First Competition as a CBJ
Well, I finally judged my first KCBS competition this past weekend. It was held at the Benton County Fair in Ashland, MS. There were a total of 18 teams competing. I got down there at 9:30 and we had our judges meeting where we learned we had 24 judges for 18 teams. We still split into 6 judge teams and one of the judges on each team pulled double duty as a judge and a table captain. We also listened to the CD explaining the rules and such and took the oath. First category was sauce at 11:30 and I needed to be back at 11:15.
I walked around a bit watching the teams and man were they busy. I didn't talk to any of them because the reps said that talking with a team before judging was kinda frowned upon. At 11:15 I walked back in the judging area and being a newbie to the whole judging thing, I was spotted by the master judges immediately. Something about the new KCBS judging shirts that are blue with white writing. Anyway, I sat at table number 1 where this nice lady named Bonnie was judging and doing the table captain thing as well. I was also sitting next to this master judge named James who coincidentally organizes the Southaven Springfest MIM competition. Between the two of them, they were explaining how things were going to work and made me feel really comfortable being there.
Ok, 11:30 and we get 5 containers of sauce. We judged it on appearance, taste and ranking since there's no tenderness to sauce. Two of them were really smoky, two had a good vinegar twang to them and one was sweet. I really liked one of the vinegar ones cause it had a bit of spice to it. A lot of the people said it was too spicy. Hmmm....something to remember when I start competing. The remaining containers of sauce were put up front so you could go taste other teams stuff besides the 5 your judged.
At 12:00, the chicken came in. We only saw 3 entries on this one and two boxes were thighs and one was sliced breast. One of the thigh entries didn't really have any color to it and the skin wasn't cooked enough. One had a good color to it but again, the skin wasn't cooked enough. The sliced breast had a chemical taste to it.....like lighter fluid. Nobody liked the lighter fluid taste and judges it accordingly on taste. As with the sauce, the remaining containers were put up front for other judges and the volunteers to taste.
At 12:30, the ribs came in. 4 good entries and one that I wasn't quite sure about. There was one BB entry and the other 4 were spares. The BB entry was sauced and very good. Pulled away from the bone just right. Two of the spares didn't really pull that well although appearance and taste was pretty good. The other spare wasn't sauced but had a nice dry rub on it. Not too much but just enough to let you know it was there. I had gigged it a little on appearance cause it looked dry sitting in the box but it pulled away from the bone better than the first one. The other one that I wasn't quite sure about.....well, this is why.....I know parboiling ribs is against the rules but if I didn't know any better I would have thought they were. The appearance looked like somebody cut them up with a chainsaw and there was no color to them. A lot of grease in the box too. When I went to grab one by the bone, the meat fell off so I scooped up some meat and put it on the plate. It didn't have any taste to it either. Another indicator of being boiled but that was my opinion (along with several of the other judges). I know these guys stayed up all night and spent a lot of money to compete but I truly hope those ribs were an accident and not that team's norm.
At 1:00, the pork came in. Good looking entries. The best ones were the ones that were in chunks, not pulled apart in small strings. There was one like that and it was pretty good but it had already gotten cold and rubbery. The chunks with a bit of bark on the end got my vote. Everything you needed to taste was there. I saw a hint of mustard on one of the sliced pieces but it was a good piece of pork.
At 1:30, the brisket came in. This is what I was waiting for. Out of the 5 entries only one appeared to be dry. I later confirmed that when I tasted it. The rest of them looked really moist and while two of them pulled away easy, the other two were kinda tough. Those four had good taste though but only two of them had the tenderness I was looking for.
We also judged sides and dessert so I left there with a full belly. I found out there's no way to figure out what team you actually judged even after the event was over. I didn't stay for the awards but found out from the BBQ Forum that Jiggy Piggy took GC and River City Rub took reserve. All in all it was a really good time. I only talked to two of the teams down there cause like I said, everyone was busy putting stuff together before the judging and cleaning up and tearing down after the judging.
I hope for those of you considering becoming a judge, that this little write up of my experience helps you out.
Perfect Smoke BBQ Team
Pork Me Baby BBQ Team
Coldwater, MS (just south of Memphis)
KCBS CBJ #7595
NB Bandera Mod E
Custom Drum Smoker
18" Weber Smoky Mountain
Weber Kettle One Touch Silver