PDA

View Full Version : 2009 Comp Season Game Plan...


JD McGee
12-30-2008, 07:02 PM
Hi folks...just doing some planning in my head and wanted to get some input from the pros on what you do in the off season to get ready for "Opening Day"...:-P...I'm talking BBQ here...not Baseball...:lol::lol::lol:...sort of!

Anyway...here's are a few things I've done or plan to do in preps for the 2009 season.

1. I'm building 2 "competition" UDS's (one is complete) that my WSM' will nest in for easier transporting. I plan to do my chicken and ribs on them.

2. Purchase Guru "Pit Minders" for 2 of my WSM's...I'll use these for the butts and briskets. I'm hoping the draft controls will allow me to get some decent shuteye to better deal with crunch time as well as keeping my temps in the sweet blue range.

3. My wife and I are going to take a judging class together so we know exactly what the local folks are looking for in flavor, texture, and appearance.

4. Last (but not least) practice...practice...practice! Also...finalize my time line sheet...this is my brain / blueprint. If it's not right...I'm not right.

Those are our goals...hopefully it will give SouthPaw BBQ our first walk and a shot at the Jack! :wink: Thoughts, suggestions, and advice always welcome! :-P

Podge
12-30-2008, 07:35 PM
Sounds to me that you have a good off-season game plan. :grin:

Nature Boy
12-30-2008, 09:51 PM
Yo JD.
The judging is a great idea. I actually need to get back out and do some more. Judged one a few years ago, and it was a valuable experience. But lots has changed in a few years so it's time to get back out again and see what all the people that are beating us are doing! We are all starting to think about comps again now that the applications are filtering in. Definitely enjoyed the last cupla months off though!

Good luck with the prep.
Chris

backporchbbq
12-30-2008, 10:09 PM
Haven't really had time to cook lately. Last time I smoked anything was Dover, in October. Hopefully next month I will get some weekends that I can cook. We need to start planning what comps we are doing, since Yardley and Berks are no longer. I know we are in for Green Lane, New Holland we will do again and Dover. But I think we want to try 2 or 3 more this season. We will see.

Ron_L
12-30-2008, 10:20 PM
The class will help, but try to judge a couple of times if you can. That's where you really learn about what is being turned in and what the other judges think about it.

Vince RnQ
12-31-2008, 07:26 AM
Sounds to me that you have a good off-season game plan. :grin:


I concur. You've got a simple and focused plan that should pay some great dividends.

One suggestion would be to also consider a Stoker when it comes to forced draft systems. You can manage multiple cookers from one Stoker control unit, (I manage four at a time from one unit), and that may prove to be a more effective solution for you.

Good luck and Happy New Year!

Podge
12-31-2008, 07:33 AM
no offense to anyone here, but I can't see how judging contests can make you a better competitor, unless you judge several, and was able to do a lot of talking between entries and see the scores, to actually learn what those judges are looking for. I reckon if you got to judge 10 contests, and got to discuss in detail with 5 judges at each contest, kept good notes, i reckon you could have a decent compiled survey of 50 judges, along with your own personal opinion on how and what makes great competition BBQ.

I've never judged, nor do I plan to in the near future, so this is all my speculation. I would like to see if someone can point me out some details on how judging will make you a better competitor.

I can see a newbie going into judging in hopes of learning stuff to be a better competitor, get ideas on presentation, etc. But even then, he/she should do about 5-10 of them.

Dr_KY
12-31-2008, 07:34 AM
I'm just going to hope I can find a contest or three to compete in.

CajunSmoker
12-31-2008, 08:03 AM
I carry my ECB inside one of my UDS's like you described and it works great. Helps a lot on room.

KC_Bobby
12-31-2008, 08:58 AM
Podge,
For a proven cook like yourself, maybe my thoughts don't come into play. But for a new to competition cook I believe it's a very valuable experience.

Let's say that the cook isn't sure how sweet or spicy to make one of the catagories - tasting others can help. As a judge, I get to see what others are turning in? How other turn ins taste/compare? Compare textures? (No, I'm not judging "comparing" other entries - but I'm able to compare myself). Which presentations look nice - ideas for future box turn ins myself. What temps are the boxes when judging them? (Honestly, I've never really noticed unless the turn in was cold or if I were to get one that was too hot to eat - hasn't happened to me).

When judging, I think more often then not it's evident which teams compete often just based on the looks of their turn in. Do I know what team it is? No, but I'm going to guess that a nicely presented box is probably turned in by a team that competes reguarly - competing reguarly might mean some past sucess (not guarenteed - especially in that catagory).

