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Discussion in 'Hangar Talk' started by flhrci, Mar 18, 2019.
The difference must be real. Nothing about KS BBQ @Matthew.
Anything cooked over 275 is grilled round har...... you don’t show someone your grill and tell them it’s a bbq. Def faux pa and a great way to get shunned...
Yeah, we sometimes have to school newcomers too.
One of the things we are seeing a lot more on the contest circuit are drum smokers.
These guys are the popular brand around here:
Some teams use them exclusively and may have 4 or 5 of them.
My own team uses an ABS Judge:
I've already judged one contest this year, and this past weekend I worked another one. I couldn't judge this last contest because a couple young guys on my team entered so they could get some more experience on their own. I ended up working with some volunteers and did meat inspection and some other contest related jobs.
I was talking with other judges after the recent contest and a lot of them were complaining about brisket in particular. Those drum smokers cook at a higher temp and get briskets and butts done much more quickly. The meat is done OK, but there's just something missing in the depth of the flavor. I am not sure how these newer smokers are going to change the character of what judges are going to look for when they evaluate the Q.
I got my confirmation email this afternoon to judge a contest next month in Washington, MO, the home of Gateway Drum Smokers. My guess is there will be a lot of them there. Heck, I wouldn't turn one down if I won a raffle. But I dunno, yeah, it's great you don't have to wait 12-14 hrs on that pork butt but that's all part of the fun. I know that a lot of teams like them because they can fire it up in the morning and have the butts ready for judging that afternoon (usually 1pm). It does make for easier logistics.
The biggest difference I've noticed is that up North, "barbecue" is usually a verb, meaning "to cook food outside."
In the South, "barbecue" is a noun, smoked or slow-cooked meat done over coals, often pork. Non-pork barbecue often has a modifier, such as "barbecue chicken" and "barbecue beef."
How it is smoked is a regional thing, complicated by personal preferences from our increasingly mobile society. For instance, I'm a Southern boy and have lived in AL, GA, SC, NC, VA, TN, WV and OH. I much prefer moist pork with a good bark, and spicy tomato-based sauce with pieces of onion and pepper, popular in far northern GA and east TN. But having lived there enough, I also enjoy eastern NC vinegar-based sauce. My ideal would be an NC pig pickin with east TN spicy sauce! That's sacrilege in two areas . . . And the folks in TX'd be unhappy that it wasn't beef . . . .
Not sure about "up north" and how it applies to KC Q.
Here (KC), "to BBQ" means "to smoke". And "BBQ" means smoked brisket, ribs, pork, and chicken.
When someone invites you over for BBQ, that's the meal. If someone invites you over to BBQ, better expect a long day ahead.
There are, of course, those folks new to the area that might still invite you over for "a BBQ", meaning they are going to grill something. That's OK, and not a reason to shun them. It's an opportunity to "learn 'em".
Shortly after I married my Canadian wife and bought a house together, she asked me when we were going to buy a barbecue. I asked her "beef or pork?", and she responded "propane". Sigh.
Was it within the annulment timeframe?
Her salary paid for the airplane. Need I say more?
Which Propane grill did ya get?
Agreed. We Hoosiers tend not to be too pedantic about our grilling/BBQ lexicon. But I sure do appreciate the fine quality produced by the experts. The only thing I can't stand is when those North Carolinians try to pawn off that damned vinegar sauce coated crap as edible. NC folks are almost as delusional about the merits of their "BBQ" as the Cincinnatians are about their spaghetti laced chili. For me, give me a good Tennessee dry rub any day. Most anything else done properly is fine, too.
Really good barbecue doesn't *need* sauce (not so pedantic so as to claim that you should never use sauce, though).
Being a Texan, I (obviously) prefer brisket (beef), but I can appreciate good pork (in moderation) and pork ribs, as long as they haven't been pre-cooked so much that they're mush - where this ludicrous notion that rib meat should "fall off the bone" came from, I do not know, but it's so much fail. I guess I might prefer that some day, after my teeth have fallen from my gums...
I think that is specific to beef ribs.
What really makes a winner. I had some "world champion" BBQ down in little rock last week and I couldn't tell it apart from non-championship caliber stuff. It was definitely good, but it didn't blow me away or anything. So maybe a judge could let me in on what I'm missing.
Growing up up north, a BBQ sandwich was Islays chipped ham, shaved thin, covered with Islays BBQ sauce. Back in the day we thought it was great, now I realized it tastes like azz.
