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Ron_L
09-27-2008, 10:37 PM
First, I have to say that I am not complaining. We have had a great first season (so far, two to go) and I am happy with our results. However, I am also frustrated at our lack of consistency. I understand the vagaries of judging, but I just can't seem to product consistent results competition after competition. Last week our ribs sucked but our brisket was great, this week our brisket suckd and our ribs were kick a$$. If I ever figure out how to cook even three of the four meats consistently I would be very happy!

So, for those of you who have consistently good results, what can you recommend to me? I'm not shigging for secrets, just looking for some tips (Of course, if you want to give our some secrets, great! My PM box is empty :rolleyes:)

Professor Salt
09-27-2008, 11:13 PM
Delegate. On my team, we have four cooks that each specialize in one thing. We trust each other to do our best, and our results have consistently improved over the years.

swamprb
09-28-2008, 12:06 AM
Glad you brought this up RonL! I'm in the same boat, what I thought was some of my best efforts were my lowest scoring and vice versa. Got calls in every comp entered, but I'm all over the place.

I'd welcome team members or cook with another team if it were that easy.

Scottie
09-28-2008, 08:03 AM
FWIW my thoughts are this, as a few of us were talking about this after rewards yesterday (as I guess you had mentioned it when we were on stage).

They can teach you how to cook bbq in a class. They can't teach consistency. You've maybe cooked 5 or so contests this year and overall? So it won't happen that fast where you all of a sudden 'get it'... Let's face it, your scores might be skewed as well. Maybe you've scored higher because of judging? Look at last weekend in Menomonee. Dr Porkenstein who is a very consistent cook, finished 17th? Why? His meat was on and he does everything the same, week in and week out just as I taught him... lol. But the judges bomb him? Alex cooks everyday in his restaurant. So he knows how to cook. Answer? Judging. We can control everything but them eating our food.

So cook more contests Ron. Don't expect results. Be happy when you get them, but consistency will come with time. How long of a lay-off from the last contest? Maybe you weren't 'on' like you felt? Who knows, but do it like we do and blame it all on the judges... (I'm joking here!!!!)

So be happy Ron. You finished ahead of some seasoned teams. Small steps make a more consistent cook, not leaps. As I strive to be a consistent cook out there. I know the wins will happen if I keep that motto.

Good job on those ribs too!

Scottie

chibi
09-28-2008, 08:05 AM
This season I got a first in chix. Went the next week to another comp and did the exact same method with my chix and got 22. I have learned it is all about the judges. Just keep doing what you do.
I have seen the Grand champ one week and the next week not even in the top 10.

Dustaway
09-28-2008, 08:24 AM
I agree with Scottie cook more and keep notes the best you can and try to do everything the sametime ( with small adjustments for turn in times) like Meat prep, seasoning, ect. this will help you as well

Coz
09-28-2008, 08:27 AM
Ron,I cant tell you how to get consistency other then practice a lot at home and hope that you get the right table.As Scotty said Alex cooks everyday and I can tell you that the food he sells at the restaraunt was better than a lot that I have sampled when visiting comps. And you know he gives it more love at a comp.My short experience in comps (3) has been pretty much better then we had a right to hope.But I have not gotten the consistency you seek either.First was a fluke ,second was decent other then the worst brisket I have ever made ,third was good in brisket and pork and my previously most consistent categories were bad.I knew they were bad when I turned them in .I try to do the same thing every cook, shoot for the same feel every time.A friend told me that you are competing against the meat,I havent got that far yet I am still competing against myself.Its just fun to beat somebody once in a while...

Ron_L
09-28-2008, 08:31 AM
FWIW my thoughts are this, as a few of us were talking about this after rewards yesterday (as I guess you had mentioned it when we were on stage).

