Competitions & News

How to Become A BBQ Judge

Barbeque competitions are no cup of tea for the participants or the judges. Though BBQ competitions may not have the status of Olympic events yet, they hold a FIFA-like importance for millions of BBQ lovers around the world. Barbecue is about the smell, taste fun and laughter. What other people find in art and poetry, BBQ lovers find in the heat of the upcoming battle of the Pitmasters. It’s not surprising why BBQ is one of the most popular past times and traditions enjoyed everywhere around the world.

In this post we share personal experiences in becoming a BBQ competition judge, it’s not an easy ride and definitely isn’t for the faint-hearted. It’s a huge challenge judging a barbecue competition the participants are professional teams and extremely passionate! My journey started a long time ago around the barbecue with my father. He always encouraged me to experiment with new recipes and methods. However, to be a certified BBQ competition judge passion and skill is not enough. One has to take the authorized training classes and pass certified courses. This post will give you a good idea of how to become a BBQ competition judge.

Where to Start From?
Every day, I come across many people who are great at cooking but fluster around the BBQ especially in competitions. This is because BBQ is a completely a new world if you see it from a pro’s point of view. So, the first stage is to build your passion for learning BBQ methods, polish your BBQ skills, experiment with new ingredients and combinations and focus the desired outcome. At the end of the day, a well-cooked extremely delicious and well-presented BBQ should be your goal. To pass this stage successfully I would advise you to watch the videos of professional BBQ chefs and join training classes that offer theoretical and practical learning. The theoretical training makes you familiar with BBQ standards followed regionally and internationally.

The Nature of BBQ Competitions
Generally, the criteria for judging includes taste, tenderness of meat, and appearance. Once you get a command over it you can judge the candidates in the BBQ competition more accurately. The practical sessions consist of BBQ with various kinds of meat to make you able to understand how to judge the BBQ competition specific to a meat.
Generally, the BBQ competition can be based on any of the following categories:
1. Chicken
2. Ribs
3. Pork
4. Beef Brisket
For each of these categories of meat, there are different standards to which BBQ judges are obligated to comply with. This is not your average backyard BBQ fare. The standards are quite higher than expected.
As one of the KCBS official BBQ judges, Peg Rogers, has truly stated:
“This isn’t about eating barbecue at home this is about coming to competitions and learning how professionals do this. Judges need to understand the rules to know what rules the cooks are cooking according to”

The Certification
It is one of the most important stages. If you want to be a professional BBQ judge you are required to complete the pre-requisite. Certification is necessary before you start your career as a BBQ competition judge.
Most of the BBQ clubs and training classes offer specialized BBQ certification. Once you complete the course you get the certification and then you take an oath of conduct. Once you get the certificate you can judge any BBQ competition in your state. Check out which of the institutions or clubs are authorized to provide such certification in your state.

The Standards to be Followed
Now let’s talk about the BBQ judging standards and methods. It is quite interesting that most of the BBQ judges use their fingers to check BBQ. If the chicken turns out to be pink it doesn’t always mean that it is undercooked. Checking the meat juices is the best technique to test and check if the meat is properly cooked or not. The presence of juices in BBQ meat shows that proper cooking techniques have been followed.
In addition, the meat should detach from the bone easily. Cook the ribs properly and with patience. Once you take a bite of BBQ ribs meat the bone should come out dry. As per the standards if the meat starts falling off the rib means ribs are overcooked. Ideally, the tenderness should be like when you detach the meat it comes off easily while remaining part remains in place.

What is more important? Taste, Tenderness or Appearance?

It is to be noted that usually the taste is accounted for more than 60% of the score the rest is divided between tenderness and appearance. The scale is usually from 2 to 9, with 9 as Excellent and 2 as Inedible and the average of these three factors is the score of the participant or a team.

Know the Participants
Apart from the BBQ techniques and cooking standards you should also judge how smart and quick the participants are to handle different situations. A good participant is not only good at BBQ but is also familiar with tips and tricks to cover flaws if any. For instance, I once saw one of the participants chopping out the overcooked pork which is the easiest and quickest way to cover the flaw. Brisket needs more effort because it needs 18 hours to get cooked well. If you give excessive smoke then the meat will become bitter. Lastly, the appearance matters. Garnishing can be done using parsley, lettuce, and cilantro but using cabbage family members or other garnishing leads to an immediate disqualification.

I hope my post would have given you an idea of what it means to be a judge of BBQ events and competitions. I would suggest you that start with the basic training and master the skills before you proceed to advanced stages. Should you have any comment or questions about how to become a professional BBQ judge, just ping me. I am just an email away.
Don’t forget to share the post and stay tuned to this site for more useful BBQ content coming up very soon.

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