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View Full Version : All Comp BBQ is Sweet?? Your thoughts.


Jason TQ
01-28-2014, 09:09 AM
So starting this thread from a discussion on another thread that sprung the idea in qtalk. I have few discussion questions/points below and are open to other points I didn't list. And this is very open and welcome to comp cooks of course, but also very welcome of the perspective from people that don't cook comps. The backyard/comp separation mentality/notion is not good for bbq. So that being said.......

While sweet certainly plays a role in KCBS and other (but not all) sanctioning bodies do you think the sweet trend is as prominent as in the past? Does the idea of candy bbq stay in the air because of BBQ Pitmasters/TV and the things that make for good camera shots and tv is raining brown sugar and margarine? So then people see that and think that is all that goes into the food and repeat the idea of "comp bbq must only be sweet". I remember a shot of Harry Soo talking into the camera about adding brown sugar, honey, maple syrup, etc to his sauce to make it more candy sweet (or something close to that effect). Heck even when I saw that which was right before I started competing I though "Dang! These judges must really only like sweet stuff".

I think trends are changing from the talks I have had with other competitors and judges. I think our food is well balanced and if anything sweet doesn't come to mind first. But just my talks don't amount to the "national sample size" of course so I want others opinions. This thread isn't some cure all to the issue, but getting out into the air what comp cooks think might help dissolve this notion of "all comp bbq is overly sweet". And also maybe it won't. Maybe comp bbq hasn't changed and never will. That is definitely a possibility as well.

-Jason

Pappy Q
01-28-2014, 09:37 AM
I think the discussion gets over complicated and wrapped up in personal feelings and emotions. To me its very simple, cooks that are truely in it to win are trying to please the judges. Your "average" judge is not a bbq expert but a bbq lover. Like all people, they like what taste good to them. The average person likes sweet as a taste, it's the dominant flavor in the American diet. Therefore when cooking for the average judge/person, sweet is statistically going to do well. No different than how a restuarant or commercial food producer trys to put out a product that appeals to the majority of the people. Are there exceptions to the rule, of course but IMHO it's that simple.

rookiedad
01-28-2014, 09:45 AM
i think you are right! i think all sweet would be considered unbalanced.

Jason TQ
01-28-2014, 09:48 AM
I think the discussion gets over complicated and wrapped up in personal feelings and emotions. To me its very simple, cooks that are truely in it to win are trying to please the judges. Your "average" judge is not a bbq expert but a bbq lover. Like all people, they like what taste good to them. The average person likes sweet as a taste, it's the dominant flavor in the American diet. Therefore when cooking for the average judge/person, sweet is statistically going to do well. No different than how a restuarant or commercial food producer trys to put out a product that appeals to the majority of the people. Are there exceptions to the rule, of course but IMHO it's that simple.

Definitely agree here and especially with your first sentence :-D. Sweet might be the more dominant flavor, but it might not be 75-95% dominant which is what I think many people believe.

akoda
01-28-2014, 09:54 AM
This year I plan to compete in 4 competitions. I am still very new to it. I plan to do the type of BBQ I like with a little more flavor for the judges. I will not be turning in anything overly sweet. I know I likely will not win but I want to enjoy what I produce and turn in and enjoy the experience. I hope one day the tide will turn and nice dry rubs will start to win on ribs.

$0.02

BobWaltersBBQ
01-28-2014, 10:02 AM
My opinoin, doesn't amount to much but here goes....

The sweet people see on TV is only an addition that offsets the heat and savory spices that are in the rubs. Sugar is the dominant flavor in our culture, sad but true, and that has to be what is tasted first, if you are trying to win over the majority of judges. Layers are key.

All that might be just flat out BS, but then again.....

Full Draw BBQ
01-28-2014, 10:38 AM
I agree with Bob. The finishing sauce may be sweet (we do it also), but the underlying rubs pack some heat and hopefully offset that. It's all about layering flavors for us. (hopefully)

smoke ninja
01-28-2014, 11:02 AM
I think sweet bbq is way better than sour bbq.

