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View Full Version : What's more important - The prep before or after the meat comes off of the smoker?


Stark-O-Rama
07-22-2013, 09:35 PM
I'm starting to wonder if I've got things backwards for Competition Q. I've been more focused on everything I do to prep the meat before I smoke it i.e. Injecting, Rubbing, Wrapping, etc. I'm starting to wonder if everyone that's consistently walking is even more focused on how they treat the meat AFTER it's been smoked. Now I know IT'S ALL IMPORTANT....however, I'm going to assume that most of us make great BBQ. Which leads me to wonder if there's some magic going on once you've smoked perfectly - and the thing that separates the winners from the losers is some major doctoring after the meat comes off of the smoker.....hmmmm...:crazy:

CBQ
07-22-2013, 09:40 PM
After.

Our prep is always the same. If we screw something up, it happens after 10AM on turn in day.

Doctoring, yes, but cooking for the right doneness, timing wrapping, glazing properly, keeping to a schedule, putting the best pieces in the box - all that stuff can go wrong in the last 2 hours. Very little goes wrong in prep that you can't correct.

ITBFQ
07-22-2013, 09:51 PM
My advice, and I don't know you at all, no booze until after turn in. If you drink, cool, keep them cold until after the final turn in and then celebrate like crazy. Focus on your timeline and don't vary from what has brought you previous success. Trust me, I love to booze it up, but, as Myron says, you can't win the party Friday night, and then win the competition.

Stark-O-Rama
07-22-2013, 10:00 PM
My advice, and I don't know you at all, no booze until after turn in. If you drink, cool, keep them cold until after the final turn in and then celebrate like crazy. Focus on your timeline and don't vary from what has brought you previous success. Trust me, I love to booze it up, but, as Myron says, you can't win the party Friday night, and then win the competition.

Yah, the booze definitely isn't our problem. We've just been finishing in the middle of the pack, and we're all pretty frustrated. We see the same teams win over & over again - Congrats to them, they're awesome. However there has to be something that they are doing after the cook that really sets it apart. We have consistently had what we, and some of our Comp neighbors thought was walkable product, but often have been really disappointed with where we finish. We have walked for pork, but that same exact pork came in the middle of the pack at the next comp.

Should we be injecting the meat after we pull it off of the smoker? Butter, aus jus, and rub? I'm sure most who walk consistently aren't going to give away their secrets, but man, this is a wonderful and frustrating "sport"!:clap2::mad2:

Q-Dat
07-22-2013, 10:27 PM
I have come to a point where I believe that there are certain popular rules of thumb that are not necessarily 100% true. I think that many top teams know the full truth regarding what the averge judge likes. Obviously its not an exact science, or a few teams would win every time.

I'll give an example. The general KCBS BBQ public has been taught that the bite mark on a perfectly cooked rib will be perfectly shaped. The truth is that a perfect bite mark can just as easily be found on an undercooked rib. IMHO a bite mark that is slightly ragged around the edge and leaves the bone clean in that one spot is a more accurate description. Despite the negative stigma associated with the term, I think the ideal texture is closer to "fallin off the bone" than many would admit.

That's just one example, but I'm sure that there are quite a few others that folks keep to themselves.

gettinbasted
07-22-2013, 10:31 PM
After. Competitions are won and lost over what meat makes it in the box.

Alexa RnQ
07-22-2013, 10:55 PM
I'm going to go with the spectacularly unhelpful answer of "both".

Good meat presented badly will still do well, but it won't reach its full potential score. Conversely, the meat has to be perfectly cooked, or all the tapdancing in the world between the cooker and the box won't save it.

Scottie
07-22-2013, 11:34 PM
If you slip up or cut corners on either of the 2, you lose. You need to nail both to win... or have a jar of pixie dust like I have...

Stark-O-Rama
07-23-2013, 12:21 AM
If you slip up or cut corners on either of the 2, you lose. You need to nail both to win... or have a jar of pixie dust like I have...

I'll pay $100 for 4 oz. :grin:

big matt
07-23-2013, 12:54 AM
I'd say it's both..you've got to know how to prep correctly but also know how to finish correctly as well...perfectly cooked meat and a balanced flavor profile are what wins IMO.

