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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 11-25-2020, 07:18 AM   #1
friedenfels
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Join Date: 10-06-20
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Default Thinking about competing

I have always thought maybe one day I would enter a competition just for fun, for the experience......kinda like a bucket list thing. I have no delusions that I would place, as I understand cooking at home and competition cooks are different.

Just saw the announcement for the Smoke on the Mountain (Galax, VA) next July....hopefully this COVID thing will be behind us then. Strongly thinking about pulling the trigger......family and friends are very supportive and encouraging.

So - think back to your first competition - what do you know now that you wish you had known then? Any tips for a newby?

Thanks in advance.
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Old 11-25-2020, 07:24 AM   #2
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I got nothing other than good luck.
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Old 11-25-2020, 07:45 AM   #3
SuperQue
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Practice a lot with exactly everything you'll use, including the same charcoal and meat. You'll be surprised how easy it is to miss your timelines and how much your temperature can swing.
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Old 11-25-2020, 07:45 AM   #4
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What do I know now that I wish I knew before we started?

How addicting competitive cooking can be

OK... Seriously...

The first thing you need to consider is if you can put your personal preferences aside and cook for the judges. What I cook for BBQ or steak competitions it very different than what I cook for us at home. The judges have to make a scoring decision based on a quick look at your turn in and one or two bites, so the food that you turn in must be perfectly cooked and not be offensive in any way. That means not too sweet, not too salty, not too spicy, etc.

Second, Visit a competition, walk around and talk to the cooks (not when they are busy, of course). Most of us are glad to help. Ask questions about equipment, what their prep schedule is, etc. to make sure that you understand what goes into cooking a competition. If you can, find a team who is willing to let you ride shotgun with them. That will give you a better feel for what actually goes on. In a KCBS competition, the 3 1/2 hours from 11am until 1:30pm are non-stop and can be pure chaos

If you do decide to take the leap, find a class to take from a successful team. Classes are expensive, but it will increase your chances of doing better significantly.

Finally, I wish I knew how wonderful our BBQ Family is! We have made so many great friends through BBQ and steak competitions!
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Old 11-25-2020, 08:27 AM   #5
friedenfels
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SuperQue View Post
Practice a lot with exactly everything you'll use, including the same charcoal and meat. You'll be surprised how easy it is to miss your timelines and how much your temperature can swing.
I have told my family they will be my guinea pigs in the ensuing months as I try to find a repeatable process, to include the perfect competition rub and sauce.
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Old 11-25-2020, 08:29 AM   #6
friedenfels
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ron_L View Post
What do I know now that I wish I knew before we started?

How addicting competitive cooking can be

OK... Seriously...

The first thing you need to consider is if you can put your personal preferences aside and cook for the judges. What I cook for BBQ or steak competitions it very different than what I cook for us at home. The judges have to make a scoring decision based on a quick look at your turn in and one or two bites, so the food that you turn in must be perfectly cooked and not be offensive in any way. That means not too sweet, not too salty, not too spicy, etc.

Second, Visit a competition, walk around and talk to the cooks (not when they are busy, of course). Most of us are glad to help. Ask questions about equipment, what their prep schedule is, etc. to make sure that you understand what goes into cooking a competition. If you can, find a team who is willing to let you ride shotgun with them. That will give you a better feel for what actually goes on. In a KCBS competition, the 3 1/2 hours from 11am until 1:30pm are non-stop and can be pure chaos

If you do decide to take the leap, find a class to take from a successful team. Classes are expensive, but it will increase your chances of doing better significantly.

Finally, I wish I knew how wonderful our BBQ Family is! We have made so many great friends through BBQ and steak competitions!
Captain Ron - very good advice, appreciate you taking the time.
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Old 11-25-2020, 11:56 AM   #7
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You might want to get certified as a judge and then judge a number of competitions. It will give you a good idea of what is being turned in for both good and bad bbq. You then have a baseline to compare your own bbq against.
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Old 11-25-2020, 12:45 PM   #8
thirdeye
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For years I got involved in every local contest I could.... it might have been a chili cookoff, a rib contest, several Eggfests, a 'backyard' contest, or various fund raisers that were a people's choice kind of thing. These were all one-day events but being out of the comfort zone of my backyard was harder than I thought.

My path to KCBS competition cooking started like this.... Eleven years ago I began judging, two years after that I took a competition cooking class. I knew four people that had BBQ teams so I would see them on Friday at various contests I was judging. A requirement to become a Master Certified Barbeque Judge is judging 30 times and cooking one time with a team, so my sight was always on that. Since teams do practice cooks before the season, I had the chance to help out several times and would also critique the food.

