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Wrench_H
10-14-2011, 12:07 PM
So this is my first year doing competitions and I did two. In my first, we got 6th in pork, and between 22 and 38 in a 42 team field in everything else. I was pretty stoked, and then proceeded to practice a ton, and went to my second one recently and completely bombed. We were in the bottom 10 in everything, and finished 36 out of 43 teams. I thought our brisket was good, and our pork was the same box we did good on before. Our ribs were the one thing that I thought was bad, and surprisingly enough, we would have finished in the 8-12 range in those if we didn't have a paint brush bristle on the bottom side of one of them(we had 5 people looking at our boxes and somehow we all missed it).

My first pouty thought was to give up, then after about an hour I was extremely determined to come back stronger next year. I know how to improve my chicken, but I'm not sure how much better I can cook pork and brisket. I guess after all that rambling, my question is how do you guys improve? I'm guessing a lot of you are going to suggest classes, and perhaps I'll eventually change my stance on this, but my stubborness tends to say that once I pay $700 and take a class from one of the greats, I'm no longer cooking my own food, but rather trying to reproduce theirs. Thanks for any help on ideas.

Fatback Joe
10-14-2011, 12:15 PM
You might try getting in to judging a couple of comps. Should give you a pretty good idea of what it getting done by other teams.

Good luck. It can get frustrating.

TooSaucedToPork
10-14-2011, 12:15 PM
Nahh, you just adapt their process to your recipes…We all have bottomed out at contests. This past season we did top ten in one contest, then the next week bottom 10. Somedays you just can’t win. Take a class, use the processes and methods given, but adapt them to your recipes. Practice during the off season. Shadow a local team. And do what you are doing now…ask questions J

Good Luck

Neil

landarc
10-14-2011, 12:25 PM
Two contests does not make a good sampling of what you are doing. There is nothing at all odd about a 6th place box one week becoming a bottom half box the next. I do think you need to find a way to sample what other folks are doing, as that is the only way you can determine what you are doing and how it compares. I have yet to see a experienced competitior not suggest judging, at least a few times, to learn the game in terms of turn ins.

Wrench_H
10-14-2011, 12:31 PM
Thanks for the responses guys. Judging sounds like a pretty good next step. I'm hoping there is going to be a judging class somewhere near here this year. Landarc, I agree with you that scores can go up and down, I just haven't really accepted it yet :-D. I may be a bit too competitive at times, and maybe this is something I'm going to either love or hate about comps, but it seems there is at least some part of it that is out of our hands.

Lake Dogs
10-14-2011, 01:03 PM
Definitely try judging; more than one competition. Knowing (seeing, first hand) what comes across tables is priceless.

Then, try not to read too much into any one or two competitions. When judging you'll learn that for a competitor to do well a lot of is is the luck of the draw. Meaning, your barbecue might land on a table with 5 other entries that completely suck. Or, it could land on a table where all 5 should be the top 5 in the entire competition. I've seen both happen. What happens is that on that crappy table the one that isn't crappy gets scored REALLY high. On that great table the 3rd or 4th best barbecue starts to get average scores... This happens even though we're not supposed to be judging one against the other; it just happens. Same luck of the draw on which judges are at the table you land on. Say you happen to have a sauce that's a little spicy/hot, but not overly spicy. One day you'll do great, but then the next outing 2 of the 6 judges will despise pepper of any kind. Guess what; there go your scores. It just happens. It's all part of "the game".

Jorge
10-14-2011, 02:07 PM
I'm guessing a lot of you are going to suggest classes, and perhaps I'll eventually change my stance on this, but my stubborness tends to say that once I pay $700 and take a class from one of the greats, I'm no longer cooking my own food, but rather trying to reproduce theirs. Thanks for any help on ideas.

I did a class and walked away with the recipes and process. I took what worked for me, and more importantly thought about the process and what the instructors were doing. If you've cooked enough to take something away from a class beyond parroting what is taught, it's probably worth it. If not, judge a couple of times and get a feel for what is working.

rksylves
10-14-2011, 03:34 PM
Make it a point to get to know your neighbors at competitions. Established teams won't give out their good secrets to what I call once-and-done teams. If they see you at a few comps then they'll know you are willing to put up the effort. So they'll start to share some ideas, tips, and secrets.

Judging is also a VERY good way to see what everyone else is doing.

I think you'll be surprised to find that what you're doing now really isn't that far out in left field.

Russ

fnbish
10-14-2011, 03:43 PM
I've given some feedback on a few posts about my rookie year so I'll chime in and take what I say for what it is worth. I haven't figured out the value myself yet :razz:.