Fat Freddy
01-28-2014, 11:04 AM
I have heard for a few years that Blues Hog is on its way out because it is to sweet, but I feel confident that probably 75% use BH or some sort of sauce that is similar. Even rubs are starting to become "sweet". Not all of them of course and I dont really think they are a typical sweet but you have BPS SWEET Money, SM SWEET Seduction, Butchers HONEY, SG SWEET Heat, Obie Cue SWEET etc. etc. etc.

Both at home and at comps i actually prefer a bit sweet and savory on my ribs, though a properly done dry rib is fantastic. I was one of those people that would not put a sauce, any sauce on my brisket and I never got a call. The FIRST time I put a bit of sweet sauce on my brisket 2nd place call.

I think sweet is just as prominent as ever maybe even more than it was in the past.

landarc
01-28-2014, 11:35 AM
If you taste the rubs that have done well, they are balanced, many of them are far more savory than you might be thinking if you base it on t.v. That being said, I find that rubs such as Simply Marvelous fall on the sweet side, however, you will note that the folks using those rubs are mostly layering in with other rubs. I have been doing that myself, even for just myself. The comp BBQ I have tasted, and this is from some of the better teams in CA, are quite balanced, not the overly sweet that you might think.

Blues Hog, there is still no other sauce quite like it, and for now, I would say it is an easy add to any competitors tool box.

cpw
01-28-2014, 11:50 AM
This year I plan to compete in 4 competitions. I am still very new to it. I plan to do the type of BBQ I like with a little more flavor for the judges. I will not be turning in anything overly sweet. I know I likely will not win but I want to enjoy what I produce and turn in and enjoy the experience. I hope one day the tide will turn and nice dry rubs will start to win on ribs.
$0.02

While your approach is admirable, I wouldn't waste the money on the contests unless you plan on doing all the craziness that it takes to do well, which includes all of the sweetness, butter, etc.

Back to the original post, I always try to offset the sweet of the sauce with the savory and spice of the rubs.

TalonBrew
01-28-2014, 12:40 PM
The "OP" on the other thread was reacting to what he "saw". Since you can't see the savory or heat flavor imparted by the rubs, it's impossible to know how sweet the ribs actually are by looking.

I agree with the guys above... it's a balance, and one you can't measure by seeing it on Pitmasters, only by tasting.

CBQ
01-28-2014, 12:53 PM
Balance and complexity of flavor win. Sweet has to be there, along with savory, heat, and smoke. (Yes, smoke is a spice.)

The shock value makes for good tv (Did you see them put a pound of brown sugar on that pork butt? Hey, they added butter to ribs! Crazy!) but there is a lot of other stuff going on there.

You do need more than just a dry rub to win on ribs though, layers of flavor, complexity, balance will get you a call. We used to be purists too - inject? We will never inject! (We now inject everything - lol)

If you want your comp BBQ to tank, try a vinegar sauce. :becky:

ArnieTex
01-28-2014, 01:06 PM
Balance works better everywhere, even in Texas, I especially see way out of balance entries especially in jackpots. Some people just over think too much, just good bbq with good balance will get better average in scores which adds up at the final tally. Too hot, too salty, and yes too sweet equals not a consistent winner.

Lake Dogs
01-28-2014, 02:10 PM
"They aren't judges; they're eaters!" -- Myron Mixon

The sanctioning bodies that I've been in, both as a competitor and as a judge, the BBQ was eaten, not sampled. I think the tiny one-bite-to-impress BBQ sanctioning bodes tend to foster and promote those extremes, notably very sweet. Is it dead in those? I doubt it. But, be careful that they dont take the 2nd or heaven forbid that 3rd bite...

The eater sanctioning bodies, that I know of, never have seen many of the candy-sweet entries, and for the most part, those times when we did, the scores reflected it (not in a good way)... In a blind MBN judging of ribs, if you want to find out which were best without asking, look to the empty box and nothing but bones remaining; most of which were 2 bone pieces, so they were EATEN.

THe ones that were eaten indeed were awesome in their balance of flavor, but more than that, they really hit the mark on tenderness and moisture.