So you guys were talking about me, huh? Is that what all the laughing was about? :biggrin:

They can teach you how to cook bbq in a class. They can't teach consistency. You've maybe cooked 5 or so contests this year and overall? So it won't happen that fast where you all of a sudden 'get it'... Let's face it, your scores might be skewed as well. Maybe you've scored higher because of judging? Look at last weekend in Menomonee. Dr Porkenstein who is a very consistent cook, finished 17th? Why? His meat was on and he does everything the same, week in and week out just as I taught him... lol. But the judges bomb him? Alex cooks everyday in his restaurant. So he knows how to cook. Answer? Judging. We can control everything but them eating our food.

I hear ya... The class helped a lot but there is a lot to be said for experience. While I understand your point about judging and I see the top cooks have a "bad" day like Alex did at Menomonee, I also see the teams who win consistently (You, Clone, Alex, Pellet Envy, etc.) so I know that it can be done.


So cook more contests Ron. Don't expect results. Be happy when you get them, but consistency will come with time. How long of a lay-off from the last contest? Maybe you weren't 'on' like you felt? Who knows, but do it like we do and blame it all on the judges... (I'm joking here!!!!)

So be happy Ron. You finished ahead of some seasoned teams. Small steps make a more consistent cook, not leaps. As I strive to be a consistent cook out there. I know the wins will happen if I keep that motto.



Trust me. I don't expect anything and we are thrilled when we hear our name. As i said in the top post, I'm really not complaining. We're having fun, we're getting calls, and we're making friends (at least I hope we are :rolleyes:). We've cooked 6 comps this year and have two to go. We missed two or three others in the area because of other commitments. Next year I'd like to get to at least 10, but it depends on time and money (doesn't everything?). We've been limiting ourselves to comps that are within about four hours from home to try and avoid having to take extra time off this year since I used a bunch of vacation time on a couple of other trips, but maybe next year we can venture out a little further.

FatBoyz
09-28-2008, 09:02 AM
Ron i have to agree with scotty. you have know idea what the judge with think at your tablei have cooked all but 2 weekends this summer and i cooked a lot of food. i can make my food the same every time as long as i dont change one thing and i meen one thing.... last week end i know what happend to my food and this week end i know what happend to my food i will not make the same boo boo's again in libertyville. but i am not in my mancave and things are not the in there perfict place we adust

Bud's BBQ
09-28-2008, 09:20 AM
Consistency means managing the things that are under our control (meat selections, sauces, rubs, temps, techniques). The one thing that is completly outside our control is judging (please see my new book: "The vaguaries of Judging"). And I don't mean bad judging but, after all, what could be more subjective than what tastes good to someone?

As Tonto says: "any given day, any given table...."

I believe that the other key factor is simply numbers. All of the very top teams cook a lot of competitions - 30 to 40 or more a year. It is a numbers game.

Jeff_in_KC
09-28-2008, 09:22 AM
Just a thought here and please don't take it wrong, Ron. I am not criticizing you guys or touting any knowledge I have but I read many teams say what you did above: that they are happy to just hear their name at the awards. Maybe that's a part of what's going on in the consistency thing. If I leave a contest and hear our name at 9th in pork and nothing else, I'm not thrilled, happy or anything. That means I've sucked at three categories. And if there are only 30 teams, 9th really isn't that great either. I believe that a lot of the success in anything comes from high expectations and not being satisfied with average results. When I cook average or below, it pisses me off. Sometimes I am sure it's poor judges but after a day or two goes by and I think about it, I've screwed something up myself. I vow that won't happen again. At that point, you have to go out and live up to your own expectations at the next event. This is how I have developed what consistency I have. We're not winning events consistently yet so we're still working on it and I believe making progress, but outside of a couple of stretches of contests, we have a lot of top ten finishes so we're headed in the right direction. We're consistently decent. :lol:

EDIT: One other thing and this came from Rod one day when I had lunch with him. I asked him what in his opinion makes the difference between being pretty good at this and winning contests. His answer was a simple one - timing. you have to know what you're going to be doing at any given minute at every contest. Time management. So if someone asks you on a Tuesday afternoon what you're doing at 8:45 AM on Saturday mornings at a BBQ contest, you'd better know. Same thing every time.