Give me a proper slow smoked pulled port sandwich any day!
I like to make dry rub beef ribs. We had some friends over and the guy asks we have any sauce.
I'm like, okay...
My Ex whispers to me a little later, "he could have at least tasted it first."
I love me a good brisket. Good burnt ends are worth crawling over broken glass to get.
Ribs that are "falling off the bone" are overdone and a sign of disrespect to that noble hog that sacrificed all.
I think the same can be said about the West vs. the East as well. Here barbecue is a verb, and it includes grilling as well as smoking. 'A barbecue place' is a place that does the act of barbecue, not a place that serves platters of 'barbecue.'
If someone were to say "That thar is some mighty fine barbecue, I tell ya" I would know what they mean of course, but I would never phase it as such myself.
In Kansas City BBQ Society (KCBS) sanctioned contests we judge on 3 things, and each is weighted slightly differently. Scales go from 2 - 9. 1 is a DQ and 9 is excellent, there is no "perfect".
2 = inedible (could be undercooked chicken, for example)
3 = you could choke it down, and hold it down. I gave a 3 one time.
4 = well below average, but didn't trigger a gag reflex
5 = below average
6 = average. This is the "meh" score, nothing really good or bad about it.
7 = above average
8 = well above average
9 = excellent
We will always give the benefit of the doubt to the cook. If you can't decide between an 8 and a 9, give the 9. Whole numbers only. 6 judges per entry, and we throw out the lowest score.
Appearance - how much does it make you want to eat it. There have been entries that make me want to motorboat, and others that I wish I could unsee. Judges are specifically ordered to not score the smoke ring. There are rubs and seasonings that can create an artificial smoke ring or enhance it, so it is ignored. This is the lowest weighted category, about 1/2 point multiplier.
Taste - the flavor profile. Smoky? Sweet?, Salty? Well balanced? This category is going to have to be somewhat subjective. But a light meat, like chicken, that's seasoned with a lot of pepper isn't going to score well. Brisket will take a lot of black pepper, and if it's missing that it can taste somewhat bland. Pork butt is hard to score in this category because the amount of meat vs surface area for rub is a totally different ratio that something like brisket so it's hard to get a pork entry that stands out unless you put some sort of sauce on it. In contests, the Q is typically overseasoned, sometimes a lot. Judges generally score based on their impression from a single bite, so teams try to make that bite "pop". This is the medium weighted category, about 1 point.
Tenderness - how well it is cooked. Chicken should be moist, ribs should come cleanly off the bone with a slight tug, brisket should not be crumbly or tough, and pork should not be mushy. This is the highest weighted category, about 2 point multiplier.
There are a lot of restaurants that will enter contests, they generally do not do well. They make their BBQ for their customers, and judges usually look for different characteristics. That doesn't mean they don't make good Q, it just means that it's not being aimed at the judges.
Excellent write up. Thanks for taking the time to do that. I guess I haven't had much below a 6 on your scoring system. Is scoring BBQ a talent? Are there judges that just don't seems to get it correctly? I'm also wondering If a good judge possesses the ability to smell and taste better than the average Joe.
There used to be a trailer on the side of the road heading down to KVKX offering NC barbecue. Taped up on the back wall of the trailer was a piece of paper that read:
BBQ IS PORK.
I guess he got tired of the yankees asking him what was in it.
That's what I like about Okie BBQ choices . . . it's kind of a melting pot between KC/TX/Memphis styles. My preference is pulled pork or pork ribs, but brisket is pretty good if it's not dried out. A lot of larger restaurants cover up the meat with heavy sauces, which is what makes the BBQ bland for a competition. Being able to make the sauce/dry rub a compliment to the flavor profile of the seasoned meat is the trick that seems toughest to master. Over-seasoning or over-reliance on the sauce ruins the best prepared BBQ.
That said, I don't have the patience to do BBQ myself. I stick with grilling. I have an Electric smoker which has sat unused for 2 years when it was given to us as a Christmas gift, lol.
There is a training class for certification - Certified BBQ Judge (CBJ). I only know how KCBS works. The idea is to give you, and others, the same things to judge and then discuss the scores and why. Those classes are generally very well done. A team works very hard to make multiple recipes of each meat (brisket, pork, ribs, and chicken). They also throw in something that would make it a DQ to see if you are paying attention. The instructor will be a Master CBJ. The thing to remember is that you are a judge, not a critic. It isn't done the way those TV shows do it. A Master CBJ has 30 contests plus one contest where they have cooked with a team. Some of those folks have >300. In the KC area, within a couple hours of driving, it's possible to get >20 in a year easily.
