So I’ve entered a few competitions now and have judged some too. Each and every event have been a great experience, and spending time with new people has made it all the better. However, I learned some DOs and DON’Ts along the way.
Let’s start with the packing as tip #1. Always make a list and check that list before you go. Sometimes you forget the important things like a bag of lump charcoal, and so you’re left hunting down a big box store to grab something before the event starts the next day. If you don’t already have a list, check out my other article The Art of Competing for details.
Tip #2: If you don’t have a trailer to get you there, not to worry. You don’t need the biggest smoker you can afford to take to your BBQ competition. I was surprised by the number of competitors using Big Green Egg smokers and Weber Smoky Mountains. Sure, there are those with trailer built smokers and grills bigger than your truck, but more and more backyard teams are popping up everywhere. I’ve even see teams competing with big box offset smokers (with and without modifications), as well as barrel smokers (also known as a drum smoker).
Tip #3: Don’t count on the meat that the event might provide. I love the fact that that some competitions provide meat, so you don’t have to spend so much out-of-pocket on pork, beef, etc. However, quality could be in question. On two different occasions, I had ribs handed out with bones shaped like golf clubs. If you’ve ever had these type of ribs on the grill, when you finally cut them, they all get trimmed at an angle. As for a Hollywood style cut with golf club ribs, you can forget about it.
Tip #4: Before you decide whether to compete in the event, make sure to check how the teams are being judged. A backyard competition or fundraiser event might be using some of the KCBS rules, but could have their own judges scoring. So, even if it’s based on Taste, Texture and Appearance, you need to make sure the weighting is correct. Current KCBS scoring weights taste the heaviest, with texture second and appearance last. So don’t sweat it if your putting green (curled parsley garnish) isn’t exactly perfect.
Tip $5: Speaking of garnish, consider preparing it ahead of time. If you are doing it right, it will take up to an hour per turn-in box to pick through the different strands of parsley to rule out yellow ones, wilted ones, or just ones that have leaves that look different then the rest of the bunch. Several of the pros will have 9″x9″ turn-in boxes at home and then build the garnish on top of heavy-duty plastic wrap. Just stuff a damp paper towel in the box and change it daily for up to 4 days before the event, to keep it fresh.