Popular chicken barbecue, ‘secret sauce’ return to Plainfield this year

  • Grilling underway at a past Plainfield chicken barbecue. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 5/20/2021 1:25:58 PM

PLAINFIELD — The chicken barbecue put on by the Plainfield Volunteer Firefighters Association on the Sunday of Labor Day weekend isn’t just a meal, it’s an event. And this year, that event is back on.

Organizers are already planning for what will be the 50th time the barbecue has been held.

“The population of the entire town’s about 650,” said Plainfield Fire Chief David Alvord. “We cook 400 meals.”

The Plainfield Volunteer Firefighters Association is an organization that raises money for the Plainfield Fire Department, and the barbecue is a fundraiser. Last year would have been the 50th consecutive barbecue, but it was canceled due to COVID-19 restrictions.

“About 4 or $5,000 disappointing,” Alvord said on the cancellation.

The decision to hold the barbecue this year was made by the association last week, and Alvord said that barring new developments, the barbecue will take place Sept. 5.

“It’s kind of the biggest event that Plainfield does every year,” Alvord said.

Alvord also noted that other organizations in town hold events that coincide with the barbecue. The Shaw Memorial Library holds its book sale at that time, and a group of artisans and craftsmen have organized an arts event dubbed Art Feast over the last few years. He also said a band reached out about playing at the barbecue if it goes forward this year.

“It’s a chance for everybody to gather and have a good time,” he said.

Alvord said that at one point, more than 500 meals were prepared for the barbecue before the decision was made to scale it down.

Ed Morann, 79, who has attended every chicken barbecue since it was first started, noted that in its early days it was held in October.

“I feel good about it,” Morann said of the barbecue’s return. “We missed all the people that come.”

A fire department member since he was 15, when it was run by the Plainfield Men’s Club, Morann is currently a captain in the Plainfield Fire Department.

Secret sauce

The recipe for the sauce used on the chicken has been passed down for decades and was devised by Bob Corash, who no longer lives in Plainfield. Until a few years ago, Morann supervised the chicken’s preparation.

To make the chicken, the cooks at the barbecue first put it on a charcoal grill with no sauce. Then the sauce is added over the duration of its cooking time.

Rob Shearer, a lieutenant in the Plainfield Fire Department, said cooking the chicken before applying the sauce was an innovation adopted a few years ago under the supervisory tenure of Duane Meehan, the current assistant chief of the department. Shearer said that this reduced flareups on the grill and char on the birds.

Shearer, 39, grew up in town, and he figured that the first time he tasted the barbecue sauce was when he was 5. About 12 years ago, Shearer was placed in charge of the sauce, something he described as “an honor for sure.”

“It is a secret sauce,” . “Most of our members do not even know all the ingredients that go into it.”

The sauce is both tomato-and vinegar-based, Shearer said, and is applied hot on the chicken. He said that it’s made the night before and heated up the day of the event, and that typically 5 to 8 gallons of sauce are prepared.

Shearer said the recipe has basically stayed in the same form since its creation, although it has been tweaked slightly to reduce flareups.

“I get to bring my kids to a barbecue that I went to when I was a kid,” Shearer said. “They’re going to have the same sauce recipe that I had.”

Bera Dunau can be reached at bdunau@gazettenet.com.

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