Ron_L
09-28-2008, 10:29 AM
Just a thought here and please don't take it wrong, Ron. I am not criticizing you guys or touting any knowledge I have but I read many teams say what you did above: that they are happy to just hear their name at the awards. Maybe that's a part of what's going on in the consistency thing. If I leave a contest and hear our name at 9th in pork and nothing else, I'm not thrilled, happy or anything. That means I've sucked at three categories. And if there are only 30 teams, 9th really isn't that great either. I believe that a lot of the success in anything comes from high expectations and not being satisfied with average results. When I cook average or below, it pisses me off. Sometimes I am sure it's poor judges but after a day or two goes by and I think about it, I've screwed something up myself. I vow that won't happen again. At that point, you have to go out and live up to your own expectations at the next event. This is how I have developed what consistency I have. We're not winning events consistently yet so we're still working on it and I believe making progress, but outside of a couple of stretches of contests, we have a lot of top ten finishes so we're headed in the right direction. We're consistently decent. :lol:

EDIT: One other thing and this came from Rod one day when I had lunch with him. I asked him what in his opinion makes the difference between being pretty good at this and winning contests. His answer was a simple one - timing. you have to know what you're going to be doing at any given minute at every contest. Time management. So if someone asks you on a Tuesday afternoon what you're doing at 8:45 AM on Saturday mornings at a BBQ contest, you'd better know. Same thing every time.

I think you may have nailed what i am trying to say, Jeff. We're at the point of being consistently decent also. Now i want ot kick it up a notch.

When I said that I am happy to hear our name called, I truly am and I hope that never changes. But, like you, I'm not satisfied with just getting a call and I do leave disappointed. Without sounding like i am bragging, I am decent at a lot of things. I'm a pretty good fisherman, a pretty good cook, pretty good at coffee roasting and even a pretty good barista. So far the only thing I can say that I have reached expert status in is my job (which is where it really counts since it pays for all of the hobbies :-D). I'd like to get to that level with BBQ comps as well.

Anyway... I understand everyone's points about what happens at the judges table and I have accepted that fact that things are out of my control once the box leaves my site, but there are teams who are a the top of the results list every week and they are facing the same judges that I am (generally speaking). My goal is to make sure that what I put in those boxes is the best that I can produce every time and I'm not there yet, and it bugs me :rolleyes:

EDIT: One other thing and this came from Rod one day when I had lunch with him. I asked him what in his opinion makes the difference between being pretty good at this and winning contests. His answer was a simple one - timing. you have to know what you're going to be doing at any given minute at every contest. Time management. So if someone asks you on a Tuesday afternoon what you're doing at 8:45 AM on Saturday mornings at a BBQ contest, you'd better know. Same thing every time.

My wife already gives me a hard time because I have my cooking schedule in a spreadsheet and have it with us at every comp :rolleyes:

backporchbbq
09-28-2008, 11:20 AM
I hear what you are saying Ron. Our food is pretty good. Last competition we did 5th overall and 4th in pork. But the competiton before we did not do very well. We never have consistent numbers, and I feel we do the same thing every comp. We will see we changed our recipies at our last comp, so we will see how we do in Dover. Hopefully we can have a repeat.

ZILLA
09-28-2008, 11:30 AM
To start with keep a log book of what you do each cook, what happened each cook, and don't be tempted to change what you do at all. Then cook as much as you can in competition mode. Those few things will go along way towards a more consistent product especially cooking frequently.

Rightstuff
09-28-2008, 12:23 PM
To start with keep a log book of what you do each cook, what happened each cook, and don't be tempted to change what you do at all. Then cook as much as you can in competition mode. Those few things will go along way towards a more consistent product especially cooking frequently.

Taking notes on every single cook (practice and comp) has helped me considerably! We've done more practice cooks than comps, but knowing exactly what I've done every cook, and the results, has helped me fine tune things (and I have lots of fine tuning left to do:-D).

