Danish National BBQ Team Serves Home Cooking at Memphis in May

Wind, rain, and cold didn’t stop the pork belly from the Danish National BBQ Team, served with new potatoes, parsley sauce, and pickled beets.

Between you and me, I thought I was pretty much done with pork belly as a main course. But then I sat down Wednesday at a long table with a red-and-white checkered cloth for a generous serving of Danish home cooking.

Three thick slices of pork belly, sizzled on a hot Weber grill and seasoned only with salt, anchored the dinner served by the Danish National BBQ Team at their kickoff party for the World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest in downtown Memphis. Nearby on the plate: boiled new potatoes under a canopy of parsley sauce, scoops of pickled beets, and a salad of cucumbers sliced paper thin.

For dessert, stewed raspberries and strawberries with a swirl of fresh cream turned every serving into a pretty bowl of retro spin art.

The pork, called stegt flaesk, is a traditional dish from a country of home cooks who love pig as much as Southerners. (Welcome home, brethren.) The team must have gotten a text alert from the weather gods, because the meal was a pleasing match for the evening’s unseasonably stormy weather. At one point, wind and heavy rain pelted the tent, but the grillers outside never stopped cooking. Amen.

The meal also was a change of pace from the team’s more exotic competitive offerings, which typically win accolades from contest judges. “We weren’t sure if Americans would understand the meal,” said team leader Stig Pedersen. “But we wanted to do something very Danish this year.”

For the rest of the barbecue cooking contest, held in Tom Lee Park through Saturday, the Danes will compete against more than 100 teams, but they are more than ready, thanks in part to Memphis liaison Jim Boland, who did some serious shopping to get ready. Among other things, he purchased 10 pounds of Danish butter and 10 pounds of Irish butter at Fresh Market. The difference between the two butters? Fat content.

From there, Boland’s shopping got even more specific and included this rather remarkable list:

  • 68 racks of baby back ribs

  • 65 pounds of Boston butts

  • 15 whole chickens

  • 20 pounds of chicken wings

  • Two whole salmon

  • 54 pounds of brisket

  • 8 racks of lamb

  • 1,000 pounds of ice

  • 125 gallons of spring water

Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest: Friday, 11 a.m. to midnight with free admission from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

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