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ButchB 10-02-2012 05:53 PM

First comp coming up soon, more help needed please
My first comp is coming up 10/12-10/13. I signed up for the backyard(BY) division but the lady called today and asked if i would change to pro. They had it set up for 25 pro teams and 5 BY teams. They have 5 BY but only 21 pro. She said two BY teams already agreed to go pro. One BY team said he wanted to stay BY regardless. I figured I want my food to be judged against more than just one or two teams so I agreed to also move to pro. Now instead of cooking just ribs and pork I also need to do chicken and brisket. I feel pretty comfortable with my ribs and pork but chicken and brisket not really. Heres a few questions.

chicken- I've cooked the cupcake chicken a few times and everybody likes it, but it seems from reading on here that judges might be tired of seeing round balls of chicken and may score it lower?? The recipe/taste profile I have is good according to all my friends and family I guess i'm just trying to figure out which is the proper way to trim and shape the thighs to appeal to the judges.

brisket- I've only tried one and it didn't turn out good. I followed the blackhawk v2 somebody on here wrote, and i followed it to a t, but it just didn't turn out good to me. I'm gonna go buy another one tomorrow and try again but i'm thinking i should go back to the basics of salt, pepper, and just cook it at 225 til it hits 200. No foil, injections, etc. BUT, If this is just gonna be a waste of time and not cut it for competition, is there a good technique for a beginner trying to compete?

Any more tips? I've been practicing plenty on ribs and pork. Now the chicken and brisket are throwing a curve at me. Any help at all is greatly appreciated.

Thanks guys!

Pappy Q 10-02-2012 06:09 PM

At this point, I'd keep it simple and go with what you feel comfortable doing. Your first full comp is going to be stressful enough without trying complicated things you've rarely done.

Just my worthless opinion.

rookiedad 10-02-2012 07:25 PM

my opinion is also worthless :grin:, but i would concentrate on your timeline. make sure you have a plan to get everything through on time. keep track of your temps and times on all four catagories and work them into the timeline working back from the turn in time. if you can, practice the cook as a whole and know what you are going to put where and when. prep ahead of time as much as you can.
for the chicken, pans help in keeping the shapes uniform. brownie pans are better than muffin tins at making the thighs look more like chicken. you might consider a brine for moistness. Kosmo's has a sample pack of soaks and injects that will get you through a competition. i would also use commercial competition grade rubs and sauces to cut down on extra work during the cook.
brisket.... who knows??? but if you're not going to foil during the cook, at least rest in foil or butcher paper for a couple of hours before turn ins.
oh yeah... remember to have fun, and good luck!

JS-TX 10-03-2012 10:25 AM

Since it's your 1st comp, I would also suggest working on your timeline. The last thing you want to happen is for your Q to be underdone and/or tough. Do what you are comfortable with, however I would suggest cooking hotter than 225*. 225* just extends your cooking time unnecessarily IMO. Your cookers you have listed in your signature should be able to maintain a higher temp w/little effort. Lots of info here on different brisket cooking methods. Follow a technique that makes sense to you and go from there. Good luck!

Ackman 10-03-2012 10:48 AM

I just did my first last weekend and my write up is still listed here. I went solo and as the others said timeline is essential. I won't address your question on chicken as mine was bad. Brisket I inject with Kosmo. I too like to cook closer to 260-270 mostly because that is what my cooker gravitates to but I have had good luck and cuts my time into the 6-8 hr range. I like 14 pound full packers. Finishing temps are really only a guideline. It is all about slipping that probe in until it is like going through butter.

Most importantly have fun and u will meet a bunch of good people many who will be happy to advise you. As I mentioned I just did my first and I am officially hooked. Season about over in the Northeast but already looking to next year. Good luck

markG 10-04-2012 07:32 AM

I am a newbie this year too and I have done 4 comps and have 3 over the next 3 weeks. The advice that I got on my first comp from a seasoned vet was to make sure that you turn in a box for every category. So working on the timeline is important, but making sure that you get scored in every category on your first comp is an accomplishment whether you finish first or last. Just have fun! You WILL get addicted! I am going to seek treatment over the winter! :)

Crash 10-05-2012 03:53 AM

My thoughts and only my opinion. Consider using a thick flat and power cooking it close to 300. Ever since we learned how to "power cook" a flat, our brisket scores have skyrocketed with a top 3 in each of our last 3 events.

We inject using Butchers, and use two commercial rubs. We also wrap when the bark looks like it has set up nicely.

Best of luck, brisket is a tough one to figure out.

gettinbasted 10-05-2012 06:35 AM

I compete with an assassin and cook at around 250. Our chicken is lousy so I can't help you there, but I have a brisket pointer or two. I used to cook fat side up but switched to fat side down on the assassin. You will get better color. I wrap after about 6 hours or so.