Alexa RnQ
09-28-2008, 01:39 PM
I would have been all set to address the issue of consistency, until last weekend :rolleyes:

For us, it's a matter of cooking. And cooking and cooking and cooking and #$%@&! cooking, and still is. And the devil is in the details, so it's cooking plus making sure you replicate perfectly. And doing enough comps so that you fall into the rhythm of doing it all in field conditions, without having to think much about it all. At this point, we almost know to the step/minute who's going to be where, like a dance -- when I'm "on", I swing the Carlisle door open at the right second and step out of the way at the right second, there's no last-minute scrambling for stuff because it's ready. When we're "off", there's trouble.

And then there's being out there often enough to keep that edge, once you've got it. If you had told me at this time last year we'd do three weekends back to back in three different states, I'd have dropped dead. But when that fourth weekend came, I was wondering which show we were supposed to be at, and if we were still going to remember how to cook three weeks later at the next one.

Eleven KCBS comps so far this year -- only one finish out of the top 10, and you know that stung! So much for our "consistency"! But because we're mindful of the process, we know what happened, we know what to fix. October will tell the tale as to whether we got it right or not. http://www.divaherself.com/funny/shiner.gif

QansasjayhawQ
09-28-2008, 10:07 PM
I have only cooked with HawgsNHeifers in competition. BUT - each time we had cooked in the past, I've come to a realization . . . I had NO IDEA what the target was that we were shooting for! Sure, our friends and families said we were doing a great job but . . . our results weren't that great.

So . . . that's when I decided to learn how to judge. I needed to know what 'it' was that I was trying to achieve!

[It used to make me so angry when the bullies in our neighborhood would show up to play baseball and make up new rules as the games progressed. The key to doing anything successful in my mind became knowing the rules of the game.]

Now, any person educated to about a sixth grade level can read and understand the KCBS rules - and that's a Good Thing in my opinion - but what is it REALLY that the judges are looking for? THAT is what I needed to find out. So my brother and I decided to attend a judging class and learn what the judges expect.

Now, I've judged ten events this summer. I sure can NOT figure out exactly what that set of attributes is that will score well with judges consistently (due to the blind judging - I don't know for sure if I've judged a championship entry or not) . . . but I do know that I have a 1000% better idea of what it will take to place highly.

If ANY of you cooks out there have any kind of a question about the judges or the process or what judges are looking for, I can only HIGHLY recommend that you all take a KCBS judging class and then judge at least ten competitions in one summer. It will open your eyes to what you're up against and at least provide a clue as to what product you should be turning in to score as highly as you can.

For what it's worth . . . there you go.

Scottie
09-29-2008, 10:44 AM
Here is an example of what I am talking about Ron.

You can have great flavors and feel comfortable doing all 4 of the meats. But what happens when you open the foil to those ribs, pork or brisket and they are over cooked. What do you do? Do you adjust your box so that you can make a turn-in the judges can enjoy? Or do you just turn in as you normally would?

This happened to a well extablished cook this year at a contest. I had noticed that he wasn't out of his rig yet for a pork turn-in. I inquired if everything was ok. He said it was but his butts werebn't slicing properly and he had to do chunks and pulled pork. End result? 1st place pork...

This is just one example of experience and how to react on your feet. That can only come with experience. As most young cooks would probably bomb on that category.

And for the record. I would say that if you are finishing in the top 10 you do have consistency. What you want is to be able to put it over the top and win a GC. For that, I do not have a magic formula or any magic pixie dust. I mean, I tell people I do, but that is only so I can get future sales of my product... :roll: I believe that Joey Mac called it being a Wannabe... You wannabe like the top teams... So maybe consult with Joey, as I know he wrote some stories on it...

Ron_L
09-29-2008, 11:18 AM
This is just one example of experience and how to react on your feet. That can only come with experience. As most young cooks would probably bomb on that category.

