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Competition Needs

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    Competition Needs

    Think you want to try competing in barbeque? I'm starting my 11th year doing this. I've cooked out of the back of my pickup truck, in a trailer and with an RV. Here's a progression of steps to get you there!

    Where are you geographically?

    There are several sanctioning groups, some are all over like KCBS (Kansas City Barbeque Society), others are region-specific like IBCA, LSBS, Texas Gulf Coast BBQ Association (all in Texas primarily), BCA (Barbeque Cookers Alliance in Louisiana), Florida BBQ Association (primarily Florida), Memphis Barbeque Network (primarily around Memphis), Georgia BBQ Association (rules like MBN), Georgia BBQ Championship (KCBS sanctioning) and lots of unsanctioned events around. Best way to start looking is do a search for "BBQ contests in ____ (put your state here)"!

    What are the sanctioning groups that put on events in your area?

    After you've found events in your area, look at the rules of the event. Do they use judges off the street? Do they have a "certified" judging program. It helps you as a cook to judge. You see first-hand what competition means. What does the meat look like, taste like and what's the best texture? All of these are determined by sanctioning rules.

    Judge some events before you cook. Talk to competitors after judging and look at how they've set up their cooking spot. Take notes afterwards. Make friends -- ask if you can come help them at a contest. That gives you first hand experience (without investment!) of what's involved.

    What equipment do you have?

    Do you have a cooker that will work? How will you transport it to events? Even if an event is in your home town, you've got to get your stuff there and back. Plan to be self-sufficient. If you need electricity, have a back up plan if electricity isn't available. Same with water, use it if provided but be able to supply your own needs if necessary.

    What will you need?

    Cooker(s), fuel(s), shelter (this can be RV, trailer, canopy), work surfaces (folding tables, tailgate of PU truck), folding chairs, coolers (dual use -- cooling and for holding meat while hot -- cambro or similar is really handy), sleeping method (in your truck, zero gravity folding recliner, cot, etc.), knives and tools and a clock and timer.

    Expendable necessities:

    Paper towels, wipes, disposable cutting boards, aluminum pans and foil, plastic table covering (comes on a roll, cut to size), trash bags, disposable gloves (very important!), disposable pan liners, zip lock bags gallon size (left overs). Seasonings (rubs, marinades, sauces) and tools necessary to apply same and, of course, the meat you plan to cook.

    Practice and Planning!

    Not necessarily in that order -- you have to practice and you need to plan your practice out! Assuming you've got your flavor profiles down and know how to use your cooker(s), a competition event is different than cooking in your backyard. Take some time and set up your contest cook site as if you are really at a contest. Then cook as if you are at an event. Keep track of what you need to go to the house to get and add that to your contest check list. Same thing if you think you will use something and don't -- don't carry it just in case. Take notes on cooking and time requirements. Always add time for cooking at a contest. You'll need it!

    Rules at most events allow you to prep your meat at home. Do that! It saves you time and it's easier to clean meats at home with a sink near by. Besides you'll enjoy having the extra time to visit with your fellow competitors.

    Invite your friends to come "judge" your entries. It'll be fun and you'll gain comfort knowing how cooking a contest will run.

    This list is by no means comprehensive! Much of your cooking methods will be determined by the cooker(s) you use and the resources you have at your site. One of the challenges of competition cooking is being able to produce an edible product no matter what obstacles get in the way. And there will be obstacles -- guaranteed! It's all in how you handle them. Good Luck and Have Fun!

    Great post. Stickied!


      Very comprehensive! I am not considering competing - I'm still at spectator level. However, if I take your list of must haves you could also use the set up for a tailgating party, a weekend hunt or camping trip, etc. maybe add one more cooler for bud lites for those.


        PNWBA The Pacific Northwest Barbecue Association is a non-profit organization dedicated to the promotion and enjoyment of barbecue in the Northwest

        <<< Because it is in the upper left corner, it gets forgotten, but they really do have a LOT of events >>>


        • CandySueQ
          CandySueQ commented
          Editing a comment
          You are so right! Got friends up there. Bad on me.

        • bbqLuv
          bbqLuv commented
          Editing a comment
          I was signed up for judging but covid-19 got in the way.

        Great list. I did two cooks similar to a competition prior to my first event. Started a list of items needed and when I started which food when. Kept a cooking log for each meat. The only thing that changed when I did compete was having a camper at the site, using wagyu brisket and failing to adjust to the brisk wind that was blowing. It really affected the cooker temps. At home, our house serves as a wind block.


          Weather makes big differences in cooks. Give me rain anytime -- add wind and my cooker ain't happy. There's no doubt that most (if not all) cookers are directional. Wind blowing the right way is good, blowing in the stack can cause cooking issues. It's good to be flexible in setup so you can deal with weather, because you never know where you'll be placed at a contest.


          • wcpreston
            wcpreston commented
            Editing a comment
            CandySueQ I live in Southern California. What is this rain thing you talk about?

          Great stuff Candy! Can't underscore the importance of judging a few times first to get an idea of what the judges want and what the competition is doing.


            Yeah Candy, I am going to be practicing for my first comp next week. Of course it is not anything formal like the sanctioned stuff. My buddy just agreed today to be my pit buddy. So planning has begun and there's already a lot to think about.


            • HawkerXP
              HawkerXP commented
              Editing a comment
              Good luck and let us know how it goes for you.

            • Nate
              Nate commented
              Editing a comment
              Good Luck... just finished my last one for the season up last Saturday!

            Awesome Post Candy! Lots of good info. I'm still in the working out of the back of a pickup phase...

            Click image for larger version  Name:	IMG_0452.JPG Views:	1 Size:	5.19 MB ID:	230089


            • CandySueQ
              CandySueQ commented
              Editing a comment
              That's much like my truck setup! I did have a topper on the bed, which made for better sleeping in bad weather.

            • Nate
              Nate commented
              Editing a comment
              CandySueQ , luckily the comps I was in the last few years have all been good weather & are day cooks instead of overnight. Can definitely see where the topper would be handy and may become a consideration if I start needing to do overnight comps.

            • Nate
              Nate commented
              Editing a comment
              CandySueQ , I'm trying to decide between going with an enclosed trailer to haul drums and work out of or if I want to get a pull behind cooker. I love my PBC & I'm eyeing Gateways however a larger cooker would help with capacity as I'm getting more request for catering (haven't started but want to).

            Click image for larger version

Name:	cswjambo2.jpg
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ID:	230170 Finest BBQ in Indy is what FBI is for! You can see how the truck is backed under the canopy (holds two legs down). I used the tailgate as an additional work table too.


              Nice, thanks for sharing your setups. Gives me an idea of what things will look like or should look like for my first competition.


              • BriggsBBQ
                BriggsBBQ commented
                Editing a comment
                Oh wait, you said only bring what you use...

              • EdF
                EdF commented
                Editing a comment
                BriggsBBQ you clearly have well-developed judgment! ;-)

              • CandySueQ
                CandySueQ commented
                Editing a comment
                My current fave is raspberry infused vodka with Perrier in moderation!


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