed contest.

Rumor has it my good friend Aaron Portwood is coming to cook with me, so I might have a chance to win.

Recently, a few of my friends have had some bad luck and have been disqualified for one reason or another. One team was late on brisket turn in, and received the “It is 2:05:01 Somewhere” award.

Another team left a toothpick in their chicken turn-in box and was awarded the “Where Are All My Toothpicks” award.

The latest DQ was in chicken – for not being done enough – and it happened to one of my favorite teams, which won them the newest award: “The Chokin’ Chicken.” Stop by and see Papa Clark, and he will show it to you.

Thanks to all my friends in BBQ for having fun like I do. See y’all at a contest soon. Bless our troops, and I miss you Pop.

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