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View Full Version : Let's talk pork ... wondering if the taste profile has changed?


KC_Bobby
07-06-2011, 10:25 PM
Throughout 2008-10 pork was a very consistent category for us, it earned calls regularly. When it didn't get a call it was generally right outside the top scores and never killed us overall.

This year, the pork has taken a nosedive. For the life of me, I can't think of anything we're doing differently in purchase, prep, cook or box.

Wondering if others have had similar experiences with pork this year?

jbrink01
07-06-2011, 11:19 PM
Same thing happened to my brisket this year. I'm thinking the judges want pot roast not brisket. No idea on pork, except maybe use Yardbird and Smoke on Wheels......seems to work for them.

Just Pulin' Pork
07-07-2011, 12:13 AM
Bob great topic hope people chime in! The best we have done in pork is 2nd out of 192 at Lenexa last year, looking at the pics recently it looked good. Comp BBQ I think is becoming a coin toss weekend and week out!

goodbuddiesbbq
07-07-2011, 08:12 AM
2 - 2nd
1 - 3rd
1 - 4th
1 - 6th

In our last 5 events in pork....before our most recent changes...our 5 previous contests in pork were as follows:

9th
10th
6th
28th
29th

Changes: We got really salty on our rub and painted our pieces with super sweet sauce, both are our own recipe. I can't give any more specific information or I'll have to answer to Top Men. It literally has gone from easily our worst category to arguably our best.

boogiesnap
07-07-2011, 08:25 AM
i've only done 2 KCBS contests so i'm not much of a resource on the topic, but, i'll offer that i made 1 simple change from the first to the next and went from 22nd to 5th in pork.

for 5th, i too painted each piece with a pretty sticky sweet red sauce.

chad
07-07-2011, 08:29 AM
Taste "profile" is always a moving target. You have to keep up with what the competition and even the regional market is doing.

Hey, if it was easy everyone would score 180. :mrgreen:

Sledneck
07-07-2011, 09:12 AM
A-1 steak sauce , it's not just for brisket any more :-P

Plowboy
07-07-2011, 10:18 AM
I think it has changed for sure. I've been doing the same pork for six years and have had great results including 5th place pork TOY, Butt to Butt 11 Champion, Butt to Butt 12 Reserve Champion, Great American 1st Place, American Royal 1st Place, and several contest 1st place finishes. In 2008-2009 a pork call wasn't even a question. I could always count on a call and most of the time a high call. It was money. Now, I'm mostly miss and sometimes a low hit. Made a few major changes this last weekend and hit 2nd place with a 172+.

Still using my tried and true injection, though. Ancient Chinese secret... unless you've taken one of my classes!

Good luck finding your new path. Darren of Iowa's Smokey D's and I have been talking "lost pork" this last month. Like me, he's cooked the same pork for years with strong results. When your go to recipe isn't hitting, you feel like a rookie cook again and don't know where to go next. It is like ground zero.

Balls Casten
07-07-2011, 10:22 AM
Our neighbor at Whiting made the same comment.

WineMaster
07-07-2011, 10:43 AM
So is it trending more to a Sauce entry? VS Texture and Bark

carlyle
07-07-2011, 11:22 AM
This is a puzzle since the judging criteria have not changed.

Be interesting to know if you ran into some of the same judges contest to contest.
KCBS judges tracking still not in place and running.

I would be surprised if there was an easy obvious answer here. Probably a mix of reasons plus luck ( unluck) of the draw about what table you were judged at.

Would be good to know what the actual scores were to see where you were losing points.

Lake Dogs
07-07-2011, 11:29 AM
Is it possible that with the popularity in competition bbq growing that the *average* team is significantly better than you'd see a few years ago? If so, then it is going to be more of a "which table you land on" type of thing. That's a question for judges; the ones who've judged the same competitions over the last 8+- years. What's changed?

Jorge
07-07-2011, 11:45 AM
Is it possible that with the popularity in competition bbq growing that the *average* team is significantly better than you'd see a few years ago? If so, then it is going to be more of a "which table you land on" type of thing. That's a question for judges; the ones who've judged the same competitions over the last 8+- years. What's changed?

I think that's part of it, and the stats make that pretty clear. There are two teams that are pretty dialed in. One racking up quite a few RGCs.