Been there. Done that. Elk Grove :rolleyes: i learned a lot that day :biggrin:

For that, I do not have a magic formula or any magic pixie dust. I mean, I tell people I do, but that is only so I can get future sales of my product...

Put me down for a large bottle of your magic pixie dust when it hits the market :-D

Thanks for the insight!

Buster Dog BBQ
09-29-2008, 12:13 PM
I would also say when you find a brand you are really satisfied with stick with it. I am mainly referring to meat. Last year we just bought meat right before competition and basically took what they had. Sometimes that meant different distributors. This year we stayed with the same all the way through, bought in bulk to start the year. Our food was much better and our overall scores were about 10 points higher in each category on average. I was used to cooking certain brands and had a much better feel as to what to expect.

Jacked UP BBQ
09-29-2008, 12:49 PM
I have a question about consistancy? If you are not winning with what you have, should you stick with it? Or wait for your call and than stick with that recipe, there is no reason to be consistant with a 33rd place pork!

tony76248
09-29-2008, 02:53 PM
My suggestion is for you to lay out a firm game plan and stick to it regardless.... Also keep a good record of how things went and tweak your game plan until you find what works best for you. Distractions are the biggest killer of a good game plan, avoid entertaining and messing with the Peoples Choice and stick to cooking and that game plan and you will produce a consistant product. I have learned this from experience as have all of the other folks who compete regularly and I still tend to stray from my game plan..... that said when I stick to the plan and don't get distracted, I know prior to the awards whether I am gonna take a walk.... Sometimes you get beat by your own choice of meats though and that can't be helped. You never can tell when you might get a subpar piece of meat.

I pretty much walk at every event that I enter with the exception of Terrell TX where I still haven't figured out the judges. It's those areas where I stray that I screw up and over cook the chicken or under cook the ribs but only slightly and when there are so many good teams out there, you don't have a chance.

When you roll into the event, you can pretty much see who the competition is and some days you can place very well with your B game and other times you better have your A game and a little luck. If you cooked against the same teams every week, you could probably figure out what works and what doesn't and perhaps not. I guess what I am saying here is that you can cook lights out and the other teams are just a little better. Don't think that you were not there... think perhaps the other teams were.

Another thing I do is try to always buy the same meat from the same sources, that way you can improve your consistancy without having to change how you are actually cooking.

swamprb
09-30-2008, 06:31 AM
Was anyone particularly pleased with or disgusted with the KCBS Judges comment cards?
PNWBA has been using them at some comps and I like them-don't always agree with them, but every little bit helps a newbie get clue.

goodsmokebbq
09-30-2008, 06:52 AM
I found the cards were utterly inconsistent and just added questions.

lunchlady
09-30-2008, 08:32 AM
I thought some made sense, but others ... ???
Overall ... I liked them but didn't always agree with them.
You get all types in the tent so we'd just take it with a grain of salt, unless it makes sense to you.

paydabill
09-30-2008, 08:43 AM
I think this is a problem. I liek the timing thing that Big Creek said. However, Timing has to be fluid. You never know what might happen at what given time.

gooose53
09-30-2008, 09:02 PM
I
So . . . that's when I decided to learn how to judge. I needed to know what 'it' was that I was trying to achieve!

I've heard this more than once and have come to believe this is something every good cook should do. Besides the judges the other thing that can be very inconsistant is meat. You never know what the meat will do so no matter if you do the same thing week after week judging and meat will be inconsistant.

QansasjayhawQ
10-01-2008, 11:05 AM
I've heard this more than once and have come to believe this is something every good cook should do. Besides the judges the other thing that can be very inconsistant is meat. You never know what the meat will do so no matter if you do the same thing week after week judging and meat will be inconsistant.
After the end of each category, the judges sit around the table and discuss the samples they just had.

There can be a lot of differing opinions in the middle of the pack, but those samples that are truly outstanding - almost everyone agrees that those were the outstanding samples.

Now that I know where I need to be, I can develop my plan for consistency in the future.