We have done 6 competitions this year. 3 Backyard and 3 Pro. We have done well in all our Backyard comps getting a 2nd in one overall. I knew this wouldn't carry over to Pro and it didn't as we got last in our first pro event and we were really discouraged even though we knew we wouldn't do as well. A line you said was eerily familiar "My first pouty thought was to give up, then after about an hour I was extremely determined to come back stronger". Because after finishing dead last, especially in the heat of summer where it was exhausting, I was like "what the hell am I doing wasting my time/money, I'm done". But then literally an hour later when I got home I was super pumped about getting back into it and was on this forum looking for tips.

So all that being said the tip that helped up the most after finishing last was to really focus on cooking the meat right. Granted you have to figure out what works, but we practiced different methods/cooking temperatures till we found what worked and practiced it as much as we could. Flavor is super important, but I think if tenderness isn't right the flavor (even if great) gets overshadowed lack of tenderness.

I also took the judging class a few months back and am excited as hell to judge my first KCBS tomorrow :becky:. I will judge even more next year since I can't compete in every event. And to that point I think the biggest thing is starting off it can be tough to get a lot of calls in only a few events and this hobby/obsession isn't cheap and I can't get into 15-20 comps a year (at least not yet :razz:).

I'm also looking into a cooking class. Good luck next year and have a fun off season practicing.

Craig Pippin
10-14-2011, 04:11 PM
This was my 1st year of comps. I finished in the top 10 overall and had 2 top tens and 2 in top 15 that 1st contest. The next one I had 1 top 10 and bottom tens in the other 3.
The next contest I bombed in everything. 4th and 5th contest were good in some and weak in others. I was a little dumbfounded, since every entry was my top notch, except for 1 dry chicken entry.
I analyzed all my score sheets from these contest and found that any "bad" scores I received had 2 low scoring judges (5s and 6s) and the balance were all 8s or 9s. I chalked it up to the luck of the draw as far as judging.
I recently judged my 1st contest, and was at a table where every other judge had judged at least 15 contest. We had some good entries and some not so good.
To my surprise, 2 of the judges gave 6 across the board on meats that everyone else scored 8 or 9. Our table captain, who was a master judge with over 150 contests, questioned them about their low scores. They responded that they just did not care for the entry, no specific reasons.
This further confirmed my belief that it is just the luck of the draw. If you cook well, you will score well over the long haul. You can't be discouraged with just a few contest. Everyone has done poorly at some time or another.
I have seen 2 top 10 KCBS teams score in the bottom third at contest this year. Stick in there and cook as many contest as you can.

Sawdustguy
10-14-2011, 04:46 PM
So this is my first year doing competitions and I did two. In my first, we got 6th in pork, and between 22 and 38 in a 42 team field in everything else. I was pretty stoked, and then proceeded to practice a ton, and went to my second one recently and completely bombed. We were in the bottom 10 in everything, and finished 36 out of 43 teams. I thought our brisket was good, and our pork was the same box we did good on before. Our ribs were the one thing that I thought was bad, and surprisingly enough, we would have finished in the 8-12 range in those if we didn't have a paint brush bristle on the bottom side of one of them(we had 5 people looking at our boxes and somehow we all missed it).

My first pouty thought was to give up, then after about an hour I was extremely determined to come back stronger next year. I know how to improve my chicken, but I'm not sure how much better I can cook pork and brisket. I guess after all that rambling, my question is how do you guys improve? I'm guessing a lot of you are going to suggest classes, and perhaps I'll eventually change my stance on this, but my stubborness tends to say that once I pay $700 and take a class from one of the greats, I'm no longer cooking my own food, but rather trying to reproduce theirs. Thanks for any help on ideas.

You sound like my brother. Nothing in this world comes easy, it takes work and practice. After our first competition he was ready to throw his hands up in the air because to him it was the best bbq ever. To him it tasted great but the reality is we cook for the judges and his opinion doesn't matter. We took a judging class and a cooking class and his thoughts were pretty short sighted also saying that we are now copy cats. What he didn't realize is that all you need to do is learn the process. You don't need to mimic the same rubs and sauces to win. Remember, well cooked meat wins contests. All the flavor profiles are fairly similar.

Shiz-Nit
10-14-2011, 07:18 PM
I took the JOS class and do NOTHING at all from that class. But by taking the class I feel helped me improve my skills.
I am new to comp also one comp this year and hope at least 4 to 5 next year.

Bigmista
10-14-2011, 10:40 PM
Hardest thing to do is take ego out of it. You can learn what wins or you can continue to do it your way thru trial and error. What's more important to you?

NRA4Life
10-15-2011, 07:10 PM
Hardest thing to do is take ego out of it. You can learn what wins or you can continue to do it your way thru trial and error. What's more important to you?

That sums it up perfectly, couldn't have said it better myself. Home Q that you friends and neighbors like isn't competition Q.

G$
10-16-2011, 12:19 PM
Hardest thing to do is take ego out of it.

I agree, I just wih those darn judges would figure that out too.


(It's a joke!)