ArtsQuest Announces First Ever Barbeque Competition: Steel City Smokeout

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Bethlehem, Lehigh Valley, PA., April 2, 2024 – ArtsQuest, in partnership with Nick’s BBQ, is proud to announce the Steel City Smokeout, a brand-new barbeque competition sanctioned by the Kansas City Barbeque Society and the Mid-Atlantic BBQ Association, to take place on Saturday, July 20, 2024, on PNC Plaza presented by St. Luke’s University Health Network on the ArtsQuest campus at SteelStacks.

Professional and amateur teams from throughout the Mid-Atlantic region will be competing at the 18+ event in a number of categories to win cash prizes from a purse of $10,000. You can see how these teams prepare delicious meats while getting some of your own from the many barbeque vendors that will be on hand. Barbeque made by the competing teams will not be available for sampling. Enjoy barbeque from 4 Raices Street TacosGrubnight Food TruckThe Taste Smokers and You got Pork’d and finish the day with a dessert from Kona Ice of Allentown and Mon and Mel’s Sweet Scoops Ice Cream Truck. More vendors, as well as the competing teams, will be announced later this spring.

Both professional and amateur barbeque teams interested in participating in the Steel City Smokeout should contact Eric Bauder, ArtsQuest Director of Event Operations, at on or before June 20.

“I am thrilled for the Steel City Smokeout, a BBQ event unlike any other in the area,” commented Nick Binczak, owner and pitmaster of Nick’s BBQ. “I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunity to partner with the exceptional team at ArtsQuest. Together, we’re going to bring you an unforgettable barbeque experience, and continue it for years to come!”

Additionally, award-winning pitmasters Bob Trudnak and Moe Cason are teaching classes in ArtsQuest Center’s Blast Furnace Room as part of the Steel City Smokeout! Trudnak and Cason will give you the very best methods and procedures for cooking high end backyard BBQ with competition tips and tricks. They cover everything from meat selection and trimming to seasoning and cooking procedures on grills and smokers.

Barbeque classes being offered include:

BBQ Chicken                                                             

10 a.m. – 11 a.m.

We will discuss selecting chicken, the different cuts as well as seasoning and tendering the skin. In addition to when to sauce and how dry rub works on chicken, we will learn the best time and temperature for thighs, drums, wings and breast meat.

BBQ Pork Ribs

12 p.m. – 1 p.m.

We will discuss different brands of ribs and the difference between spareribs, St. Louis cut and baby backs. We will learn how to trim ribs for backyard and competition, as well as trimming and removing membranes for better tenderness. Finally, we will study wrapping techniques vs. not wrapping and how to apply layers of flavor as well as perfect tenderness.

Beef Brisket (the King of BBQ meats)

2 p.m. – 3 p.m.

We will discuss the anatomy of a brisket and how to buy them. We will talk about brand cuts and the different grades of beef, from select to wagyu. Injecting, seasoning and wrapping procedures will lead us to finish up the class with a conversation on how to tell when a brisket is done and ready to rest.

About the Pitmasters

Nick Binczak
Lehigh Valley native Nick Binczak started smoking meats in 2019 after working in the kitchen at the Edge Restaurant in Bethlehem under Chef Tim Widrick. He created Nick’s BBQ with his partner in life and in business, Hallie, in May of 2020. The business has grown with the acquisition of an event venue where they produce, plan, decorate and cater for events.

Moe Cason
Moe Cason is a Des Moines-based award-winning BBQ chef and TV personality who has garnered multiple Grand and Reserve Grand Championships while competing in 35 different states. He’s been seen as a contestant, judge and star on Destination America’s Pitmasters and BBQ Pit Wars. Self-taught as a pitmaster, he uses skills and authentic ingredients passed down from his grandmother, Margaret Cason.

Bob Trudnak
Bob Trudnak got his start in the outdoor cooking industry in 2002. He spent 20 plus years in the product design and manufacturing business while building his cooking career as a competition cook, judge and teacher. He has over 600 awards and has competed throughout the United States and Europe winning many state and national championships. He has taught thousands of students to perfect their craft in the backyard as well as on the competition circuit.

Bob has become a well-known BBQ personality and has an award-winning line of BBQ and pizza sauces and seasonings and is a certified Professional Pizzaiolo (North American Pizza and Culinary Academy).

Ernest Pile

Ernest Pile has been a resident of the Lehigh Valley since 2001. Prior to this, he spent 21 years as a resident in Nashville, TN where he was employed in the pharmaceutical industry as a biomedical research scientist. It was there that he developed his taste for BBQ and southern cuisine. When he relocated back to the Northeast, he realized how much he missed the foods that had been a part of his daily diet. After watching episodes of the “BBQ Pitmasters” on TV, and seeing Master chefs demonstrate their skills in competition, he found an outlet in Kansas City BBQ Society (KCBS) where he could learn more about the sport of BBQ and participate as a judge in sampling their cuisine. Ernest has been an active member and certified KCBS judge since 2019. He is participating in this event as the KCBS BBQ Cook Team and Judge Coordinator.


Ticket pricing varies depending on what type of ticket you choose, as well as if you attend the barbeque classes. Access to the amateur team area of the Steel City Smokeout will be free and no ticket will be needed for entrance.

Access to the professional team area of the Steel City Smokeout is as follows:

Ticket Type


ArtsQuest Members

General Admission $8 / $12 WOS $8 / $12 WOS
VIP Ticket $69 / $79 WOS $64 / $74 WOS
General Admission + 1 Class $99 $94
VIP + 1 Class $149 $139
All 3 Classes + 1 GA $250 $225
All 3 Classes + 1 VIP $375 $350


VIP ticket benefits include early access to the event at 11 a.m., access to an exclusive area with a private cash bar and a complimentary “BBQ Brunch.” This brunch will be prepared by Nick’s BBQ and will include brisket, pulled pork, pulled chicken, pinto beans, tangy slaw, gouda mac, cornbread, sauce, pickles, pickled red onions, bread and rolls.

When you’re finished eating BBQ, be sure to check out the 11th Annual Blast Furnace Blues, featuring two days of live rhythm and blues music happening on Friday, July 19 and Saturday, July 20 at SteelStacks.

About ArtsQuest 

ArtsQuest’s mission is to provide access to exceptional artistic, cultural and educational experiences using arts and culture as key elements of economic development for our urban communities. ArtsQuest™ supports this mission via the presentation of performing and visual arts, film, arts education classes and outreach, youth programming and cultural events.

Through festivals such as its flagship event, Musikfest; the Banana Factory Arts Center; and the ArtsQuest Center at SteelStacks arts and cultural campus, ArtsQuest’s programming reaches more than 1.9 million people annually. The organization’s programs and events, over 50% of which are free to attend, have a combined economic impact of more than $136 million annually in the region.


Information provided to TVL by:
Bryn Keeney