View Full Version : Recap of My First Comp and Questions

08-26-2013, 06:13 AM
Finished our first comp this past weekend and while it was fun we were a bit disappointed in our cook and results. We competed in the backyard division at Pigs and Peaches in Kennesaw, Georgia, along with twenty nine other amateur teams. We just missed get a call for pork by .6 of a point and ended up in fourth for that category, While we cleaned up the pork box a bit more after the photo below I would have spent some more time with the box if my teammates weren't so antsy about getting it out of there!

Now for the bad part: we got hammered on the most important category taste for our chicken and ribs. Going into the comp I was super concerned about appearance because I thought we had taste nailed. Turns out I was worried bout the wrong thing. We got all 9's for our ribs (in our rush we forgot to a pic), mostly 9's on pork, and oddly on the chicken we got four 9's, a seven and a six. The judge who gave us a six was apparently cranky and scored everyone super low on the day. That judge gave us a five on taste which tanked us; the rest of the taste scores for chicken were all over the board with a 9 and 8 sprinkled in with a few 7's, a 6, and the 5.

Here's where I need some help from those in the Georgia area on my flavor profile. Any ideas of where I could go would be awesome. I marinated the chicken in Zesty Italian dressing for about ten hours (per Killer Hogs comp timeline and my practice runs), drained it off, rinsed off the chicken and rubbed it down with Plowboys Yardbird below the skin on both sides, added the skin back and hit the top. The skins were all scraped of fat and see through.

We placed them in a mini-loaf pan and placed that in a half steam pan of butter that came up half-way on the pieces. We cooked it in butter, removed it and cooked it for awhile in the loaf pans placed into a new, clean half steam pan. Then we sauced them with a warmed up 50/50 mixture of Blues Hog Original/Blues Hog TN Red. Back in the cooker to set the sauce, pulled, picked out the six best, dunked them in the sauce again, added a little Smoking Guns finishing rub, boxed them and spritzed with apple juice to melt the rub and give a shine. We thought they tasted good, but apparently we don't know what the hell we are talking about. In fairness to us the table that our chicken hit was one of the lower scoring tables on the day and all of their chicken entries except one were in the bottom half. Still, I am looking to sort out this flavor profile issue.

Same with ribs. I rubbed them with Killer Hogs rub about thirty minutes before they went onto the cooker. I mopped them with an apple cider/veg oil combo that Killer Hogs recommends and hit them with more rub at one hour into the cook. At two hours I foiled them meat side down on top of a pile of brown sugar, butter, and honey (a decent amount, but maybe I need more?). Returned to the cooker for about an hour, pulled them off for a brief rest so we could work with them again, and then sauced with the same BH 50/50 mixture and put back on the cooker for about thirty minutes. They looked beautiful, but coming off the cooker there was no pop; in fact the flavors seemed to be leached off the ribs almost completely. They were bland. We added more sauce and that helped, but there was no heat at all. Just a semi-sweet, still too bland taste. We hit them with a little cayenne and that seemed to help but they weren't salvageable.

We cook ribs at 275 for about 3.5 hours on a Backwoods Fatboy. Two hours of smoke, one hour in foil with the mixture I mentioned above and then sauced and on cooker for about another half hour. For some reason when I've used foil, even with a mixture of all of the above, it seems to leach SO much flavor out of the ribs. Any ideas for what I'm doing wrong? Any flavor profile suggestions for those of you who have competed in Georgia?

08-26-2013, 06:25 AM
Since we can't taste your ribs and chicken, it's hard to really help, but I'm not sure about using BH/TR on chicken, and maybe on ribs. That combo has been doing well on pork, but at least around here the judges still seem to prefer more sweet that vinegar on chicken and ribs. You could try BH and cut it with some juice to thin it.

08-26-2013, 06:35 AM
I will chime in with a quick reply, the chicken looks good, just with a quick glance I would be 8 or 9. It doesn't look like too much sauce and the color is good, it sits up on top of the parsley nicely, but even though it is not supposed to be judged there is a lot of green showing around the pieces, some judges may score down for that. The pork picture you said you cleaned up the box after the picture, not sure what you cleaned up but for me I would score it a 7, maybe an 8 in person. The slices have good color, but I think you would be better off to fan them out somehow to show the face of the slice, the way you have them in the box can sometimes look like a #2 plunker. And the chunks need to be tighter, and probably more meat in the box, a full box always seems to get scored better for some reason.

As far as foiling, you should try to go without foil and see if that helps with the flavor, a lot of cooks foil and a lot don't foil, find what you think works best. I don't cook ribs often, but I do foil, and I foil pork butt and brisket all the time. I don't think the flavor of mine gets washed away, so maybe you are not putting enough seasoning on? I would have liked to see the all 9's ribs, you did good there. Keep at it, first contest I think you can learn a lot.

