View Full Version : Deciphering Scoring - What to change to get better results

05-28-2013, 10:05 AM
So now that my first KCBS comp is out of the way. I am going over our scores that we got from the judges, and trying to figure out where to go from here. Seems like many of my lower marks were for tenderness, especially in the Brisket category. So it got me to thinking, do you tinker based on the scores you got? If so, how do you figure out what you are going to go after, and try to improve first.

Obviously I don't want to over think it, but I also know that based on one of my teammate's availability due to school commitments, we aren't going to be able to do any other comps this year, so we are going to focus on our equipment needs, and tightening up some of our lower scores... Your thoughts would be greatly appreciated!!

05-28-2013, 10:22 AM
I asked basically the same question after my first KCBS contest, but in regards to taste (http://www.bbq-brethren.com/forum/showthread.php?t=160942). The general consensus seemed to be, don't mess with too much after only one contest (unless your scores were very bad) because one contest won't give you a baseline.

Fatback Joe
05-28-2013, 10:28 AM
The general consensus seemed to be, don't mess with too much after only one contest (unless your scores were very bad) because one contest won't give you a baseline.

One comp isn't enough info. As already posted though, if they were real bad, you want to take action.

How did the judging compare with what you thought? Since you mentioned brisket, did you think the tenderness was off? If you think so too, then get working on it.

05-28-2013, 10:40 AM
my brisket scores were: 765/887/777/877/766/988
These a probably reasonable scores for a first time comp I am thinking...

I thought we would score a little better, but definitely didn't expect a 5 in tenderness. I was thinking we would be closer to 7's, but that based off of gut feel, and nothing else. It was definitely a situation where I had wished that I could have found out why it got a 5. I know in some cases there are comment cards, and as a newbie, that would have been helpful. However, that being said, I had three goals for my first KCBS comp. (1) have fun, which we did, and (2) Make all turnins, which we did, and (3) don't come in DAL, which we didn't.. So we achieved our goals, and even got a call in pork.

Oh, and the one thing I forgot to mention, was that I was wondering if my "rest" time was probably too long. We are only cooking currently with one WSM, so I had the long cook meats off by 7am. The brisket was done around 6, so it sat until 1 in the cooler wrapped with some of the juices in there. I am wondering if that may have impacted some of my tenderness scores as well

05-28-2013, 11:19 AM
Unless your brisket was falling apart, I would doubt the rest time hurt you. My guess is you missed the other way. If the judges can pick up your slice without it falling apart, it's probably not over done. They expect to be able to pick up the slice and pull it apart with little to no effort. Any bit of elasticity could have hurt you. Looks like 6s and 7s on taste as well, so you have that to work on it seems. Brisket should taste.. Beefy, but not like a roast.. life a good piece of steak..but more of it if that makes sense.
On the upside.. sounds like you have some time for some brisket practice.. and that's never a bad thing.
Congrats on your pork call and not DQing on any category.

Lake Dogs
05-28-2013, 11:59 AM
They have you pretty much covered above, but in addition to this you asked:

> If so, how do you figure out what you are going to go after, and try to improve first.

I've seen many fail at this because they tinkered this way or that way and never compared them. When refining/tinkering with my recipes (or for tenderness, etc.) I always test side-by-side with my previous recipe. Also, with very few exceptions, I've had a small (or large) party help me judge one recipe vs. another. Hearing which one is better (other peoples opinions) is VERY enlightening and helpful. Remember, judges are people too.

Oh, when doing this (above), please make sure that they've had very little or no alcoholic beverages before judging. What you're doing is simulating judging and you want it to be as close to the real thing as possible. Otherwise, more often than not you'll end up with a rather salty recipe (drunks like salt)...

Jason TQ
05-28-2013, 11:59 AM
Along with working on tenderness for brisket I would go check out bbqcritic.com and look at a lot of those boxes if you haven't been there yet. Something else you can practice on in the off time is appearance. With three 7's it looks like some room to tighten up that part of the scores. I know appearance was something I could definitely work on while trying to figure out taste and tenderness :-D.

We had the same 3 goals you did, except we actually did finish dead ass last. It was magical pretty magical :becky:. So great job.

05-28-2013, 12:25 PM
Thanks for the input everyone... That helps for sure!!

05-28-2013, 12:29 PM
Have you judged before? And do you understand what they mean by tenderness, KCBS style? If not, you might want to look into taking a CBJ class, and doing some judging before you tweak, it will give you a better baseline.

05-28-2013, 12:39 PM
I have not judged, but was considering taking a class. Admittedly, their definition and mine might be a little different. I am going off of what I was taught in the classes I have taken the past few years... I may need to re-think that.. but I was considering taking a judging class for that reason too...

Fatback Joe
05-28-2013, 12:42 PM
Take the class then judge a couple of times as well. That shed more light on things for me than the class did. Make sure to talk to your fellow judges about what they liked, looked for etc. I know that part helped me out quite a bit.

