Who eve said barbecue was easy! I was lucky to be able to get into the Carolina Pitmaster’s Training before the big SC Championship “Palmetto Barbecue and Brew Fest” a few weeks back… Ithelped a ton! But even with the award winning advice the first go at such a complex competition can really be tough!
The BBQ ricks Team (thanks Michael Bultman and Tyler)ended up taking 9th in the blind tasting/judging in whole hog. Pretty good considering there were forty serious teams competing. Unfortnately we were unprepared for the on-site judging. It was something we really knew nothing about but counted for a third of the score. That brought down ribs, shoulders, and overall.
Congrat’s to the overall winner (Grand Champion) in this case a team called “Fat Back and Flaming Pig.” I always admire the rib champs too… “Smoke Shack” from North Augusta.
So… As a service to others undertaking a first or second cook off… here’s my top ten things to remember next time!
- Know your rules/competition. I knew just enough but there’s a lot of detail in all the competitions. KCBS (Kansas City), SCBA (South Carolina BBQ Assoc.) and Memphis in May all have different rules ( garnish or not?). Know what’s expected. We needed to know how on site worked.
- Keep your cook site pristine. When you have “on site” judging make it a point to clean the soot of the inside of the grill before you start.
- Organize. Use a checklist before you go. I left a bottle of vinegar at home. I think there will always be something… you just don’t want it to be too big a deal.
- It takes a team. I was lucky enough to have two strong buddies on the team. That could have been perfect, however our grill takes two to reload with charcoal. Hard to manage sleeping.
- Know your cooker. You should have practiced the process more than once. Hard to do when you’re talking about 150 pounds of meat.
- Take detailed notes for next time.
- Get to the contest as early as possible. This will also give you an advantage if the contest allows you to choose your meat off the truck. You can cherry pick.
- Back time everything and give yourself extra time for resting the meat. It’s a lot better to keep it hot than turn it in undercooked.
- Watch flame ups
- Have dependable equipment. I used a cheap Brinkmann smoker and the cheap thermometer never got past “warm” despite being at optimal temperature. It confused us for a while but it simply didn’t work. You’ll want to be able to double check temperatures.