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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 07-17-2013, 06:59 PM   #1
Smokeat
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Default Competition Meat

One of my favorite things in things in the world is buying cheap. I like cooking cheap meat, and making it taste great. I hunt down sales, buy in bulk, always searching out deals.

When considering trying BBQ comps, I am thinking that even with mad "Pitmaster Skillz" (of which I have none), it would be impossible to compete against others who are buying crazy expensive meat, and know the butcher who selects out the best pieces.

When you account for the entry fee, fuel and living expenses, even before buying meat, is it foolish to think you can be competitive without sourcing high quality meat? And is it even worth it?

I know some guys are buying heritage breed pigs, and having farmers finishing them off on a specific diets before butchering, and some are buying Wagyu briskets for a couple hundred bucks each! It hurts me even to type that.

Seems like a lot of time and effort to put out, and I will never be able to spend with the "Big Boys", and I don't want to play just to get my head beaten in every time. Am I wrong, or is all the talk about sourcing quality meats overblown in my simple mind?
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Unread 07-17-2013, 07:32 PM   #2
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While expensive meats can help, getting calls with less than perfect meat can be done. I gotten calls using Angus briskets from RD at about $2.59/lb. I have also cooked Wagyu and gotten calls. It would seem to me it is more about the recipes and the ability to cook than it is the quality of meat.
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Unread 07-17-2013, 07:34 PM   #3
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There's a difference between sourcing quality meats, and going to extremes. Custom-finished animals aren't necessary to win.

People go nuts over a particular brand of meat thinking it will be a silver bullet, but it isn't -- a cook can ruin a premium cut of meat just as handily as a cheap one. Just like people obsess over garnish and appearance, because it's the one thing you can take pictures of and talk about, but that's not the heaviest-weighted score.

Find *good* quality meat, not necessarily designer meat, and cook it to the best it can possibly be. That's all it takes.
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Unread 07-17-2013, 07:39 PM   #4
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We draw the line at $50 a brisket, $15 a slab and $8 for a 5 lb bird.
Tried the crazy expensive stuff and its just too much to bare with comp costs. We figure $600 per Cookoff is what we spend if its local (within 50 miles)
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Unread 07-17-2013, 07:51 PM   #5
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store bought bird, ribs, and pork, well selected, will get you calls if cooked well.

brisket i think is a completely different animal at this point in the game.
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Unread 07-17-2013, 07:53 PM   #6
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Sadly, $600 per comp is out of my league. That's a motorhome payment. I know it's not a cheap endeavor, but if I was only doing 1 or 2 per year, I know I would lose out on skill and camaraderie.

I have attended a couple of comps, and everyone(well mostly) was friendly and having a good time. I would be doing it for fun mostly, I don't need to win for my ego, but I don't want to just take up space. I'm not sure how serious I am, hence this post.
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Unread 07-17-2013, 08:02 PM   #7
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at least up here and i would imagnine anwywhere across the country no matter how good or bad you cook, NOONE WOULD CONSIDER YOU ARE JUST TAKING UP SPACE!!!!!

we have a great time, cook some food, and see each other at awards.
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Unread 07-18-2013, 05:19 AM   #8
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cook the best you can, dont get caught with the trick of the week, if you can cook, learn how to read the meat for marbling and such, you will be fine
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Unread 07-18-2013, 07:34 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Smokeat View Post
One of my favorite things in things in the world is buying cheap. I like cooking cheap meat, and making it taste great. I hunt down sales, buy in bulk, always searching out deals.

I used to do this very thing, so I completely understand where you're coming from.

When considering trying BBQ comps, I am thinking that even with mad "Pitmaster Skillz" (of which I have none), it would be impossible to compete against others who are buying crazy expensive meat, and know the butcher who selects out the best pieces.

Dont over-think it. I've seen plenty a wagyu brisket come near the bottom, and plain select briskets win. It's about taking less-than-desirable cuts of meat and rendering them delicious and tender.

When you account for the entry fee, fuel and living expenses, even before buying meat, is it foolish to think you can be competitive without sourcing high quality meat? And is it even worth it?

No. Do not go with "sale" meat. You might do well, but if you dont do well, you've wasted all that money and effort. The price of the meat (especially the difference in sale meat vs. fresh quality meat) is small compared to the rest of the costs. The only time my ribs have ever scored less than 3rd in any competition was when I purchased some sale ribs; come to find out 2 of the 4 racks were skunky, and they were the pretty ones; we tasted the ugly ones (fine); presented the skunky ones; I'm glad no one was hurt; it cost us dearly. Never again.

I know some guys are buying heritage breed pigs, and having farmers finishing them off on a specific diets before butchering, and some are buying Wagyu briskets for a couple hundred bucks each! It hurts me even to type that.

