View Full Version : Competing on a Shoestring?

08-24-2010, 11:24 PM
I am thinking about competing in a comp coming up in September. I thought it would be an opportunity for me and my son to do something together as a team.

I don't have an RV or a camper. All I have are a few BBQ smokers, recipes, a canopy, some tables, and some fuel. What tips can you folks offer? Do I have to sleep on the premises or can I sleep at home and get back to the site early in the morning? What about hot water? Will a water cooler work? What do I need for draining the water? Will I need to take the used water out with me?

Any tips appreciated. I don't think this will be a regular thing, just a father/son bonding opportunity that is close by my home.


08-24-2010, 11:42 PM
I think it would be best to at least have someone on-site overnight to watch your fire....safety first!

For hot water, we fill a large, orange Coleman water cooler with boiling water on the Thursday before a comp and it is still very warm come Saturday afternoon.

There has been a greywater dump at every contest that we have attended. We've never had to take home greywater.

Have fun with your son and best of luck.

08-25-2010, 12:07 AM
Thanks for the info. I plan to be onsite while cooking. But plan on catching some Z's a few hours before we start cooking.

08-25-2010, 06:08 AM
What time are turn-ins?

08-25-2010, 06:26 AM
Bo, Rick & I did like a mentoring thing for a year before we went out on our own. We cooked on a team as pit bitches and pot washers. I would recommend going that route to anyone before jumping in on your own.

Are you thinking about doing the WV comp?

Let me talk talk with Rick, I'm not sure how many are going with us to WV at the moment. You would be more than welcome on our team but I dont want so many there that people are falling over one another. You wont learn much if our site is a cluster, plus it will hurt our chances at a walk.

Lake Dogs
08-25-2010, 07:05 AM
Sounds like you're doing a ribs and chicken type of cookoff. You wouldnt/shouldnt be required to sleep overnight on these. If you're cooking a butt or shoulder you'd have
to be there awefully early in the morning (really, at night) to get enough hours of
cook time, IMHO.

08-25-2010, 07:13 AM
Sounds like you're doing a ribs and chicken type of cookoff. You wouldnt/shouldnt be required to sleep overnight on these. If you're cooking a butt or shoulder you'd have
to be there awefully early in the morning (really, at night) to get enough hours of
cook time, IMHO.
fast cook. Lots of teams put brisketa on at 6 am and have them done by 10:30. I watched some KC teams at MIS do this and it worked for them. aome start as early as 3 am and then there's the traditional low and slow folks that start at 6-9 pm.

Balls Casten
08-25-2010, 07:55 AM
You can certainly compete on a budget and contests are a great way to bond with family.

You do not need to sleep on site. But if this is your only contest, I suggest you give it a try. You will meet more people and generate more memories by staying on site and watching folks through out the evening. you'd be suprized what goes on when the sun goes down.

Several disposable aluminum pans and you can get by with very little water. We used to bring several knives and such and did not wash utensils until we returned home. Most contests will have water bibs available. (How close it is to your site may be another story)

Enjoy and good luck.

08-25-2010, 07:56 AM
I'll let you know how the shoestring thing goes after this weekend.

We are doing our first comp. We'll be using a tent since we're doing a full KCBS turn in (chix, ribs, butts and brisket) and we'll be staying the night.

As much as I'd love sitting with another teams for the first couple, I'm itching to do this more often so I'm just jumping right in.

We've got 2 WSMs, 2 canopies, some tables and some other essentials. I'm taking a notebook to take notes on what I wish we had and we'll get that stuff as we win!:-D

I say go for it but if you can find another team that will let you and your son on then that will be much cheaper!

08-25-2010, 08:26 AM
White Xmas lights make good lighting. Beg, borrow or steal as many coolers as you can. Just when you think you have too many, get a few more. Aluminum pans are a must, and get a coupla of extra cheap tarps "just in case". Five gallon buckets filled with water and cam buckle or ratchet strapped to the canopy keeps it down.

We run a canopy, two tables, tents and a rubbermaid three drawer cart with everything in it. Get the biggest bus tubs you can find, it will come in handy if and when you do wash dishes.

Most of all take note of things you bring and don't use, and make a determination next time you go out if you REALLY need it.

Capn Kev
08-25-2010, 08:38 AM
If you have the gray folding tables from Costco/Sams, you can set up a nice prep station. I set up a 3-stage washing area using 3 gray bus tubs (again from Sams) on one of my tables. I heat my water using a turkey fryer burner. Bring 5-gallon buckets to carry the fresh water to your station, and keep separate 5-gallon buckets for the gray water. Every comp I've ever been to has had both fresh water and gray water stations.

Good luck.

Alexa RnQ
08-25-2010, 09:05 AM
You can do just fine with a minimalist camp, if you pare down and only bring what you absolutely need.

Canopy, tables and chairs are your basic structure. Consider how you're going to secure the canopy, whether by tiedowns, weights or staking, depending on the surface.

If you hold meats, you'll need an extra cooler and some old towels.
For hot water, a 5-gal beverage cooler will hold what you need.

Disposable aluminum pans are your friends. We found that we have so much less clutter if we use very few utensils, and set them aside to be taken home for washing. This also much reduces the amount of hot water and graywater that you'll deal with. Most contest venues will tell you where to dispose of graywater, grease and ash.

