Quick Recipes and Easy

How To Judge Competition BBQ

As a backyard BBQ cook, a competitor on the KCBS circuit and a Certified BBQ Judge, believe me when I say I eat a LOT of BBQ! Since taking the judges class, I have become more aware of the different factors that make some BBQ better than others. I have successfully used this info to do quite well for myself on the competition BBQ circuit, and am sure this info will help you to produce better ‘que.

When scoring BBQ under the KCBS rules, the scale goes from 2 to 9. Every entry is considered to be a 6 before you look at it or taste it, and you go from there. The three categories considered are texture, taste and tenderness. There are 6 judges per table, and each turn in box must contain at least 6 individual parts to prevent disqualification.

The entry can be disqualified if 1) the individual servings are not completely seperated, 2) less than 6 servings are turned in, 3) sauce has “pooled” in the bottom of the turn in box or 4) an unapproved garnish is used. Judging bbq is a serious matter, a lot of money and time has been spent by the competitors, and the judges know the implications of their scoring. There is small banter and no peeking allowed at other judge’s scorecards.

The KCBS, like most of the bbq societies uses a double blind system. The contestant is given boxes at the cooks meeting that have only a number on them. At turn in, the number is changed before the box is judged. This is done to prevent any judge from knowing whose box he is judging, and it works quite well. I have never heard of any allegations of cheating by a bbq judge.

There are 6 judges and a table captain at each table. The table captain runs the show, examining each box before it is presented to the judges for any possible disqualifications. The table captain (TC) gets the boxes, six at a time, from the turn in station and brings them to the table.

The TC clearly announces the team number of each box for the judges to record, usually saying it to every judge as the box is held in front of them as well. The judges look into the box held before them and with in 5 seconds write down the score for appearance. There are no erasers on the pencils and once the score is written there is no changing it. The TC will check each scorecard for possible changes. Smoking is not allowed, nor is any alcohol consumption. Free bottled water is brought to the table by the TC if a judge’s starts to run out. Crackers are also provided.

When the TC holds the box before the judges, all water bottles are on their sides allowing the box to be held right up to them. The arrangement of the judges is in a “C” pattern on the table (one at each end, 4 along one side). After all six boxes are presented, one at a time is given to the judge on the end to take a part and pass around. The TC will alternate which direction the boxes go so as to not leave one judge always getting the last piece in a box.

When the boxes are passed from judge to judge, each takes a sample and places it on a designated part of a paper placemat they have recorded the team # onto. The judges wait until all have 6 pieces on the placemat before beginning. If the parts run out, it is a disqualification.

The judges will then rate the individual entries for taste and tenderness, often tucking their scorecard under the placemat after writing them down. No one speaks until all six judges have handed their scorecards to the TC. Most tables will discuss the entries, and depending on the level of experience, it can get quite in depth.

The entries have been checked for violations by 7 people, dissected with their eyes, pulled apart with their fingers under close scrutiny, and tasted with world class taste buds. If you turn in something below par, they will know it straight away.

Mike Gerardy
KCBS competition cooKCBS Certified BBQ Judge
probbq.net probbq.net

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