View Full Version : What This CBJ Learned Today About Comp BBQ Cooking

09-06-2010, 07:42 PM
Dear Competition BBQ Cooks:

My hats off to you! I admire what you are able to do weekend after weekend. Today, I went through a dress rehearsal for a KCBS sanctioned BBQ competition. It was grueling. I cooked all four categories: Chicken, Ribs, Pork Shoulder, and Brisket.

I learned that you guys and gals work your behinds off in every competition. I learned that it costs a lot of money and time and it takes a lot of love of the art and dedication.

Here are three of the boxes I completed today in my dress rehearsal for an upcoming competition. I won't show my ribs because I deviated from my tried and true method as an experiment and it didn't turn out good.

As the guy who ran the company that invented the parachute said after his first failed attempt, "That's why we do these tests." :thumb:




These boxes need some work, for sure, and the pictures reveal all of the hard work I have to do.

Another thing I learned is, I won't be competing this weekend. There are too many obstacles I have to overcome. Everything from better knives to better lighting for the dark morning hours to being able to sleep on-site. I have the entire fall and winter to prepare, and, prepare I will.

But, until then, I will continue to strive to be the best CBJ that I can possibly be and continue to hone my skills and collect all of the tools that I can to be a better competitor.

So, my hats off to you folks who compete on a regular basis. I can't think of anything that I would rather be able to do. I have no idea how to make a living at it, but, at this time in my life, I'd settle for having fun doing it.

Too many judges are literally oblivious to what's involved in making good competition BBQ. They get annoyed at the judges table when I bring it up. They really do look at me and almost roll their eyes and fall to sleep. But, this is one CBJ who will always stand up for the competitors and make sure that the CBJs on my table know that a lot of hard work, money, time, and love of the art of BBQ goes into every box that they will judge.

I will compete some day, but, not this weekend. I have too many logistical problems to overcome in such a short amount of time.

So, what do you think of my boxes?

Dan - 3eyzbbq
09-06-2010, 07:55 PM
You should compete. Are you talking about Hedgesville, WV? You just have to jump in and those boxes don't look too bad at al.

09-06-2010, 08:18 PM
Thanks, bro! The comp I wanted to compete in is the one in Richmond called Rescue Fest. It's close to my home.

Captain P.J.
09-06-2010, 10:53 PM
I think you should go for it! If anything you will make yourself some great leftovers for lunch and some new friends! Oh and there's 9:22... which is always fun!

09-06-2010, 10:55 PM
Go get some head lamps and laterns and jump right in. There's never going to be a "perfect" time. You just have to do it. I just did my first comp this past weekend and it was a blast.

09-06-2010, 11:35 PM
Thanks for taking the initiative to see what a comp team goes through.

I compete once a year, and started doing it just to see if my Q was any good.

We competed this year and used NO electricity. I bought a pair of Coleman lanterns off CL and used those. Worked great. I did not have nice knives when I got into this. I used the sharpest kitchen knife I had. I have since grown my collection thanks to the generosity of others and the internet.

All you really need is 4 good recipes, a canopy, some tables, your cooker, and supplies to clean with.

As far as your boxes, the chicken would have looked better with just the 6 evenly sized pieces.

The pork looks good except for the hidden 6th slice.

The brisket box would look better if you pre-trimmed your brisket to just over box width, make sure your slices are oriented the same way as they came off the flat and put your burnt ends either at the top or bottom instead of the sides.

I hope this experience helps you grow as a judge.

09-07-2010, 01:27 AM
Thank you for truly understanding what competition cooks go through. Your sincerity speaks volumes.

As for the boxes:

Chicken: If you can get 8 in the box, why not go for 9 (three rows of 3). The bottom two look good and so does the top right one, uniformity wise. Try to make all of your pieces look the exact same as best as you can. A nicer glaze would be better as well. Oh yeah, the bottom right one looks perfect.

Pork: The box doesn't look full enough. I know it's enough, but consider laying some pulled underneath to lift up your sliced and chunked.

Brisket: It looks like the ends of the slices got sliced off. Try sizing your brisket prior to putting it on the cooker so that you have bark all the way around. It's a task, but well worth it.

Overall I'd probably go with 777 on appearance for all 3 of those.

Keep up the great work, and take my advice with a big grain of salt.

09-07-2010, 06:34 AM
You should go for it. Rescue Fest looks like a nice small contest to get your feet wet. If not now then when?

Your boxes don't look bad. They could all use some more meat & the pork & brisket look a little dry. Try spritzing them up just before you put them in the box.

Good luck!

