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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 08-23-2012, 12:47 PM   #1
Smoke Ring
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I competed in a Lone Star BBQ Society sanctioned contest last weekend which got me to thinking again about the KCBS judging process. I believe that the way the Texas rules contests are judged relies less on luck and is probably a more accurate way to pick the best meat entry.

First, there is no garnish to worry about. You lay the meat in the box on top of a sheet of aluminum foil. There is no distraction for the judges as to who made the prettiest bed of parsley, or if some of the lettuce leaves are a different color, or heaven forbid they used red tip lettuce or some other "illegal" garnish. The focus is on the meat.

All teams put the meat in the box in the same way. Chicken is half a chicken in one piece. Ribs are laid parallel to the box hinge with 5 ribs on the bottom and two more on top starting at the back. Brisket is 7 slices and the ends cannot be trimmed. It's an even playing field.

Sauce may not be added after the meat is removed from the smoker. It must be cooked on if used.

There are no "trained" or "certified" judges. Judges are selected from the public on site. They are judging the meat only, not lettuce and parsley, based on what they like and think is good, and have no pre-conceived notion about how to score, starting at 6, starting at 9, scoring down because the entry has sauce and they wonder what the cook is trying to hide. No luck of the draw on which table your entry lands. No worry about will you get a table where judges are mostly liberal with their scores (start at 9) or mostly conservative (start at 6) or will you get an experienced "master" judge with pre-conceived notions about what barbecue should or shouldn't be and guessing the motivations of the cook.

There were 31 teams. Entries went through two rounds of judging. In the first round the 14 best entries are chosen to move to the finals round where the top 10 are decided.

Scoring - Points are awarded based on where you placed in each category. First place gets 10 points and 10th place gets 1 point. Another team that places first in a different category gets the same number of points.

It is true blind judging. Boxes are identified by a raffle ticket. The cook takes one half and the other half is taped to the box with the number down. No one knows whose box is whose, including the contest official. At the awards the boxes are stacked in the order they finished, the ticket is removed from the box and the number is called out. The team holding the matching ticket claims the award. The overall GC and RGC aren't known until all the categories have been claimed, points assigned and totaled.

Is this the ultimate way of judging BBQ? I don't know. All I know is that the KCBS judging system is flawed and needs to be re-evaluated. Yes, I know there is a handful of teams that win regularly. But they also finish way down the list sometimes. You not only have to cook well, you need luck. A cooking competition should not rely on luck. Luck doesn't identify the best entry on any given day. I think KCBS needs to take a look at their judging process. The board seems to feel it is just fine the way it is. But there is always room for improvement.
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Unread 08-23-2012, 01:35 PM   #2
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I cook mostly Texas contests. I cooked next to you in Pueblo. Team name is Stop, Drop and Roll BBQ. Congrats on your Red River GC. We wanted to go but my wife is a teacher and couldn't get off that Friday.

As far as scoring goes, I like not having to garnish in Texas.

I don't think Texas scoring is as flawless as you might think though. With three different types of scores in KCBS, the entries don't result in a tie score very often. In Texas, you'd probably be surprised how many times the top in each category result in a tie score. When a tie occurs, there is actually a provision to "shuffle" those teams score cards and they "pick" the winner like trying to draw an ace from the hole. To me, that has a lot more luck than the KCBS system.

In other words, although you scored 1st in Brisket in Red River; you might have tied with 2nd and maybe even 3rd or 4th. This is especially true depending on how many teams are in the field. We got a 1st in Brisket out of 84 teams at one contest this year and I doubt very seriously that my brisket was scored higher than all 84 teams. I felt really good winning the 1st, but I'm also pretty sure I got the "luck of the draw".

