SO the results- We had 6 people for the taste test. There is definitely a difference for what I liked from a standpoint of eating the at home where you eat a lot vs the one bite taste test that a judge would experience at a competition (Im definetly not an expert in this regards, but I think the results were obvious).
I need some practice here, but I learned a couple things today. First off, I think the blues hog mixed sauce gave an awesome color and sheen on all of the thighs. Overall, the 2 comp styles with the scraped skins looked nicer. The skin had a more crispy look. When you put them side-by-side you could easily see the difference between comp and the unadulterated skins (all 6 of us liked the scraped skin appearance better). For a competition, I would de-bone the thighs I decided today. The judges are looking for carbon copy thighs. Im sure a lot of it is practice and from this standpoint Im a novice. I tried to trim the bones to get them roughly the same size, but in a few of them in the non-butter bath set, the marrow bled some and ruined the appearance from the side. De-boning them would not be difficult and it would be easy to fold them up to the same dimensions, plus the skins would fit better when re-wrapping.
Texture (skin and meat)
The two comp groups that had the skin removed, frozen, and the fat scraped off had waaaay better skin (again it was unanimous 6-0). It was crispy, paper thin, and the bite through texture that judges are looking for. The backyard thighs, still had crispy skin to some extent but like you would expect, you bite and pull half the skin off, so you lose a lot of flavor on later bites. There was no comparison here.
As far as the meat, all of them had a nice texture, which isn't surprising for thighs. It is a great cut for BBQ. That said, the ones cooked in the butter bath had a really smooth, creamy texture. It was a noticeable difference (4-2 liked it better).
The yardbird rub together with the blues hog mix of original and tennessee red give an awesome flavor profile. It is salty, tangy, and sweet with a mild burn to it...just right. I will definitely use this combo when I dont feel like making my own sauce and rub. I was very surprised by this but with this combo of rub and sauce, the unbrined backyard thighs tasted better to us (5 to 1). The yardbird is a salty rub. For a brine I used 1.5 cups of salt and 0.5 cups sugar, plus some cayene pepper, onion powder, and garlic powder. The brined thighs were good, but the unbrined thighs had a sweeter flavor that complemented the salty rub and tangy sauce sauce nicely. The butter bath did not really change the flavor of the meat (which also surprised me).
I would definitely remove, freeze, and scrape the skin.I would also de-bone the thighs to get a better uniformity. At least with this particular sauce and rub combo I would not brine, but I would rub them and let them sit chilled for a while. I would also use the butter bath to get the creamy texture.
For casual backyard Q (the important part!)
As far as prep goes, I would not debone. I dont really care what shape they are, I just want to eat them) Scraping the skin was a major pain in the arse, but it had a big pay-off. That was probably the thing that made the biggest difference. Whether I would do it depends on how much time I have, since it takes a while, and whether the company is worth it LOL. Hopefully people who dont rate a skin scraping never read this thread!
I would not brine. The thighs are a moist/fatty enough cut that they dont need this and with the yardbird rub, they made it a bit salty for my taste. The unbrined meat was awesome with the sauce and rub combo. Along those lines, I would definitely use yardbird rub and the mixed Blues Hog sauce. It really was some of the best flavors I have gotten from chicken thighs. A light apple/cherry wood smoke complemented the flavors perfectly.
I would also definitely not do a butter bath for home Q. For a single bite, like judges would get, it was nice. After eating a whole thigh it was way too rich for me, not to mention my cholesterol probably went up 100 points from that one thigh. I hope the judges at these competitions are on statins!
Anyways- It was a fun experiment. I hope you enjoyed.