Error on the side of getting the brisket done early because a long rest won't hurt and it will hold temp stored in a cooler. Just let it vent for a while so it doesn't continue to cook and end up overdone.

ButchB 10-05-2012 06:49 AM

Thanks for the pointers guys. I'm actually in the middle of a practice run right now. A couple of things I have noticed so far that i need to adjust:

The brisket- I decided to not use a thermometer at all because I wanted to learn to cook it by feel and not rely on the thermo. I let it go for 8 hours and then started checking it with a toothpick every 30 mins. After 10 hours, the point had no resistance at all but the flat still had some, well compared to the point it did. I went ahead and pulled it and then checked the temp to see how close i was. The point was 215 and the flat was 210. The point was awesome, but the flat was dry. I guess the toothpick test should mainly be done on the flat? cause its gonna feel tough if comparing it to the point. I didn't inject it at all before the cook or foil, just set smoker to 225 and let it ride. Would either of these have helped? and if so whats a good injection?

The Butt- I put it on at 9:00 last night and when i got up at 5:30 this morning the temp was at 175. Only problem is no bark at all. I prepped the butt the same as I always have but compared to cooking in my uds it just doesn't have any bark. Only things I can think of is either A: I filled the water pan up with apple juice, maybe it kept the smoker too moist? or B: I'm cooking at 225, which is a little lower than I do in my UDS.

I have ribs and chicken going right now also. I'm trying a run with everything at 225, but I feel certain the chicken is not gonna like that low of a temp. I normally cook at 250-275 but trying to dial in my ribs and get rid of the jerky like top layer thats been forming lately.

Thanks for all the help again.

cpw 10-05-2012 07:58 AM

I think you're doing yourself a disservice if you don't plan on using a good rub and injection on the brisket. While it may be your first comp, it won't be the first for everyone else, and I'd wager that the vast majority of your competitors will be using more than salt and pepper on their brisket. Plus, it only takes a few minutes to inject at a contest anyways, just build that into your timeline.

As far as the bark on the butt, I noticed the same problem with my Backwoods vs. the UDS. I think it's a moisture thing.

rookiedad 10-05-2012 08:35 AM

i'd get up to 250* on ribs, pork, and brisket and 275* on chicken.
if your point is great and your flat is dry, there have been some whispers (mostly by me :grin:) about turning in just the point alone. it's a risk as judges perception might be that you were not able to get the point right but in actuality they are only supposed to judge what is in the box so i think that dry flat might bring down the score of the point. this is a new way of thinking as the flat was the standard and the burnt ends (which are now carmelized deckle cubes) were added as kind of a gift to the judges to bolster the score of the flat. JUST A THOUGHT!!! PROCEED AT YOUR OWN RISK!!!

Cayman1 10-05-2012 10:58 AM

Cooking tips are everywhere on this forum. Great resource. Comp advice would be to plan everything ahead. Think about what rubs, sauce, and equipment you might need. Make a list. I like to use either a white board or at least a legal pad for timelines for cooks meeting and turn in. Also have a list for when you want to start with each meat, turn, foil, etc. It will really help cause there is a lot going on.Walk to the turn in area ahead of time so you will know for sure how long it takes.
Take at least 2 coolers for holding.It is not a bad idea if you can to take backups for each piece of equipment. Electric knives etc seem to quit at the worst times.
Plan for weather changes.
As you can see, hardest part is the planning. You obviously can cook or you wouldn't be entering so make sure you have a plan for everything else and that everyone on the team sticks to plan.
Good luck and most important, have fun.

ButchB 10-05-2012 12:06 PM

Thanks guys, I just finished a practice run and feel a lot more comfortable now. I found out a lot of things doing a trial run. I need to change some things and have another run before the actual competition. The old saying practice makes perfect definitely applies to this sport/hobby and I can tell I will need plenty of practice lol.

pwa 10-06-2012 12:25 AM

Build a Timeline and stick to, use an alarm to warn you of upcoming turn ins. I solo compete with my kids and do alright. Biggest thing it the time line, try to find a mini loaf pan to help make a uniform chicken presentation. Still need to trim and all the fun stuff with the thighs but makes a better looking thigh

smoke-n-my-i's 10-06-2012 12:58 PM

1) timeline
2) cook at 275ish....
3) have fun
4) foil is your friend
5) don't be afraid to ask for help
6) have fun
7) do what you do best
8) don't get your heart set on winning
9) have fun
10) you will learn a lot
11) chicken is just abt everyone's hardest meat to cook
12) don't be intimidated
13) have a good time
14) make friends
15) don't panic
16) it's only gonna be a habit from now on
17) have fun

Now, I hope this helps. And if all else fails, have fun, learn from any mistakes you make, and make yourself notes... don't try to remember it, you will forget it before you get home....

Have fun.

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