Brew-B-Q
12-31-2008, 09:27 AM
Sounds similar to my off-season plan. Instead of building UDS, I purchased 2 of the new 22" WSM. I plan to use those, along with an 18" for my comps.

I will also be taking a judging class in Feb. I don't expect to learn tons of "secrets" but I want to be certified so I can judge some events this year. I don't know how much I'll learn judging, but I can't see how it hurts.

I will second the stoker recommendation. I have one, with 3 fans, and it works great. It's easier, imo, to have one box to deal with versus 2 or 3.

Pork Barrel Project
12-31-2008, 10:45 AM
Sounds like a fine plan. I need to get busy with my own.

Not trying to hijack this topic but I also don't subscribe to taking a judging class will teach any secrets as to what the judges are looking for. If that were the case, long-time judges would simply be taking that acquired knowledge and instantly becoming champion cooks themselves. That scenario just isn't playing out.

However, with eight years on the circuit as a judge, rep, or competitor, I do think it's often beneficial for a competitor to log some seat time as a judge.

Generally speaking, the harshest judges I've seen are those that also compete. I know this contradicts the thought that judges should compete occasionally in order to see what a contest is like from the cooks' perspective but that's fodder for another topic.

By getting certified and judging a few contests, I believe there are two things you will definitely take away from the judging tent:

1. After a few contests, you will see more presentation and rub/sauce variations pass by your plate than you're likely to try in a couple years of practice cooks at home. By seeing for yourself what worked and what didn't, this can validate whether you're on the right track as a competitor.

2. More importantly, first-hand experience could resolve some misconceptions you may have about judges. They are not a mysterious species. While a few may strike you as idiots there primarily for the leftovers, the overwhelmingly vast majority are conscientious and doing their level best to be best judges they know how to be. That also flies in the face of sometimes popular opinion.

Now, back to the regularly scheduled topic...

billm
12-31-2008, 11:50 AM
no offense to anyone here, but I can't see how judging contests can make you a better competitor, unless you judge several, and was able to do a lot of talking between entries and see the scores, to actually learn what those judges are looking for. I reckon if you got to judge 10 contests, and got to discuss in detail with 5 judges at each contest, kept good notes, i reckon you could have a decent compiled survey of 50 judges, along with your own personal opinion on how and what makes great competition BBQ.

I've never judged, nor do I plan to in the near future, so this is all my speculation. I would like to see if someone can point me out some details on how judging will make you a better competitor.

I can see a newbie going into judging in hopes of learning stuff to be a better competitor, get ideas on presentation, etc. But even then, he/she should do about 5-10 of them.
for a new person starting out it gives them a general idea of what judges are suppose to be looking at..as well as some general ideas on what is legal and illegal..and maybe some ideas on box building..
will it make them better competitors and winners out of the box?..no..but at least they will be a little less blind..
I always thought the more I knew (no matter how trivial) going in to unknown territory the better
personally the best thing a new person can do IMO to prepare is at least one practice cook at home adhering to turn in times etc..

JD McGee
12-31-2008, 03:21 PM
The class will help, but try to judge a couple of times if you can. That's where you really learn about what is being turned in and what the other judges think about it.

Sounds similar to my off-season plan. Instead of building UDS, I purchased 2 of the new 22" WSM. I plan to use those, along with an 18" for my comps.

I will also be taking a judging class in Feb. I don't expect to learn tons of "secrets" but I want to be certified so I can judge some events this year. I don't know how much I'll learn judging, but I can't see how it hurts.

I will second the stoker recommendation. I have one, with 3 fans, and it works great. It's easier, imo, to have one box to deal with versus 2 or 3.

Great tips guys...thanks! :-P The main reason for taking the judging class is for my wife. She will be our "official" taste tester for our team. She will have the final say on rubs, spices, flavors, etc. No meats will be plated or boxed without her seal of approval! :lol: She has the pallete for it and is very good with flavor combinations.

As far as Stoker vs Guru...I may have to weigh the pros and cons of both.

KC_Bobby
12-31-2008, 04:06 PM
The main reason for taking the judging class is for my wife. She will be our "official" taste tester for our team. She will have the final say on rubs, spices, flavors, etc. No meats will be plated or boxed without her seal of approval! :lol: .

Devil's Advocate here:
What happens if her approvals don't get calls? Stated otherwise, comp cooking is about what the judges like, not what the team likes. Now if, her tastes matches what the judges like, you are in luck and have a very valuable team member. If not, well the road could be bumpy.

