Both Sides of the (BBQ) Bench

Personal injury defender—and brisket champion—Amanda Podlucky is halfway to becoming a master cookoff judge

Published in 2017 Florida Super Lawyers — June 2017

Who doesn’t love ribs on the grill, slathered in sauce and falling off the bone?

Well, for one, Orlando attorney and certified barbecue judge Amanda Podlucky. 

“It shouldn’t be tough, but when you bite into it, the meat shouldn’t all pull off the bone,” she advises. “In competition, that’s considered overdone.”

During the week, Podlucky is a partner at Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin, where she practices personal injury defense, which appeals to her appreciation for variety. “Every case, every plaintiff is different,” she notes. 

Podlucky recently represented a large insurance company sued by a man who claimed an accident had caused back injuries that prevented him from performing basic tasks without help. Podlucky’s team spotted a recent newspaper photograph of him, taken after a race at which his team won a division. “We were able to obtain a significant reduction in the demand, despite the significant medical bills, and settled for a small fraction of what he was initially seeking,” she says.

But on weekends during barbecue season—which in Florida runs from Labor Day to mid-June—her craving for variety takes her within sniffing range of the wood smoke at various events sanctioned by the Florida BBQ Association.

In the legal world, attorneys usually practice law before taking the bench. In the world of barbecue, Podlucky and her boyfriend, engineer Lee Thompson, started out as judges. No robe required, though a bib is sometimes in order.

After joining the FBA, then taking a three-hour seminar that covered the rules of competition, food presentation (in Florida, it’s meat only, no “greenery”), and, of course, a hands-on lab in which instructors explained the finer points of tasting chicken, pork and beef, they received their certification in September 2015. By press time, they’d judged 14 events. After 25, they can qualify to be master judges.

In competition, a panel of judges samples the entries in a double-blind tasting. They’re looking for presentation, taste and tenderness. Judges sample a lot of food, which is why that first perfect bite is so important.

In early 2016, she and Thompson decided to see BBQ from the other side and formed their own team, Pig-Chicka-Cow-Cow. Though they are one of the youngest teams in the FBA’s professional division, they are already taking home ribbons, signing up sponsors and generally worrying the competition. They placed second in brisket and third overall out of 50 teams in their first contest in 2016 near Orlando. And at the 2017 state championship, they placed first in brisket, fourth in ribs and 10th overall out of 80 teams. “People were saying we were the team to watch,” she says. “It’s kind of nerve-wracking.”

Podlucky and Thompson travel to competitions pulling a 20-foot cargo trailer that she calls “our own little barbecue tiny house.”

She’s also developed a greater appreciation for her non-food-related pastime: running half marathons. “It’s kind of necessary,” she says, “when your other hobby is barbecuing.”

 


 

Basic Backyard BBQ

1-2 racks St. Louis-style spare ribs 

Your favorite rubs

Apple juice

Brown sugar

Squeeze butter

Orange blossom honey

Your favorite BBQ sauce

 

STEP 1:  Cook 3 Hours Unwrapped

Set your smoker or grill for indirect smoking at 225 degrees F, with a 50/50 mix of apple and cherry woods.

While the grill comes up to temperature, prep the meat. Remove the membrane from the backside of the ribs and trim off large fat chunks.

Apply liberal coating of a salt-based rub, followed by a sugar-based rub, on both sides.

Put the ribs on and let them cook for about 3 hours. Spritz with apple juice after 90 minutes, and again around 2 ½ hrs.

 

STEP 2:  Cook 2 Hours Wrapped

Lay out 2 sheets of 18” wide foil, roughly 8” longer than your rack of ribs.  Place one foil sheet on top of the other.

On the foil, add 1/2 cup of brown sugar and cover liberally with squeeze butter, followed by honey. 

Place the ribs meat-side down
on top of the mixture; add more
brown sugar, butter and honey
on back side of ribs.

Tightly wrap the double foil around ribs; roll up one end to form a pouch; leave other end open, pour ½ to ¾ cup apple juice into the packet.

Roll up the remaining end and return to the cooker for 2 hours.

Pull foil packet from the smoker and open the foil packet to vent some steam; let the ribs “re-absorb” the moisture from the packet for about 10 minutes. 

 

STEP 3:  Cook 1 Hour, Sauced & Unwrapped

Using a basting brush, cover ribs with your favorite sauce on all sides.  Don’t be afraid to add fruit juices, rubs or honey to desired taste and consistency.

Place back into the smoker for up to 1 hour until sauce is set and ribs reach desired tenderness.

Slice & Enjoy!

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