Podge
01-28-2014, 02:43 PM
sweet=unbalanced.

I balance what needs to be balanced in order to complement the meat I'm trying to enhance.

GrillBillie_D
01-28-2014, 02:59 PM
Sweet is one layer of flavor. The biggest thing I have learned is that you have to get that balance of flavors in your profile to do well. I've made ribs that were too sweet, and the people that judged it said so. I agreed. Sweet is great, when it is part of a balanced profile, not by itself.

Podge
01-28-2014, 03:18 PM
I think the discussion gets over complicated and wrapped up in personal feelings and emotions. .

seems to be a lot of discussions like that. :doh:

Slamdunkpro
01-28-2014, 03:42 PM
Not all competition bbq is sweet. Most winning competition bbq is sweet.:wacko:

Gowan
01-28-2014, 09:03 PM
This year I plan to compete in 4 competitions. I am still very new to it. I plan to do the type of BBQ I like with a little more flavor for the judges. I will not be turning in anything overly sweet. I know I likely will not win but I want to enjoy what I produce and turn in and enjoy the experience. I hope one day the tide will turn and nice dry rubs will start to win on ribs.

$0.02

Kudos to you if you can maintain that attitude! Not many can, given the effort and expense that goes into cooking Pro contests these days.

Here's a story:
Years ago I judged at a KCBS contest on the Auburn University campus. Afterwards while I was slogging through the deep mud back to the truck and was accosted by an agitated gent who had just completed his first Pro contest and was less than happy with his scores. He expressed his consternation that his BBQ was the greatest (all his friends and family told him so), yet he finished at the bottom of the pack.

I explained to him that his product may well have been good, but over the years KCBS had evolved de factor standards for the sort of entry it took to win, and that one must cook for the judges not his own tastes if you expected to do well. This fellow was outraged. He told me in no uncertain terms that HE wasn't going to change the way he cooked for anybody, no sir! He would just as soon quit cooking these contests if that was what it took to win.

I applauded him for being true to his vision and told him that he was absolutely right to quit if that was the way he felt about it. I've never seen him at a contest since, so I'm assuming he was true to his word and is happily serving up his brand of bbq in his backyard to throngs of appreciative diners.

Moral of the story: Competition BBQ isn't for everyone. There are plenty of accomplished pitmasters who have never cooked a contest and never will.

JD McGee
01-28-2014, 09:18 PM
Balance is what we strive for...8)

Porcine Perfection
01-28-2014, 10:14 PM
I have judged ~20 comps and at least in my area you need to be sweet or you will be beat. I have seen grape jelly on ribs that were just nothing but sweet and the other judges at my table will just rave about it! As a judge I look for a nice juicy bite with a hint of sweetness and then a savory kick of heat. At home I serve my BBQ naked and I have my own sauce that is a sweet heat if someone wants it.

That being said I am doing some comps this year and already have purchased my gallon of Blues Hog.

Rusty Kettle
01-29-2014, 05:59 AM
I was on the other thread and I saw this one so I dropped in. Let me understand this if it is not sweet you will lose? That means that if it really is the culture bred by judging innovation is frowned upon? Got to ask why do so many buy their sauces and their dry rubs? Why not make your own? Not knocking anyone just curious as to why. I was a pro cook for a short period of time until I found a better paying job and I learned that it was all about the prep anyone can cook but it was prep that made or broke you. I plan to use my own sauce and rub this year in my first year competing and I don't plan on buying it made for me. I may tweak it to fit the tastes of the judges but I want my work to represent me including my flavor profile. Is comp bbq so sweet you really would not want to eat more than one bite? Anyone got a recipe they don't mind sharing so I get an idea of how sweet comp bbq really is? I just figure I can't knock what I haven't tried so I want to try it. Just warn me if I should not eat a lot of it as if it tastes amazing I have been known to over do good things.

Alexa RnQ
01-29-2014, 08:07 AM
Let me see if I can address some of this in order, and still make any sense.