Southern Home Boy
05-28-2013, 01:19 PM
I agree: CBJ class and judging experience will help define things for you quite a bit.

I work both sides of the table as often as I can (judge/cook). I can usually tell within a couple of points how any particular turn in of mine will score.

For brisket tenderness, I rely on two things: Pull test and mouth feel. When I pick up a brisket slice, I pull it apart. As was stated, I should be able to pick it up and wiggle it a little without it falling apart. When I pull on it, there should be some slight elasticity, but pull apart easily and cleanly in a "jigsaw puzzle" pattern. When I bite into it, is it juicy or dry? A dry brisket will get a 6 or 7 from me every time, whereas a juicy brisket will trump a slightly over or undercooked pull-test. Lastly, how much "tooth" do I need to chew the bite? I don't want it so mushy that I don't need teeth, but I also don't want bubble gum consistency.

Now, for those who turn in pulled brisket, I have slightly different criteria. I obviously can't use a pull test, so mouth feel becomes much more important. Is it "dry", "juicy" or "greasy"? There's a difference. "Juicy" is rendered collagens, whereas "greasy" is unrendered fat. Is it mushy or chewy? Again this goes back to "toothiness".

Lastly, Burnt ends: If someone turns in burnt ends with their slices they should be "melt in your mouth" tender. There should be very little toothiness in a burnt end.

Please understand these are MY personal criteria for how I judge tenderness and are not necessarily the consensus of EVERY judge. Though, that said, most judges I know and judge with have similar if not the same criteria for that part of the score.

05-28-2013, 02:29 PM
Southern, thanks!! That helps... honestly, I can't remember exactly, but I have it narrowed down to one of two things... (1) the slices were just barely undercooked.. while it was probe tender, maybe not tender enough.. I will be playing with that over the summer (2) My burnt ends were crap... This is where I am fairly sure my downfall was. I debated turning them in, as some were dry, and others weren't. on two separate occasions this weekend, I went against my gut feeling, and that may have cost me a point or two. Don't get me wrong, I am really happy with how I did, and I seriously had no illusions of getting calls in any category, let alone brisket. I achieved my goals, and want to keep getting better, like anything else right? I want to get to a point where I am as relaxed as I saw some of the other cooks who got calls, when they were cooking.
I am DEFINITELY taking a judging class. That seems to be a general theme here, and that is the next thing on my list. :D Thanks so much for your advice, it was really helpful

Lake Dogs
05-28-2013, 02:34 PM
+1 the judging class, but seriously, class is great, but you'll learn more about what works and what doesnt (and WHY) by actually judging a few competitions. The old "a picture is worth a thousand words" thing...

05-28-2013, 03:12 PM
If you turned in burnt ends that were tough, that would explain your tenderness score right there.. if they aren't going to improve your score leave them out. That goes for all categories. Never put in an optional component that is substandard. I've scored much higher with slices only than with tough burnt ends.

Southern Home Boy
05-29-2013, 12:45 PM
If you turned in burnt ends that were tough, that would explain your tenderness score right there.. if they aren't going to improve your score leave them out. That goes for all categories. Never put in an optional component that is substandard. I've scored much higher with slices only than with tough burnt ends.
^^^ Yeah.... that!^^^

05-29-2013, 01:03 PM
I honestly don't know... The setup is all a blur lol. I know that some of the pieces in the pan that didn't make the box were a little dry, but I didn't think all of them were. However, I am going to use the Occam's razor theory here, and go with the simplest explaination, which would be that the could have been on the dry side. I say that because I debated turning them in, and if there was even a question in my mind, I should have nixed the burnt ends from going into the box. Lesson learned for sure.. :D

05-29-2013, 02:56 PM
When did you Tate the meat? You need to try it at 1:40 or thereabouts. When you do the box prep a couple extra slices and let them sit. Same with burnt ends. Cooling will often tighten up slices and can dry out both slices and burnt ends.

As far as taste scores if you can eat a full slice without complaining about too much salt that's a problem. Judges usually do 1 bite, especially for brisket. They are getting full.

05-30-2013, 05:55 AM
Good points Ford... Remember each box you turn in is (to steal a phrase) a one bite challenge. You aren't looking for good eating bbq.. but a party in their mouth.
For every category, I'd shoot for (ever so) slightly over done at boxing time because they will tighten up as they cool.
For me, at least, with brisket I want my burnt ends to be soft and gooey.. not firm at all and I want the slices to just be holding together when they go in the box.

05-30-2013, 07:19 AM
That 5 is an anomoly. 1x6 3x7 1x8 you have a 4 point spread over all the bulk fell at 7 over all 6.83 is the more less average which rounds to a 7 which the rest of the table agrees with. That 5 looks out of line.

05-30-2013, 06:18 PM
great points Ford.. thanks!!

Teltum, hadn't really thought about that honestly. When I saw the low number, my mind immediately went to " I obviously have something to fix" mode. Good stuff!! Thanks