ViciousGame
07-23-2013, 01:15 AM
I read somewhere (can't remember where) that if your "meat is too anything, then you're f$%ked!" I laughed when I read that, but I know what they mean. Your flavor profile has to be well balanced with complimenting flavors. We're working on it ourselves and it's been hit & miss.

sdbbq1234
07-23-2013, 06:16 AM
I would say after. Especially as far as the taste goes. If you are putting glazes, sauces, and stuff on before going into the box, those things are what is going to be first tasted by the judge; whatever hits the tongue first is what makes the "first impression". The fact that final sauce or glaze is applied last will say what is tasted first.

wallace

Lake Dogs
07-23-2013, 06:26 AM
What separates the top 3 to 5 in every contest from the middle-of-the-pack folks is tenderness.

BogsBBQ
07-23-2013, 07:35 AM
I would say both as well. Agree with Scottie...nail them both and you will do great.

One thing you didn't mention which I think is equally important is meat selection. It all starts there.

bruno994
07-23-2013, 07:46 AM
Could it also be, "during" the cook, not just before and after? Pit temps, when to wrap, moisture, etc...I think we all have similiar methods of trimming, injecting, seasoning and such, but the differences to me come from during and after the cook.

J&B'sBBQ
07-23-2013, 08:18 AM
What separates the top 3 to 5 in every contest from the middle-of-the-pack folks is tenderness.

Not that I have a lot of experience, but the little that I do agrees with the tenderness point. We've been nailing it on ribs and pork and consistently doing well. One week we had the tenderness right in chicken, but not a great flavor, then the next competition we had the tenderness wrong but great flavor and our scores went down. We've been working hard on being consistent with tenderness first, then getting that flavor balance right.

BMerrill
07-23-2013, 08:35 AM
If you are not a CBJ you should be.
Judge a few contest so you will know what judges are looking for, until then you are just throwing away money, time, and effort unless you are lucky.
Don't just cook until you get the product right, cook until you can't get it wrong.
What works in the Backyard will seldom work in the arena.
Most winning teams are cooking 20+ contest a year and have been doing it for 3-5+ year. It's like any sport, few can be successfully without putting in a lot of time, practice, and effort. Professional BBQ is no different.
Be prepared. This starts weeks ahead of the contest. Use a equipment checklist. There are several available on the internet. Taylor the list to you needs. Make your injections and trim chicken the week (Tuesday/Wednesday) of the contest at home. Some also trim all of the meats at home. You can not season, marinate, brine, or inject, any meat, only trim.
Make a time table schedule and print out your recipes; refer to them at the site and follow as best possible.
Get a large atomic clock and place it where it can be seen from the cutting board.
Simple mistakes will happen and can cost you a point or two, like not heating the glaze, on forgetting to add that final dusting of rub will happen. Most can be eliminated if you are following the schedule/recipe.
Last minute changes seldom improves the product.
Don't leave your best meat on the cutting board.
Always taste your product you're tuning in.
Overs beat unders, but perfect wins everytime.
Most point costing errors happen in the last 10 minutes before turn-in because amble time was not allowed to propertly box the product.
Even when you put your best product in the box, the final outcome is in the hands of the judges. At every contest there will be what are called "Hot" and "Cold" Tables. On the new score sheets this can be figured out. But what is most important on the sheets are your scores and your placement on the table. If you are winning the table, you are doing well.

BB-Kuhn
07-23-2013, 09:00 AM
After.

Our prep is always the same. If we screw something up, it happens after 10AM on turn in day.

Doctoring, yes, but cooking for the right doneness, timing wrapping, glazing properly, keeping to a schedule, putting the best pieces in the box - all that stuff can go wrong in the last 2 hours. Very little goes wrong in prep that you can't correct.

This - you can memorize and calculate prep to the point it's foolproof and you do it perfectly every time. It's the aftercare during and after the cook that matters.

Myself? I don't have any "tricks" other than vigilance. My best results have come from obsessive fire control, precise timing by paying attention to what the meat tells me when I check on it and reacting to changes that I can't control.

PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE - the more mistakes and unplanned obstacles you overcome over time, the less you'll screw up when it matters.

Lake Dogs
07-23-2013, 12:05 PM
Not that I have a lot of experience, but the little that I do agrees with the tenderness point. We've been nailing it on ribs and pork and consistently doing well. One week we had the tenderness right in chicken, but not a great flavor, then the next competition we had the tenderness wrong but great flavor and our scores went down. We've been working hard on being consistent with tenderness first, then getting that flavor balance right.


I've judged a few KCBS contests a long time ago, and more than a few MIM, MBN, GBA, and non-sanctioned contests over time. The ONE thing that has been consistent across all tables, all contests (regardless of sanctioning bodies), is that the best overall scorer at the table nailed tenderness the best. Every once in a while (on good days) you'll have 2 or 3 entries at your table that does this (nails tenderness perfectly), and that's when taste and preferences really come in to play. MBN, MIM, and GBA are all comparative judging, and while those days are great to be a judge, it's rare that all 5 judges agree which is/was the best flavor...

