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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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Unread 05-01-2011, 01:35 AM   #1
bogyo1981
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Default What judges are looking for in pork

Hello everyone, I'm a somewhat new team with only one KCBS competition under my belt. We are doing are second comp in Westmont, IL in a few weeks and I want to know what judges are looking for in pork shoulder. Any help would be very helpful. And I would like to say thank you in advance.
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Unread 05-01-2011, 01:55 AM   #2
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Ditto this question!!!

Before my buddy and I moved up from the backyard division we thought that pork would be our strongest category. We absolutely loved it and so did our friends and families. Heck we even won two people's choice awards in the two comps we did last year both thanks to our pulled pork. Everybody raved about it!

Fast forward to our two Pro division cooks this year and it is our weakest category. Go figure!

I really want to get certified and judge a couple of big contests so that I can hopefully get an idea of what the expectations are for Pork.
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Unread 05-01-2011, 07:55 AM   #3
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They want it to look great, taste great, and want it tender. Other than that, pork is our nemisis.

Our friends have told us the same. They wouldnt change a thing but I know good isnt good enough. It has to be phenomenal to win.
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Unread 05-01-2011, 10:30 AM   #4
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^^^ As a picture is worth a thousand words, sitting behind a judges table helps. Appearance is tough, both as a judge and as a competitor. I suggest that you fill the box as much as possible/reasonable. Mix in pieces with bark and those without. A nice smoke ring should be visible. The bark shouldn't be too dark, but flavorful. NO fat. Moisture should be there. To do this (keep the pieces moist), pull them to the size about the size of your thumb, give or take. Dont shred. Think of it from a judges perspective; how can you tell how moist or tender it is if it's shredded? Largely, they cant. Larger pieces (bite sized pieces) do better. They're able to squeeze them to help test for tenderness and moisture. Taste of course is much more subjective and can be VERY regional and to some degree differ from one contest to another based upon the judges pool. By this I mean that some contests it's expected to have it sauced, others the judges seem to expect sauce on the side, others still no sauce whatsoever. If you have sauce, it should compliment the flavors of the meat and rub, and NOT smother/cover it. This is what's meant when we say "it's not a sauce contest". Bland will get you killed. Dry will get you killed. Flavors that aren't balanced will usually get you varied scores (one person likes it, the next doesnt). Play to the center. Try hard not to alienate/offend a judge. While one judge may like something really spicy, the next two judges wont. So, too spicy will get you killed just as quickly as bland. Most tend to taste better as hot as possible. Keep this in mind when pulling the pork and when packing your box Try to bring the box and/or garnish up to room temperate so as not to be cooling the meat when it's in there. Meat in there as hot as possible (hopefully it's burning your fingers when you put it in). Choose a balance of pieces, those with bark and those without, and NO FAT on them. Arrange them quickly, and look at pics on this site for those you think look appetizing (arrangements) and those that aren't as appetizing for ideas of what to do, and what NOT to do. If you do something like slice a money muscle, make certain you have at least 6 perfect pieces. Also, remember, if it's meat and in the box, it's assumed that you intended it to be eaten. There is no such a thing as a "meat garnish or filler".
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Unread 05-01-2011, 12:07 PM   #5
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Lake Dog hits a lot of great points with good constructive suggestions. You are not going to go wrong following what he says.

One thing I would add is in regard to texture. It is not too often that I run into pork that is tough and stringy. Much more often that I encounter pork that is mushy in the mouth. Can't fix that if it is overcooked.

As for flavor, I want that great pork shoulder meat taste front and center. The meat taste needs to shine through. Anything else, sauce, injection needs to be in the background.