Lake Dogs
08-26-2013, 06:39 AM
What you have there looks attractive. Me; I'd put more pork in the box and lay the MM out; feathering the display.

Otherwise, very nice presentations.

I think Ron hit a few good points. First, we cant taste it, so it's tough to guess. First and foremost, tenderness is the key winning point. Nail it, and most everything else follows.

That said, usually vinegar and mustard sauces (which can get vinegary) dont play well at all. A hint in your sauce on pork is fine, but not on the others. Sweet/savory on ribs; and on chicken I'd go more mild/savory (not nearly as sweet).

Also, on chicken, Plowboy's (which I really like) can get salty, fast. That could've played in to it...

08-26-2013, 06:50 AM
1st comp. Not DAL and you almost got a call....you have nothing to be disappointed about.

08-26-2013, 07:17 AM
i'll jump in too.

-blues hog and TR are a great mix. try 2/1 ratio.
-plowboys is good but IMHO not well rounded enough fro chicken. try cimmaron docs.
-i like your set up. clean, small, tight, looks very efficient.
-no DQ, no DAL, and close to a call. not bad at all. you should be proud. keep workin it!

08-26-2013, 07:40 AM
Tenderness scores often impact taste. Did you trim out all the fat in the chicken, cut out the knuckle, scrape the skin, not marinate the skin? Was it too smokey?its very easy to over smoke. You just want a light smoke.

When did you test the meat? I usually don't judge my entry until at least 12:10, 12:40, etc. it can change while cooling in the box.

08-26-2013, 11:05 AM
Thanks for all the help and encouragement guys. I thought I posted a reply, but I guess it didn't post. Thanks for the help guys- I'm going to try and go with a different flavor profile for the chicken/ribs using some different rubs and sauces. I was a little worried about using the BH TN red on the chicken (even mixed) and you all and the judges confirmed I was right to be worried. When I got home that was my first thought and so I tasted the sauce again and am pretty sure that is one big reason we bombed on flavor. Lesson learned.

@Ford- I trimmed the fat off the chicken thighs, scraped the skins clear, cut out the knuckle with a cleaver, and placed the thighs only in the marinade of Italian dressing (tenderness scores were 8, 9, 7, 8, 7, 8). The skins went onto a paper plate and into a ziplock and into the cooler. I used cherry wood for both the ribs and chicken and none of us who tasted it thought that over smoking was the issue. We tested the meat before it went in the box and about 15 minutes after each turn in.

Jason TQ
08-26-2013, 12:05 PM
Sounds like a pretty solid finish for your first event. I saw your setup when I was wandering about. A lot has already been said for specific feedback. My 3 cents is to keep practicing in general. Kind of an obvious stupid comment, but just the constant practice of trimming/cooking helps you to get better each time. It did with me at least. Then going back and looking at your boxes and seeing how the next ones come out. The size of those thighs looked good to me. That pork box has the chunks a little scattered. If you can try to fill that box up.

I don't know exactly where your ribs/chicken finished, but if they were middle of the pack then you might not need to change much. 1 contest doesn't always tell you exactly the issues depending on the tables you hit. Our chicken has done well this year and I thought it was spot on this weekend, but the judges disagreed. I will not change anything for the next competition though.

Some of the best advice I got from a few teams when I started out was work on tenderness. There are many popular rubs/sauces you can use in many combinations that will work, but if that tenderness is off flavor can get dinged regardless like Ford said.

Are you competing again soon?

08-26-2013, 12:36 PM

It looks like it will be October before we compete again unless we decide to jump into the deep waters of the Pro category or travel a bit further which I'm open to doing. I need to talk to my teammate because he is much busier than I am at the moment on the weekends.

Thanks for the advice on tenderness- I'll definitely be working on that between now and the next comp. Speaking of practice I'm headed off to buy some ribs right now because I can't stand having my last cook be a bad cook.

Jason TQ
08-26-2013, 12:47 PM

It looks like it will be October before we compete again unless we decide to jump into the deep waters of the Pro category or travel a bit further which I'm open to doing. I need to talk to my teammate because he is much busier than I am at the moment on the weekends.

Thanks for the advice on tenderness- I'll definitely be working on that between now and the next comp. Speaking of practice I'm headed off to buy some ribs right now because I can't stand having my last cook be a bad cook.

Ha! Yeah I'm the same way about not liking when something doesn't turn out right and wanting to correct it :becky:. We have some brisket practice ahead of us. Though brisket practice is always ahead of us it seems:loco:. If you have any other question feel free to shoot me a message.

08-26-2013, 01:01 PM
rtboswell (http://www.bbq-brethren.com/forum/member.php?u=47427): It was nice to meet you this weekend.

By the way....The team that got the third place call in Pork was also a first time team. They were set up next to me. They cooked all three meats on one WSM.