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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 09-16-2012, 05:48 PM   #1
Subzerogriller
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Default First Comp

I'm still learning the comp forum, so forgive me if this post is too long-winded or just not in the right place...

Did our first comp yesterday. Had a blast! Just a small amateur comp in a small town in northern WI. Been hemming and hawing about competing for awhile, and finally got pushed hard enough by friends and family to take the jump. I'll try to post a few pics when I have time to upload.

The wife was my assistant, and for someone who has never cooked Q before, she was amazing. By halfway through the day, I didn't even need to give her direction; we were just in sync and everything ran smoother than I could have hoped. I think we may have found a new way to bond.

Comp was ribs, chicken, and sausage. I had no idea what I wanted to do for sausage, but the entry fee was so low ($15 per category) that I decided to throw a fatty in there just to see. Finished 7th out of 10. Chicken...well, I honestly don't even know why I did chicken, I've never cooked it comp style before and only smoked it once. But we finished about middle of the pack (6 out of 13). I was pretty happy with that, all things considered. Ribs were a disappointment. First off, the "St Louis" spares I bought from Costco, still had what appeared to be the sternum bone in them. This is the second time I've had this happen, and both times I couldn't identify the bone just by looking/feeling the meat; it wasn't till I cut in that I found it. And if I'd trimmed it out, I would've had only about 1-1.5 inches of meat left. I'm not sure I'll buy spares from Costco again. Second, I lost my head at one point and forgot a fairly major piece of my flavor profile. Third, my Maverick ET-732 wasn't working properly; all it would give me was "LLL" or "HHH" for a reading. All I had to go by was my hood therm, and according to that, I never got over 260* all day, even with a full bag of charcoal and the vents wide open. All meats were done properly (or at least close) within normal timeframes though, so I guess it worked out. And I was feeling pretty good; we had people raving about our ribs, and two of the judges (out of 6) actually came and sought me out to tell me how much they enjoyed them. For a moment, I thought I might actually get a call....but I placed 9th out of 18.

I honestly didn't care if I got a call or not; by the end of the day, I was having so much fun that it didn't even matter. But now that I've caught the bug, I want to do better, so I'm wondering if anyone can offer any advice. First, am I correct in assuming that bone I found (running perpendicular to the rib bones) is the sternum? Should it really be in the middle, giving me only about an inch of meat on each side? Second, my scores varied greatly from one judge to another; is this normal, or is it just indicative of a small-town comp with judges who may or may not be qualified (keep in mind, nearly every winner was either a local or someone who had been to this comp at least 3-4 times)? Third, I've messed with a couple different sauces; one is sweeter, and one has a bit (not a lot) of heat to it. I used the hotter sauce for my turn ins; do sweeter sauces typically do better? Of course, any other tips or advice are always welcome.
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Old 09-16-2012, 05:54 PM   #2
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Congrats on your first comp! Good to see the wife involved.
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Old 09-16-2012, 06:22 PM   #3
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Congrats on making it through your first one. Glad to hear ya had a good time.

It sounds like the probe on your Maverick has given up the ghost.

Your ribs have me scratching my head. If they were St louis trimmed ribs, they should not have had a bone running perpendicular to the rib bones. The brisket bone is what runs perpendicular to the ribs. Once trimmed off, I normally have about a 4.5" wide rack of ribs.

Judges scores do vary some. Most of the time they are usually pretty close. However, you will always here us talking about that clueless judge that gave you a 6 when everyone else gave you 8's and 9's.

Sweet or sweet with a little heat normally does well. Try a 50/50 mix of your two sauces and see what ya think.
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Old 09-16-2012, 07:37 PM   #4
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congrats on your first comp.. Its a great way to bond with your wife and family i no its been great for my family..
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Old 09-16-2012, 10:43 PM   #5
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Thanks for the advice! I'll take a look and see if I have a picture of the ribs with the bone running through them; I don't know how I could trim it out and still have much of a rib left....
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Old 09-16-2012, 10:47 PM   #6
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Congrats on the first comp. Where about in Northern WI were you?
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Old 09-16-2012, 11:15 PM   #7
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Chris my wife and I compete together as well. Don't get calls is all I can say....cause when you don't you'll have your wife all over you for doing something wrong :>)

Partially kidding. Like Big Mike said sweet is were it is at. I love vinegar sauce but wouldn't ever thing of turning pork in with it, even if the contest was in eastern NC. Don't go crazy pulling pork either. You don't want it to look like cat food. Slices seem to go over well with some pulled but try to leave the pieces bigger.