Let me understand this if it is not sweet you will lose? That means that if it really is the culture bred by judging innovation is frowned upon?
Nothing will slam-dunk a category loss like product that is (a) improperly cooked or (b) unbalanced in flavor. A balanced flavor profile has a sweet element to it. By the same token, if that sweet element is overpowering, it is no longer balanced. And ALL of the elements are pitched to just a couple of bites.
If innovation were uniformly penalized, then Blues Hog, parsley beds and sliced pork would never have gained widespread traction.

Got to ask why do so many buy their sauces and their dry rubs? Why not make your own? Not knocking anyone just curious as to why.
Not everyone has the palate or inclination to create successful rubs and sauces that work together. Add-ins and tweaking are the norm, creating a myriad of successful flavors. Most don't feel the need to reinvent the wheel for the base.
Additionally, this is an incredibly time-consuming hobby that most maintain on top of regular jobs. I do our own rubs and sauces, and in the seasons when we were turning around week after week you know I wished mightily we could just buy what we needed!

I was a pro cook for a short period of time until I found a better paying job and I learned that it was all about the prep anyone can cook but it was prep that made or broke you.
Absolutely agree, prep is vitally important. Again, it's one thing to do prep as your entire job, and another thing to do it AFTER a 40-to-70 hour workweek (which is why for nearly a year we were trimming meats AT contests rather than before). And this is such a multifactor discipline that any one element can break you -- even after successful prep, there's plenty of room for you to shoot yourself in the foot during the cook or finishing for the box.
And any judge who has eaten the "scary food" (raw chicken, rubber brisket, lots of stories) can tell you that "anyone can cook" is far from universal.

I plan to use my own sauce and rub this year in my first year competing and I don't plan on buying it made for me. I may tweak it to fit the tastes of the judges but I want my work to represent me including my flavor profile. Is comp bbq so sweet you really would not want to eat more than one bite?.
No. Hyperbole abounds, likely fostered by those who don't like sweet at ALL (unbalanced). The truth is that more than a serving of a competition entry would become "too much" as the flavor builds from bite to bite.

Anyone got a recipe they don't mind sharing so I get an idea of how sweet comp bbq really is?
A direct way of finding out what's crossing the judging tables in your area is to become a CBJ and judge a few contests.

BobWaltersBBQ
01-29-2014, 08:49 AM
I would like to see all competitors use only sauces and rubs that they created, from scratch.....that's not going to happen. It would be nice to have a division or a way to seperate those that spent a lot of time and effort creating a winning sauce from the ground floor. "doctored up" is not creating to me. You can't reproduce it without buying someone else's product. Being a great pitmaster is really hard work, being a creator of great bbq and being a great pitmaster is on a whole new level.

mcbrew13
01-29-2014, 09:08 AM
I would like to see all competitors use only sauces and rubs that they created, from scratch.....that's not going to happen. It would be nice to have a division or a way to seperate those that spent a lot of time and effort creating a winning sauce from the ground floor. "doctored up" is not creating to me. You can't reproduce it without buying someone else's product. Being a great pitmaster is really hard work, being a creator of great bbq and being a great pitmaster is on a whole new level.

This is a novel idea. I make the majority of my sauce but I still add some pre-made sauce as an ingredient. The problem is how to regulate and where does it stop? Do you expect people to make their own ketchup, Worcestershire, stocks, etc.?

BobWaltersBBQ
01-29-2014, 09:15 AM
This is a novel idea. I make the majority of my sauce but I still add some pre-made sauce as an ingredient. The problem is how to regulate and where does it stop? Do you expect people to make their own ketchup, Worcestershire, stocks, etc.?


I'm full of novel ideas, but no process to implement or protect.

Rusty Kettle
01-29-2014, 09:22 AM
I have been thinking about getting certified as a bbq judge. Thanks for answering my questions.

bbq.tom
01-29-2014, 09:31 AM
I have heard for a few years that Blues Hog is on its way out because it is to sweet, but I feel confident that probably 75% use BH or some sort of sauce that is similar.

