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Competition Help

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 

Well, i know it has been awhile since i have been awhile since i have been active, but i have been really busy.  Work is crazy, have a new baby girl (she loves watching me smoke and grill) and just life in general.  Anyways, let's cut to the chase. 


The Comp Team I am a member of needs help from fellow Texas BBQ Comp cookers.  We are in the Texas Panhandle (Amarillo).  We don't travel farther than 2 hours from our home base.  We get really inconsistent placing at Comps. 


Our turn in product is always the same, but our placing is all over the board.  We have never broken past 5th place in any category.  We need some tips on what you other guys are doing (rub, cook technique, cook times, cooking temps, etc.), if you are comfortable doing so.  Any help would be greatly appreciated, especially if our territories don't over lap.  We usually are attending IBCA and the few LSBS Comps in our area.


Thanks in advance guys.


SoaFung (aka Bryan)

post #2 of 12

Bryan, do you get the judging results (comments) or do you just get your scores? Without knowing what the Judges comments are, it would be hard to know what direction to take to make a better product.


It's kind of a hit or miss-do you change up your rub or do you change your cooking method or do you do both?  Does the product improve in the standings or does it drop? There are so many variables to play with that it can become mind numbing at times.


A lot too plays into the Judges themselves.  My buddy that does BBQ comps placed 1st in Ribs and butts, placed 4th with his brisket and 7th with his chicken.  Two weeks later, he placed 1st with his chicken & butts, 3rd with his ribs and came in middle of the pack with his brisket- He didn't change a thing with his rubs or his cooking method. The only thing different was the location and the judges.

post #3 of 12
Thread Starter 

i'm sure our head cook tossed our tickets.  the IBCA doesn't do a good job about posting stuff at the end of the events.  usually never see judging comments or scores if not in the top 10 around here.  i'll see if i can get some info on the next one.  think we will be doing one on june 7th.

post #4 of 12

SoaFung, I cook IBCA here in the Southeast Texas, Houston - Beaumont and over into Louisiana area.  Had a decent cook this past weekend with a 5th in ribs and a 3rd in brisket.  My last one a month ago, I won ribs and 10th in brisket, so I kind of flip flopped this time.

First of all, how is your tenderness?  In my opinion, tenderness is #1 for IBCA judges, who are regular everyday folks, that have either volunteered or are part of the organization holding the cook off.  Sometimes the judges can even be members other than the head cook of teams at the comp (I have never liked this, but when your dealing with a small cook off, sometimes it happens.)  You have to cook the ribs to fall off the bone tenderness and the brisket to fall apart tenderness when you pick it up with your hands.  Neither of these would do you well at a KCBS event, but at IBCA where they take the samples of meat with the white, flimsy, plastic knives and forks, it has to be tender. 

As far as flavor, the best suggestion I have heard of is when you pull into town for a cook off, find the most popular BBQ restaurant in town and buy you a brisket sandwich.  This way you can find out what the locals eat and like and adjust your seasoning accordingly.  I don't travel too far out of my area, so I don't concern myself with that too much.  I try and stay away from stuff too sweet and too spicy, middle of the road with it all.  Ribs- a little sweet a little spicy, but a mild spicy.  Brisket- heavy salt and pepper with a blend of other spices to even the flavor out.  Chicken- I go spicy and salty (mainly from my brine). 

Hope this helps a bit, feel free to PM me for further discussions, I'm always willing to talk BBQ shop!

Also, if you have yet to do either of these things, do them quickly, it really opened my eyes and I immediately started having some success after doing so: #1- judge a contest, but if your like me, you'd rather cook them than judge them, so you should do #2- stay after awards and look through and even sample the winning entries (except for chicken, 4 hours after turn in is way to long to eat room temp birds!  This will give you a great idea and understanding of what is being turned in and what is winning.  Really helped me out tremendously.


Edited by bruno994 - 5/20/13 at 12:32pm
post #5 of 12
Thread Starter 

that helps alot jeff.  we stay in the panhandle.  there are quite a few bbq joints here in our home base and everyone has positives and negatives.  there is one joint that has made the Texas Monthly "Top 50 BBQ joints" list.  it has only been open for 3 years.  pretty impressive and i have not had the chance to try his Que yet.  i will try his out and see how we can best him.  the tenderness is something we were not aware of.  we had been cooking more KCBS style tender.  we will make it all fall apart at the next one.

post #6 of 12

Sounds like a plan.  I think you'll be suprised with the calls you'll get by cooking it more tender.  I had one very experienced cook tell me that he has more times than not had to shove bones back in on ribs for turn ins. I cook my brisket to the tenderness point that I use a flat blade knife to handle it once it's cooked because using my hands will make it fall apart.

Goood luck and when is your next one coming up.  I see one in Amarillo in June is that correct?


post #7 of 12
Thread Starter 

that is correct.  head cook has a baby on the way in july, so will be out of circuit till probably our city Chamber of Commerce BBQ Cook Off in september.  dont know for sure, but we might try the one in Dumas in august.  that is only 45 minutes away.

