Rib cook offs are plentiful during the summer months. There’s not a big thrteshold to entry. Pay the fee and cook. However if you REALLY want to have a chance at winning a Rib Cook off you need to know how to correctly present your ribs to the panel of judges to insure a top score on appearance.
Rib Cook offs usually are judged by the categories taste, tenderness and appearance. Taste is the the toughest to nail. Tenderness can be perfected with a disciplined and scientific approach to the cook. The judges want the bite to come off the bone clean with a gentle tug and have the bone quickly turn white underneath leaving a perfect half circle bite mark (not fall off the bone as most people think).
The appearance criteria and rules differ with different sanctioning organizations (in KBCS you can us garnish – others do not allow).
The weekly podcast http://GrateTV.com took a deep dive into boxing BBQ ribs for the perfect Appearance score and Jack Waiboer walked us through the method to his Rib cook off madness.
“Appearance is the easiest category to get right,” he says and shows us a real KCBS box at a competition at Sams Club in South Carolina.
Also remember you can’t mark the box in any way. You are not allowed any pooling of sauce and please make sure there are no hairs in the box. Even basting brush hairs will kill your appearance score at a rib cook off.
Other common mistakes include late turn in (submitting your rib box after your allowed time) and not including enough samples for each of the judges on a table. Waiboer talks about six or eight in this video. Your specific contest will tell you an exact number of judges you’ll need to feed. Just one bone short will knock you out of the running to win.
Remember for appearance judging the taste of the ribs makes no difference to your score. Too many times a great tasting submission will lose a competition due to just being dumped in the box. It happens in almost every professional judged rib cook off.
Waiboer also says one barbecue trick to help see any imperfection in the final minutes is to take a close up photo of the box and scan it for something you may have missed. It helps take a step back from the table and also serves as a nice piece of research history when reviewing scores or planning your next competition.
Taste and tenderness can be perfected over time but appearance is something you can nail down in your first rib cook off or competition. Watch the video and tell us in the comments if you have a trick to winning a rib cook off.