On those ribs it almost sounds like were given the rest of the spare rib after the st louis cut was removed. I've bought St Louis cut ribs at RD that I wasn't the happiest with. Buy the whole spare rib and learn to trim them yourself.
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Old 09-16-2012, 11:15 PM   #8
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Luck. Not very northern, actually. Right outside of Turtle Lake. Was a fun comp, the judging just seemed a little...local. They had a people's choice chili cook off, and it was very clear that my buddy and another team had the two best; it wasn't even a competition really. The two who finished on top were both local; the winner had a chili that tasted like Spaghetti-O's, I kid you not. The two that were the best, finished in the bottom two.
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Old 09-17-2012, 09:44 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Subzerogriller View Post
I'm still learning the comp forum, so forgive me if this post is too long-winded or just not in the right place...
This is exactly the right place. Congrats on your first contest. You are learning some important stuff:
  • Always have spare gear
  • Sweet wins, with a little heat
  • Practice before the contest - with everything at once
  • Having another set of hands that knows what to do is invaluable
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Old 09-17-2012, 10:40 AM   #10
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Thanks Chris. I'm a little ticked about the therm; I just bought it in May, so I'll have to call Maverick and get it taken care of. I had a back up meat therm, which is good. I also missed out on what I thought would be a key element in my chicken: I had planned to bring my kettle to do direct heat after saucing (the last 15-20 mins) to crisp up the skin, but the kettle wouldn't fit in the truck I was using, so I had to abandon it. Might have to get ahold of a trailer next time...
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Old 09-17-2012, 11:01 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Subzerogriller View Post
Thanks Chris. I'm a little ticked about the therm; I just bought it in May, so I'll have to call Maverick and get it taken care of. I had a back up meat therm, which is good. I also missed out on what I thought would be a key element in my chicken: I had planned to bring my kettle to do direct heat after saucing (the last 15-20 mins) to crisp up the skin, but the kettle wouldn't fit in the truck I was using, so I had to abandon it. Might have to get ahold of a trailer next time...
Ya, I started with stuff in the back of my truck. Now I have a trailer mounted smoker, a cargo trailer, and an RV with a garage in it. This happens to most teams. You have been duly warned.

The LLL or HHH means the sensor thinks the temp is out of range on the Maverick. It also happens if the probe goes bad. Maverick will send you a new probe for 12 bucks if it's out of warranty. I carry a spare complete Maverick set, and a couple of extra probes.

When you clean the probes, don't immerse them. They can fail faster if you do. I consider them to be consumables. All probes fail eventually - no matter who makes them. Carry spares. Contests are hard on gear, especially when it's pouring rain and you are trying to put stuff away.

One more item to add to my list:
  • Keep Smiling
It's hard to remember it's fun when you are putting your gear away in the rain, but you will have moments that make it all worth it.
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Old 09-17-2012, 12:52 PM   #12
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Got the pics uploaded. We actually didn't have all that many; wish I'd had the wife snap a shot of the ribs with the bone in them, but it's really neither here nor there; I just won't be buying spares from Costco anymore. Anyway, here are the pics, for those who are interested:

"I think we're gonna need a bigger boat..."


Our modest camp:



Me and my buddies:


Saucing the ribs:


Chicken was the only meat we took a pic of. Presentation was not rated, and no garnish was allowed:


"Tastes Like Another" BBQ Competition Team, with the obligatory cute kid mod:


Like I said, we had a blast...and I'm still learning from it. A great experience. Thanks for looking!
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