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KCBS Judge

thirdeye

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I've judged for 12 years at Rocky Mountain events, what would you like to know?
 

Torch&Tone

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I'm not a competition person - except maybe to show up and try some samples - but there are a few things I'm always curious about:
What have you been most surprised by, as a judge? Not individual entries (ok, maybe that, too) but more like how judging works versus how you thought it worked back when you started?
What would you guess is the breakdown on longtime familiar faces versus strangers/one-and-done's (versus... I don't know... once-every-few-years?)
Also, when you say "Rocky Mountain events," is that Rocky Mountain BBQ Association, specifically?
 

Central PA Cowboy

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I've judged for 12 years at Rocky Mountain events, what would you like to know?
Anything. Thoughts about it. What you like. What you don’t like. Obviously you like it if you’ve been doing it for 12 years. But I’m sure there are some negatives, like with anything.
 

smokin peachey

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Anything. Thoughts about it. What you like. What you don’t like. Obviously you like it if you’ve been doing it for 12 years. But I’m sure there are some negatives, like with anything.
How can you judge bbq with a mask on?
 

thirdeye

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I'm not a competition person - except maybe to show up and try some samples - but there are a few things I'm always curious about:
What have you been most surprised by, as a judge? Not individual entries (ok, maybe that, too) but more like how judging works versus how you thought it worked back when you started?
What would you guess is the breakdown on longtime familiar faces versus strangers/one-and-done's (versus... I don't know... once-every-few-years?)
Also, when you say "Rocky Mountain events," is that Rocky Mountain BBQ Association, specifically?
Anything. Thoughts about it. What you like. What you don’t like. Obviously you like it if you’ve been doing it for 12 years. But I’m sure there are some negatives, like with anything.
I'm a RMBBQA member, and they have events with specific point systems, and a Judge sign-up system that is excellent. But all the events are KCBS events.

For starters you take a 4 or 5 hour class where you learn all the various rules, and do taste testing. There are some ringers thrown in, like food that is over salted, or not the correct tenderness, or boxes with an illegal garnish, etc. but you get the jist of how contest day works for the 2 hour window of judging.

After 3 or 4 contests I took a one-day cooking class so I could understand what the cooks are doing behind the scenes and why.

During my time, there have been only minor judge changes, for example I was taught to start my score at 9 and reduce points for errors. Now, the preferred method is to start at a 6 and move up or down. Also, the comment cards for the cooks have changed by removing check boxes in the 'appearance' scoring in lieu of a judge explaining in their own words the score given. The cooks rules have had minor changes, the most notable was parting of a pork butt and that will change again in 2022.

I had been around competitions and know some comp cooks, so there were no huge surprises, but it was interesting to see the results of the array of techniques the cooks use to give the judges one perfect bite. Chicken was the best example. I was blown away at the bite-thru skin and moist / flavorful meat. Understanding which muscles in the shoulder roasts worked best in the box was another lesson, cooks will cook a couple of butts and only use a couple pounds of meat to turn in. The last thing was the amount of money spent on meat and rigs. Many of these teams are cooking $200 wagyu briskets, using Duroc or similar ribs & shoulders, and maybe organic air dried chicken. Many have expensive trailers and custom smokers.

The biggest takeaway is the food is designed to impress a judge with one bite. So the seasoning is a little strong, it's likely that phosphates and MSG will be used, the salt content is high, and butter, brown sugar and other sweeteners are used very freely. You would not want to sit down to an entire meal of competition BBQ. The 24 bites a judge takes on contest day is very filling and rich.

I try to stay within a $500 or $600 budget for each contest, but my city has a 2-day contest so that is really nice.

In my area of Colorado, Wyoming, Montana and South Dakota.... I see many of the same faces, but everyone has their favorites that they sign up early for. It's funny but a lot of judges don't cook barbecue at home, and some hate to cook in general, but they are still excellent judges. I guess it's like an umpire in a baseball game, they can call you safe or out, but can't demonstrate how to steal home.

How can you judge bbq with a mask on?
Heheee. You can't, so with COVID rules judges are spread out across two or three tables, we were masked until it was time to sample, and we use gloves to place food on their place mat. The tables have 4 removable covers, one is removed after each round of meat. This year masks are optional until you are ready to eat. This year 3 comps I judged were in very small towns with <10 cases in the previous 14 days. The 4th had a beer and wine fest, but they put judges in a gymnasium to give us plenty of distancing. And I masked when outside.
 

thirdeye

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Oh, it's a lot of fun.

Here is a fair video showing brisket judging before the COVID rules.
 

jcam222

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Sounds like an enjoyable time for sure. Also sounds like a fair amount of knowledge is needed to be an effective judge. I’ve yet to master the various muscles in a pork butt for presentation , can’t find the tubes vs. money muscle lol.
 

thirdeye

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Sounds like an enjoyable time for sure. Also sounds like a fair amount of knowledge is needed to be an effective judge. I’ve yet to master the various muscles in a pork butt for presentation , can’t find the tubes vs. money muscle lol.
More of an attention to detail and consistency. During judging the lowest score in each category is tossed. And after each event you can get your scores online in a chart format with the table averages to see how you compare.

A pork butt is easy to break down, just look at a pork steak. A backyard barbecuist will usually pull the bone out first, then go to work. Many competition cooks use the bone as a reference to locate the prime muscles (MM, tubes, horn bacon aka false cap meat). The bone might be the last thing on the cutting board.

VCND3PS.jpg
 

jcam222

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Ive seen that pic before. For some reason my brain goes into gridlock on it. I’ll have to get out a butt and that pic soon.
 

unclebubbas bbq

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Hey Cowboy, I would highly recommend taking the class. I'm a KCBS certified judge and love it. The reason I took the class is that I wanted to compete and needed to know what the judges are looking for. I showed up for the class with my son and it was held at the Mohegan Sun BBQ Fest. We walked around and met so many great people who let us in to their cook sites, answered all of our question, gave us pointers, ect. That said it was 8 years ago. I love going to the contests and being a judge. I have met so many of like minded individuals from all over the country. These people travel from contest to contest. I have also cooked in several contests but have a hard time admittedly having someone judge my food. I have tasted some amazing bbq and some that was was garbage. PA has several different contests a year. Give it a shot you won't regret it
 

thirdeye

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Hey Cowboy, I would highly recommend taking the class. I'm a KCBS certified judge and love it. The reason I took the class is that I wanted to compete and needed to know what the judges are looking for.
I know quite a few cooks that will judge once or twice a year just to see what other teams are turning in. I like judging at a table when a cook is judging their first or second competition, most pick up on an amazing amount of information, and usually share some viewpoints from a cook's point of view.

And a cooks class is also very informative, although some can be expensive. I watched a local team go from the bottom 20% of finishers to the top 20% of finishers after taking one cooking class.
 

thirdeye

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Ive seen that pic before. For some reason my brain goes into gridlock on it. I’ll have to get out a butt and that pic soon.
If it's easier, you can start on the other end, the money muscle end, and use that as a reference. The tubes are just inboard from the money muscle and they are easy to find and isolate. In the supermarket, pick a butt with a good money muscle.
twkE938.jpg
Competition cooks will trim it out a little so it can get more bark, and when it cooks it's really obvious where it is.
ZINRvzz.jpg
Here is an example of a cook entering slices of the money muscle and has taken the time to remove individual tube muscles. Both choices will typically be as tender as typical pulled pork, just presented differently.
JRWmdzl.jpg
 

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