The Art of Competing

I’ve been on the road for the last 9 weeks, so getting a new recipe posted hasn’t been in the cards. Therefore, I thought it would be great to talk briefly about my experiences starting to compete in the BBQ circuit. While I’ve enjoyed the German dishes and Pork LauLau, something always brings me back to wanting more BBQ.

A few weeks back, I jumped head first into BGB’s first competition. The challenge was to start with ribs. While I didn’t win (and wasn’t expecting to in the least) I beat 30 other teams on the circuit using only rubs and sauces I designed. It is said that 90% of the competitors today use commercially available rubs and sauces, but my point of competing was to have someone objectively review my concoctions and tell me whether they were actually good. Granted, family, friends and neighbors will always tell you that you’re food is amazing, especially if you’re someone who doesn’t take criticism lightly.  But as someone who constantly tweaks recipes, I think its a great idea for someone to provide an honest opinion who doesn’t know you from Adam. Especially if you want to take your recipes into the markets, or to open a restaurant.

Before I ever signed my first competition entry check, I did a lot of research. Months worth of research. I bought books, read blogs, watched shows, you name it. I over-stressed about it. What I came to realize is that all you need is a good inventory items to take with you and that’s it. The competition itself will do the rest. Just remember, you can never pack too much stuff. Below is a list of what I would recommend you start with on your first time out.

Item QTY
Small Wire whisk 1
BBQ Tongs 1
BBQ Spatula 1
Basting Brushes 2
Coarse Rub 1
Fine Rub 1
Brown Sugar 1
Honey 1
Butter 1
Cutting Boards 2
Gallon Water 1
Coolers 2
Ice 1
Drinks and Food for Me Many
Folding Chair 1
Folding Tables 2
Tent 1
Tent Bags 4
Regular Foil 1
Heavy Duty Foil 1
Foil Pans 2
409 Solution 1
Leather Gloves 1
Silicon Gloves 1
Wood Chunks – Cherry 4
Royal Oak Charcoal 1
Mop Sauce 1
BBQ Sauce 2
Vinyl Gloves 1
Pan for Sauce 1
Bleach Water (1 cap per gal) 1
Dishrags 2
Trash Can 1
Trash Bags 2
Aprons 2
Utility Knife 1
Carving Knife 1
Paring Knife 1
Grill Brush 1
Ash Tool 1
Paper Towels 2
Ziploc Bag 1
Meat Thermometer 2
Lighter 2
Lighting Cubes 4
Metal Shakers 1
Metal Ash Bucket 1
BBQ Guru 1
Spare AA Batteries 4
Mineral Oil 1
Knife Sharpener 1
Basting Cup 1
Band-Aids (just in case) 2
Insect Repellent 1
V-Rack 1

Once you have everything packed, just have fun. Don’t get worked up on whether you’ll win anything and just cook the best you can cook. On my first attempt, the ribs got done early, so they were falling off the bone a little more than I like. Then, when I sliced them for the turn-in box, I didn’t notice that this set of spare ribs hooked more on one end than usual, almost like a golf club, so it just didn’t slice pretty enough. By those two counts, I knew I wouldn’t be in the top 3, but the taste was still spot on for my normal cooking at home.

For those that don’t know, the Kansas City Barbecue Society (KCBS) grades dishes based on taste, texture, and appearance. There are 6 judges per table, plus the table captain. Again, don’t let any of this worry you, as they are just like you, and are there to enjoy some great food from different teams around the country.

So, as my last recommendation beyond having a great packing list is to make sure to socialize with the other competitors. You’ll see that everyone out there is just like you and just there to have a good time too. Sitting in a parking lot for hours on end will get very boring fast if you don’t. So take part and have fun!

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