BBQ Competitions are great fun and I encourage you to enter one in your area and find out for yourself how much fun they are. Our book “Competition BBQ Secrets” has helped many teams take Grand Champion and Reserve Grand Champion and many other high finishes in the four main barbecue categories... ribs, pork, chicken, and brisket. If you want to get your feet wet before entering a big contest, try just entering the “backyard” division in a local competition. That’s a category where you will only compete against other beginners and amateurs. It’s a great way to get a feel for things before you start competing against the “big boys”. And don’t forget the other “side competitions” like whole hog, anything but BBQ competitions, pie contests, sauce contests, invitational only contests, Kid’s Q, etc.
Of course, you can always just visit a local contest as a spectator. But I have to warn you... you will not be able to taste the different competitors’ BBQ. They usually only cook enough to turn into the judges and maybe a little extra for themselves and a few friends. If you ask nicely, some of them might throw you a bone or two, but don’t count on it. Actually, they are not allowed to sell BBQ unless they have also paid a vending fee to the sponsor of the contest. So... there should be plenty of vendors selling BBQ, but you can’t go taste testing all the contestants’ BBQ.
However... there are three ways that will enable you to taste the contestants’ BBQ...
1) You can become a certified judge through the barbecue association of your choice and then volunteer to be a judge in a contest. This is a great way to learn how the system works and how real competition BBQ tastes. This is a great tip... become a barbeque judge first and then a competitor. The contests always need good, certified judges and you’ll also be able to take home what you can’t eat when you are judging.
2) You can become a volunteer helper at the contest. Most of the contests are run by non-profit organizations and they need plenty of help. Here’s a little secret... all the contestants are required to turn in a specific amount of servings (let’s say 8). 6 of those servings will go to the judges. They take a small bite of each and then throw the rest in their container they brought with them to take home. The other servings go to the volunteers and table captains to munch on after the contest.
3) Sometimes they have what they call a people’s choice contest. The contestants submit their entries and the entries are divided up into small portions. When it’s your turn, you will be presented with a tray of six numbered samples. You taste them all and rate them on how well they tasted.
To get a schedule of events in your area, I recommend you visit your local BBQ Association web site and check out their calendar of events. Some useful web sites are...
The National Barbecue News (not updated as of Jan 2007) - www.barbecuenews.com
Florida Barbecue Association - www.flbbq.org
California Barbecue Association - www.cbbqa.com
Kansas City Barbecue Society - www.kcbs.us
Memphis Barbecue Association - click HERE
New England Barbecue Society - www.nebs.org
Lone Star Barbecue Society - www.lonestarbarbecue.com
Central Texas barbecue Association - www.ctbahome.com
Texas Gulf Coast Barbecue Cookers Association - www.tgcbca.org
South Carolina Barbecue Association - www.scbarbeque.com
North Carolina Barbecue Society - www.ncbbqsociety.com
Arizona Barbecue Association - www.azbbqa.com
Greater Omaha barbecue Society - www.gobs.org
Iowa Barbecue Society - www.iabbq.org
Mid Atlantic Barbecue Association - www.mabbqa.com
Pacific Northwest Barbecue Association - www.pnwba.com
Utah Barbecue Association - www.utahbbq.org
Canadian Barbecue Association - www.canadianbarbecueassociation.com
International Barbecue Cookers Association - www.ibcabbq.org
National Barbecue Association - www.nbbqa.org
About the Author - For more information on slow smoking competition quality ribs, pork, chicken, and brisket, please visit Bill Anderson's web site at bbq-book.com