Lawrence barbecue competition fully fired up on Saturday

Hard-core barbecue competitions bring to mind smoked meat, secret sauces and grease-covered hands, but rarely parsley.

But a peek into the 15th annual Sertoma 48 BBQ Cookoff, which continues Saturday at Broken Arrow Park, 2800 Louisiana St., showed that it’s not all about taste, but presentation.

Mark Lembeck, with team BMB Barbecue, explained some of the finer points of an official, judged competition.

“A lot of it’s about appearance,” he said while cutting up parsley to aid in his team’s barbecue presentation to the judges. “What you turn in and what you like are two totally different things. We’re probably the only ones who will tell you that.”

He added that the judges don’t like the meat to fall off the bone, and they don’t want to see too much “bark,” or char, on the meat. They also expect a nice, clean presentation.

Lembeck and team BMB Barbecue are among 48 different teams competing for $4,800 in cash prizes. Categories include chicken, pork, ribs and brisket. The public will get a chance to sample all of the competitors’ work from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday for a suggested donation of $6. Event-goers will also vote for the people’s choice champions.

Official judging will begin at noon and overall winners of the competition will be announced at 2:30 p.m. The grand champion of the event gains a berth to the American Royal Barbecue competition.

Event sponsor Sertoma is a nonprofit organization that donates more than $20 million annually to local projects in the communities it serves.