I think that classes and the internet are playing a role. The learning curve is a lot shorter, and product becomes similar. It's also pretty easy to sit down at the keyboard, place the order and get the same ingredients that just about everybody else is ordering.

That draws the field closer together. The teams that figure out a way to set themselves apart, and appeal to the judges in a positive way are ahead of the curve.

luckyduk
07-07-2011, 01:48 PM
Maybe judges are getting tired of the same rubs,sauces,etc with many entries....need some way to differentiate your entry in a good way?
As for me, pork has taken over chicken as my worst category
I have been receiving okay taste scores and terrible tenderness even when I have cooked to different temps in different contests.
Going back to the KISS method with a really good sauce

Plowboy
07-07-2011, 02:37 PM
Is it possible that with the popularity in competition bbq growing that the *average* team is significantly better than you'd see a few years ago? If so, then it is going to be more of a "which table you land on" type of thing. That's a question for judges; the ones who've judged the same competitions over the last 8+- years. What's changed?

I think that's part of it, and the stats make that pretty clear. There are two teams that are pretty dialed in. One racking up quite a few RGCs.

I think that classes and the internet are playing a role. The learning curve is a lot shorter, and product becomes similar. It's also pretty easy to sit down at the keyboard, place the order and get the same ingredients that just about everybody else is ordering.

That draws the field closer together. The teams that figure out a way to set themselves apart, and appeal to the judges in a positive way are ahead of the curve.

If true that teams are just getting better, then it would mean that the overall scores are getting that much higher. That isn't the case. It isn't just about placement in the field of teams, it is about the number of 8's and 9's you are getting. Since judges don't, theoretically, compare teams, then what I'm saying about scores being overall higher would be true. I'm just not seeing that. I'm seeing scores staying the same, but teams with different recipes moving around in the field. That tells me that there's a shift in what's winning. Could be presentation style changes that are affecting that as much as taste.

Lake Dogs
07-07-2011, 02:44 PM
I'd definitely be interested to hear from some long time CBJ's who've judged pretty much the same competitions year after year (compare apples to apples, just different years) and see what they have to say.

From and MBN approach, here in this region, we've seen a shift away from Memphis ribs to sauced. Otherwise, that I know of, the flavor profiles that won 4+ years ago tend to win still. That's MBN; I'm certain that FBA (this region) and KCBS have seen different trends altogether. I'd be interested in what folks see.

Pickin' Porkers
07-07-2011, 05:43 PM
We were ranked 6th in overall KCBS pork standings in 2009...last year we ranked 13th. This year, even though we have only cooked 5 contests, we have YET to break the top 10. We have not changed one single thing about our pork in 2 1/2 years. Yes, I believe the profile is sliding away from our traditional western NC vinegar based sauce......

pop's smokin hot que
07-07-2011, 06:19 PM
I have been judging for several years. Over the last two years the pork entry has changed more than any other entry. When I first started judging the pork entry was a pile of pulled pork in the center of the box. Today I see a combination of pulled, money meat, bark, fingers, tubes. The better entrys offer a wide selection of eye appeal, taste appeal, and profiles. A pile of chopped, pulled pork in the center of the box is average at best. Chicken is also changing fast this year. Brisket cannot only be tender it must have a good taste profile. There are also more judges with 15 to 30 contests under their belt and it takes more to get high scores. Hope this helps.

KC_Bobby
07-07-2011, 10:43 PM
I think it has changed for sure. I've been doing the same pork for six years and have had great results including 5th place pork TOY, Butt to Butt 11 Champion, Butt to Butt 12 Reserve Champion, Great American 1st Place, American Royal 1st Place, and several contest 1st place finishes. In 2008-2009 a pork call wasn't even a question. I could always count on a call and most of the time a high call. It was money. Now, I'm mostly miss and sometimes a low hit. Made a few major changes this last weekend and hit 2nd place with a 172+.

Still using my tried and true injection, though. Ancient Chinese secret... unless you've taken one of my classes!

Good luck finding your new path. Darren of Iowa's Smokey D's and I have been talking "lost pork" this last month. Like me, he's cooked the same pork for years with strong results. When your go to recipe isn't hitting, you feel like a rookie cook again and don't know where to go next. It is like ground zero.

