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Barbecue cook-off contest kicks off Rodeo Austin

Barbecue teams from all across Texas will be grilling all weekend in preparation for the BBQ Austin cook-off contest at Rodeo Austin.

AUSTIN, Texas — Rodeo Austin kicks off next Friday, but this weekend, BBQ Austin was in full swing. Teams from all over Texas traveled to Austin to compete in the BBQ Cook Off.

Tony Bolding is part of the Rough Riders barbecue team competing this year at BBQ Austin. The 30-member team has been together since 1996 and competes every year in San Antonio – where the team started – in Houston and, of course, in Austin.

"Everybody had just gotten out of college, and it was a reason for all the guys to get together every year," Bolding said. "It was always an excuse. No matter what, we knew one weekend every year we would always get together."

The Rough Riders have been preparing their assortment of meat and barbecue since Friday. They’ve already grilled already over 100 pounds of meat, including brisket, chicken, pork butt and even beef tongue. The Rough Riders' smoker can cook 83 briskets at one time and will feed close to 250 people on Saturday alone.

But Bolding said their tactic for Saturday's recipe was to keep it simple.

"It's about how you cook it versus trying to make it taste a certain way," Bolding said. “If you build the right fire, pick the right meat, trim it, cook it the right way, typically it'll turn out to be pretty good.”


There are five founding members still on the team, but along with those original members have come new generations of pitmasters.

“I have two kids that are on the team now,” Bolding said. “I mean, that's how long we've been doing this for. My adult kids are now on here, and we're passing it on to the next generation.”

Although it is a competition, there's nothing but love for the event.

"I'm just grateful to be here with my brothers here cooking for a good cause," said Mike McKenney, Rough Riders team member.

"Every one of these guys is becoming my brother," Bolding said. "You know, I can call any one of them at any minute for anything. You know, we're family."

It's a family that comes together for the love of barbecue.

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