Refer to above. It's not necessary. Get good quality, fresh meat, that's un-enhanced. Once you find your source of meat, you're good to go. For example, I've ordered 12 racks of baby backs from my source for a small party next weekend. Always nice to have someone you trust to get you good quality fresh meat.

Seems like a lot of time and effort to put out, and I will never be able to spend with the "Big Boys", and I don't want to play just to get my head beaten in every time. Am I wrong, or is all the talk about sourcing quality meats overblown in my simple mind?

Refer to above. Dont go cheap, but you dont have to go super expensive. Perfectly marbled beef is best for hot and fast steaks done rare or medium rare. The pork, again is about fat, and as the art of BBQ is rendering all the fat from the meat while gently cooking it, it makes most of that rather moot.
Answers/opinions above. Good luck.
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Unread 07-19-2013, 06:57 AM   #10
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I buy my meat at Meijer, and have had good luck with home cooks. I've only done one amateur comp, and got second in ribs with well selected spares from Meijer. I won't change a thing when I compete again.
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Unread 07-19-2013, 08:58 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by boogiesnap View Post
store bought bird, ribs, and pork, well selected, will get you calls if cooked well.

brisket i think is a completely different animal at this point in the game.
Well, ya, I should hope your brisket is from a different animal MOO!

For the original poster:

Don't buy sale meat at the supermarket, fresh is better...except for brisket. (See threads on wet aging.) Using chicken even close to the "use by" date is a bad idea.

Save money by shopping at wholesale clubs (Sam's, BJ's, Costco) or Restaurant Depot.

I have been known to buy a $200 brisket or two, but I have also gotten top five brisket calls with a "superior" choice brisket from Restaurant Depot.

People use high end meats to give them an edge, but like I have said on here before, high end meat is like expensive basketball sneakers. If you are a skilled player in the NBA or NCAA, top shoes might give you a slight edge. If you are shooting hoops in your driveway, they will provide you no value whatsoever. $200 shoes won't make you LaBron, and a $200 brisket won't make you Myron Mixon.

Use good choice grade cuts.

Now, the other poster than said you should plan to spend $600 a contest is spot on. Entry fees, supplies, gas, and meat are part of the cost. Teams will spent extra $ on a brisket, because in the big scheme of things, it's a small incremental cost.

If you can't afford $600 a contest, try to find a team in your area you can join. You will still have fun, learn a lot, and be able to participate for less money. (Some teams will take free help, others might share the costs and the winnings. Ask around.)

BBQ is a hobby, and like most hobbies, it costs money to participate. Some teams may turn a profit by winning consistently, and getting sponsored, but most are not profit-making enterprises. You don't need a 40' RV, Wagyu beef, heritage pork, and organic free range chicken to compete. People can and do win with entry level smokers and supplies they can fit in their car.
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Unread 07-19-2013, 09:22 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Smokeat View Post
Sadly, $600 per comp is out of my league. That's a motorhome payment. I know it's not a cheap endeavor, but if I was only doing 1 or 2 per year, I know I would lose out on skill and camaraderie.

I have attended a couple of comps, and everyone(well mostly) was friendly and having a good time. I would be doing it for fun mostly, I don't need to win for my ego, but I don't want to just take up space. I'm not sure how serious I am, hence this post.
I wish there were magic words I could say but competing in BBQ is not inexpensive. It is not a poor mans hobby especially if one plans on cooking multiple contests per season. Only you can decide what you can afford. Contest expenses for us run between $500 to $600 but we only cook locally these days and we have all the equipment purchased from when we started out. I am not trying to discourage you but it is the reality of competitive BBQ.
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Unread 07-19-2013, 10:23 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sawdustguy View Post
I wish there were magic words I could say but competing in BBQ is not inexpensive. It is not a poor mans hobby especially if one plans on cooking multiple contests per season. Only you can decide what you can afford. Contest expenses for us run between $500 to $600 but we only cook locally these days and we have all the equipment purchased from when we started out. I am not trying to discourage you but it is the reality of competitive BBQ.
True story, its not cheap even if your not buying Waygu's or the like (We don't buy expensive cuts). We figure $1000 a comp with ALL Expenses. Entry, Meat, Coal, Fuel, Beer, Food to eat while there.
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Unread 07-19-2013, 10:38 AM   #14
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To save money competing, why not find folks that share your passion and are willing to split expenses, or cook with an existing team. That's the only way I have been able to afford to do more than 1-2 comps a year by myself.
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Unread 07-19-2013, 12:17 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ITBFQ View Post
I buy my meat at Meijer, and have had good luck with home cooks. I've only done one amateur comp, and got second in ribs with well selected spares from Meijer. I won't change a thing when I compete again.
He beat me that day, they were good :-)
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