This sums up my feelings/experiences on pork well.

landarc
07-07-2011, 10:51 PM
I am wondering if there is another factor, that with the increasing popularity of BBQ, that there are more people getting into judging, and those people have a different take on good BBQ. Although there are all the rules about not comparing one to another and not having preconceived ideas of what BBQ is, it seems that the shift could be just more judges.

Jorge
07-09-2011, 10:42 AM
If true that teams are just getting better, then it would mean that the overall scores are getting that much higher. That isn't the case. It isn't just about placement in the field of teams, it is about the number of 8's and 9's you are getting. Since judges don't, theoretically, compare teams, then what I'm saying about scores being overall higher would be true. I'm just not seeing that. I'm seeing scores staying the same, but teams with different recipes moving around in the field. That tells me that there's a shift in what's winning. Could be presentation style changes that are affecting that as much as taste.

I don't know that our points have to be mutually exclusive. As for the scores, I haven't done the analysis but I'd be willing to bet that the mean has gone up over the last 5 years. The range I'd expect to remain about the same. At the top end, it's usually the difference in 8s and 9s. I'd be curious to know what QUAU had to say about whether he's cooking better product than he was 3-4 years ago, and how his scores do or don't reflect the current quality of his product now vs. 4 yrs. ago.

I also agree that there has been a shift in the flavor profile. In fact, I suspect that there has been more than one. With the classes that have been taught over the last several years, there are a lot of people that have been influenced by a handful of cooks. I think that has probably served to draw the flavor profiles closer together for a large # of teams. When you were the only guy using your profile and process for pork, it naturally stood out. When you taught a couple of classes, and one friend shared some tips with another friend, and after some success that friend shared with.... There's a natural ripple effect there. I'm sure the majority of judges consciously try to judge each entry separately, but I also believe that it's reasonable to expect entries that taste very similar to be lumped together subconsciously. The second shift is people like yourself that, finding a consistent product has fallen off, start tweaking a recipe/process to set themselves apart again. Based on results, it appears that two teams were ahead of that curve earlier than most.

Put the 'Bug' in Paul's ear for some statistical wizardry:wink: I bet it would be interesting.

Sawdustguy
07-09-2011, 11:10 AM
When I first started judging the pork entry was a pile of pulled pork in the center of the box. Today I see a combination of pulled, money meat, bark, fingers, tubes. The better entrys offer a wide selection of eye appeal, taste appeal, and profiles. A pile of chopped, pulled pork in the center of the box is average at best.

I think you hit it smack dab on the head. I think cooks are more saavy now being able to offer the judges a combination of samples in one turn-in box.

bdodd444
07-09-2011, 12:56 PM
Hey Todd,

Any "share the new secret" discount for recent Plowboys class graduates or do we have to take the class again? :grin: For what it's worth your class helped me get my first chicken call 3 weeks ago. Well worth it for anyone considering it. Take care.

Brian

Plowboy
07-10-2011, 12:01 AM
Hey Todd,

Any "share the new secret" discount for recent Plowboys class graduates or do we have to take the class again? :grin: For what it's worth your class helped me get my first chicken call 3 weeks ago. Well worth it for anyone considering it. Take care.

Brian

Sorry, you seem to be breaking up. Static on the line.

Congrats on your chicken call. :thumb: Other alumni from last year are seeing success after they've had the winter to practice techniques and try out their own spin on what was taught. I love getting updates like this.

Sledneck
07-10-2011, 01:10 AM
Hey Todd,

Any "share the new secret" discount for recent Plowboys class graduates or do we have to take the class again? :grin: For what it's worth your class helped me get my first chicken call 3 weeks ago. Well worth it for anyone considering it. Take care.

