2021 World Champion Kansas City area pitmaster offers turkey tips


OLATHE, Kan. – The Kansas City Barbecue Society announced the winners of its third annual World Championship held in Shawnee, Oklahoma Nov. 12-14. The event included a Master Series division, in which pitmasters must have already won a barbecue competition, and a Backyard Series.

Richard Fergola of Fergolicious BBQ was named overall Kansas City Barbecue Society World Champion in the Master Series besting 95 other competition grand champions and reserve grand champions and won the $6,000 prize.

Fergola was a special education teacher in Gardner, Kansas for more than 20 years, before he found his second calling.

“We judged a couple contests and we cooked our first one and we were hooked for life,” Fergola said.

“He clearly knows a thing or two about creating a great profile that’s going to win both from a judge’s perspective and when you are smoking meat at home,” Emily Detwiler, KCBS CEO, said.

That’s why Wednesday at KC Grilling Company in Olathe, completely staffed by pitmasters, almost every customer picking up some Fergolicious rub, had the same question, what’s the best way to cook a turkey?

“I don’t want it to dry out so I pump it as full with as much moisture as I can,” Fergola said describing the injection and brining process.

But the most important advice holds true for almost any meat.

“This whole barbecue game is about tenderness, we have lots of flavors and lots of seasoning we can use, but if you can’t cook it right you aren’t going to score well,” Fergola said.

In barbecue competitions Kansas City’s signature flavor profile of sweet with a little bit of heat has proven to be a crowd favorite. For the rest of how to be a world champion, Fergola offers classes. But he agreed to share complete tips on those opting to smoke turkeys just in time for the big meal.

“Smoke is an ingredient just like salt and pepper so I treat it as such. I’m cooking at about 300 degrees I’m cooking it in there for a couple hours it’s going to get that smoke that temperature its going to be nice and juicy. But having that smoke flavor on the end people just love that,” Fergola said.

Even though you might not think about barbecuing your turkey, it’s become so popular the Kansas City Barbecue Society has added turkey as an ancillary series the past few years. The Turkey Smoke championship went to Smoke this BBQ, led by Mary Knowles from Clark, Missouri.

Matt Bohmann from Parts R’ Smokin in Harrisonville, Missouri, won first place in the pork ribs category.

In Open Class competition Chris Schafer with Heavy Smoke BBQ in St. Peters, Missouri, won the Grand Championship and the Wells Cup at the World Championship. Gettin’ Basted owner Brad Leighninger in Springfield, Missouri, won the competition’s Reserve Grand Championship. He also took home first place in the pork ribs category. Gettin’ Basted has locations in Springfield, Branson and Nixa.

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