Sleeping onsite is part of the experience (says the girl who goes to a hotel :icon_blush: ). Just remember that the more comforts you bring (cot, sleeping bag, air mattress, tent, whatever) the more you'll have to break down and pack the next day. What are you transporting your gear in? Can you nap in your vehicle or truck bed? Our first contest, we'd borrowed a fifth-wheel, but ended up napping in chairs outside because we were too excited!

If you have time before the contest, set up a complete practice cook in your yard, and bring only what you actually used. Less to pack and haul will make for a better experience.

JD McGee
08-25-2010, 09:47 AM
Sage advice from Diva...she knows her stuff. Along with your "essentials" I would recommend putting together a game plan / timeline for your cook. it'll keep you on track on when to do what when your a bit punchy from sleep deprivation. Also an item checklist is very helpful. Here's a link to the one I use. Good Luck! :thumb:

08-25-2010, 01:04 PM
Joe, WATG, George Hensler(sp?) has a great small book called Starting the Fire. Its a must read for starting a team. George is a brethren, and cooked next to 3yzs at Bel Air, so you may have met him. DivaHerself has sage advise. Good luck!

08-25-2010, 09:12 PM
Thanks, everyone for all of the info. This is a KCBS sanctioned comp but not the one in WVA.

Mark, thanks for the offer.

Rick, thanks for the heads up.

08-25-2010, 09:29 PM
Disposable cutting boards and halogen work light comes in handy too.

Pyle's BBQ
08-26-2010, 07:50 PM
My buddy and I are doing the shoestring thing right now. If you have a SUV I would stay the night. Get a good lawn chair and a sleeping bag. Shade during the day is a must. Be sure to have a plan for bad weather.

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

BBQ Bandit
08-26-2010, 08:04 PM
Feel like driving to New Holland, PA this weekend?
(3 hours away)

08-26-2010, 09:29 PM
You can compete on a shoe string, albeit a very expensive shoe string. This hobby is not cheap even while cutting corners. The trick is for you to cook a few comps and work out the details yourself. There is no way in the world someone else can do that for you. I mean I love disposable cutting boards but those are hardly a shoe string budget item. It really starts with your cookers and transportation. From there just look how others do it and blaze your own shoe string path! Go do a comp and see how it turns out. You will have a much better idea of your expenses then.

08-26-2010, 10:57 PM
I was talking to a guy at my first comp and he told me that when the competition season rolls around they do neighborhood cookouts for donations. He said that he typically can get comp fees paid for one or two competitions. I'm planning on trying the same thing and seeing how it works out. Another idea is to look on craigslist for items or go to a used restaurant supply place. All of your items will be much cheaper there. One thing I did to reduce costs was buy steel hotel pans rather than using the foil. I figure they are much higher quality and I'm not throwing away money every time. Besides, they aren't that expensive buying them used. The biggest cost is meats if you aren't doing a comp out of town but if you can do peoples choice you should make it back plus a little.

08-27-2010, 08:56 AM
I think it's fantastic that you are doing this with your son!

My wife and I compete together on a shoe-string budget and we have a blast working together as a team. I can't imagine doing it all on my own - but I know that there are people who do go it solo - but the bottom line is that it really helps us bond together as a team in life as well as in competition.

We have a tent that we sleep in - but the Most Important Item (according to my wife) is the air mattress! We have even blown up the air mattress and slept on it when it was too windy to set up the tent. Plus we could have the air mattress right next to the cookers . . .

Bottom line, to more specifically answer your question, is that it is possible, as long as your goal is to have fun doing this together. It's a challenge physically and mentally and working together to overcome those challenges can be a lot of fun as long as you go about it with the right attitude.

We have been adding equipment little by little over the last couple of years as we could save up for things like a portable water heater . . . but the advice given so far about things like the hot water in the cooler - and keeping track of what you actually use and don't use - and keeping a time-line journal - and practicing in your back yard - it's all excellent advice!

And don't make it a one-time deal. As you and your son learn about things, planning together how to modify your game plan for your next contest is also a lot of fun to work on once you get back home.

Above all else - have fun! Enjoy your time together -

08-27-2010, 09:53 AM
"Starting the Fire", as another poster said, is a good read. (even if they can't spell Farrin right :icon_blush:)

I also suggest you look over the kcbs.us site. There are some things that are required to pass the meat/site inspection, including:

- food service safe gloves (vinyl is good)
- 3 basins (wash, rinse, sanitize)
- bleach (it should list sanitization of food prep surfaces as an accepted use on the bottle)
- an instant read thermometer (Ask the brethen which color Thermapen they recommend. I use RED, since it's our team color, and the fastest and most accurate. :becky:)
- A fire extinguisher (Get at least 10 pounds ABC capable. If you buy the smallest model you can find, be aware some contests won't accept the tiny ones.)
- A pop up shelter (such as an EZ-UP) is highly recommended, and you can find those at discount stores for under $100.

08-27-2010, 04:33 PM
I'm on a team with 3 of us. Sometimes our wifes come. We have quick pitch shade, tables, etc. We split fees 3 ways. No RV or camper we get a few hours of nap time during the evening. Definately spend the night. It's part of the experiance. My part of the expence is usually 75 to a little over 100 plus the cost of the meat. You will become adicted. Pick up things for future compititions a little at a time. You already have better grills then I do. find someone else to start doing future comps> with> that will cut the expence in half. most of all have fun.

08-27-2010, 05:30 PM
Enjoy cooking with your Son
I love cooking with my Son, Kyle

08-28-2010, 09:31 AM
Jump right in. I would suggest on your first comp, make sure you turn everything in and don't get dq'd. Its a lot of fun. Dont forget the adult beverages!!!