Maybe around Iowa and the mid-west BH is dominant, but in the SouthEast it ISN'T, at least not anymore. Not because of BH being too sweet, but because of the distinctive flavor that is in BH that dominates ALL other flavor even when used diluted. Similar sauce that is sweet is used and/or created; however, it is only one element (or layer) of the flavor profile.

bbq.tom
01-29-2014, 09:37 AM
This is a novel idea. I make the majority of my sauce but I still add some pre-made sauce as an ingredient. The problem is how to regulate and where does it stop? Do you expect people to make their own ketchup, Worcestershire, stocks, etc.?

I love the idea of competiton where the team must create their rubs and sauces on site. One way to allow use of pre-made sauces, but keep within the scope of creation, is to allow no more than 25% of any pre-made sauce to create your own sauce, i.e., you could use 1-cup of ketchup, 1-cup of BH, 1-cup of Worcestershire, and 1-cup of Sweet Baby Ray's to make 4-cups of sauce. (I wouldn't do this, but it is one way to regulate "creation").

Offthehook
01-29-2014, 12:46 PM
I would like to see all competitors use only sauces and rubs that they created, from scratch.....that's not going to happen. It would be nice to have a division or a way to seperate those that spent a lot of time and effort creating a winning sauce from the ground floor. "doctored up" is not creating to me. You can't reproduce it without buying someone else's product. Being a great pitmaster is really hard work, being a creator of great bbq and being a great pitmaster is on a whole new level.
That would be neat but who has time or money to be messing with rubs and sauces after working full time. I do practice cooks where I have to spend one night prepping, one night cooking. Add in making extra stuff to end up losing... no thanks.

Rusty Kettle
01-30-2014, 12:41 AM
That would be neat but who has time or money to be messing with rubs and sauces after working full time. I do practice cooks where I have to spend one night prepping, one night cooking. Add in making extra stuff to end up losing... no thanks.

I work full time and make my own sauce and rubs from scratch. Con Yeager has the best spices to make rubs out of no idea if they are nationwide but they are local and have multiple stores and a plant. Google them they are the best there is. Thing is I have worked with one sauce and one rub for everything and just perfected it over time. I also work over time and I do not know what my schedule is until about 8:30am that day not kidding. I make time for making my sauce from scratch.

Podge
01-30-2014, 07:58 AM
Anything can be accomplished if you make it a priority.

Scottie
01-30-2014, 10:28 AM
Maybe around Iowa and the mid-west BH is dominant, but in the SouthEast it ISN'T, at least not anymore. Not because of BH being too sweet, but because of the distinctive flavor that is in BH that dominates ALL other flavor even when used diluted. Similar sauce that is sweet is used and/or created; however, it is only one element (or layer) of the flavor profile.


I don't believe that. I won ribs last year in South Carolina with Blues Hog. I've also had some success at other contests with Blues Hog as my base... A perfectly cooked piece of meat will beat out a sauce any day.

Candy Sue
01-30-2014, 10:44 AM
This past weekend I cooked an IBCA event in Hot Springs. Krunktastic! Had a great time.

Pork was used for peoples choice. I did my pulled pork with a tangy, spicy vinegar sauce with some Head Country tossed in. I know it was served stone cold and I thought that the sauce should cut the greasy mouth feel. I was 3rd in peoples choice, but the turned in box of pork (same stuff) didn't make finals table. Should've added honey! Forgot the BH at home...

bbq.tom
01-30-2014, 10:51 AM
I don't believe that. I won ribs last year in South Carolina with Blues Hog. I've also had some success at other contests with Blues Hog as my base...

Congratulations! My point is that it isn't as dominant as it used to be in the SE, not that it didn't still win occasionally. I judged 17 contests in the SE last year and tasted BH on only a few entries. Maybe I was just at the lucky table that got most of the non-BH entries, but that seems unlikely.

EMTTLC
01-30-2014, 02:12 PM
I cooked 11 and judged 8 last year. All in the southeast . Got a first, 2 seconds and a third in pork with blues hog as a base. I think that as many as half of the pork, rib and chicken entries I judged had a blues hog product blend on them. I don't know how much it was used in the past, but I still see a lot of it.