Way too many people say, "I like BBQ, I think I'll become a judge", when the only thing they've had was a McRib. When I took my certification class I was sitting next to a lady who flew into KC from Baltimore. They were going to do a weekend of BBQ plus get their CBJ. We got a sample of chicken. I've completed in BBQ contests for around 30 years, so I know what I'm looking for. This chicken was outstanding, it might have been the best.chicken.ever. I gave it 9s. The lady next to me gave it a 3 on taste. The instructor did a spit-take and wanted to know why. She said she didn't like the skin. "What about the rest of it?" "Oh, that was really good." She got a lesson in judging the piece as a whole. Then I told her that if someone gave my chicken a 3 I'd follow them to the parking lot and punch them in the neck. Another guy scored an entry low because "it wasn't big enough pieces". He got called out in front of all of us - about 50% of the judges in that class were also cooks like me - and we all wanted to punch him in the neck.
Some judges just aren't that good.
KCBS keeps track of all the scores you give and compares those scores to the table average to see how closely you track to the rest of the judges at that table. At contests, they try to put the "judges of death", that traditionally score lower, with another judge that has a tendency to score higher than average. And at some invitationals, they'll call on the most consistent judges to work. New judges, and judges with a lot of competition cooking experience, tend to be more critical in scoring.
Nonsense. Maybe it depends on how they got that way. Mine are excellent, and the bones will slide right out. Can't stand those tough, chewy abominations some places try to pawn off as "BBQ ribs".
The one thing I really miss about Cleveland is the rib cookoff we used to attend back in the '80s.
When I go to a BBQ joint, I'll always get the combo - pork and brisket.
When I was on a bidness trip to VA a few years ago, I went to the counter and looked at the board. BBQ sandwich, BBQ platter, BBQ plate, BBQ sampler, BBQ whatever. And it was all pork - I knew that going in. I asked if they had brisket. The girl at the counter stared at me for a bit, then her eyes sort of went in opposite directions. Her manager said, "Sure we have brisket...every other Saturday."
I hit a different BBQ place each day on that trip. It was great. I really liked the vinegar sauces.
I've seen ribs where the meat literally fell off the bone. For contests, the meat must have a bone. There are times when the ribs are so overdone the meat falls off, so the team has to put the bone back inside or it's a DQ. Then when the judge picks it up and the bone falls out or the meat falls off, it's a 3. A gentle tug to pull it off cleanly and that's what we are looking for. If you like it other ways, that's OK and there's nothing wrong with that. For consistency in judging and a measurement of the ability of the team to cook to a standard, that's the rule we use. This is where some of the differences between contest cooking and personal preference come into play.
Most teams will turn in spare ribs trimmed St Louis style. Some will do back ribs, but most do spares. It's a little easier to get consistent results with spares. Back ribs have thick meat that isn't an even thickness or density and it's a lot harder to get a consistent set of samples.
I do two large BBQ parties each year. The Memorial day one is a whole pig... typically a 16 hour cook. I make eastern (NC) and SC sauces. My western sauce doesn't hold a candle to that from Lexington Style Trimmings's dip, so I just buy it from there by the gallon.
On January 1, I do ribs and briskets.
Gotcha. So it sounds like you're not really judging what's the best meat, you're judging who can come closest to an arbitrary set of specifications to win. Those specifications will please primarily BBQ contest judges, and perhaps some subset of non judges.
My neighbors did a roast pig for their end of year party for the HS football team. They cooked it in the driveway, so I had to sit and watch and have beers and watch.
I asked where they got the pig, one of the guys said there was someone about 30 min away that sold them one. They drove over to get it and the old boy took them to the pen and said, "pick one". The thought it would already have been butchered, but it was not the case. They looked at each other, pointed at one, then BLAM. The old guy said, there you are.
They stopped somewhere in the the woods on the way home and field dressed it. When the got it home, it wouldn't fit in the cooker. That's where the tarp and chainsaw came into play. I told them, "Remind me never to **** you off."
@Matthew anyone use pellet smokers that you've judged?
