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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 12-30-2008, 07:02 PM   #1
JD McGee
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Default 2009 Comp Season Game Plan...

Hi folks...just doing some planning in my head and wanted to get some input from the pros on what you do in the off season to get ready for "Opening Day"......I'm talking BBQ here...not Baseball......sort of!

Anyway...here's are a few things I've done or plan to do in preps for the 2009 season.

1. I'm building 2 "competition" UDS's (one is complete) that my WSM' will nest in for easier transporting. I plan to do my chicken and ribs on them.

2. Purchase Guru "Pit Minders" for 2 of my WSM's...I'll use these for the butts and briskets. I'm hoping the draft controls will allow me to get some decent shuteye to better deal with crunch time as well as keeping my temps in the sweet blue range.

3. My wife and I are going to take a judging class together so we know exactly what the local folks are looking for in flavor, texture, and appearance.

4. Last (but not least) practice...practice...practice! Also...finalize my time line sheet...this is my brain / blueprint. If it's not right...I'm not right.

Those are our goals...hopefully it will give SouthPaw BBQ our first walk and a shot at the Jack! Thoughts, suggestions, and advice always welcome!
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Unread 12-30-2008, 07:35 PM   #2
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Sounds to me that you have a good off-season game plan.
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Unread 12-30-2008, 09:51 PM   #3
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Yo JD.
The judging is a great idea. I actually need to get back out and do some more. Judged one a few years ago, and it was a valuable experience. But lots has changed in a few years so it's time to get back out again and see what all the people that are beating us are doing! We are all starting to think about comps again now that the applications are filtering in. Definitely enjoyed the last cupla months off though!

Good luck with the prep.
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Unread 12-30-2008, 10:09 PM   #4
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Haven't really had time to cook lately. Last time I smoked anything was Dover, in October. Hopefully next month I will get some weekends that I can cook. We need to start planning what comps we are doing, since Yardley and Berks are no longer. I know we are in for Green Lane, New Holland we will do again and Dover. But I think we want to try 2 or 3 more this season. We will see.
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Unread 12-30-2008, 10:20 PM   #5
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The class will help, but try to judge a couple of times if you can. That's where you really learn about what is being turned in and what the other judges think about it.
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Unread 12-31-2008, 07:26 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Podge View Post
Sounds to me that you have a good off-season game plan.

I concur. You've got a simple and focused plan that should pay some great dividends.

One suggestion would be to also consider a Stoker when it comes to forced draft systems. You can manage multiple cookers from one Stoker control unit, (I manage four at a time from one unit), and that may prove to be a more effective solution for you.

Good luck and Happy New Year!
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Unread 12-31-2008, 07:33 AM   #7
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no offense to anyone here, but I can't see how judging contests can make you a better competitor, unless you judge several, and was able to do a lot of talking between entries and see the scores, to actually learn what those judges are looking for. I reckon if you got to judge 10 contests, and got to discuss in detail with 5 judges at each contest, kept good notes, i reckon you could have a decent compiled survey of 50 judges, along with your own personal opinion on how and what makes great competition BBQ.

I've never judged, nor do I plan to in the near future, so this is all my speculation. I would like to see if someone can point me out some details on how judging will make you a better competitor.

I can see a newbie going into judging in hopes of learning stuff to be a better competitor, get ideas on presentation, etc. But even then, he/she should do about 5-10 of them.
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Unread 12-31-2008, 07:34 AM   #8
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I'm just going to hope I can find a contest or three to compete in.
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Unread 12-31-2008, 08:03 AM   #9
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I carry my ECB inside one of my UDS's like you described and it works great. Helps a lot on room.
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Unread 12-31-2008, 08:58 AM   #10
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Podge,
For a proven cook like yourself, maybe my thoughts don't come into play. But for a new to competition cook I believe it's a very valuable experience.

Let's say that the cook isn't sure how sweet or spicy to make one of the catagories - tasting others can help. As a judge, I get to see what others are turning in? How other turn ins taste/compare? Compare textures? (No, I'm not judging "comparing" other entries - but I'm able to compare myself). Which presentations look nice - ideas for future box turn ins myself. What temps are the boxes when judging them? (Honestly, I've never really noticed unless the turn in was cold or if I were to get one that was too hot to eat - hasn't happened to me).

When judging, I think more often then not it's evident which teams compete often just based on the looks of their turn in. Do I know what team it is? No, but I'm going to guess that a nicely presented box is probably turned in by a team that competes reguarly - competing reguarly might mean some past sucess (not guarenteed - especially in that catagory).
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Unread 12-31-2008, 09:27 AM   #11
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Sounds similar to my off-season plan. Instead of building UDS, I purchased 2 of the new 22" WSM. I plan to use those, along with an 18" for my comps.

