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bogyo1981
05-01-2011, 02:35 AM
Hello everyone, I'm a somewhat new team with only one KCBS competition under my belt. We are doing are second comp in Westmont, IL in a few weeks and I want to know what judges are looking for in pork shoulder. Any help would be very helpful. And I would like to say thank you in advance.

Q-Dat
05-01-2011, 02:55 AM
Ditto this question!!!

Before my buddy and I moved up from the backyard division we thought that pork would be our strongest category. We absolutely loved it and so did our friends and families. Heck we even won two people's choice awards in the two comps we did last year both thanks to our pulled pork. Everybody raved about it!

Fast forward to our two Pro division cooks this year and it is our weakest category. Go figure!

I really want to get certified and judge a couple of big contests so that I can hopefully get an idea of what the expectations are for Pork.

Dale P
05-01-2011, 08:55 AM
They want it to look great, taste great, and want it tender. Other than that, pork is our nemisis.:laugh:

Our friends have told us the same. They wouldnt change a thing but I know good isnt good enough. It has to be phenomenal to win.

Lake Dogs
05-01-2011, 11:30 AM
^^^ As a picture is worth a thousand words, sitting behind a judges table helps. Appearance is tough, both as a judge and as a competitor. I suggest that you fill the box as much as possible/reasonable. Mix in pieces with bark and those without. A nice smoke ring should be visible. The bark shouldn't be too dark, but flavorful. NO fat. Moisture should be there. To do this (keep the pieces moist), pull them to the size about the size of your thumb, give or take. Dont shred. Think of it from a judges perspective; how can you tell how moist or tender it is if it's shredded? Largely, they cant. Larger pieces (bite sized pieces) do better. They're able to squeeze them to help test for tenderness and moisture. Taste of course is much more subjective and can be VERY regional and to some degree differ from one contest to another based upon the judges pool. By this I mean that some contests it's expected to have it sauced, others the judges seem to expect sauce on the side, others still no sauce whatsoever. If you have sauce, it should compliment the flavors of the meat and rub, and NOT smother/cover it. This is what's meant when we say "it's not a sauce contest". Bland will get you killed. Dry will get you killed. Flavors that aren't balanced will usually get you varied scores (one person likes it, the next doesnt). Play to the center. Try hard not to alienate/offend a judge. While one judge may like something really spicy, the next two judges wont. So, too spicy will get you killed just as quickly as bland. Most tend to taste better as hot as possible. Keep this in mind when pulling the pork and when packing your box Try to bring the box and/or garnish up to room temperate so as not to be cooling the meat when it's in there. Meat in there as hot as possible (hopefully it's burning your fingers when you put it in). Choose a balance of pieces, those with bark and those without, and NO FAT on them. Arrange them quickly, and look at pics on this site for those you think look appetizing (arrangements) and those that aren't as appetizing for ideas of what to do, and what NOT to do. If you do something like slice a money muscle, make certain you have at least 6 perfect pieces. Also, remember, if it's meat and in the box, it's assumed that you intended it to be eaten. There is no such a thing as a "meat garnish or filler".

carlyle
05-01-2011, 01:07 PM
Lake Dog hits a lot of great points with good constructive suggestions. You are not going to go wrong following what he says.

One thing I would add is in regard to texture. It is not too often that I run into pork that is tough and stringy. Much more often that I encounter pork that is mushy in the mouth. Can't fix that if it is overcooked.

As for flavor, I want that great pork shoulder meat taste front and center. The meat taste needs to shine through. Anything else, sauce, injection needs to be in the background.

Keep on working. And good luck.

Sylvie
05-01-2011, 02:32 PM
What are the preferred sections of the pork butt to use for presentation? I know the money muscle is the prime preferred meat for slicing. Some teach that the tubes and meat under the blade are also preferred. After that what sections are good and which should be put aside and not turned in?

SmokinGuitarPlayer
05-01-2011, 04:47 PM
I am by no means an expert but from taking classes I was told by some VERY successful trophyy winners...the judges want it SWEET.
Also, I can tell you that we sell a ton of the Sweet Sauces, including our own sauce which I patterened after one of the most popular ..it's sticky and sweet and we use it on all categories and so far it has produced for us.

Smokin' Gnome BBQ
05-01-2011, 05:04 PM
I am by no means an expert but from taking classes I was told by some VERY successful trophyy winners...the judges want it SWEET.
Also, I can tell you that we sell a ton of the Sweet Sauces, including our own sauce which I patterened after one of the most popular ..it's sticky and sweet and we use it on all categories and so far it has produced for us.

I see that you sell a whole bunch of rubs and sauces..what awards have you won? I have tasted a couple and wonder what you think your best offerings are? your sweet sauce..is it a blues hog copy? Im always tring to save money..