post #8 of 12

Howdy SoaFung, always a crap shoot when you turn in your boxes cause you just never know how it is going to hit the judges palate. Been doing comps for awhile now and have found the brisket needs to be tender and juicy but not falling apart. I usually try to find choice grades or better in briskets, select will do in a bind if it has good marbling and not too much waste, or yellow fat. Do you inject your briskets? I have found that that is the norm nowadays, either a well known brand of beef injection such as Kosmo's or Butcher's Brand is what is being used mostly. Also do you do your chickens on the smoker along with your other turn in meats with a temp in the 250 or lower range? Takes too long and the skin will be rubbery, judges want crisp skin, so I suggest using higher temps 350 or better and grilling your chicken. Do you brine your chickens? If so how long and what is the flavor profile of your brine? Fruity, spicey or between? Like bruno said remember the judges can't touch the food, they have to use cheap plastic forks and knives and the harder it is for them to cut a piece off of the meat to sample the less they like it. Also as bruno stated the judges like a very tender juicy rib, that is sweet and spicey at the same time, a sticky glaze and one that matches or pairs well with the rub that you are using. Do youn wrap your ribs then open the last 45 mionutes to set a glaze? How many layers of glaze do you try to get set on the ribs before turn in? Does all of your meats get to rest a lil while before cutting them and placing them into the turn in boxes? I know that this is a lot of questions but there are so many variables that make a difference between some good que and some memorable que. You want yours to be the memorable que  cause they are only going to bet 1 bite so it has to WOW them..the flavor.has to have some pop to it.

post #9 of 12
Thread Starter 
We do sweet and spicy on the ribs and chicken. We usually only do layer of glaze on the ribs. Chicken is done indirect on the rigs grill. I have been in charge of the birds as of late and I have to admit, I have nit been brining them. I plan on brining from now on. Brisket is a salty pepper spicy. We try and get all our meats to be a hair under fall apart/off the bone. We know mist judges around here are nit properly certified and look for more backyard style.
post #10 of 12

Sounds like y'all got it where you need to be on your meats. I definitely believe in brining the chicken, makes a huge difference in the final product plus it gives the bird more flavor. I trick I do to lessen the cooking time on the birds is when I'm cleaning them and getting them ready I pop the thigh joints apart on the thighs and legs. They are still intact but separated inside the joint, this will lessen the mass of joint and cartilidge that has to come up to temp in the thighs,decrease the cooking time so the rest doesn't start to dry out, also keeps them from drawing out at angle when they become done..We turn in halves down around here as in most IBCA, so I also loosen the skin on the halves and run my fingers around the legs and breasts to separate the skin from the meat. There are several natural connections of the skin and meat along the breast and thighs try not to detach those but if you do don't worry. Now when you brine your chicken all the brine will be able to get to the meat and not just set on the skin, I also just put my seasonings of the bird under the skin after rinsing the brine off and letting the skin dry somewhat before putting on the grill. Seasoning will be directly on the meat instead of the skin. Got to the grocery store and find some thin meta lacing needles for sewing up turkeys after they have been stuffed, can usually find them in the aisle where all the cooking gadgets are, also have found them at dollar stores sold along with the bulb syringes for basting turkeys etc. Anyway, take these thin metal needles and pull the extra skin back over the breast along the breast have been separated and place one needle through the skin and then through the edge of the breats meat and the end back out through the skin. Then do the same to the area down by the thigh, 2 needles per chicken half, this reattaches the skin back to the bird and keeps it from creeping or drawing up as the chicken cooks. Now don't forget these metal pins when boxing the bird or you'll get disqualified for leaving them in, so always count the metal pins before and after cooking, I do 2 pins per chicken half. 

On my ribs I try to get 2 layers of my glazing sauce set on the ribs for turn in. I also dust alittle of my rib rub over each layer of glaze I apply to enhance the flavor profile I've tried to obtain and balance between the rub, the sauce and the flavor of the pork.

On the brisket do you wrap to push throught the stall? If so,when I wrap after getting the color I want on my brisket, I always add more of my brisket rub to the outside of the brisket before sealing up in a pan with some juices I add to the pan. I get my brisket to where a toothpick stuck into it feels or meets very little resistance. I do my briskets in pans then just double foil the top of the pan so it braises the brisket, then when I get it to the feel (197 to 205) I want for doneness I unwrap the foil and tent it over the brisket so the heat can escape and it doesn't keep cooking. I will then let it set for awhile, I try do my briskets where they get done and able to set for an hour before needing to be turned in. After allowing the briskets to cool slightly I will reapply my seassoning and replace the brisket back on the pit to form the crust again, only takes just a little while in a hot spot of the pit or top rack of the pit for the crust to come back.


Yes here in Texas they don't have  certified judges, just folks out of the crowds we hope will give an honest opinion on the food they are tasting, and sometimes they defy logic on their taste buds. I have worked often in the judging areas working the tables, passing the boxes and keeping the folks judging the food at task and focused so the opinions are on a level playing field for the cooks. I also get to taste the ones they have selected as "winners" after the points are tallied, and believe me when I tell you that a lot of the times the meats esp the briskets that win are not the most flavorful or the most tender ones. You just have to scratch your head on what some folks find as good flavored bbq. Usually the 3rd or 4th place briskets or chickens to me are the better ones, not all the time but alot of the times.


If you get a chance to work in  the judging areas at some of the local cook offs that maybe you can't cook  but can attend, do so by asking the promoters or the judging officials if you can be a taste judge will really open your eyes to the different flavor profiles that are winning contests and give you a better idea of where your que stands sometimes. Also a wise man told me one time about bbq cook offs and your turn in's.." salt is your friend at a bbq cook off" It's hot usually and the judges are sweating...just a thought to keep in the back of your mind when cooking comps.


Another thing  to do about your food is to "Keep feeding it to them until they like it"

post #11 of 12

Well said Bad Santa!  I use toothpicks instead of the metal pins, 3 down the side of the breast and 1 on the middle of the thigh area.  Works great.  Yes, brine your birds, a must.  And as Santa pointed out, salt is your friend.  You have to pack alot of flavor into the one bite that each judge will take, almost to the point that you wouldn't cook it that way for your family, but for folks taking 1 bite, you have to. 


post #12 of 12
Thread Starter 

thanks guys.  i will give your suggestions a try.

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