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Rusty Kettle
08-23-2013, 12:42 AM
I am going to be competing probably this coming year. I have never done any competition before and well I am not sure where to start. What do you do to plan for a competition? Whats a good basic checklist of what I need to bring? Anything you think would be helpful would be greatly appreciated. I have no idea what I am doing other than cooking. What should I expect it be like. Any tips? Thanks

Icekub
08-23-2013, 12:53 AM
Start here: http://www.bbq-brethren.com/forum/showthread.php?t=13677

Rusty Kettle
08-23-2013, 02:29 AM
Start here: http://www.bbq-brethren.com/forum/showthread.php?t=13677
Thank-You I have read everything that was linked and I am sure I will sit down and read it all over a few times.

Lake Dogs
08-23-2013, 06:46 AM
Do it for the enjoyment of the competition. Have fun. Know that it is a hobby, even for the "Pro" folks, because very few (you can probably count these folks on a couple of fingers) make enough to actually pay the light bills and the mortgage payment consistently. The "Pro" folks are just more involved hobbyists...

Know there is no 1 type of BBQ contest. There are sanctioned contests and unsanctioned contests. Of the sanctioned contests, there are many sanctioning bodies that have different standards, different meats to cook, different definitions of the perfect BBQ, different judging criteria, different judges training, etc. etc. And the unsanctioned contests; anything goes for the most part. Just know that what works at say your local rib contest may or may not work in a KCBS sanctioned contest, and that may or may not work in a NEBS or GBA or FBA or MBN, etc. contest.

That's a long version of: READ THE RULES. ASK the organizer.

Then, practice, practice, practice. They all have a certain turn-in window. Practice cooking to that turn-in time. Right down everything you touch; that'll be your packing list. Plan on have water and power supplied at the contest, but also plan on the power going out for sometimes extended time periods and same with water... Me, I have a few lights to be plugged in for the night; otherwise we're completely power independent because it has always failed us... Water; largely the same. I truck in more than a few gallons, just in case...

If you can, attend a contest or two this fall, and dont just surf around. Bring a chair and sit back and WATCH some folks. If you can, apply to judge a contest. Seeing what comes across the table to be judged is very enlightening to many. Also look for example boxes (good and bad) on bbqcritic.com.

Know that it is a contest. You'll have a few teams that are there to party. The remainder of them, while they may be having fun, have brought their A game. It's on. They're there to win. Dont think that they slap a little KC Masterpiece on a grilled rib and put that through. These guys are serious and can produce some ****ed fine BBQ.

I remember coming back from my first judging experience saying "I've never in my 40 years ever, EVER had BBQ as wonderful as most of those entries". Think of the best BBQ restaurant you've ever eaten. For me, the very best I'd eaten was perhaps middle to bottom 1/3rd in that first contest I judged. And the best; well, that BBQ was as good if not better than mind shattering sex.

The reason I'm saying this is because of one of the teams I saw that first day judging. It was a group of young men, in their middle to latter 20's, they had an RV that they brought along. They were competing in an MIM contest where they'd cooked 2 whole shoulders and 3 racks of ribs. Total. That's the first major OOOOOOPS. Then, they got to drinking fairly heavily on Friday night. One guy stayed up, but apparently he fell asleep around 4. Someone finally woke up around 9... I was the first on-site judge to come see them at 10. It was a train wreck. They finally did begin to do a presentation and get me some Q, which wasn't done yet... It was mid presentation that of them asked me "How many judges do on-sites", to which I explained "I'm the first of three". That was when the "OH SH**" factor set in; a little late to realize that they needed to cook an absolute minimum of 4 shoulders and 5 ribs, and that's MINIMUM assuming they dont make finals. It was sad to see the sheer panic. I felt bad for them. They've never been back. For that I've felt worse. They didn't plan. They didn't ask.

Hopefully by you asking here that you wont do what they did, or frankly you will do what they didn't, and that's prepare. However, at some point, just do it. Jump in. You'll learn a TON from that first contest.

It can be a lot of fun.

Ron_L
08-23-2013, 07:04 AM
One of our members, George Hensler, wrote a very good book on getting started in BBQ competitions.

http://amzn.com/1890689149

mobow
08-23-2013, 07:36 AM
The most important thing to know is the team with the most points wins. I think the other post have covered the rest. Keith

MikeR
08-23-2013, 07:47 AM
Have you been to any comps in the past just to get an idea of what it's like? If you have not I would suggest you do. I'm sure you could find some brethren to guide you before you jump in.

bruno994
08-23-2013, 08:39 AM
Things to expect in you first competition...you're going to have fun, you're going to meet some great people, you're going to be exhausted when it's all over. The single most important thing is to know your cook times on each of your meats. Get the larger cuts finished early and resting, finish your ribs and chicken on time for turn ins. But most of all...have fun, you get a call or 2, you will be hooked!

Icekub
08-23-2013, 10:12 AM
Set realistic expectations for your first comp. Examples would be: Don't finish dead ass last DAL, don't miss any turn in times and get DQ'd, stuff like that.