JD McGee
12-31-2008, 05:06 PM
Devil's Advocate here:
What happens if her approvals don't get calls? Stated otherwise, comp cooking is about what the judges like, not what the team likes. Now if, her tastes matches what the judges like, you are in luck and have a very valuable team member. If not, well the road could be bumpy.

My wife is on a mission to learn exactly what the judges are looking for and make sure that's what we turn in during comps. My job is to make sure the pits are stoked to perfection and dead on our target temps with the proper fuel and smokewood. Also that our meats are prepped, rubbed, marinaded, seasoned or injected according to our game plan. We're a team in life and in BBQ...it can't get any better than that! :-P Well...an invite to the Jack would be nice! :wink:

Meat Burner
12-31-2008, 05:28 PM
JD, like your attitude about the Jack. Can't reach a goal, of any kind, if you are afraid to put it in the crosshairs. We wish you well. Also, taking a judging class is something I would recommend. The class gets you the opportunity to actually judge your competition at an actual event. It's an excellent way to see what your competition is doing. I can't understand why anyone would not think that was a good thing. You also get a better understanding of what the judging pool is made of. Anyway, good luck brother!

watertowerbbq
12-31-2008, 05:33 PM
no offense to anyone here, but I can't see how judging contests can make you a better competitor, unless you judge several, and was able to do a lot of talking between entries and see the scores, to actually learn what those judges are looking for. I reckon if you got to judge 10 contests, and got to discuss in detail with 5 judges at each contest, kept good notes, i reckon you could have a decent compiled survey of 50 judges, along with your own personal opinion on how and what makes great competition BBQ.

I've never judged, nor do I plan to in the near future, so this is all my speculation. I would like to see if someone can point me out some details on how judging will make you a better competitor.

I can see a newbie going into judging in hopes of learning stuff to be a better competitor, get ideas on presentation, etc. But even then, he/she should do about 5-10 of them.

i think it's a common misconception that you don't need to be a judge to be a good competition cook. the reality is that you don't have to be a judge to be a good competition cook, but it sure makes it easier. you get first hand experience as to what a judge is looking for and what not to do or put in the blind box.

there are a lot of nuiances to judging. what is the perfect rib? does the meat fall off the bone? did the meat only pull away from where the bite was taken? what color was the bone after i took the bite? if i put too much sauce on the ribs, can that get me a dq on appearance? how thick is the slice be for brisket? how much should you add to the score for a nice smoke ring? how much should you deduct? what is the standard pull test for brisket? all good questions that are answered in the judging class.

my point is, and i think KC Bobby hinted at the same thing, being a good backyard cook is different than being a good competition cook. the best way to get a good score is to know how the judges score. once you become a judge, judge a few comps and see others presentation and taste their entries and you will have taken a huge step forward in competition cooking.

JD McGee
12-31-2008, 07:52 PM
i think it's a common misconception that you don't need to be a judge to be a good competition cook. the reality is that you don't have to be a judge to be a good competition cook, but it sure makes it easier. you get first hand experience as to what a judge is looking for and what not to do or put in the blind box.

there are a lot of nuiances to judging. what is the perfect rib? does the meat fall off the bone? did the meat only pull away from where the bite was taken? what color was the bone after i took the bite? if i put too much sauce on the ribs, can that get me a dq on appearance? how thick is the slice be for brisket? how much should you add to the score for a nice smoke ring? how much should you deduct? what is the standard pull test for brisket? all good questions that are answered in the judging class.

my point is, and i think KC Bobby hinted at the same thing, being a good backyard cook is different than being a good competition cook. the best way to get a good score is to know how the judges score. once you become a judge, judge a few comps and see others presentation and taste their entries and you will have taken a huge step forward in competition cooking.

Agreed...and no offense taken from anyone. I'm here to learn...mostly from my mistakes...:lol:...and from the folks that have been there...done that. :-P

swamprb
12-31-2008, 08:36 PM
You might want to move to the Kansas City area to take advantage of the plethora of competitions. The Pacific Northwest is not a hotbed of BBQ, so take the PNWBA class, it won't hurt, then judge at Pike Place (cuz it ain't cook friendly) cool yer heels until June and get ready for weekend roadtrips to Oregon or British Columbia. I haven't seen any KCBS comps here for 2009 yet. Harsh reality.

