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Disconnect 07-29-2011 08:10 AM

Newb Q: To Sauce or Not To Sauce
So far in our practices we've been working without a finishing sauce (for the most part) but reading here, I'm starting to wonder if that is the way to go. We have a final glaze for the chicken/ribs and I think they stand on their own without saucing. What I'm concerned with is what the judges will think :) And I'm completely undecided about the pulled pork - what I do for home (light and lightly-spicy vinegar toss just to touch it up) is not what I'm expecting the judges to want..

Any suggestions? Anyone out there do well without saucing? (Especially in chicken, it seems like the common advice is "be sure to dip them so they are coated evenly" rather than "does it need to be drowning in sauce?")

I'll get pics of our chicken and ribs this weekend, if that helps.

ClayHill 07-29-2011 08:17 AM

for they most part judges like sauce...........send in boxes with no sauce and see what happens, I dare ya :-D

QansasjayhawQ 07-29-2011 08:25 AM

Pictures always help, but really the best way to learn what the judges are (currently) liking is to take the KCBS Certified Judge's course and judge at least ten competitions.

I know that a lot of judges appreciate samples that aren't overly saucy. But not all. Some especially like ribs that have no sauce.

The key here is that each part of each piece of each entry have some flavor. That's probably the most basic element. I can't tell you how many times I've started to taste a chicken sample, enjoying the sauce on the perfectly bite through skin, only to munch down on bland, dry, nondescript meat.

Same thing happens with ribs quite a bit. The smell and the sauce on top are outstanding, but the meat is blahsville.

As for the pork, same thing. Make sure that the meat has some flavor. Vinegar based sauces work OK, as long as they are well balanced with sweetness and you can still taste some pork in there somewhere.

Hope this helps.

smalls65 07-29-2011 08:26 AM


Originally Posted by ClayHill (Post 1729017)
for they most part judges like sauce...........send in boxes with no sauce and see what happens, I dare ya :-D

Ditto what he just said!!! I'd stay away from vinegar sauces for pork too...The judges are looking for balance...Sweet w/ a little heat...for chix and ribs...

Hub 07-29-2011 08:47 AM

small65 said it: BALANCE! Far too much competition barbeque gets over-sauced and/or over-smoked. Great barbeque has a wonderful, critical balance of the meat flavor itself, plus the spicing (rubs, injections, mops, sauces) with no one of these being the dominant flavor. That creates interest and really tickles the tastebuds.

As to appearance, uniformity and appeal rule. Food is more appealing to the palate if it is moist. Thus, sauce, glaze or even a spritz of water or juice can "goose up" this aspect. Sauce is great stuff, but it isn't the only stuff.

Disconnect 07-29-2011 09:10 AM

Looks like I've got some sauces to make :)


Lake Dogs 07-29-2011 09:48 AM

What Hub said, but also some of it is regional. I'm not talking so much to the flavors but as to whether to sauce and how much you sauce. Also which sanctioning bodies you compete in/with. Right here I wouldn't dare present an unsauced rib in KCBS, but MBN no problem if it's great without sauce. Other areas may very well differ. Here, in MBN, if you sauce your pork ahead of time you're liable to get destroyed on scores (sauce, if presented, should be in the cup), but in KCBS you can get away with it, but it should be VERY light. I think other regions would view this differently.

See if you cant talk with a few other competitors from your region and see what they have to say.

AZScott 07-29-2011 10:24 AM

My opinion is to try it. You will never know unless you do.

The one thing I will say and others have said is that it the flavor score is all about the balance between tastes. If your glaze does that I can't see it doing too poorly.

Brewer 07-29-2011 11:07 AM

Sauce, definitely sauce. +1 with HUB on balance.

MikeR 07-29-2011 11:10 AM

Tried a contest last year without saucing (this is how the family and I like it). Bombed!

boogiesnap 07-29-2011 11:13 AM

sauce for sure.

bbq.tom 07-29-2011 11:18 AM

GREAT answers!!! As a judge, I definitely look for balance between the meat, sauce, and smoke. Too much of any one of these elements will reduce your score.

Lake Dogs has it right as far as differing between KCBS and MBN competitions. Best bet is to talk with teams in the contests your are applying to find out what their experiences are with saucing.


Lake Dogs 07-29-2011 12:37 PM

One other thing; the sauce MUST compliment the meat flavor. I was judging a contest not terribly long ago where the sauce was presented on the side. This gave us as judges the opportunity to try the Q without the sauce before we put our favorite amount of sauce on it. First thing, right off, that barbecue was fan-darn-tastic. I recognised the sauce from the day before; it won the sauce contest. With these two you're thinking "hey, we have a winner". I though so, and apparently so did most of the judges, UNTIL we put the sauce on the pork and tried it. OOOOOOOPS. The flavors actually conflicted and didn't go well together at all. Of our entries on the table, we all agreed (afterwards when we could discuss our scores) that this combination of sauce and meat took that entry from a walk-in first place (at our table at least) to either 2nd or 3rd at the table, and our scores reflected it.

So, balance, and make certain that the flavors "marry" together well. The sauce should compliment the flavor of the meat; not over-power it; not over-whelm it; and definitely not conflict with it. Just compliment it.

Funny thing, in the contests that offer sauce contests in addition to the sanctioned parts, watch who wins the sauce contest and then see how they do in the barbecue contests. My experience is that it's rare that the winner of the sauce contest places in the top 5 in any category and I cant think of a time when they actually won a category.

Sawdustguy 07-29-2011 03:13 PM

If it is a KCBS contest held in the northeast I have seen few who have won without saucing except for Brisket which most use the aus jus.

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