Hub
05-02-2011, 09:33 AM
Lots of good advice has already been given. I'll reinforce a bit on the texture attribute. Undercooked pork will be somewhat stringy and overcooked pork will be mushy like baby food. In either case it might still have very good flavor and moisture, though. Test your recipe until you can consistently produce pork that has some bite resistance but no "toughness" when chewed or hand-pulled.

As to the flavor attribute, keep it moderate. Yes, "sweet" is popular but not necessarily a be-all end-all. Remember that a winning entry is a balance of the meat, method and spicing -- not just one thing. Over-saucing (and ruining the flavor balance) is one of the most common mark-downs for all categories.

Lake Dogs
05-02-2011, 09:57 AM
Q-Dat, many unsanctioned competitions use sanctioned judges (as many as they can get) as the core judging pool, so to some degree you're being judged on the same or very similar criteria. However, I can tell you from my judging experience that the biggest difference in sanctioned competitions to un-sanctioned (back yard) is the level of competition. There is no comparison. Not close. In a sanctioned competition with 30 or more teams, the top 10 in any category are usually HEAVENLY.

Scottie
05-02-2011, 01:44 PM
I'd offer help. But I can cook pork across the county and score wins, except Westmont. For some reasl. I get my butt kicked at my hometown contest. Damn judges....

Sawdustguy
05-02-2011, 02:06 PM
As for flavor, I want that great pork shoulder meat taste front and center. The meat taste needs to shine through. Anything else, sauce, injection needs to be in the background.


What taste? On it's own Pork butt is pretty bland meat. I guess that's why us cooks inject, season and sauce it.:confused:

Southern Home Boy
05-02-2011, 07:20 PM
Well... I'll offer what I can. For some reason, our Pork has been doing very well. I've walked in both our last two comps with pork.

First, this is last weekend's 10th place at the Cook-Off Kick-Off in Hazlewood, MO:
http://i895.photobucket.com/albums/ac160/southernhomeboy/2011%20competitions/Cookoffkickoff2011037.jpg
I don't have any pictures from the comp before (7th place at Wildwood BBQ Bash in Wildwood, MO last fall), which is sad, because they were totally different presentations.

The 7th place finish had no money muscle, just pulled chunks.

I try to pull my chunks in about thumb-sized pieces or slightly smaller from the brown muscle in the "crook" of the shoulder blade opposite the MM. I glaze the MM (when I can salvage one) with my bourbon sauce diluted with drippings from the foil and actually dip the chunks in the same mixture.

I'll also hit the whole thing with a little dusting of the same rub I use on the meat in the beginning right at the end.

It seems to be working for me for the moment.

Logjammin
05-02-2011, 07:59 PM
Everything mentioned so far is great advice. As far as saucing your pork, I would try to be mindful of the amount of sauce you add. You can spend all night cooking the perfect piece of pork and in less than 30 seconds ruin it by drowning it in sauce. The last thing you want to do is overpower the meat with sauce. Once you've added too much sauce there's almost nothing you can do. Trust me, I've done it . . .

warren.miller
05-02-2011, 09:24 PM
Great info,
When you put a whole sliced money muscle in the box, I have heard that the judges don't want the end peices. Is this true?

When you guys grab the chunks can you grab from below the bone as well as above the bone?

Thanks
Warren

Lake Dogs
05-02-2011, 09:39 PM
We're in a region here that it's RARE to see sliced, money muscle or not. However, looking at Southern Home Boy's entry above, to me, it makes me WANT to take a bite. That's appetizing! There's plenty of bark, and it appears to not be over-smoked/blackened. It has sauce, but only a little. I'm ready to take a nice smell and grab 2 of those pieces right up front and a piece of money muscle and chow down.

Sylvie
05-02-2011, 09:59 PM
Thanks for the info. That MM looks very pretty.

Scottie
05-03-2011, 10:19 AM
Good pork is good pork. I brought midwest style pork to Lexington, NC 2 weeks ago. Lexington is the bbq pork shoulder capital and we won pork. Don't worry about pulled, sliced chopped or whateverr. Cook it right is what you should be worrying about.

wormdrink67
05-03-2011, 07:11 PM
Here is a 6th place pork from Lexington, NC. The only thing I can tell you is to make it sweet....bold flavors seem to be scoring low. The exact same style of box/pork gained me 12th place the week before.

http://i1089.photobucket.com/albums/i352/wormdrink67/02c4ad11.jpg

Southern Home Boy
05-04-2011, 01:39 AM
Here is a 6th place pork from Lexington, NC. The only thing I can tell you is to make it sweet....bold flavors seem to be scoring low. The exact same style of box/pork gained me 12th place the week before.

http://i1089.photobucket.com/albums/i352/wormdrink67/02c4ad11.jpg
Ok, now I'm REALLY done trying to guess what Judges like. If I'd been cooking pork in Lexington, I'd have gone with a spiced vinegar sauce. But your sweet, tomato-based sauce took a 6, so obviously I haven't a clue. :confused: :doh:

Smokesman
05-04-2011, 12:16 PM
I had the pleasure of judging in Lexington and with so many NC teams several entries came across our table in the NC style...and were very good. A good judge will truly score an entry on its merit (not personal preference) no matter what style is presented. When a comp has 100% CBJ I think cooking the flavor profile of the region your in is less important. For most KCBS comps a flavor profile which is sweeter with a touch of spice/back end heat seem to score higher more consistently. But get the tenderness and texture wrong and your done! Balance of flavors is key no matter if your cooking midwestern KC style or vinegar based NC style. Good luck!

