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Competition BBQ *On Topic Only* Discussion regarding all aspects of Competition BBQ. Experiences competing or visiting, questions, getting started, Equipment, announcements of events, Results, Reviews, Planning, etc. Questions here will be responded to with competition BBQ in mind.


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Old 06-11-2018, 01:06 PM   #1
airedale
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Default Comp Chicken/Educate Me Please

OK, I have now judged three KCBS comps and I have a question. (I was going to post this in the comps forum, but it appears to be pretty dead.)

I have now seen 18 chicken turn-in boxes. Most of them contained six neatly trimmed thighs; some contained drummies. In virtually every case the chicken was cooked near perfection but almost completely uncontaminated by smoke. In every single case, the pieces were coated in identical-looking red sauce. Mostly it was identical tasting (sweet) too.

Is this all there is? I would have instantly given three nines to a piece of chicken that was well cooked and seasoned, with pleasantly crispy skin. By seasoned I mean little more than S&P, maybe some sage or other unassertive spices. (Dare I hope for some decorative paprika? Zatar would be wonderful, but I understand that anything very distinctive is also risky.)

So is this true nationwide? Is all chicken comp boring and coated with sweet red sauce? Sorry to say though I am permitted to take it home, I never do. Ribs, brisket, and pork yes. Chicken, no.

Or have teams tried savory chicken with crisp skin and failed to score well?

Just askin'
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Old 06-11-2018, 01:21 PM   #2
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Yep for kcbs!
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Old 06-11-2018, 01:28 PM   #3
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Savory chicken can score well, but it can be hit or miss. Crispy skin would do well, but will almost never stay crispy. The chicken sits in a closed box for typically 10 minutes, maybe more, so the steam in the box will most likely soften any crispy skin, unfortunately.

As far as boring chicken, yes, most of it will have sauce and will probably have a sweeter flavor, but sweet shouldn't be dominant. The best chicken I have tasted at a competition had a good balance of sweet, savory and heat. That is hard to do, so it's less common.
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Old 06-11-2018, 01:29 PM   #4
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Classes. Cooks gravitate to what scores. Cook a comp and turn in a crispy skinned smokey sage paprika zatar chicken and see how you do. Maybe it will be the next craze.
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Old 06-11-2018, 01:58 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by airedale View Post
So is this true nationwide? Is all chicken comp boring and coated with sweet red sauce? Sorry to say though I am permitted to take it home, I never do. Ribs, brisket, and pork yes. Chicken, no.
Just think of it as a positive. You get to carry a smaller cooler around, which means your arms wont get as tired!
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Old 06-11-2018, 02:26 PM   #6
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Quote:
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Just think of it as a positive. You get to carry a smaller cooler around, which means your arms wont get as tired!
That may very well be the funniest thing I've read on here.
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Old 06-11-2018, 04:08 PM   #7
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10-15 years ago, when I started competing, I had a simple chicken recipe that's consistently scored top 3.. so often it was expected by many. That streak last for several years.. The recipe was simple. some thighs, slightly trimmed of the yuk, but left to look like a chicken thigh. I would Marinade overnight in italian dressing with a package of McCormick zesty herb marinade added to the dressing and a cup of lemon juice. NO RUB. in the morning, I would remove from bag and go directly to the hotspot in my backyard chef skin side down. once the skin was crispy, I sprinkled some head country on the bottom (or Emerils essence...BAM!), flipped it, and finished skin up. A light brushing of KC masterpiece cut with pineapple juice in the last minute. Once that set, it went into the box. 6 imperfectly shaped thighs, with charred skin and a commercial sauce...Took about 30 minutes to prep, and I have a stack of trophies for that chicken...

Then came the chicken pillows.. then the chicken lollipops, and cupcake/muffin pans, butter baths, scraped skin, and meatglue, to produce a piece of chicken that looks like a polished Ruby ready to be set into a Queens crown. It all lead to cooks sitting in corners and rocking back and forth mumbling and dribbling on themselves after hours of chicken prep.

