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Backyard BBQ vs Competition BBQ

Following along the lines of Grilling vs BBQ, we could also distinguish between Backyard BBQ and Competition BBQ.

Backyard BBQ – This one is the easiest to tackle and can be best described as what ever you want to do or what you like.  Who cares what others think…you are making it your bbq!  There is no right or wrong.  Make it however you want, as salty or spicy as you want.  If you and your family want to eat it, go for it.  Don’t be sucked into what we refer to as “bbq tv” — seeing recipes or techniques on tv or online and thinking that is the way bbq should be.  Not that you can’t follow some of that stuff..but make it your own.  I call it “BBQ R&D”…great barbeque will take some research and development…and maybe a couple extra jars of bbq sauce when you burn something up or it doesn’t taste quite right!  Employ the “KISS” method – Keep It Simple, Stupid!  Your bbq may be better off!

Competition BBQ  – This is making bbq for someone else.  You don’t know what they want to eat or what they like.  You are spending a lot of money practicing and cooking competitions to develop a profile that works well with the judging panel.  Many of the things I do for my competition bbq I would not do for my own backyard bbq.  In the competition world we run on the understanding that a judge is going to take one bite, so we will do everything possible to make that the best “one bite” of bbq they will have.  After all, we may be competing for $10,000 or more…so it better be good!  This adds time, stress and more steps to the preparation and cooking process.  While I tend to employ some of the same cooking techniques in my backyard bbq to make it the best I can, I tend to lay off a little bit of the flavor enhancement for my general bbq and just enjoy the time, smells and occasional beverage.

This Post Has 4 Comments
  1. I agree with most of what you say here, but I think I would add that most people wouldn’t even enjoy eating a full meal of competition BBQ. You are trying to get a whole meal experience in one bite that is too intense for a full meal.

    Backyard BBQ is about serving a meal. That includes serving all of the brisket you cook, not just the best 6 slices from two full packers. It means having someone eat each rib, not just the best 6 ribs in the 3-4 racks you cook.

    The other difference is that BBQ judges are very limited in what they will vote high for, I know, I’m a certified KCBS judge. But no matter how good it tastes, don’t sent a Jamaican or Cuban style pulled pork to the compitition BBQ judges, because you will lose.

  2. I’d like to hear more opinions about what KCBS judges ARE LOOKING FOR. What are they taught in their training? How does that training influence personal likes / dislikes of the judge?

    I understand ‘not too sweet,’ ‘not too hot, spicy or peppery,’ but what flavors DO ACTUALLY WIN?

    1. That’s the most challenging and frustrating part about competition bbq. You are trying to hopefully satisfy the taste buds of at least 5 of 6 subjective judges at the table. It is hard to tell what everyone likes. For example, in a recent bbq contest, we scored a perfect 180 1st place pork on the first day and did the same profile and turn-in for day 2 and finished last in pork. Different judges the second day. It takes time, practice and patience to deliver a profile that “works” with the judges, and that varies with every bbq team. I recommend all bbq teams take the certified judges class to at least learn what the judges are currently being “taught” to look for while judging. Don’t let flavor profiles rule your bbq still need to hit that perfect “tenderness” during the cook for the categories, which in my mind is more important than the flavor profile. If you have a dry or chewy bite of meat, that will impact your taste scores. If that bite is nice and juicy, the judge will then focus on taste and not worry about tenderness. Work on perfecting your cook technique and timing first, then flavor profiles next.

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