Keep on working. And good luck.
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Unread 05-01-2011, 01:32 PM   #6
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What are the preferred sections of the pork butt to use for presentation? I know the money muscle is the prime preferred meat for slicing. Some teach that the tubes and meat under the blade are also preferred. After that what sections are good and which should be put aside and not turned in?
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Unread 05-01-2011, 03:47 PM   #7
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I am by no means an expert but from taking classes I was told by some VERY successful trophyy winners...the judges want it SWEET.
Also, I can tell you that we sell a ton of the Sweet Sauces, including our own sauce which I patterened after one of the most popular ..it's sticky and sweet and we use it on all categories and so far it has produced for us.
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Unread 05-01-2011, 04:04 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SmokinGuitarPlayer View Post
I am by no means an expert but from taking classes I was told by some VERY successful trophyy winners...the judges want it SWEET.
Also, I can tell you that we sell a ton of the Sweet Sauces, including our own sauce which I patterened after one of the most popular ..it's sticky and sweet and we use it on all categories and so far it has produced for us.
I see that you sell a whole bunch of rubs and sauces..what awards have you won? I have tasted a couple and wonder what you think your best offerings are? your sweet sauce..is it a blues hog copy? Im always tring to save money..
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Unread 05-02-2011, 08:33 AM   #9
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Lots of good advice has already been given. I'll reinforce a bit on the texture attribute. Undercooked pork will be somewhat stringy and overcooked pork will be mushy like baby food. In either case it might still have very good flavor and moisture, though. Test your recipe until you can consistently produce pork that has some bite resistance but no "toughness" when chewed or hand-pulled.

As to the flavor attribute, keep it moderate. Yes, "sweet" is popular but not necessarily a be-all end-all. Remember that a winning entry is a balance of the meat, method and spicing -- not just one thing. Over-saucing (and ruining the flavor balance) is one of the most common mark-downs for all categories.
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Unread 05-02-2011, 08:57 AM   #10
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Q-Dat, many unsanctioned competitions use sanctioned judges (as many as they can get) as the core judging pool, so to some degree you're being judged on the same or very similar criteria. However, I can tell you from my judging experience that the biggest difference in sanctioned competitions to un-sanctioned (back yard) is the level of competition. There is no comparison. Not close. In a sanctioned competition with 30 or more teams, the top 10 in any category are usually HEAVENLY.
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Unread 05-02-2011, 12:44 PM   #11
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I'd offer help. But I can cook pork across the county and score wins, except Westmont. For some reasl. I get my butt kicked at my hometown contest. Damn judges....
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Unread 05-02-2011, 01:06 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by carlyle View Post
As for flavor, I want that great pork shoulder meat taste front and center. The meat taste needs to shine through. Anything else, sauce, injection needs to be in the background.
What taste? On it's own Pork butt is pretty bland meat. I guess that's why us cooks inject, season and sauce it.
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Unread 05-02-2011, 06:20 PM   #13
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Well... I'll offer what I can. For some reason, our Pork has been doing very well. I've walked in both our last two comps with pork.

First, this is last weekend's 10th place at the Cook-Off Kick-Off in Hazlewood, MO:

I don't have any pictures from the comp before (7th place at Wildwood BBQ Bash in Wildwood, MO last fall), which is sad, because they were totally different presentations.

The 7th place finish had no money muscle, just pulled chunks.

I try to pull my chunks in about thumb-sized pieces or slightly smaller from the brown muscle in the "crook" of the shoulder blade opposite the MM. I glaze the MM (when I can salvage one) with my bourbon sauce diluted with drippings from the foil and actually dip the chunks in the same mixture.

I'll also hit the whole thing with a little dusting of the same rub I use on the meat in the beginning right at the end.

It seems to be working for me for the moment.
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Unread 05-02-2011, 06:59 PM   #14
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Everything mentioned so far is great advice. As far as saucing your pork, I would try to be mindful of the amount of sauce you add. You can spend all night cooking the perfect piece of pork and in less than 30 seconds ruin it by drowning it in sauce. The last thing you want to do is overpower the meat with sauce. Once you've added too much sauce there's almost nothing you can do. Trust me, I've done it . . .
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Unread 05-02-2011, 08:24 PM   #15
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Great info,
When you put a whole sliced money muscle in the box, I have heard that the judges don't want the end peices. Is this true?

When you guys grab the chunks can you grab from below the bone as well as above the bone?

Thanks
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