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Unread 08-23-2012, 02:09 PM   #3
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I agree with SDAR. No judging system is as perfect as they are made out to be. I believe they all have their upsides and downsides. Seemingly the biggest problem is that no organization wants to be like "that other organization" so there is a huge reluctance to change anything in all organizations because..."it works". With the usual texas judging styles there can be luck as SDAR stated. Generally with 25+ teams there are at least two preliminary tables. Boxes would usually get shuffled up and split between the two. If the shuffle happens to result in you getting paired with the top teams in the comp, you might not get off the preliminary table. Then again if you make the final table you can get into SDARs scenario where you make the winner lottery. Also, as far as random off the street judges are concerned, once you watch some of the "eaters" (think they are there for a meal) judge you could imagine seeing their scores drop after they are full and have 12 more boxes to judge.You just have to hope that you are not box #16 getting sampled. Or even better, when they are drunk and just smoked a pack of cigarettes, now that makes for excellent judges.
Again, NONE of the systems are perfect. If you like to compete, you just have to accept whatever that organizations methods and rules are, cook your best and roll those dice!
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Unread 08-23-2012, 02:47 PM   #4
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I like the theory of the KCBS judging. I don't care for the execution. Most judges score in the 7-9 range, but then there are outliers that score a 6 as average.

Judges are told they have to fill out a comment card if they score below a 6...not by any rule, it's just the way it is. So, you don't get below a 6 because most judges can't articulate why they give the scores they give.

This results in frustration. As a cook, how am I to know if the 6 I get is from a judge who believes my 6 is average, as the scoring system suggest...or does it really suck? Could be, but why did the guy next to that judge give the same sample a 9?

So, I don't know that I'm for wholesale changes in judging, but I would like the execution to be a little more consistent from judge to judge and contest to contest.

Just my 2 cents.
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Unread 08-23-2012, 03:30 PM   #5
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Oh I think they are both pretty good scoring systems and I didn't mean to trash the Texas systems. I have enjoyed cooking in them. Drinking is supposed to be prohibited but then what are they going to get kicked out of? A free meal?

Let me say that I think most folks will be sincere in judging. Texas comps are truly blind unless you go to one of the comps where they need judges so bad that they allow anyone but a head cook to judge...that is including team members, wife of head cook etc. I've actually seen it. I don't really like it but then again, we enjoy it and roll those dice.

We don't spend as much on Texas comps as we do when we do KCBS comps. Low this year was $75 entry to $150 for the high entry in Texas this year. We have done two KCBS this year and I believe it was $250 each time along with the cost of the extra meat category...which is not much for a pork butt but still. We rarely get electricity in the comps around the area I cook in and have never been offered water. There is no ice vendor or cart coming around to see if you need more.

I like KCBS. It is just that most of them are $200 worth of gas at a minimum for me to take the motorhome now days because none are local to here. I mostly stay local as a result. The trip from Amarillo to Pueblo cost us at a minimum $700 round trip. I would have literally been mad had I spent that kind of money and saw someone asking your cooking partner to come judge.

We are going to Bedford next weekend. It's going to hurt the pocket book but man am I looking forward to it! It's KCBS!! It does feel like the big time compared to the redneck cooks we do around here.
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Unread 08-23-2012, 03:35 PM   #6
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Thanks Allen. I wasn't trying to imply that the Texas system was perfect, just that there are alternatives and room for improvement and I believe the KCBS judging system could be improved. As for ties, I was at the Blue Ridge BBQ Festival in Tryon, NC one year and the top 5 brisket scores were 180s.
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Unread 08-23-2012, 03:38 PM   #7
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Even though ties may not be as common in KCBS contests, that's because scores are given to 4 decimal places. Do you really believe the scoring is that accurate? We have lost by .0002 points before, which is very common. I don't see much difference between that and a tie. I would just about as soon call it a tie and go to the tie breaker.
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Unread 08-23-2012, 03:39 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Smoke Ring View Post
Entries went through two rounds of judging. In the first round the 14 best entries are chosen to move to the finals round where the top 10 are decided.

It is true blind judging.

Is this the ultimate way of judging BBQ?

When I Master the Art of Making my Competition meat taste good after sitting in ambient temperatures for 2 hours I will feel more comfortable competing in more IBCA type events.