Riverside BBQ
09-07-2010, 07:03 AM
I haven't competed as the cook, but have helped on a team several times. Yes the work involoved can be overwhelming at times.
But there's no time like the present to get your feet wet.
Your boxes don't look bad at all, just a little too much parsley I'd say and not enough meat. The parsley should just outline the meat or be a canvass inorder to provide that tasty picture you want the judges to taste. (yes not see but taste with thier eyes.) Yours looks like it would taste more leafy rather the meaty.
Your attitude will take you a long way. Now that you have a better understanding of what the comp teams endour.
Great job and good luck!

09-07-2010, 07:51 AM
Looks like a pretty good start to me. I agree the effort to compete is daunting, that's why I have only done 1 small unsanctioned contest since I am by myself and don't have all the equipment (air conditioned trailer) I would like.

Chicken itself looks cooked ok, but the varying size will hurt your score. I think even with the different sizes if you would have grouped by size that would have helped.

Pork looks really tasty but seems to have disappeared into the garnish. Either tighter garnish or more meat to make the meat stand out. Like Crash said you can put shreded meat under the slices to lift it above the garnish.

Brisket looks ok too but again sinks into the garnish. Harbormaster was right about keeping the slices oriented, same way as cut off the brisket. A few more slices and burnt ends wouldnt hurt either. With the slices I think if you show the face of the first slice, and then tighten up the other slices (not show as much of the face of the slice) would look better to me.

I applaud everyone who competes and provides me the chance to judge their BBQ, I then try to be as fair and accurate in my judging as possible.

09-07-2010, 09:08 AM
You are further along with those boxes than many! Jump right into competing, you just may surprise yourself. A cheapy construction light pointed up into the underside of your canopy gives just enough diffused light to work by at night (if you need it). A headlamp is great for focused work. Make sure all you prep is done at home or the day before and the only light you will need at night really is enough to check on your smoker.

Lake Dogs
09-07-2010, 09:12 AM
Bo, Thanks for the write-up and pics. I'd judged 4+- years before entering my first
comp, and even though I had a pretty good idea of what all goes in to it, it was still
significantly more than I'd imagined or practiced. I not only hope that competitors
will judge a few early on, I really wish it were mandatory that judges cook/compete
in a competition to obtain some higher level of certification, and then organizers strive
to get a 70% "higher certified" judge. If nothing else, it will give them a slight pause
between that 6 and a 7, or that 8 and a 9... I dont mean to say that judges should
score higher, just because... Just that a little walking in the others' shoes does tend
to add a little higher appreciation, which you so aptly wrote above.

Go, compete. Seriously. And, enjoy. It's unbelievable labor, but for many of us it's
a labor of love. Jump in. You're not nearly as far off as you think. You're also
learning that the winners sweat the details, even the smallest detail.

09-07-2010, 09:14 AM
I salute you for taking the time to understand what cooks actually go through on a weekend.

09-07-2010, 09:07 PM
You believe and feel the same same as I do. As a CBJ I have said it many times at my table. "Judges should be required to cook with a team way before they have judged 30 contests."

09-07-2010, 11:02 PM
Heck of a thread...I think you are being honest(bout yourself)as far as critique... ..I also agree with the get out and compete sentiments...

Only saw 5 pieces of Money Muscle.


09-09-2010, 07:58 PM
Thanks for the encouraging words and all the box tips, folks! I contacted Don (the KCBS rep running the comp) and volunteered to help out in areas other than judging. So, I will be attending the comp but not judging or competing.

I did some experimenting in my practice run that resulted in a shortage of pork and brisket. That's one reason the boxes look so thin on meat. I have always used my UDS to cook pork, ribs, and brisket but I've never cooked all three at the same time. So, I decided to use my Bubba Kegs: one for brisket, butt, and chicken and one as a warming oven. I used my UDS for ribs, but changed up my spritzing liquid that turned out to be a flop. I learned not to do that again.

The problem came when brisket juices dripped into the coals in the Bubba Keg and ignited. Next thing I knew, the BK was up to 600 F. I had to fight the flames and remove the meat but not before the bottom of the brisket was charred. That wasn't a real big deal because I cook brisket fat cap down so the charring was on the fat and not the meat and didn't impact the flavor. But, in the end, it did screw some of the point and ruined the au jus.

The pork was fine but since I had to put it in a pan to cook it (same with brisket), the lower portion of the butt was soaked and didn't have any bark when I pulled it. My plan was to fill the bottom of the box with chopped pork and then put pulled and sliced on top of that with a frame of parsley. But, there wasn't enough good meat to do that. You can't see the chopped under the parsley.

I learned a lot and have a plan for dealing with the problems next time. The Bubba Keg will do fine but I just have to make some adjustments to my cooking method.