What did it get us? Proof that you CAN polish a turd. A handful of creative teams took the imperfect chicken, shaped it into glistening , perfectly symmetrical little clumps of chicken and blew away the judges changing the bar and expectations . Teams had no choice but to follow suit to remain competitive and what you are left with is exactly what you described.

Cloned chicken that doesn't look or taste much like chicken.

I tried to deviate years later by going back to basics with my old , previously successful recipe, only to get clobbered. It will take a new trend to upset current trends and the sport has gotten to big $$$ for teams to risk it.

Just my humble opinion... Your milage may vary.
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Old 06-11-2018, 04:33 PM   #8
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Our chicken tends to balance savory and sweet. But don't get me wrong, it's sweeter than my homemade chicken.

Comp bbq has gotten this way over the years due to more and more competitiveness. Not as fun as the "good ole days' i'm sure but it had to be expected at some point
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Old 06-11-2018, 05:42 PM   #9
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Funny, I actually like to judge comp chicken. Hate to prep it for a cook, but when I'm judging, I look forward to the chicken.

That being said, I believe that chicken is largely "figured out," in that there are so many teams that can do the current desired style so well, that it's impossible to do anything but lose a comp in that category. In Mankato yesterday a 170 would have got you 31st place out of 42. In this case, the team that won chicken picked up 8 points against the 30th place team.

People complain about scores being so high these days, and it's most apparent in chicken, imo. I believe that this is due to the current style of comp chicken being more processed driven than art driven. It is a very robotic cook, vs the other 3 meats that have so much more art to them (imo).
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Old 06-11-2018, 06:07 PM   #10
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OP here. Thanks, guys. Interesting points.

I think my issue is that the chicken is so boringly the same. If there was any serious creativity it might turn out that I like the chicken with the red sweet sauce. But after six of them in three comps, not so much.

I did give a flavor "9" to one of the red chickens because the cook got a nice mild smoke flavor into it. Otherwise, the red chicken thighs I've been getting are pretty much an 8 for me.

Wings?? How about some wings? Last week I did a batch at home Weber/vortex with Oakridge Secret Weapon rub and a few chunks of apple wood tossed in the coals. I would love to get something like that in a turn-in box!
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Old 06-11-2018, 06:25 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BBQchef33 View Post
10-15 years ago, when I started competing, I had a simple chicken recipe that's consistently scored top 3.. so often it was expected by many. That streak last for several years.. The recipe was simple. some thighs, slightly trimmed of the yuk, but left to look like a chicken thigh. I would Marinade overnight in italian dressing with a package of McCormick zesty herb marinade added to the dressing and a cup of lemon juice. NO RUB. in the morning, I would remove from bag and go directly to the hotspot in my backyard chef skin side down. once the skin was crispy, I sprinkled some head country on the bottom (or Emerils essence...BAM!), flipped it, and finished skin up. A light brushing of KC masterpiece cut with pineapple juice in the last minute. Once that set, it went into the box. 6 imperfectly shaped thighs, with charred skin and a commercial sauce...Took about 30 minutes to prep, and I have a stack of trophies for that chicken...

Then came the chicken pillows.. then the chicken lollipops, and cupcake/muffin pans, butter baths, scraped skin, and meatglue, to produce a piece of chicken that looks like a polished Ruby ready to be set into a Queens crown. It all lead to cooks sitting in corners and rocking back and forth mumbling and dribbling on themselves after hours of chicken prep.

What did it get us? Proof that you CAN polish a turd. A handful of creative teams took the imperfect chicken, shaped it into glistening , perfectly symmetrical little clumps of chicken and blew away the judges changing the bar and expectations . Teams had no choice but to follow suit to remain competitive and what you are left with is exactly what you described.

Cloned chicken that doesn't look or taste much like chicken.

