Memphis in May 2011, Competition Chicken thighs, Robyn MEdlin, Grill Grrrl, Eddie Medlin, Robyn Lindars, Robyn Medlin Lindars, Grill Girl

Chicken turn-in box on a nice “putting green” of parsley.

Dillon Black it the newest contributor to He competes on the “Bubba and Son” competition BBQ team in NC and knows a thing or two about competition BBQ (read his full bio here). In the article below he breaks down what a BBQ competition entails, so you really know what happens at a BBQ competition (much more than what you can learn from watching BBQ Pitmasters!). For those of you who are curious about the world of competition BBQ, this is the first article in his series about Competition BBQ. 

When you hear competition BBQ, what are the first thoughts that come to mind? Please tell me you didn’t envision guys cooking hamburgers and hotdogs on Weber Grills…Truth is, when I tell people that I participate in BBQ competitions they are unsure of exactly what I am talking about and are usually very inquisitive.

So, what are BBQ competitions? There are many different types of BBQ competitions that are determined by the stationing body. Just like NASCAR, us BBQers have rules that we have to follow during a competition.  Our team (Bubba & Son BBQ) competes in Kansas City BBQ Society (KCBS) and South Carolina BBQ Association (SCBA) events. In later posts I will go into detail about what each sanctioning body is all about. To compete each team must enter into a competition, typically, several weeks in advance and must pay an entry fee, determined by the sanctioning body. These fees can range anywhere from $200 to $400 if you are bringing a camper or a hefty cooking rig.

Teams typically arrive early Friday morning to the event location and find out where their spot will be for the weekend. Often times when we arrive, officials will be there to inspect your meat to make sure it’s not been tampered with before the event. At a KCBS competition a team must compete in four categories- chicken, pork ribs, pork butt or shoulder, and beef brisket, to be in the running for grand champion. Once you have made it to your spot you can begin setting up. We have a toy hauler, which is becoming very prevalent on the BBQ circuit. Some teams only have a popup tent and some teams bring in half a million dollar buses.

Generally about four o’clock we have a cooks meeting; this is the time where the contest organizers thank us for coming and give a couple announcements. This is also the time when you will get your turn-in boxes (these are like to-go boxes from a restaurant). After the meeting teams will hang out, prep meat, (possibly consume alcoholic beverages), get ready to start the smokers and interact with the public.

After a long night of cooking, the first turn-in for a KCBS event is chicken at 12 o’clock noon. After chicken, other categories are to be turned-in every 30 minutes (pork ribs- 12:30, pork- 1:00, etc.). Roughly 30 minutes before turn-in teams usually begin prepping their finished product for the box and prepare the box itself. At a KCBS event teams usually create a parsley bed for the meat to lie on in the box. Judges will judge on appearance, taste and tenderness (KCBS), so when that meat goes in the box, it must look PERFECT.

Once all of the meat is turned-in it’s every team’s favorite time, tear down and clean up! By the time we get everything packed up it’s time for the awards ceremony, which is around four o’clock in the afternoon. Most organizers give out trophies and money to the top five teams in each category, reserve, and grand champions. Prize purses can range from $6,000 to $20,000.

Competition BBQ is not for everyone, it’s very time consuming, between preparing weeks before the event and dedicating your whole weekend for the event. Whiles these can be very tiring; getting there Friday morning, set everything up, cooking all night, and then tearing it all down the next day, they can also be very fun!

For serious BBQ cooks, it’s not a hobby, it’s a lifestyle.

Happy Smokin’


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