Brian

I know you are probably just busting todds chops but I have been meaning for some time to bring this up. I know it's a bit off topic but here gos. This is not against Todd, have never taken his class. That being said. I Have taken a few comp cook classes over the past few years. I was wondering what the "etiquette" is after you take a class with regard to updates. Most of these classes are not cheap ( I know, I know learning curve blah blah ) so i will give an example of an experience I had . I will not disclose whose class. We were taught the "latest" technique on a category. This particular cook had gone on to win a consistent 1st place finish in that category a few months after the class. I know for a fact that the technique /flavor/ process was completely different than what we were taught so I inquired. Was basically blown off.
Am I required to dish out $500 every year? Just curious what other instructors and students thin about this topic

bdodd444
07-10-2011, 09:10 AM
I'll go ahead and weigh in since I kind of started it with my post. I was just bustin chops with Todd. The classes are expensive. I thought the class with Todd and David was a real bargain, because it was essentially two classes with different techniques by two really successful competition cooks (that is my own personal plug). Since what I walked away with was more help on technique than flavor profile, I don't have a huge heartburn with an instructor changing their own flavors after the fact to help themselves stay competitive. I am sure some people walk away from the class and execute exactly the recipes they are taught in class and do well. Personally I think the better, more rewarding use is to take some key techniques and apply them to your own cooking. That is what I did. Although I did not use exactly to the "T" what Todd and David taught on the chicken. What I did learn was applied, and I fully credit that improvement in finally getting my first ever call in Chicken.

I think part of my attitude about this is because I do feel like I got a really good deal on the class. Would it be nice to get updates? Sure, but I think I would feel differently if I had a paid $750 for a one instructor class. I certainly understand your frustration.

Plowboy
07-10-2011, 09:18 AM
I know you are probably just busting todds chops but I have been meaning for some time to bring this up. I know it's a bit off topic but here gos. This is not against Todd, have never taken his class. That being said. I Have taken a few comp cook classes over the past few years. I was wondering what the "etiquette" is after you take a class with regard to updates. Most of these classes are not cheap ( I know, I know learning curve blah blah ) so i will give an example of an experience I had . I will not disclose whose class. We were taught the "latest" technique on a category. This particular cook had gone on to win a consistent 1st place finish in that category a few months after the class. I know for a fact that the technique /flavor/ process was completely different than what we were taught so I inquired. Was basically blown off.
Am I required to dish out $500 every year? Just curious what other instructors and students thin about this topic

For $500, which is more than I've charged, am I required to tell you every process or flavor change for the rest of my life? That said, I've continued to coach students after the fact. Very recently, I had a call from a former student who was working on Brisket and was going through notes from a class. I validated a few things for them and even gave a new tip that I've been using that's been working. They won brisket and the contest the very next day. If I like you and you aren't an A-hole, I'll help you. That doesn't mean that I'm going to produce a monthly alumni news letter with every new recipe tweak. We'll, I would for about $5000 per student.

A student from my very first class cooked with me exactly a year later. Commented on several differences in what I taught versus what I was doing. (Took three 1st places and GC that day.) Just like everyone else, I'm trying to figure it out. I'm going to change little things here and there.

I know that this is hard for people to do, but I encourage students to walk away with new perspectives on cooking and not just recipes. As an instructor, I focus a lot on "WHY" I do things and not just what I'm doing. To me, the theory is more valuable than the recipe. The theories change very little over time and are the foundation of both today's recipes and tomorrow's. Most just want the step by step. To me, that will always keep them in a box. They may win something, but they won't be a better cook.

I've got a lot of interest in classes happening this year. I've even had multiple requests for private 1on1 classes. I've not scheduled anything yet. I'm trying to decide if I want to give it all away again this year.

Plowboy
07-10-2011, 09:25 AM
I'll go ahead and weigh in since I kind of started it with my post. I was just bustin chops with Todd. The classes are expensive. I thought the class with Todd and David was a real bargain, because it was essentially two classes with different techniques by two really successful competition cooks (that is my own personal plug). Since what I walked away with was more help on technique than flavor profile, I don't have a huge heartburn with an instructor changing their own flavors after the fact to help themselves stay competitive. I am sure some people walk away from the class and execute exactly the recipes they are taught in class and do well. Personally I think the better, more rewarding use is to take some key techniques and apply them to your own cooking. That is what I did. Although I did not use exactly to the "T" what Todd and David taught on the chicken. What I did learn was applied, and I fully credit that improvement in finally getting my first ever call in Chicken.

I think part of my attitude about this is because I do feel like I got a really good deal on the class. Would it be nice to get updates? Sure, but I think I would feel differently if I had a paid $750 for a one instructor class. I certainly understand your frustration.