I tried to deviate years later by going back to basics with my old , previously successful recipe, only to get clobbered. It will take a new trend to upset current trends and the sport has gotten to big $$$ for teams to risk it.

Just my humble opinion... Your milage may vary.
Was the walk to the turn in table up hill both ways?
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Old 06-11-2018, 06:27 PM   #12
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Your the judge, you should score it as presented. Didn't you learn that in the class?

You shouldn't be asking anyone on what good chicken is or how it should be presented or why it's presented like that, just score it for what the cook presented. It's just that simple!
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Old 06-11-2018, 06:55 PM   #13
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Your the judge, you should score it as presented. Didn't you learn that in the class?

You shouldn't be asking anyone on what good chicken is or how it should be presented or why it's presented like that, just score it for what the cook presented. It's just that simple!
I don't know what point you're trying to make.

From several of the responses, what I am getting is apparently typical. I didn't know that before I started the thread. I thought it might be some kind of regional thing where other parts of the country were getting more chicken creativity. I didn't ask anyone what good chicken was; in fact it was kind of the opposite, asking why I wasn't seeing better chicken and guessing that it was because creativity or novelty was too risky. Seems like, from the responses, that is the answer. Too bad.

Re scoring what the cook presented, I find the attempts to turn a totally subjective question into numerical objectivity to be a bit strange. Also, as someone commented, the scoring seems to be a bit high. My scores turn out to be quite close to the table averages so I guess I paid attention in training, but just reading the scoring criteria I could just as easily be giving those red chickens all sixes, as almost none deviate from the comp average. But then they say to score each sample individually, without reference to any of the others. Doh! "Average" is intrinsically a property of the samples taken together, not the samples evaluated individually. So ... more inconsistency.

Oh, well. At least I am learning a little more about BBQ which will hopefully improve my home version. Thanks again for the discussion.
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Old 06-11-2018, 07:43 PM   #14
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Creativity isn’t a scoring category in KCBS. This ain’t Chopped.

I blame Travis Clark. I think he single handedly ruined competition chicken by teaching the entire known universe how to cook it.
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Old 06-11-2018, 07:47 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BBQchef33 View Post
10-15 years ago, when I started competing, I had a simple chicken recipe that's consistently scored top 3.. so often it was expected by many. That streak last for several years.. The recipe was simple. some thighs, slightly trimmed of the yuk, but left to look like a chicken thigh. I would Marinade overnight in italian dressing with a package of McCormick zesty herb marinade added to the dressing and a cup of lemon juice. NO RUB. in the morning, I would remove from bag and go directly to the hotspot in my backyard chef skin side down. once the skin was crispy, I sprinkled some head country on the bottom (or Emerils essence...BAM!), flipped it, and finished skin up. A light brushing of KC masterpiece cut with pineapple juice in the last minute. Once that set, it went into the box. 6 imperfectly shaped thighs, with charred skin and a commercial sauce...Took about 30 minutes to prep, and I have a stack of trophies for that chicken...

Then came the chicken pillows.. then the chicken lollipops, and cupcake/muffin pans, butter baths, scraped skin, and meatglue, to produce a piece of chicken that looks like a polished Ruby ready to be set into a Queens crown. It all lead to cooks sitting in corners and rocking back and forth mumbling and dribbling on themselves after hours of chicken prep.

What did it get us? Proof that you CAN polish a turd. A handful of creative teams took the imperfect chicken, shaped it into glistening , perfectly symmetrical little clumps of chicken and blew away the judges changing the bar and expectations . Teams had no choice but to follow suit to remain competitive and what you are left with is exactly what you described.

Cloned chicken that doesn't look or taste much like chicken.

I tried to deviate years later by going back to basics with my old , previously successful recipe, only to get clobbered. It will take a new trend to upset current trends and the sport has gotten to big $$$ for teams to risk it.

Just my humble opinion... Your milage may vary.
So true.. nice to see you post..
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