That's pretty much it - the tenderness area of judging is to quantify how well the meat is cooked, and that's the highest weighted score. Getting it right, after maybe 12 hrs, isn't easy when the window for under vs over cooked could be measured in minutes. Teams know this, and the logistics of getting things done on time is part of the contest. When I cook at home, I don't do a lot of what we would do at a contest. Figure that a judge samples 6 pieces of chicken - we are supposed to only score each entry on its own merits, not compare entries to each other. I'll take one good sized bite from each. If there is one piece I really like, I'll finish that one after I'm done judging all the others. So my scores can only be made from that one impression. That means the team will overseason or do other brines, marinades, or injections to make their piece stand out. Then we do ribs...then pork butt...then brisket. Some contests will have additional categories (sausage, misc, sides, sauces, deserts, ...) There is no way you can eat a whole piece of each item.
Judges can voluntarily fill out comment cards that get back to the team. They are anonymous, and unfortunately aren't used all that much. I do try to give a comment when I think it will help. One that says, "At least you tried", isn't helping. One that says, "Appearance and tenderness were outstanding (9/9). Taste was really good, but that heat from the cayenne overwhelmed the flavor and took away from the balance, it's why I gave an 8 instead of 9." That's the kind of thing that will help a team next time.
Some variation is sure to happen - ribs, for example. Last year I got a rib that was excellent. The judge next to me thought it was overcooked. Turns out the sample he got was about 2 ribs closer to the end of the slab than mine was, so his actually was more done than mine.
The rules say "must be cooked with wood" (or other words to that effect). Pellets are compressed wood fibers, charcoal (lump and briquets), wood chunks or logs, are all legal. Smokers using propane or electric for heat and using chips or pellets for smoke flavor is not.
The problem with some of those pellet smokers (like Traeger) is they don't travel well. They work great on your patio or driveway, but loading and unloading them onto a truck or trailer and banging them around can be pretty rough on them. The larger commercial pellet smokers look like upright freezers and are bomb proof. Sometimes getting electricity can be a problem, too. I cook in two contests a year, and we pay extra to get power run to our spot. We also bring a generator just in case. Our team smoker needs power to keep the racks rotating inside.
I'd like to get a Traeger some day.
I have a traeger and love it. Really a mixed bag of reviews on them though. You either love them or hate them.
I spent the first 2/3s of my life living in Texas. The majority of my friends live there. I sold the last piece of property there in 2013. Once a year I need to get my red neck fix so I head back to what used to be home.
When someone says bar-b-que, it will be beef. If someone says we are cooking outside, it will be beef. If someone says we are cooking chicken, it will be fried. At all times you can expect salad, corn on the cob, green beans, pinto beans, mashed potatoes, potato salad, home made dinner rolls and of course sausage made with beef, venison, jalapenos, and just a little pork.
A good bar-b-que restaurant will roll out the butcher paper on the table as you sit down and the meat will be dumped on that.
And the best sausage came from Elgin.
Beef, it's what's for dinner...
Once in a place known as North Carolina, we stopped at a road side place that had a sign that just said BBQ. We all got the lunch plate special, and out came a paper plate with something shredded that was scooped out of a bucket with an ice cream scooper, some watery beans, canned corn, carrot sticks and a little cup that held some sort of watery tomato sauce.
We pointed to the shredded stuff and asked what that was. The lady said bar-be-que..... What are we supposed to do with it.?? She explained that we use the fork and get some BBQ, (the shredded stuff on the plate) dip it in the sauce and eat it. So we did, threw down the fork, dropped a dollar on the table and left.
I guess it is just what a person grows up with that is considered the best....
Then you can imagine how well it would stand up to being hauled around to contests. I'm always worried about bending or breaking something.
One of life's simple pleasures - a pile of TX brisket on a picnic table and a cold bottle of beer next to it. That thick cut beef with the fat layer in it, oh mama.
Yeah I was thinking along the lines you mentioned, the commercial ones.
Ditto. I've gotten pretty good at adjusting the Green Egg's dampers and such, but still every now and then it seems I can't quite get it right and chase temperatures. Hence the appeal of a Traeger.
I'll see Traegers and the bigger commercial types. To justify the costs of those things, many teams also do catering or other gigs.
My Green Egg story:
This is going back nearly 20 years now, they were still not very well known. A new dealer donated a large Egg to the team that cooked next to us. They handed out cards and brochures to anyone asking about it. At the end of the contest, one of the guys had all his leftover meat and ran out of cooler space. He put it inside the Egg until he got home. 2 months later (August) he got a whiff of something and wondered what his dogs got into this time. When he went out back, he got another whiff, saw the Egg, remembered the meat, and pretty much wet himself. Then his phone rang, it was the dealer wanting his Egg back. He told the dealer he might want to burn it out for a day or two before trying to sell it.