You wrote this as I was writing a similar response. You are spot on about not trying to copy. Also after teaching EVERYTHING I was doing, I felt that over the winter I had to make some changes to become better and stand above what I just gave away (or sold as it were). I'm cooking half as much as I have been the last three years because of work and Cub Scouts, but I feel like my overall entries are as good as they've ever been.

Plowboy
07-10-2011, 09:29 AM
I know you are probably just busting todds chops but I have been meaning for some time to bring this up. I know it's a bit off topic but here gos. This is not against Todd, have never taken his class. That being said. I Have taken a few comp cook classes over the past few years. I was wondering what the "etiquette" is after you take a class with regard to updates. Most of these classes are not cheap ( I know, I know learning curve blah blah ) so i will give an example of an experience I had . I will not disclose whose class. We were taught the "latest" technique on a category. This particular cook had gone on to win a consistent 1st place finish in that category a few months after the class. I know for a fact that the technique /flavor/ process was completely different than what we were taught so I inquired. Was basically blown off.
Am I required to dish out $500 every year? Just curious what other instructors and students thin about this topic

To answer more directly, yes. I think you are required to take the class again. My opinion. If I could get a top cook to tell me everything he/she are doing for the rest of their lives for $500, I'd stroke a check immediately. That's a bargain and a half.

FREE TIP: I've switched from A1 to Heinz 57 on brisket. :thumb:

Ron_L
07-10-2011, 10:13 AM
FREE TIP: I've switched from A1 to Heinz 57 on brisket. :thumb:

You told me that was top secret! No fair! :becky:

The_Kapn
07-10-2011, 10:20 AM
You told me that was top secret! No fair! :becky:

That ain't no secret--been all over the InterWeb for months now :-D

BOT:
I do think the flavor profiles, or at least the judges expectations, evolve over time.
Seems like we are always a step or two behind, but catching up each event.

TIM

Candy Sue
07-10-2011, 10:31 AM
Taking this back to pork...and I don't cook enough events to be in the same class as many responders above, but I've done okay in the Butt to Butt and pork is generally my best category. I haven't changed anything major in my basic seasoning method since I started in 2004. In the heat of the summer, I go saltier especially if judging is outdoors. I also seem to do better if I put minimal choices in the box. No more pulled bacon and absolutely no pork in there without bark. I am using a glaze on the meat instead of water to spritz right before turn in. I'll give a tip...Texas Pepper Jelly!

Muzzlebrake
07-10-2011, 10:38 AM
Good question! this should probably be its own thread.........

I think that as a student you need to use the knowledge gained in class to develop your own techniques and particularly your own flavor profile. If you are constantly chasing the next "hot" technique or flavor you may be successful to a point but in order to succeed long term, you need to develop your own.

In addition to taking several classes the past few years, most everyone knows that I have a cooked with Andy enough and have a setup similar enough to his that I could easliy just go out and replicate what he does. Ask anyone that has cooked with me (including Andy) and they will tell you I don't come close to that. I'm fairly certain that while I may have had much more short term success doing so, I intend to do this for a long time and want to develop my own system that not only suits me but one I know how to fix when something is not working the way I want it to.

Also not all of the instructors are the same. Some may stick to their tried and true recipes and systems while others may be much more fluid, changing entire recipes and revamping whole techniques on a regular basis. I have found that many instructors are more than willing to to talk to you at a competition as more of an equal after taking their class and most are willing to share new tweaks in their process. One former instructor from a class I took, is more than happy to not only answer any question that I have asked, he also ends his answer with an invitation to come cook a contest with him.

Kosmo's Q
07-10-2011, 11:02 AM
I have been judging for several years. Over the last two years the pork entry has changed more than any other entry. When I first started judging the pork entry was a pile of pulled pork in the center of the box. Today I see a combination of pulled, money meat, bark, fingers, tubes. The better entrys offer a wide selection of eye appeal, taste appeal, and profiles. A pile of chopped, pulled pork in the center of the box is average at best

Good point! I have seen entries that have rocked people in years past that would probably not do to well today based on appearance alone. I believe that the game has change and you really need to think outside that box (no pun intended) when you are talking about pork. Just my 2 cents

Bourbon Barrel BBQ
07-10-2011, 01:19 PM
Pork was our best category last year with a top five calls regularly. This year its our worst category with only one call all year. No changes.