To Stark's original question, I know this doesn't answer it as you'd asked the question, but I hope it helps you move from the middle of the pack to that top 10 or 20 percent. Also know that what's perfectly tender going into the box may not (and probably isn't) perfectly tender 10 minutes or so later when the judges open the box and take a minute or two to judge presentation. Normally BBQ cools, and as it does, it tends to firm up a little... This helps if your BBQ is slightly over-cooked, but does you no favors if it's perfect going in the box...

BrotherInArms
07-23-2013, 09:03 PM
Could it also be, "during" the cook, not just before and after? Pit temps, when to wrap, moisture, etc...I think we all have similiar methods of trimming, injecting, seasoning and such, but the differences to me come from during and after the cook.


I agree. It could be during the cook. Are you LOOKIN or COOKIN? I had a hard time with this for a while. I just wanted to see what it was doing. The fact is that my pit temp was all farked up because I was lookin. Now that I started cookin I've noticed that even though I haven't walked yet that I am well on my way and moving up the ladder in just over a years time

QTEX
07-23-2013, 10:00 PM
This - you can memorize and calculate prep to the point it's foolproof and you do it perfectly every time. It's the aftercare during and after the cook that matters.

Myself? I don't have any "tricks" other than vigilance. My best results have come from obsessive fire control, precise timing by paying attention to what the meat tells me when I check on it and reacting to changes that I can't control.

PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE - the more mistakes and unplanned obstacles you overcome over time, the less you'll screw up when it matters.

That pretty much sums it it very well.

OR,

THEY ARE FLAT OUR CHEATING, THEY PAID OFF THE HEAD JUDGE, ITS WHO YA KNOW YOU KNOW, THERES NO WAY ANYONE CAN BE THAT CONSISTENT, ITS RIGGED!.
LMAO thats the kinda bull I hear all the time down here in Texas, there are a couple of us that have been pretty consistent and thats the baloney we put up with week in and week out. Do any of you guys hear that kinda bull up north?, Have been wanting to ask for a while.
PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE, Trial and error and lots of practice. Everyone is looking for that magic something but there really is none, like all success in life its just hard work and a little intuition and paying your dues by actually putting out in front of the judges over and over again till you figure some things out that a wide range of pallettes like.
Good luck

Mad About Que
07-23-2013, 10:31 PM
when the precook prep is going on, be thinking about the finished product. I know a lot of folks that box out the butts to get it more uniform. folks pre trim a brisket so that you don't have cut edges in the box, chicken (good cluckling luck...), ribs - cut down the end 2 bones, not gonna use them, so why cook them.. also keeping in mind your end product.

dont' worry so much about sauces/injections/whatevers. you can buy that stuff and then learn to doctor it or do your own. consistency is the biggest prep item you can work on.

BrotherInArms
07-23-2013, 10:40 PM
Ok this maybe a pretty dumb question. But I'm still a newb and will ask it anyways so please forgive me. I've cooked some boston butts and shoulders. My question is where exactly is the "money muscle" that folks are talking about? Please help.

MarleyMan
07-23-2013, 10:58 PM
. My question is where exactly is the "money muscle" that folks are talking about? Please help.

In general it is on the opposite side of the bone.

A little google and here you go!

http://barbecuetricks.com/the-money-muscle-secret/

:thumb:

BrotherInArms
07-23-2013, 11:05 PM
Bark Bros. Much thanks.

Eggspert
07-24-2013, 08:10 AM
I think that getting quality meat for competitions is critical to get in the top ten. Garbage in= garbage out. You might get lucky and do well with low quality meat, but with all the money that you put into a competition, why would you want to get lucky? Stack the deck in your favor and start with an excellent quality product. I also think chicken calls are due to superior prep. If your chicken is not looking perfect then it's not going to get a call.

That being said, putting the meat in the box is where you could end up placing 10-15 or 1-10. Slicing skills, saucing, finishing glaze, tasting the meat and adjusting seasonings. This is critical. I think that 10-15 minutes while your boxing up the meat is when things have the potential to go wrong.

Pretty much everything needs to be perfect anymore. Even perfect meat doesn't get in the top 5 every time. Unfortunately, there is a little "luck" in this sport that needs to be on your side.

