View Full Version : I would need to learn a lot before competing

09-02-2011, 09:35 AM
I was looking through the "Worst Box Ever" sticky, and was saying to myself: "What's wrong with this one and that one?" Some of those looked pretty good to me (an untrained eye).

Is there any type of list of common mistakes that people do, or a "do's and don'ts" list?

I'm affraid if I ever entered a competition, I wouldn't have a clue as to what I was doing wrong.

Also, it must get expensive to buy all that meat for competitions. I read one person that was cooking 8 briskets. :shock:


09-02-2011, 09:41 AM
Check out www.bbqcritic.com (http://www.bbqcritic.com) . This has judges comments on each box.

Fatback Joe
09-02-2011, 09:45 AM
Is there any type of list of common mistakes that people do, or a "do's and don'ts" list?

I haven't seen a list, but the most common mistakes IMO are not having the minimum required pieces of meat in the box and simply just not getting it turned in on time.

Make a practice box and post it, you will get plenty of feedback on what is advised and what isn't.

Lake Dogs
09-02-2011, 09:56 AM
Wow, where to start. First, there are sanctioned contests, and unsanctioned contests. The volume of meat can vary greatly from contest to contest. The 8 briskets must've been some specific brisket comp, perhaps he was also vending. However, if it was 8 whole pork shoulders, they were probably competing in either MIM or an MBN sanctioned competition. Most smaller unsanctioned competitions will do something like 2 categories, usually being chicken and ribs. For these you'll probably only cook 12+- pieces of chicken and perhaps 2 to 4 racks of ribs. Where to compete fully in an MBN competition you'll cook usually 8+- whole pork shoulders (around 20# each), usually a whole case of baby back ribs (12-13 in a case), and a whole hog. Most other sanctioning bodies keep it fairly KCBSesque, where you'll probably cook 12-20 pieces of chicken, 2 briskets, 2 - 4 butts, and 2 - 4 racks of ribs. Some competitions are purely blind; others aren't. Some have multiple turn-ins, where you turn in once, and if you make "finals" you have another turn-in. They all vary.

Long story short, the first thing to do is to begin thinking of what type of competition you'd like to compete, why you want to compete, then find a few around your area.

THEN you can begin planning. :-)

It might help (by painting a picture for you) if you can get to judge a competition or two. Trust me, even in very new unsanctioned competitions, if the competitors know their stuff, the winning entries and that top 10% are absolutely AWESOME. Sanctioned, that top 33% are something else, and the winning entries will usually have your eyes rolling in the back of your head.

As far as entering a competition, I do suggest starting with either a small or mid-sized competition (volume of meat I mean) to start with. I dont know of anyone who had a REAL good clue as to what they were really doing on their very first competition. Everyone comes away with a huge list of "I did this wrong, and I forgot about that, and blah blah"...


Prepare. Practice. Competitions are no place to try new recipes, or new techniques, or break in new smokers, etc. Be prepared to bring your A game.

Practice with turn-in times. With this you'll be able to make a schedule. Make one, have it, and make it readable at 3am with very dim lighting.

Make a packing list in addition to your schedule. When practicing, write down everything you use/touch. You'll need it.

For every competition, know the rules. Every one is different, especially across sanctioning bodies. They not only have different rules, but they differ even in what they define the perfect BBQ to be, so know the target to be hit.


Make your barbecue too anything, whether too spicy, or too dark, or too light, or too salty, etc. One offended judge kills.

Dont read too much into any one scoring that you get. There's a fair amount of luck involved (like which judges are at the table that your barbecue lands on, and what other barbecue lands on the table with yours).

Dont turn in cold meat. Not good. Make it as hot as possible, and I mean burn-your-fingers hot when you put it in the box. It'll be 20+- minutes before the box is opened, it'll cool down plenty along that time.

Most will judge on 3 basic categories, being appearance, tenderness, and taste. While they all weigh these differently, know that your presentation should be such that someone REALLY wants to take a bite, that it's THAT appetizing. It should smell wonderful and be as tender and moist as it can be without being mushy. The taste should be VERY good, but not overly this or that, because someone will end up offended (refer to above).

09-02-2011, 10:01 AM
Nah, just jump in. It's fun. You will learn along the way.

Lake Dogs
09-02-2011, 10:17 AM
What I said, plus what GreenDrake said above TOO. I didnt mean not to jump in; do it. It's fun. However, if you want to be something other than DAL, practice and know what you're up against and being judged on. I'd hate to see you spend hundreds of dollars and the huge effort involved only to get disqualified.

However, the truth is that you'll learn more from your first couple of competitions than we could ever tell you. Experience is everything. Know that, and go in with one main goal, and that is to have fun.

Jason TQ
09-02-2011, 04:22 PM
You'd be surprised, but how quickly you can learn. After deciding to get into competition bbq in January we competed in April. Mostly thanks to this forum. The best way to do something is to get hands on. If you can get into a competition soon do it. What you will learn from the teams there would help a ton.

09-02-2011, 04:28 PM
One important step is to slice - slide - slice - slide, etc. I don't know how many boxes have been DQ'd because two ribs or two brisket slices weren't cut compleatly through.

09-02-2011, 05:58 PM
One great way to get some experience in cooking comps is to become a CBJ. You get to taste flavor profiles, those that work and those that don't. And, you get to see good boxes vs. not so good boxes.

Well worth the $60.

09-02-2011, 08:19 PM
What I have done is enter non sanction contests 15 to 20 teams. Gives you a opportunity to build boxes and make turn ins on time. You learn every time out. I'll be doing my 4th contest Sept 17th. Since starting I have picked up a few sponsors to defray the cost, that helps a lot. Hopefully after this one I'll take the plunge and do a sanction contest in Oct. If not then, I plan on stepping up next year for sure. Don't worry about making mistakes, relax and have fun. I love it. Also find at least one person to help you at the contest. My Brother in law has joined me and enjoys the contest as much as I do, and he can't boil water. His extra hands are a life saver at turn in and setting up and loading everything after the contest. I just have to feed him.

09-03-2011, 07:38 PM
I cook minimal quantities of meat. Not only does it keep the cost of meat down, but I can fit all of my equipment, cookers and all, in two small Toyotas which also keeps my transportation costs down.

That being said, I do practice a lot. I am very consistent and I can cook my one single brisket dang near perfect each time. That being said, cooking only one brisket did bite me in the butt one time. I set my WSM up and forgot to double check that the vents were properly adjusted - and it wound up being ready at midnight Saturday morning.

So, you can compete as an independent for not a lot of money - but you need to have a plan, have it memorized and written down and it also helps to have a 'manager' following the plan and keeping you on track.

My wife does that for me and I am very grateful for her help.

Above all, have fun!
Oops! Just found this stranded - forgot to click the button!