View Full Version : 1st Comp in about a Month!

08-05-2011, 05:10 PM
Hey guys I am brand new here. Some friends and I have recently formed a team and will be entering into our first competition in September. Its the Decatur Jaycee's Riverfest.

Any suggestions on what to expect, do, not to do etc?

I can't wait.

I am actually taking a BBQ judging class tomorrow morning (8/6). I figured it would be very helpful to know what the judges are looking for.

Any suggestions will be greatly appreciated.


Rich Parker
08-05-2011, 05:26 PM

08-05-2011, 06:45 PM
For starters....

Practice like you're going to compete.

Take everything you think you'll need (tools, spices, water, pans, foil, plastic wrap, wood, charcoal... EVERYTHING, into the back yard or driveway. If you touch something, write it down on a Must Have List

The goal is to never go back in the house to get something you forgot. It's probably a very long trip from the comp site to your house. :shocked:

If you find that you must have something from in the house, go get it and write it on your Must Have List

Start the night before and do everything just like you will at the comp.

Set turn-in times to start 30 minutes apart Try to hit them as close as you can. Remember if turn-in is 11:55-12:05, 12:05:01 is a DQ.

Track your timing for EVERYTHING you do to prepare, cook, and box.

Wash, rinse and repeat...

Spend time here and read the threads about judging, turn-in box preparation, methods and techniques.

Oh, read the rules, read the rules, read the rules!

If you haven't told the organizer that you're a 1st time competitor, I suggest that you do so. A lot of organizers will make an effort to set you up next to an experienced team that has said they're willing to help noobs out.

08-05-2011, 07:35 PM
Our first is in a month also (Smokin on the Bay in MD) and I've been reading -tons- of good info here. Our first timed full practice is tomorrow/Sun (assuming I can find a decent brisket in this area.. sigh..)

Practice, practice, practice and practice some more. Write everything down. Exact recipes, times, temps, wood (how much and when), until you can do it exactly the same every time. I've got close to a dozen variants on our chicken recipe, as we adjusted it at each cook to get it to what we wanted; if it works we can do it again, and if it doesn't we can adjust it without guessing. (Take tasting notes too - if the judge says "not sweet enough", maybe you have a variant already tested that is sweeter..)

The extra practice also lets anyone on the team fill in in any seat - not only is it all written down, but they've done it in practices..

Search around the forums here - lots of teams have posted VERY helpful threads and tips on getting started, and there are also a lot of packing/checklists available to use as a base. (Things you might not think to bring - for example, one local team recommended the "just-add-water" bag-style fly traps, set up away from the prep/living areas to keep flies out.)

Figure out how long your different meats take (warm, prep, cook, rest, prepare, box) and count backwards from turn-in. Then add a fudge factor (not enough to let it get cold if everything goes well, but enough to deal with "why won't the stupid pork come up to temp??") and print up the schedule.

On our practices, we've been focussing on 2 meats at a time with no hard turn-ins up till now, to get a feel for recipes, timing and get faster at the various prep stages. This weekend will be our first full 4-meat cook with hard "turn-in" times and actual boxes (I'll post pics Sun/Mon if they come out ok :) ..) and we've got 2 more "light" practices and 1 more full-on run (off-site, to verify our packing lists) before the competition.

08-07-2011, 03:01 PM
Yeah we have a timed practice coming up this weekend. Planning to do everything like we will in the competition. Afterwards, going invite people over to enjoy the spoils!

08-07-2011, 07:26 PM
AND - once you take the judging class, be sure to judge at least ten events. You learn a lot at the judging class . . . but there's no substitute for being an experienced judge. At about ten competitions judged, you are just beginning to get a good idea of what MOST of the judges are looking for.

And - in my first competition, our head cook had been told by his family, friends and neighbors that his Q was the finest around for miles and miles and that he should go into the restaurant business that it was so good, etc. etc.

Well, at his first competition (and I was there to help him out) he got his arse handed to him. He was devastated. But in the end, he realized that, even though he didn't 'win it all' his first time out, that he had a helluva lotta fun and met some cool people in the process.

So, I guess my advice would be to, sure, go in doing the best you can to win, but don't be surprised if you don't. Enjoy the experience and know that it takes practice and experience before you start hitting only a couple category wins.

Have fun!

08-07-2011, 07:56 PM
Great Advice.

The only thing we are "expecting" is to have a GREAT time.:thumb:

08-07-2011, 09:19 PM
AND - once you take the judging class, be sure to judge at least ten events. You learn a lot at the judging class . . . but there's no substitute for being an experienced judge. At about ten competitions judged, you are just beginning to get a good idea of what MOST of the judges are looking for.

YES!!! But you're going to learn the most when you are talking quietly with the other judges between catagories: "Man, that #4 was soooo dry" ..... "That second rib was one of the best that I've ever had" ..... "The #5 brisket I wanted to take home & use for a tow strap for my truck!" ..... "The first pork box would have scored a lot better if he had left out the mushy slices".

And you're going to see what happens when a judge finds a piece of foil on a slice of brisket or someone uses spinach for garnish.

My personal feelings are that every judge should cook with a team before they are allowed to judge their first, fifth, tenth (you pick a number) contest. And that at least one member of a cooking team judge at least two or three contests a year. Please note that these are my sugestions for a perfect world - - - ain't gonna happen :doh:.