One year one of the local teams started gaining support to have a KCBS event in my city, this took a couple of years to materialize but I decided that cooking at a local competition would be better than a competition out of town. I was visiting with another local judge about this and we decided to start a team. We had a year to practice individual meats, and did two full practice cooks. A third guy joined the team and we each took the lead on one category, then drew straws for brisket. There are a lot of YouTube competition videos to choose from, so those helped. As did going through the archived threads on this forum.

Bottom line was... we had a great time, the other teams were very friendly and willing to answer questions, our timetable worked, my buddy hunts with the manager of a grocery store, so they donated the meat in return for an advertising banner. We cooked on 3 drums and a Treager. The organizers let us set-up on Thursday and not break down until Monday. Our best finish was 11th in ribs, middle of the pack in chicken and brisket, and bottom third for pork. COVID shot all of our 2020 plans in the a$$, so I'm being hopeful for 2021.
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Old 11-25-2020, 01:29 PM   #9
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All good advice here. I have competed only a few times and have had my hat handed to me at the door each time. It's frustrating but I love competing (right now against my own scores) but I can't see giving it up any time soon. I started by judging and I can't recommend that enough. My only other advice is to get ready to eat A LOT of chicken, ribs, shoulder and brisket while you're practicing. And, honest opinions at home from family and friends will be a rarity.
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Old 11-25-2020, 02:47 PM   #10
friedenfels
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I forgot to mention I just found out my neighbor across the street is a KCBS judge - going to enlist his help as well if I decide to pursue.
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Old 11-25-2020, 06:45 PM   #11
masque13
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Best advice I can give is to go into this with eyes wide open.

What does that mean?

It is an extremely expensive hobby to pursue. Everyone says you can cook on a garbage can blah blah blah but almost all of us buy quality smokers and gadgets and trailers and on and on and on. And that’s totally fine. Just don’t think it’s cheap. Even practicing will be expensive or can be if you don’t have others kicking in to help.

And remember many folks are truly pros. They cook 30 plus contests per year. Other teams will cook 15-25. Some will cook 5-10. All of that means you will be competing against people who are damn good and consistent in what they do. They are HARD to beat. So with all the money you spend to compete it will mostly be money spent for the “experience” and to be a part of the BBQ culture.

With all of that said I love it, wish I could do it more and I have met some wonderful people along the way. It’s a huge part of who I am and what I care about now and I only have time to do about 1-4 contests per year.

If you can find other like minded people that can help share in the work and experience that could help you a lot. Good luck. It’s very addictive.
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Old 11-25-2020, 09:50 PM   #12
friedenfels
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I do realize up front I have absolutely zero chance of getting a call.....I'm not doing it for that. I just thought I would like to do it once just to say I've done it - so if I end up dead last I'm ok with that. Would like to put my best foot forward, but no expectations. If I decide to pursue, may never do another one after that. May get hooked, who knows?
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Old 11-25-2020, 10:42 PM   #13
thirdeye
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Quote:
Originally Posted by friedenfels View Post
I forgot to mention I just found out my neighbor across the street is a KCBS judge - going to enlist his help as well if I decide to pursue.
Quote:
Originally Posted by friedenfels View Post
I do realize up front I have absolutely zero chance of getting a call.....I'm not doing it for that. I just thought I would like to do it once just to say I've done it - so if I end up dead last I'm ok with that. Would like to put my best foot forward, but no expectations. If I decide to pursue, may never do another one after that. May get hooked, who knows?
Maybe see if your neighbor is interested in teaming up, but as funny as this sounds.... not all judges cook barbecue at home, or if they do it might be ribs only. They judge as a hobby

On any given day a newer team might pop out and score well in one event, but over the long run the teams that cook more will score more consistently. The guy on our team that cooked ribs kind of copped an attitude with an 11th place finish. It wasn't until I sat him down and explained how close the scoring truly was in the upper places. A husband and wife team next to us were a newer team too. The weekend before they scored a 180 in pulled pork (which we didn't find out until it was announced at the award ceremony) this was noteworthy because they scored another 180 that week.
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Old 11-26-2020, 07:05 PM   #14
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Don’t assign too much mystique to it. Sign up, do a little research, and go cook. It’s just burning meat in a parking lot. Nothing more.

Oh, and buy some Blues Hog.
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Old 11-27-2020, 08:08 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gettinbasted View Post
Don’t assign too much mystique to it. Sign up, do a little research, and go cook. It’s just burning meat in a parking lot. Nothing more.

Oh, and buy some Blues Hog.
And sometimes you get lucky and it is cooking in a grass field. much cooler than a parking lot. Jump in, it's fun.
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