They know their beef

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By Carolyn Risner

How do you become the best barbecuers in the state of Florida?

To hear John Markham tell it, you get the toughest piece of beef there is, throw it on a grill and wait.

Of course that’s what he and his cooking partner John Pendray have to say.

They’re the state’s best and they aren’t about to give up any of their award-winning secrets.

Markham and Pendray walked away last month with the top prize in the Florida Cattleman Association’s Barbecue Contest, held in Kissimmee.

The J&J Cook-off Team won with their beef brisket, which according to Markham, is a slab of beef that comes from between the neck and the ribcage of a steer.

The 10-pound hunk of meat was smoked for nine hours before the judges deemed it the best of show.

And the secret to the win? Neither man knows–or is telling.

Pendray and his wife Tonya said they experimented with a lot of seasonings before the men decided on what they thought was best.

“We throw it on and the grill does the rest,” Markham said.

No special wood. No special grill. Just a secret rub and a slow process over low heat.

“And then we babysit it,” Markham said.

Unlike a lot of teams who meander around while the brisket cooks, Pendray and Markham stayed close to the grill to ensure the temperature was constant.

When all was said and done, the judges said their brisket was the most tender and flavorful of all the other entries.

The pair has been cooking together for about five months and decided to give it a whirl almost on a lark.

Markham has been cooking for almost 20 years; Pendray five.

Both said steak is their favorite food and no one appreciates good barbecue more than Markham.

With the state title under their belts, the two say this is only the beginning now that cookout fever has hit.

Currently they’re working on perfecting the Boston Butt, proving that the chefs aren’t limited to beef.

In their real lives, Pendray, of Williston, is a farrier and Markham, of Romeo, works for the Divison of Forestry.