Lake Dogs
08-23-2013, 10:34 AM
Have you been to any comps in the past just to get an idea of what it's like? If you have not I would suggest you do. I'm sure you could find some brethren to guide you before you jump in.

I've judged and competed quite a bit over the years. What I've always found that frightened me is that 50% of the new teams never so much as ever attended a BBQ comp before; they had no idea whatsoever of what to expect.

Again, in the last competition that I competed in, it was an MBN competition. I came in early on Friday and set up; was in by noon sipping a beer. Next to me pulls up a new team. The guys got all set up, I came over offering beer, etc. and we talked. They had 1, and I mean 1 tiny little smoker and had 4 racks of ribs; for MBN? I asked if they understood the judging process, which of course the answer was No, and that they assumed blah blah blah. Fast forward about an hour, they scrambled, ran and purchased 8 more racks of ribs, and 2 more smokers, spent the night assembling them... Needless to say, they did finish, DAL. I even handed them (to borrow) 4 oven thermometers; never returned. Neither have they, by the way...

triplezip
08-23-2013, 11:23 AM
Hey Rusty - We just did out first KCBS comp a few weeks ago, after about five years of backyard cooking. A few highlights for me are (1) as others have mentioned, go in with the goal of having fun first and foremost, (2) take your practice seriously - we took regular notes and did a full four-category dry run in our driveway the week before the comp, with turn in times, boxes and everything (very helpful), (3) get some sleep, even if it's just a couple hours... We were exhausted at the end, but left smiling, and with a bunch of new friends.

CBQ
08-23-2013, 12:28 PM
Hey Rusty - We just did out first KCBS comp a few weeks ago, after about five years of backyard cooking.

Doing a Sam's Club comp as your first event was aiming high, for sure. Finishing 12th was pretty amazing too. Even though you didn't advance, you beat some very good teams. It shows the value of doing the full practice.

K-Train
08-23-2013, 01:07 PM
One of our members, George Hensler, wrote a very good book on getting started in BBQ competitions.

http://amzn.com/1890689149

That's a good place to start

rookiedad
08-23-2013, 08:34 PM
pre-prep everything you can and go as small as possible. it's easy to get overwhelmed if you got alot of strings to chase. get a partner, split the jobs, keep it tight and practice before hand. craigslist is your friend for odds and ends. get alot of gatorade, blankets and bug spray. use competition ready sauces and rubs. have fun!

Rusty Kettle
08-24-2013, 12:10 AM
Now that you mention it... I never have attended a competition. That probably would be a good idea. I plan to buy the book suggested. I hate KC Masterpiece by the way just saying that stuff is nasty. I make my own rub and sauce. I only use one rub and sauce I like them on everything. I love cherry wood for smoking. Not to get off topic. Also what about grills/smokers? What to use? I really love my kettle grills for smoking. I am totally in love with my weber kettles. Is it realistic to expect to compete using them or should I start saving for a better setup? Maybe I should look for a Backyard contest first and then move to pro division towards end of next year or the following season all together. I don't want to finish DAL as you put it. I want to compete and work at it to get to high level. I live just North of Pittsburgh are there any competitions you can recommend attending as a spectator this year? I love kettles but if I can't realistically compete with them what would you recommend for someone just getting started?

Icekub
08-24-2013, 08:35 AM
I'll let some of the more experienced guys chime in, but temp control is hard w/ them and will be important for timing the meats in a comp. If you decided to upgrade, Cheapest route would be to build a few Ugly Drum smokers out of 55 gallon barrels. I'll also point out a change in your line of thinking that will eventually be necessary. You mentioned "sauce and rub that YOU love" In comps, you are not cooking for yourself, you are cooking for judges. You need to cook middle of the road BBQ that almost no one will be turned off by. Usually takes teams a bit to figure that out in the beginning. Use KCBS.com to try and find a few comps in your area.

Lake Dogs
08-24-2013, 09:44 AM
Now that you mention it... I never have attended a competition. That probably would be a good idea. I plan to buy the book suggested. I hate KC Masterpiece by the way just saying that stuff is nasty. I make my own rub and sauce. I only use one rub and sauce I like them on everything. I love cherry wood for smoking. Not to get off topic. Also what about grills/smokers? What to use? I really love my kettle grills for smoking. I am totally in love with my weber kettles. Is it realistic to expect to compete using them or should I start saving for a better setup? Maybe I should look for a Backyard contest first and then move to pro division towards end of next year or the following season all together. I don't want to finish DAL as you put it. I want to compete and work at it to get to high level. I live just North of Pittsburgh are there any competitions you can recommend attending as a spectator this year? I love kettles but if I can't realistically compete with them what would you recommend for someone just getting started?

Definitely, go watch, and if you can, go judge. If you find an unsanctioned competition, ask the organizer (a well placed timely email often works) if you can.

I was joking about the KC Masterpiece, but meaning to provide an example. I'd say probably 30% of new teams are formed a few weeks earlier at a backyard cookout where the folks get together, start drinking early, the cook goes slower than they expect, they continue drinking, finally they get to eat about the time they'd eat the siding off the house (they were that hungry), and one drunk looks at the other and states "damn, this is good, we should compete"... And, with no other preparation, they do.