I will also be taking a judging class in Feb. I don't expect to learn tons of "secrets" but I want to be certified so I can judge some events this year. I don't know how much I'll learn judging, but I can't see how it hurts.

I will second the stoker recommendation. I have one, with 3 fans, and it works great. It's easier, imo, to have one box to deal with versus 2 or 3.
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Unread 12-31-2008, 10:45 AM   #12
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Sounds like a fine plan. I need to get busy with my own.

Not trying to hijack this topic but I also don't subscribe to taking a judging class will teach any secrets as to what the judges are looking for. If that were the case, long-time judges would simply be taking that acquired knowledge and instantly becoming champion cooks themselves. That scenario just isn't playing out.

However, with eight years on the circuit as a judge, rep, or competitor, I do think it's often beneficial for a competitor to log some seat time as a judge.

Generally speaking, the harshest judges I've seen are those that also compete. I know this contradicts the thought that judges should compete occasionally in order to see what a contest is like from the cooks' perspective but that's fodder for another topic.

By getting certified and judging a few contests, I believe there are two things you will definitely take away from the judging tent:

1. After a few contests, you will see more presentation and rub/sauce variations pass by your plate than you're likely to try in a couple years of practice cooks at home. By seeing for yourself what worked and what didn't, this can validate whether you're on the right track as a competitor.

2. More importantly, first-hand experience could resolve some misconceptions you may have about judges. They are not a mysterious species. While a few may strike you as idiots there primarily for the leftovers, the overwhelmingly vast majority are conscientious and doing their level best to be best judges they know how to be. That also flies in the face of sometimes popular opinion.

Now, back to the regularly scheduled topic...
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Unread 12-31-2008, 11:50 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Podge View Post
no offense to anyone here, but I can't see how judging contests can make you a better competitor, unless you judge several, and was able to do a lot of talking between entries and see the scores, to actually learn what those judges are looking for. I reckon if you got to judge 10 contests, and got to discuss in detail with 5 judges at each contest, kept good notes, i reckon you could have a decent compiled survey of 50 judges, along with your own personal opinion on how and what makes great competition BBQ.

I've never judged, nor do I plan to in the near future, so this is all my speculation. I would like to see if someone can point me out some details on how judging will make you a better competitor.

I can see a newbie going into judging in hopes of learning stuff to be a better competitor, get ideas on presentation, etc. But even then, he/she should do about 5-10 of them.
for a new person starting out it gives them a general idea of what judges are suppose to be looking at..as well as some general ideas on what is legal and illegal..and maybe some ideas on box building..
will it make them better competitors and winners out of the box?..no..but at least they will be a little less blind..
I always thought the more I knew (no matter how trivial) going in to unknown territory the better
personally the best thing a new person can do IMO to prepare is at least one practice cook at home adhering to turn in times etc..
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Unread 12-31-2008, 03:21 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ron_L View Post
The class will help, but try to judge a couple of times if you can. That's where you really learn about what is being turned in and what the other judges think about it.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Brew-B-Q View Post
Sounds similar to my off-season plan. Instead of building UDS, I purchased 2 of the new 22" WSM. I plan to use those, along with an 18" for my comps.

I will also be taking a judging class in Feb. I don't expect to learn tons of "secrets" but I want to be certified so I can judge some events this year. I don't know how much I'll learn judging, but I can't see how it hurts.

I will second the stoker recommendation. I have one, with 3 fans, and it works great. It's easier, imo, to have one box to deal with versus 2 or 3.
Great tips guys...thanks! The main reason for taking the judging class is for my wife. She will be our "official" taste tester for our team. She will have the final say on rubs, spices, flavors, etc. No meats will be plated or boxed without her seal of approval! She has the pallete for it and is very good with flavor combinations.

As far as Stoker vs Guru...I may have to weigh the pros and cons of both.
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Unread 12-31-2008, 04:06 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JD McGee View Post
The main reason for taking the judging class is for my wife. She will be our "official" taste tester for our team. She will have the final say on rubs, spices, flavors, etc. No meats will be plated or boxed without her seal of approval! .
Devil's Advocate here:
What happens if her approvals don't get calls? Stated otherwise, comp cooking is about what the judges like, not what the team likes. Now if, her tastes matches what the judges like, you are in luck and have a very valuable team member. If not, well the road could be bumpy.
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