View Full Version : Home v. Comp

09-12-2011, 12:29 PM
I've read in several places that some of you cook different for comps than if you were at home with friends and family.

Other than presentation, which must just be a pita, why do you do this?

Also, what flavor profiles do you change when cooking for yourself?


Fatback Joe
09-12-2011, 12:36 PM
For me the flavor profile doesn't change as much as the flavor intensity. At the comp, a judge will most likely just take one bite and you only have that one shot to impress.

09-12-2011, 12:45 PM
Typically friends get competition quality BBQ w/ a touch less salt since I'll use it as practice session. We never eat BBQ unless we're practicing and then we'll have 1-2 bites and sell it or make some friends with neighbors.

09-12-2011, 01:23 PM
I usually overcook my ribs at home, as I prefer "fall-off-the-bone" ribs when dining, but NOT in competition. Flavor stays the same.

09-12-2011, 01:50 PM
The only thing I really do that is different is most of the time when I'm at home and not practicing (just cooking for family/friends) I will cook my butts longer. In competition we pull our butts at 185 which assures the money muscle won't fall apart when sliced along with getting good chunks. At home I normally just want it all to fall apart for sandwiches.

Oh and after typing that at home I do chicken differently. I don't scrape skin at home or trim excessively since that is really time consuming.

09-12-2011, 01:58 PM
At home or catering I cook what 'normal' people want. Strong flavor, 'fall of the bone' tenderness and heavy sauce. It sometimes baffels me that in a competition the varience is so wide from what sells in public and what the 'experts' consider good Q...

Lake Dogs
09-12-2011, 02:22 PM
LOL. I pretty much agree with Tim above, but I have changed over the years. Years ago I'd do what he shows above. Now, for example with pulled pork, the pork is presented sans sauce at home and I give people multiple choices for sauce, one of which is my/our competition sauce. With ribs I'm now just doing competition ribs, but I do them to MBN's standards, not KCBS's standards. I dont use much sauce at all, but I do have extra sauce available on the side for my saucy friends...

09-12-2011, 02:24 PM
Home chicken is completely different I usually rotisserie it or spatckcock whole birds.
Home Brisket is almost the same
Home ribs aren't nearly as sweet - we prefer dry style with sauce on the side
Home pork is vinegar based; again not so sweet.

Lake Dogs
09-12-2011, 02:32 PM
I think what you're really trying to ask is WHY?

In most competitions the judge will take 1 or 2 bites of your barbecue. You have that one chance to stand out and make a statement without offending. Also know that your barbecue judge could be male or female, older or younger, etc. You have to balance the appeal to the masses without offending anyone. If two people at that table think it's too salty, or too sweet, or too spicy, or too bland, etc. you're toast. Even in MBN, where a judge will take more than 2 bites, you have the same appeal factor.

At home you can get away with a little too much spice, or a little too much sodium, etc. In a competition, you have that one chance to impress.

Also, with any luck judges at a competition should be stone cold sober, where at home your guests may have had a beer or two and may be smoking, etc. The flavors that work best at home may not work great on someone who hasn't been drinking.

09-13-2011, 08:16 AM
I think what you're really trying to ask is WHY?

Thanks Hance, that is actually where I was going.

I have not yet competed, but I am looking to next year. The idea of "cooking to the judges" has always felt wrong to me.

Both my brother and I have been judging for two years. At most contests, we both agree that we can do better than four or five entries (sometimes, all) in each category. I know that we will have a lot to learn about cooking at a comp, in a "heated" atmosphere (so to speak), but I got to believe that we can hold our own based on taste and tenderness.

I know that the reality is that teams "cook to the judge's taste," but that somehow feels like "selling out" to me.

I guess I need a few beatdowns to bring me around.:boxing:

Lake Dogs
09-13-2011, 09:36 AM
In most competitions, the difference in the top 50% vs. the bottom 50% is usually tenderness. Moist and tender will usually get you in that top 50% as long as it's not skunky...

Then there's taste. Like for me, I REALLY like a good spicy hot zip on food. However, frankly, most judges would get offended and *BAM* all those efforts would go down the drain. Trust me, it's not selling out. It's trying to please as many people as possible without offending anyone. It's playing to the middle, if you will.

The best thing we did a few years back was I invited a few friends over for a tasting party. I asked them to come over without having consumed alcohol that day. When they got there, the barbecue was ready. I'd cooked 4 butts using 2 different injections and 2 different rubs. I marked which recipe was which so we could tell. I also started with 15 or 16 base sauces. Each person (there were 12 of us) tried the barbecue by itself and we rated them. Sure enough one of them got 11 of the 12 votes. Then came the sauce with it. After voting we narrowed the sauces down to 4, but each lacked something. We began to play around, mixing and matching. Sure enough with one particular combination we ended up with all 12 of us agreeing that this combination was BY FAR the superior one. Since then that's what we go with at competitions. Also, as a result, we've been asked to cook/cater many parties with that recipe.

Side note: For fun we took bets before we tried the sauce as to which sauce would win over. And the winner was?........ Nobody. We were WAY off. The best tasting sauce, by itself, didnt work worth a flip with the barbecue.

Afterwards we pigged out, drank WAY too many beers, and had a big time!

I suggest doing something similar. You could certainly go with fewer people than I did. 3 or 4 should suffice. Dont drink. Also, choose a few friends that will be brutally honest and have different tastes than yours. For me my best friend likes a little food with his salt, where I really dont care for salt much. He also has a big sweet tooth, and again me not so much. For me it's heat and other spice; dazzle my tongue! Him, not so much. When we find something that we both agree is great, THEN we know we're on to something...

09-13-2011, 11:47 AM
I agree with those that have said mostly the same cooking style, but the seasoning is toned down some for competition. As stated before, a judge only has one or two bites, so you want it to pop.

I like a bit more heat in what I make at home, but when I decided on a comp flavor profile, I based it on what I'd tasted as a judge, and what my fellow judges liked.

Also, I don't use the same injection for home as for comps

09-13-2011, 05:28 PM
I would never inject for home cooking. Inject sometime, eat a good bit of it, and have your blood pressure checked at the doctor's office the next day!!

I hate to inject for comps but most everyone else does it so it's the way to a level playing field I guess. Poor judges!

09-13-2011, 05:36 PM
I would never inject for home cooking. Inject sometime, eat a good bit of it, and have your blood pressure checked at the doctor's office the next day!!

I hate to inject for comps but most everyone else does it so it's the way to a level playing field I guess. Poor judges!

You don't have to use the same injection at home. I still inject the big meats at home, but instead of a commercial injection that may have MSG or a lot of sodium I use stick of fruit juice. It's still a good way to get flavor and moisture deep into the meat.

09-13-2011, 06:05 PM
I cook everything a bit longer and use less salt, a little more heat and less sweet in the sauce.

The only injection I use at home is for butts and it's straight cherry juicy juice. I also try to offer at least three different sauces for pork; Hot, sweet and Carolina mustard.

09-14-2011, 07:18 AM
I use home cooking for experiments. I make half normal comp recipe and half a variant and ask for opinions. Oh, and I drink WAY more beer...

09-14-2011, 09:22 AM
When I cook for home, I spice the heck out of it. I love good spicy foods and will try things like habanero jelly on my ribs which turned out great by the way. I have used jalapeno infused butter to inject chicken with and it was great.
If I try those things at comps...DAL I would think.