It is a True Double Blind scoring system, that is the best thing about the contests.

No it is not.
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Unread 08-23-2012, 03:42 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Smoke Ring View Post
Thanks Allen. I wasn't trying to imply that the Texas system was perfect, just that there are alternatives and room for improvement and I believe the KCBS judging system could be improved. As for ties, I was at the Blue Ridge BBQ Festival in Tryon, NC one year and the top 5 brisket scores were 180s.
No problem. I agree. At least in KCBS you know you tied though. In the scenario above with 5 180's, if that was a Texas comp and you wound up in 5th...the thought is that 4 other teams beat you.

The judging is blind...but so is the scoring. If you are DAL in KCBS...probably time to change something. If you ain't in the top ten in Texas, you might have been DAL...unless they read final table...then if you did't make final table...you might have been DAL and not even know it.
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Unread 08-23-2012, 03:48 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bentley View Post
When I Master the Art of Making my Competition meat taste good after sitting in ambient temperatures for 2 hours I will feel more comfortable competing in more IBCA type events.
Ever thought it may be an acquired taste on the judges part instead of good tasting cold food? Some of the bbq dives we set our taste buds with don't have the best warming equipment.
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Unread 08-23-2012, 03:50 PM   #11
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Quote:
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No problem. I agree. At least in KCBS you know you tied though. In the scenario above with 5 180's, if that was a Texas comp and you wound up in 5th...the thought is that 4 other teams beat you.

The judging is blind...but so is the scoring. If you are DAL in KCBS...probably time to change something. If you ain't in the top ten in Texas, you might have been DAL...unless they read final table...then if you did't make final table...you might have been DAL and not even know it.
Not getting feedback on the scores, and how you placed if you weren't in the top 10, is one of the weaknesses of the Texas system and one of the pluses for KCBS. I'm not condemning KCBS. I'd just like to see some out of the box thinking when it comes to judging and scoring. The current system has some obvious flaws.

As for DAL, do you really want to know?
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Unread 08-23-2012, 03:55 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Smoke Ring View Post
I competed in a Lone Star BBQ Society sanctioned contest last weekend which got me to thinking again about the KCBS judging process. I believe that the way the Texas rules contests are judged relies less on luck and is probably a more accurate way to pick the best meat entry.
Does this have anything to do with the fact that you won the contest?
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Unread 08-23-2012, 03:57 PM   #13
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[QUOTE=As for DAL, do you really want to know? [/QUOTE]

Nope. Not at all. I am still embarassed from the 3rd from DAL ribs they threw back at me in Pueblo.

I think you ought to be able to pick up a rib to eat it by the way instead of trying to cut off a piece with a plastic fork and knife like we do in Texas. What's the bone for anyway? Try cooking for awhile giving good meat that will cut off the bone and then try cooking against someone wanting a white bone that leaves perfect teeth marks on a rib where the meat just barely pulls away...sat WHAT??
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Unread 08-23-2012, 04:00 PM   #14
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Quote:
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Does this have anything to do with the fact that you won the contest?
Not really. I've won KCBS contests too.

And if you remember I've had a bad experience with a Texas rules contest in the past. No system works without a competent official overseeing things backed by an organization that wants to make things right.

I'm giving them a second chance and doing another one of their contests next month. Not the same head judge, though.
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Unread 08-24-2012, 11:12 AM   #15
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Honestly, not releasing scores and the letting team members/immediate family members judge are my two biggest complaints of IBCA. I would guess not releasing scores is a good way of not letting people know how many tie breaker lottery draws actually happen because i don't see any other good reason to not let adults, who just spent a lot of effort and money, know how they were scored. As for the other issue, Head Judges are supposed to now ask if anyone is a team or immediate family member and not let them judge Final Table, however, it is not technically against the rules. So as long as you have good Head judges then you should get a fair shot if you get off the preliminary table.
It is not bashing IBCA, and I don't believe KCBS is superior, comparing them is an apples and oranges comparison.
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