Sledneck
07-10-2011, 02:29 PM
To answer more directly, yes. I think you are required to take the class again. My opinion. If I could get a top cook to tell me everything he/she are doing for the rest of their lives for $500, I'd stroke a check immediately. That's a bargain and a half.

FREE TIP: I've switched from A1 to Heinz 57 on brisket. :thumb:

I should of been more specific, I wasn't saying a lifetime. I'm talking about within the same year/ season after just taking a class. I would think if I took a class and som major changes were made right after taking the class I should receive a little note .


Heinz 57 pfffffffft, I will never turn my back on my old friend a-1:becky:

HoDeDo
07-10-2011, 04:53 PM
Ok, just read this thread....

On the pork: Yes, I think the profile has changed slightly... having said that, good bbq, is good bbq. if you cook it right, it will still score well, even if it isnt winning. We have been doing the same thing for years.... and had solid pork. I know several good pork cooks - we all do it different from each other and all turn in great product. But if you aren't trying to continually get better, or more flavor, or something, it gets old right?

Some ideas on the why: So when I started cooking, most people made thier own sauces on the spot. lots of different flavors, mostly "KC style" sauces.... then there was a while when BBQ comps were all about a profile like "Head Country" sauce... in recent years, there is this stuff called blues hog, that you might have heard of.

I know a couple cooks that are constantly innovating and changing what they do to try to stay ahead... sometimes they win for it... sometimes they get beat up for it. But they are pheonominal cooks. period. I have been at several events, where Rob McGee will cook a completely different profile, on something, turn it in and win... then the next week, turn in something completely different and win again. So while the flavor profiles are important, I think cooking it correctly is even moreso. There are alot more folks cooking it right now... so the judging gets tougher and tougher. Rob's let me try his different chicken recipes many times... and it blows me away that he will turn in such different recipes. The key is they are cooked right.so they do well.

Interesting on the comment on the variety of meats going in... but everytime you add another meat to the box, you are judging against yourself. IF they love your pulled and hate your slices, it hurts your score... so I dont know that I would turn in 5 different styles or muscles, etc.... but that is just me.

jbrink01
07-10-2011, 09:32 PM
Interesting on the comment on the variety of meats going in... but everytime you add another meat to the box, you are judging against yourself. IF they love your pulled and hate your slices, it hurts your score... so I dont know that I would turn in 5 different styles or muscles, etc.... but that is just me.

Andy,
Very interesting comment. Do you think this theory applies to burnt ends? I almost feel like burnt ends are no longer optional, but mandatory. What say you?

HoDeDo
07-10-2011, 10:04 PM
Andy,
Very interesting comment. Do you think this theory applies to burnt ends? I almost feel like burnt ends are no longer optional, but mandatory. What say you?

Definately not mandatory. I only turn them in if they are perfect. If they tighten up at all in my test ones, if they arent exactly what I want... they dont go in the box. I dont want a sub par Burnt end to hurt my slice scores.

I used to always turn them in.... but now I only do when they are perfect, and that has helped my consistency in the catagory for sure.

Sledneck
07-10-2011, 10:08 PM
Definately not mandatory. I only turn them in if they are perfect. If they tighten up at all in my test ones, if they arent exactly what I want... they dont go in the box. I dont want a sub par Burnt end to hurt my slice scores.

I used to always turn them in.... but now I only do when they are perfect, and that has helped my consistency in the catagory for sure.

Amen, it took me a long time to figure tha out

KC_Bobby
07-10-2011, 10:19 PM
Burnt ends not mandatory. Two comps ago a our burnt ends were like double bubble - chewy so they didn't go in - 3rd place. Last comp we liked our burnt ends so they went in and brisket got 6th.

Which leads me back to pork - had our pork scored like last year, we would have been in good shape since ribs earned calls both times too.

jbrink01
07-10-2011, 10:25 PM
Thanks guys! I think i've gotten off track a bit and have been turning in sub par burnt ends and it's hindered me. Thanks for the reminder! Now back to pork....mine has changed significantly for this year, and for the better. It all hinges on a "less is more" theory. I had way too much going on flavor-wise in years past.