Eggspert

Lake Dogs
07-24-2013, 08:22 AM
> THEY ARE FLAT OUR CHEATING, THEY PAID OFF THE HEAD JUDGE, ITS WHO YA KNOW > YOU KNOW, THERES NO WAY ANYONE CAN BE THAT CONSISTENT, ITS RIGGED!.

Boy, if I had a nickle for every time.... Anyway, this come from people who are largely noobs and dont know their *** from a hole in the ground. Years ago I'd address it, but now I just dont suffer fools well, so I pretty much ignore them, perhaps drop them a small tid-bit like "I suggest you become a CBJ and judge a few" while walking away...

CBQ
07-24-2013, 08:26 AM
THEY ARE FLAT OUR CHEATING...LMAO thats the kinda bull I hear all the time down here in Texas, there are a couple of us that have been pretty consistent and thats the baloney we put up with week in and week out. Do any of you guys hear that kinda bull up north?, Have been wanting to ask for a while.

Not really. There is more grousing about the judges than the top teams. Since judges up here are not using the 'three point system' ("We have fours and we aren't afraid to use them!") people are more upset about getting scores like "999 989 978 655 464 999" than they are worrying about who won.

polishdon
07-24-2013, 08:29 AM
This is a great topic, and something I've been wondering about when you see the same teams win at every competition. Is it really the tenderness of the meat or does it come down to taste more than anything?

When I see the same teams win time and time again it makes me wonder, do they really have a perfect cook every time, or are the able to compensate for an off day with some incredible finishing sauce\glaze\rub???

Lake Dogs
07-24-2013, 08:55 AM
Not really. There is more grousing about the judges than the top teams. Since judges up here are not using the 'three point system' ("We have fours and we aren't afraid to use them!") people are more upset about getting scores like "999 989 978 655 464 999" than they are worrying about who won.

Now this (above) would and should drive anyone nuts. Question the data entry (score keeping), and what about table monitoring? To me, variance like this should be explained.

That said, particularly with chicken and to some degree with ribs, someone can get a bad piece that others didnt get. We had a time where I had two wonderful and beautiful rib racks that we used in the box, only to find out later that one of them was skunky. Seriously bad. I'm glad nobody got sick. 3 ribs perfect, and 3 that were AWEFUL. Scores showed it too...

Also, watch carefully if you're using a Money Muscle display in your pork box if you dont "feather" the display. It can look like a dog turd real fast. I dont know about you, but honestly to me, when I gaze upon a dog turd I dont think "Hey, I'd like to eat that"... Could be me... :blabla:

G$
07-24-2013, 09:00 AM
I have come to a point where I believe that there are certain popular rules of thumb that are not necessarily 100% true. I think that many top teams know the full truth regarding what the averge judge likes. Obviously its not an exact science, or a few teams would win every time.

I'll give an example. The general KCBS BBQ public has been taught that the bite mark on a perfectly cooked rib will be perfectly shaped. The truth is that a perfect bite mark can just as easily be found on an undercooked rib. IMHO a bite mark that is slightly ragged around the edge and leaves the bone clean in that one spot is a more accurate description. Despite the negative stigma associated with the term, I think the ideal texture is closer to "fallin off the bone" than many would admit.

That's just one example, but I'm sure that there are quite a few others that folks keep to themselves.

I think this post is spot on.

Muzzlebrake
07-24-2013, 09:39 AM
Now this (above) would and should drive anyone nuts. Question the data entry (score keeping), and what about table monitoring? To me, variance like this should be explained.

While I won't go as far as saying this is normal here in the northeast, it is certainly not uncommon.

Anyone that wants to see more of the scoring scale being used, come on up this way. I promise the teams aren't as harsh as the judges!

Meat Man
07-24-2013, 09:57 AM
A lot of great information here. I would agree that teams that do well on a regular basis because they miss nothing. The devil is in the details, and top teams leave very little to chance.

Untraceable
07-24-2013, 10:33 AM
To the teams using Waygu/ specialty prime meats, are you doing your practice and test cooks on the same meats your using in competition as well? If guy wants to venture into using waygu in contests, do you have to be cooking it at home week in week out to get the feel of it? or do you just sub in the good stuff come contest time?

Muzzlebrake
07-24-2013, 12:04 PM
To the teams using Waygu/ specialty prime meats, are you doing your practice and test cooks on the same meats your using in competition as well? If guy wants to venture into using waygu in contests, do you have to be cooking it at home week in week out to get the feel of it? or do you just sub in the good stuff come contest time?

Practice like you play