Stoke&Smoke
05-04-2011, 12:36 PM
Hello everyone, I'm a somewhat new team with only one KCBS competition under my belt. We are doing are second comp in Westmont, IL in a few weeks and I want to know what judges are looking for in pork shoulder. Any help would be very helpful. And I would like to say thank you in advance.

I think all that has been presented is good advice. The one thing I would add is, be sure and take photos of your boxes. You would be surprised when you look at them later that the box may not look as good as you'd originally thought. And you can judge for yourself what you might want to do differently (or keep the same) for next time

As to what judges are looking for...:confused: I think good meat, lots of it, hot as possible, and not too much sauce are good guidelines

Southern Home Boy
05-04-2011, 02:10 PM
I had the pleasure of judging in Lexington and with so many NC teams several entries came across our table in the NC style...and were very good. A good judge will truly score an entry on its merit (not personal preference) no matter what style is presented. When a comp has 100% CBJ I think cooking the flavor profile of the region your in is less important. For most KCBS comps a flavor profile which is sweeter with a touch of spice/back end heat seem to score higher more consistently. But get the tenderness and texture wrong and your done! Balance of flavors is key no matter if your cooking midwestern KC style or vinegar based NC style. Good luck!

Smokesman, I wish I could believe that. I really would like to believe that regional preferences don't play any part, but I just know too many people who've encountered a different reality - myself included.

In our first comp, I put out one of the best butts I've ever smoked. It was moist, tender, smoky with a touch of Hickory and cherry. I pulled it and dressed it with a S. Carolina mustard sauce. I took 63rd out of 80 teams.

I talked to the organizer after the event and he said, "Yeah...in this area if it's not sweet, thick and gooey, the judges don't think it's BBQ."

Now, it is possible that many of those judges weren't KCBS CBJs. I don't know, it was several years ago. But Chris Marks has told me the same thing and numerous other competitors.

Still, I'm glad that at least YOU judge without bias. :thumb:

Divemaster
05-04-2011, 02:53 PM
I wish I knew....

This last weekend, we figured that Pork was our biggest question. I didn't think it really had the flavor to get a call and that both our chicken and ribs were much stonger...

Ended up not getting a call on any thing but pork and that was a first place... Damned if I know what I did, but I'll sure try to do it again!

Scottie
05-04-2011, 03:52 PM
I don't believe any of that. In the last year I have received first place calls from Kansas, New York, Illinois, Michigan, Nevada, Arizona and North Carolina. I didn't change a thing. They liked my presentation and my sauce.

Good bbq is good bbq.


Smokesman, I wish I could believe that. I really would like to believe that regional preferences don't play any part, but I just know too many people who've encountered a different reality - myself included.

In our first comp, I put out one of the best butts I've ever smoked. It was moist, tender, smoky with a touch of Hickory and cherry. I pulled it and dressed it with a S. Carolina mustard sauce. I took 63rd out of 80 teams.

I talked to the organizer after the event and he said, "Yeah...in this area if it's not sweet, thick and gooey, the judges don't think it's BBQ."

Now, it is possible that many of those judges weren't KCBS CBJs. I don't know, it was several years ago. But Chris Marks has told me the same thing and numerous other competitors.

Still, I'm glad that at least YOU judge without bias. :thumb:

smalls65
05-04-2011, 04:04 PM
I've been lucky enough to have two pork calls out of my 1st 3 comps (5th and 8th, against good competition!!!)...I agree with Scottie's post..As long as it's cooked right you shouldn't have a problem..As long as it's tender but not mushy...with the right amount of sweetness and tanginess you should do well...But if it's DRY OR MUSHY...then don't be lookin to get your name called!! :thumb: I'd also shy away from oversmoking it too!! But hey, my opinion doesn't count for much!!!! :laugh:

Logjammin
05-04-2011, 11:33 PM
I've come to the conclusion that the region argument is a pretty weak one. For example, McDonald's (now just bear with me here) is the #1 fast food joint all over the country. I get the same Big Mac regardless if I'm in Vegas, Chicago, Orlando, or NYC. Based on the sales dollars McDonald's reports, regions don't mean jack.

Now I'm not saying McDonalds is good/healthy/tasty, but Scottie is right . . . Good food is good food, regardless of location.

jbrink01
05-05-2011, 12:14 AM
oops. Sorry