Meat Burner
01-01-2009, 01:37 AM
Water, not anything against your comments except one thing...the smoke ring has nothing whatsoever to do with judging bbq. Just trying to help. Happy New Year!!!

watertowerbbq
01-01-2009, 07:01 AM
Water, not anything against your comments except one thing...the smoke ring has nothing whatsoever to do with judging bbq. Just trying to help. Happy New Year!!!

trick question! that was my point. :-D you are taught in the judges class that the smoke ring can be chemically induced without smoke and it should not enter into your judgement when scoring the entry. the point i was trying to make is that there are things that judges are taught in class that cooks don't necessarily know. knowing what the judges know only helps.

happy new year to you Meat Burner and to everyone else!

cmcadams
01-01-2009, 07:44 AM
We did the judging class in 2006... the class didn't do much for us other than give us the procedure. Judging a few comps, though, has helped, for the reasons stated. You get to see what other teams are doing for presentation and flavors, and you get to hear what other judges have to say about what's being turned in.

I also agree on the timeline thing. I'm a project manager, and I like having things like that planned out. It allows us to relax in the middle of everything else, knowing things are taken care of.

White Dog BBQ
01-01-2009, 07:51 AM
trick question! that was my point. :-D you are taught in the judges class that the smoke ring can be chemically induced without smoke and it should not enter into your judgement when scoring the entry. the point i was trying to make is that there are things that judges are taught in class that cooks don't necessarily know. knowing what the judges know only helps.

happy new year to you Meat Burner and to everyone else!

I agree that, technically, the smoke ring is not supposed to make a difference. That being said, I think if you take two entries, each exactly the same except for the smoke ring, the one with the better smoke ring will likely get better appearance scores. I think its just BBQ nature.

watertowerbbq
01-01-2009, 08:22 AM
I agree that, technically, the smoke ring is not supposed to make a difference. That being said, I think if you take two entries, each exactly the same except for the smoke ring, the one with the better smoke ring will likely get better appearance scores. I think its just BBQ nature.

i would agree. it's human nature.

watertowerbbq
01-01-2009, 08:24 AM
i'm also going to work on a schedule timeline. i've only done a few comp's and haven't really written down what needs to be done when. i think it would help make the whole process more enjoyable.

Jeff_in_KC
01-01-2009, 09:42 AM
My off-season plans as they pertain to BBQ are basically this:

1. Work to try to find sponsors (cuz without them, we're doing a lot more fishing and a lot less BBQ in '09)

2. Update our Web site

3. Practice a bit (never seems to matter how much we practice - scores are about the same for us)

4. Preparing the Pleasant Hill contest for April

5. Getting my boat (which has been sitting in storage for three years) running again and cleaned up in case #1 above does not pan out.

JD McGee
01-01-2009, 12:01 PM
You might want to move to the Kansas City area to take advantage of the plethora of competitions. The Pacific Northwest is not a hotbed of BBQ, so take the PNWBA class, it won't hurt, then judge at Pike Place (cuz it ain't cook friendly) cool yer heels until June and get ready for weekend roadtrips to Oregon or British Columbia. I haven't seen any KCBS comps here for 2009 yet. Harsh reality.

You tryin' to get rid of your competition bro??? :twisted: if we were to move to KC...I wouldn't be able to shig your pits on comp days! :lol::lol::lol:

SmokeInDaEye
01-01-2009, 01:32 PM
Devil's Advocate here:
What happens if her approvals don't get calls? Stated otherwise, comp cooking is about what the judges like, not what the team likes. Now if, her tastes matches what the judges like, you are in luck and have a very valuable team member. If not, well the road could be bumpy.

I've never tasted a bit of food I've cooked at competitions and have never blamed the designated taster if we don't place. I don't really care how it tastes as long as it is consistent with what I cooked the contest before.

I would, however, love to take a judging class at some point just to see what it's all about.

Jeff Hughes
01-01-2009, 02:55 PM
Your wife will not learn taste profiles from a judging class. While I think they are worth doing, the food is cooked in volume, and usually all alike(as in same rub etc...).

If the class you all take is like the ones I have cooked for, the food will be good, but not like true comp turn ins...

I do think judging is a help to a new comp cook. In my case it helped with presentation, and let me that know my taste profiles were in line...

JD McGee
01-01-2009, 06:44 PM
Your wife will not learn taste profiles from a judging class. While I think they are worth doing, the food is cooked in volume, and usually all alike(as in same rub etc...).

If the class you all take is like the ones I have cooked for, the food will be good, but not like true comp turn ins...

I do think judging is a help to a new comp cook. In my case it helped with presentation, and let me that know my taste profiles were in line...

