Sunday afternoon, nearly every barbecue contestant at the Battle of the Bones 2 had run out of meat. It's no wonder &

the cook-off at Emigrant Lake over the weekend was delicious and free. Running out of meat meant a good turnout.

This year's big winner was Ashland's Skeleton Crew, who took home first place for their BBQ chicken and second place for their BBQ Kobe beef. So what was their secret?

"Barbecue definitely takes dedication," said Bernie Peters of the Skeleton Crew. "Like a fine wine, you have to develop a palette for good quality."

"Win or lose I'm out here to have fun," said co-Skeleton Jake Goug&

233; with a grin. "Bernie may be a little different though."

The Skeleton Crew's dedication to barbecue borders on obsession. Peters &

or "Bern Dog" as his embroidered black chef's jacket suggests you call him &

and Goug&

233; have devoted every other Sunday morning for the past year to perfecting their craft. The two have spent hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars striving to make the ultimate barbecue.

"I've always been a backyard griller," says Peters. "The Battle of the Bones seemed like a fun thing to do, and why not? People love our work. Besides, I grill or Q at least 5 times per week."

"I never cook indoors," Goug&

233; added.

Goug&

233;, a cook at Greenleaf Restaurant in the plaza, believes that being a chef doesn't mean much in the BBQ realm. Instead, he takes a more scientific approach to his grilling.

"I see barbecuing as a lab," he said. "Sauces, mixtures and a low, moist heat are all important to the flavor of the meat."

"It's total chemistry," Peters added. "It is important to balance the flavor profiles, because when you taste good barbecue, you know it and you want it every time."

At the Battle, Peters was the fire man, staying on top of the grill, while Goug&

233; kept the work area sanitary and made the sauce. Each played a key role in the Skeleton's success. In the end, all their hard work paid off with honors on both days of competitive cooking.

Saturday featured chicken while Sunday featured all types of Kobe beef, from hamburger, to ribs to briskets, which were randomly distributed to each of the booths.

Most of the contestants had never worked with Kobe beef before, since it is so expensive and difficult to cook correctly.

"Plates of Kobe beef go for more than $300 in Las Vegas," said Peters. "If you cook it wrong, it will be the most expensive piece of leather you'll ever eat."

Butch Frost and BACNAR's Barbecue created delicious sausage out of Kobe hamburger, and made racks of ribs, which were quickly devoured by the audience.

Leon Callahan from Medford's Food 4 Less meat department was also on hand, slicing up tasty ribs and serving a spicy Kobe beef chili to whoever did not look full enough.

The crowd rocked out to local music both nights. Sets by Frankie Hernandez on Saturday and Scott Huckabee on Sunday highlighted two full days of solid entertainment.

With the event's daily turnout in the thousands, it would not be surprising if Battle of the Bones returns next year bigger and better than ever.

Randy Voris, the sound engineer, summed the event up nicely: "If you're giving out free barbecue, people are going to show up."