Confessions of a First-Time KCBS Judge

As a lot of you probably already know, I like barbecue a little bit.  If you didn’t know that… well now you know.  In October of last year, I finally broke down and joined the Kansas City Barbecue Society (KCBS).  Soon after joining, I learn that there would be a judging class in November of that same year not too far from where I live.  I took the class and joined that elite society known as KCBS judges.

With my newly anointed judgedom, I set off in search of competitions to which I could apply to be a judge.  One of the first competitions I was accepted to judge for was the Firehouse BBQ Cookoff in Kings Mountain, NC.  For those who are interested in the results, you can find them here.  As the day grew closer, I started to get a little more nervous.  Even though the judging class was very thorough in covering what to expect for judging a competition, I was still not sure what to expect.

For those of you who do not know, KCBS-sanctioned competitions have four main meat categories: chicken, ribs, pork, and brisket.  These categories are judged according to set criteria.  Each individual contest may have additional ancillary categories, but they each have the four meats.

Once I walked in and was given my assigned table, it was like an episode of Cheers — where everyone knows your name.  The others at the same table as me were all very friendly and pleasant to talk to and made this newcomer feel welcome!  Once again, my perception of BBQ people being absolutely genuine held true!

Now to my opinions on the food… it was all excellent!  Each piece of chicken, rib, serving of pork, and brisket was all very tasty.  Obviously some were more tasty than others.  The one thing I did notice — especially with ribs and chicken — is that an overly sweet sauce was used as a glaze on the meat.  Now I don’t mind sauce on chicken or ribs… but the sauces seem to take away from the meat rather than enhance it.  The sauces seem to be just sweet and didn’t really have any depth to them.  I’m not sure if this is a trend in competitions nowadays.  Maybe one of the competitors can give me some insight into it.

All in all, the money and time invested in becoming a judge was absolutely worth it!  The Firehouse BBQ Cookoff was well organized and fun to judge.  I’m looking forward to future competitions and hopefully applying to judge the Firehouse BBQ Cookoff again!

  • http://garyglen.wordpress.com garyglen

    Congrats. I got BS handed to me on my first one. Judges I knew had me so scared, I almost backed out. It ended up just like your experience…great!
    It does fill the belly quite nice though.

  • Steve

    This # 5 for me and things will get easier as far as differeniating the 8s from the 9s. The ribs and chicken do tend on the sweet glazes, but most have enough savory in the spices to balance out the “flavor profile”, sweet then heat is the “normal” strategy. Keep developing your skills, you’ll have a good time.

    • brownkw

      I didn’t know you were at the Kings Mtn. competition! Wish I would’ve known, and I would’ve touched base with you. Maybe another time…

  • http://www.bbqsmokersite.com BBQSmokerSite

    Whoo Hoo! I think you’ve got something with your sauce comment. I noticed that too. I think the hardest thing to keep in mind when judging KCBS events is letting each presented meat be what it is, rather than fitting them all to one’s personal favorites or tastes. Would you agree?

    • brownkw

      So at least I’m not the only one that’s noticed this. One rib in particular had a glaze that was almost so sweet that I could’ve swore it was pure honey. It wasn’t really cohesive -with the rib. It almost seemed candied.

  • http://oshawalaser.com/Blog Wilfred Reinke aka @OshawaOgre

    sounds like a job you can really sink your teeth into! :)
    glad you enjoyed doing that.