I believe the first judging class this year is in association with Paul Kirk's Cooking class. Last year I took the cooking class and Swamprb took the judging. From what I remember (Paul's comments) there was some mighty fine q prepared by the students. Our team took second place in ribs and pork butt. It was set up just like a comp with turn in times for each meat.

Even if we only take away one or two tips , tricks, or ideas from the class I feel it will be money well spent for any grain of knowledge gained that will help us to be more competitive. :-P

"Your wife will not learn taste profiles from a judging class"...

Actually...with her knowledge of flavors, seasonings, and spices...she'll probably teach them a thing or two! :-P

Jeff_in_KC
01-01-2009, 07:07 PM
We don't have a designated taster... my wife and I and Stan will all try something and try to come to an agreement of what the best is and go with that. There's no "I" in "Team"! :wink:

JD McGee
01-01-2009, 07:50 PM
We don't have a designated taster... my wife and I and Stan will all try something and try to come to an agreement of what the best is and go with that. There's no "I" in "Team"! :wink:

Agreed...but each team member has his or her job to do in order to prevent chaos and stepping on each others toes. My wife's job will be to prep the spices, rubs, and marinades...as well as the turn in boxes. I can't imagine us not agreeing on that certain signature ingredient that we're searching for...or even not tasting them together.

Jeff Hughes
01-01-2009, 08:06 PM
I believe the first judging class this year is in association with Paul Kirk's Cooking class. Last year I took the cooking class and Swamprb took the judging. From what I remember (Paul's comments) there was some mighty fine q prepared by the students. Our team took second place in ribs and pork butt. It was set up just like a comp with turn in times for each meat.

Even if we only take away one or two tips , tricks, or ideas from the class I feel it will be money well spent for any grain of knowledge gained that will help us to be more competitive. :-P

"Your wife will not learn taste profiles from a judging class"...

Actually...with her knowledge of flavors, seasonings, and spices...she'll probably teach them a thing or two! :-P

No doubt some good grub comes out of Paul's class. But, it is a beginners class. It's nothing like you will come up against at a comp. (When I took it I won)

At a the judging schools around here several comp cooks cook together for the entire class using provided meats, rubs, and sauces. The food is always good, but, we're cooking for 80(not 6), and we're not using our own program. The box building is then done in an assembly line fashion.

The advantage to the judging class you are taking is that it sounds like some of the food might be prepared by the the students. If this is the case you will see more variation in the food than is normal in a judging class.

Do not get me wrong, you will learn big time, but the school is not really about learning successful flavor profiles. I think that's where judging helps.

Have fun at the class...

swamprb
01-01-2009, 09:11 PM
No doubt some good grub comes out of Paul's class. But, it is a beginners class. It's nothing like you will come up against at a comp. (When I took it I won)

At a the judging schools around here several comp cooks cook together for the entire class using provided meats, rubs, and sauces. The food is always good, but, we're cooking for 80(not 6), and we're not using our own program. The box building is then done in an assembly line fashion.

The advantage to the judging class you are taking is that it sounds like some of the food might be prepared by the the students. If this is the case you will see more variation in the food than is normal in a judging class.

Do not get me wrong, you will learn big time, but the school is not really about learning successful flavor profiles. I think that's where judging helps.

Have fun at the class...

Jeff hit the nail on the head here. Cooking for the new CBJ's in an assembly line with over/undercooked meats, illegal garnish, pooling/marking etc. to test the knowledge gained from the lectures provided in class. PNWBA is a little different from KCBS as you judge and score each box individually and sometimes may judge up to 8 entries as opposed to having a placemat with 6 entries. At the PK Pitmaster/PNWBA CBJ class, the newly taught judges will sample and score the class entries that used all the same basic rubs except for the one Chef has the class make. Getting the CBJ training and judging a few comps will get you a better perspective.

JD McGee
01-02-2009, 09:59 AM
Jeff hit the nail on the head here. Cooking for the new CBJ's in an assembly line with over/undercooked meats, illegal garnish, pooling/marking etc. to test the knowledge gained from the lectures provided in class. PNWBA is a little different from KCBS as you judge and score each box individually and sometimes may judge up to 8 entries as opposed to having a placemat with 6 entries. At the PK Pitmaster/PNWBA CBJ class, the newly taught judges will sample and score the class entries that used all the same basic rubs except for the one Chef has the class make. Getting the CBJ training and judging a few comps will get you a better perspective.

Precisely why we're doing it...:-P