I competed early in a few smaller (some sanctioned, some not) competitions and did fairly well with one RGC using only 1 small brinkmann smoker and 2 Weber 22's (kettles). You can do it, but it's just not going to be as easy on you as it may be for a few others. That said, your practices will tell you how effective you'll be. Remember, cook to pre-defined turn-ins. Dont miss those (your practice turn-in). Cook ALL the meats you would at your competition. That will tell you TONS of things; things we wouldn't even think of here, because what I assume you'll forget, and visa versa.

Dont get over-enamoured with big equipment. Many, and I mean MANY fabulous competitors compete in KCBS and other smaller sanctioned competitions (small, by volume of meat I mean) with nothing more than 2 or 3 Weber Smokey Mountain smokers...

sdbbq1234
08-24-2013, 10:55 AM
Use KCBS.com to try and find a few comps in your area.

Try KCBS.us. I took me forever to remember that is was not .com.

wallace

CBQ
08-24-2013, 04:02 PM
+1 what Lakedog said. If you like the Weber Kettle, you will love the Weber Smoky Mountain. It gives you a lot more capacity than the Kettle, easier heat control, and doesn't cost much more than a Kettle.

You should go to a contest. I would also suggest becoming a judging and judging a contest. Hardest thing to get used to is cooking for a broad audience. It's not what you like, or what your friends like, but what the broadest group of judges will like. I like the bite of a Carolina style vinegar/red pepper sauce on pork, but it's a no-go in a contest.

If you have a chance to try championship bbq, you might be surprisedn that is doesn't blow you away, but is exceptional for it's balance. Being neutral (a little spice, a little smoke, a little sweet) rather than being overly bold works better.

KCBS.US is the best place to start. Also NEBS.ORG will have some PA contests on it, but more in the eastern part of PA.

rookiedad
08-24-2013, 10:28 PM
If you have a chance to try championship bbq, you might be surprisedn that is doesn't blow you away, but is exceptional for it's balance. Being neutral (a little spice, a little smoke, a little sweet) rather than being overly bold works better.


:clap:

K-Train
08-25-2013, 06:29 AM
Biggest thing to know..........you will be addicted.

CBQ
08-25-2013, 11:16 AM
Biggest thing to know..........you will be addicted.

Ya, I started with a WSM. I now have 9 cookers (one on a trailer), a cargo trailer, and an RV. You have been warned.

BB-Kuhn
08-25-2013, 01:20 PM
Do it to have fun, to see where you measure up and keep it casual (at least at first).

If you start with a "must win" attitude or anything like that, I'd not bother. It'll ruin your fun and it'll be rough.

Keep it laid back, meet some great people and learn a LOT every time out.

Rusty Kettle
08-25-2013, 03:16 PM
I'll let some of the more experienced guys chime in, but temp control is hard w/ them and will be important for timing the meats in a comp. If you decided to upgrade, Cheapest route would be to build a few Ugly Drum smokers out of 55 gallon barrels. I'll also point out a change in your line of thinking that will eventually be necessary. You mentioned "sauce and rub that YOU love" In comps, you are not cooking for yourself, you are cooking for judges. You need to cook middle of the road BBQ that almost no one will be turned off by. Usually takes teams a bit to figure that out in the beginning. Use KCBS.com to try and find a few comps in your area.

I plan to build an ugly drum smoker over the winter. As long as everything goes well I should be smoking on it by spring. The thing that makes me want to stick with my sauce and rub though is even my mom liked it and she is extremely picky about food. If she likes it normally it is common for everyone to like it. I wish you could taste my sauce. Anyways is there a good sauce and rub recipe that would give me an idea of what you would say is the middle road?

CivilWarBBQ
08-25-2013, 03:29 PM
You've had some great advice here. Best I can add is this: Your only goal for your first event should be to ENJOY the new thrill of being part of the community of competitors.

Don't sweat the rest of it too much - if you are lucky, you will finish somewhere in the middle of the pack where you can pick out some of the better known teams below you and be able to say "Hey, we beat those guys in ribs!". If you are unlucky, you will mess up and finish at the bottom of the standings list and feel bad for a couple days. If you are very unlucky, you will get a call to the stage your first time out, which will guarantee you are hooked and then you'll spend thousands of dollars and countless hours trying to recreate that achievement like the rest of us.

If you decide to go through with this, welcome to the BBQ Brotherhood. The pay is terrible and the hours long, but the people are the greatest!

Lake Dogs
08-25-2013, 04:14 PM
If you are very unlucky

+1 LMAO. No truer words every spoken...

bbq.tom
08-25-2013, 06:47 PM
Besides what all Lake Dogs wrote, the biggest thing I would stress is to know ALL about what you need to turn in and what the judges are looking for to judge.

Knowledge is power. If you don't know what it takes to win, there is no need to enter.

Southern Home Boy
08-25-2013, 06:55 PM
1. It's expensive.
2. It's exhausting.
3. It's stressful.
4. It's freakin' AWESOME!!