Understanding What It Takes to Cook in a Real BBQ Competition

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Every foodie that has ever watched a cooking show or watched people compete in a cooking challenge has felt the urge to throw their hat into the ring - the ring of fire. Cooking, like gardening or knitting, is just one of those things.  Once you're in, you're in. And that urge is very apparent in the genre of cooking known simply as BBQ. The hunters and gatherers in all of us want to cook meat over an open flame.  And not only do we want  it to be delicious, we want people to exclaim, "That's the best I've ever had." Well, there are places in which the best meet the best - in BBQ. There is actually a BBQ competition circuit. But my recommendation is that you never allow yourself to get that bug, because once you do, there is no going back.

Rather than go out and realize that you might make the worst BBQ in three states, you're better off just thinking your BBQ tastes pretty good and having your neighbor pat you on the back for a job well done - or maybe over done.

But if you are going out to a competition, whether it be Kansas City BBQ Society (the largest governing body in the US) or something local, there are a few things you need to know to get prepared.

1. It's expensive

Every competition will cost you a minimum of $500, but probably more like $1000. With the entry fee, meat, travel and cooking supplies, you will be opening the wallet often. So, don't bother, if you can't afford it. The fact is, you're going to go lose.  So, don't venture in if you can't handle the heat - and the expense.

2. You're going to lose . . . a whole bunch

There are cooking teams that go out there every week.  Hell, there are some BBQ teams that make their entire income on the competition circuit. They have tricks, tools, friendships, and financial support that you as a newcomer will not have. So, do it for fun and realize that if you get a ribbon or a call to the podium in your first competition, then you may just be the BBQ Jedi that you thought you were.

3. Be prepared to work

This is not a hobby or activity for the faint at heart. In order to get your smoked meat turned in, you are going to have to hustle - not like the hare, but more like the tortoise.  You are going to have to stay up late, making sure your fire temperature is just right.  And you're going to have to get up early and work until you turn in your boxes of fabulous BBQ.

4. It's not just ribs . . . there are four categories

Every bbqer likes making ribs. That's the one that impresses the neighbors. But in a competition you must be equally good at four categories:

-Pork Shoulder

-Beef Brisket

-Ribs

-Chicken

So, practice the categories before entering. Gather as much info as you can. And remember this one thing - everyone can cook ribs and pork shoulder. If you become great at chicken and brisket, you'll come home with some awards long before  your ribs will get you anywhere.

5.  Drink more water . . . less beer

A BBQ competition is a serious endeavor. Yes, it is fun, but mostly in retrospect. You will look back on your competitions as a blast, but while you are doing them, keep yourself healthy. Lay off the beer and booze until after the competition. You'll thank yourself later. And lastly, bring some additional food items with you. After a BBQ competition, BBQ will be that last thing you want to eat.

Well, those are my five tips for the first-timer. I've been cooking in competitions for twelve years, and although I can't really share all my secrets, I can help you with a few things that might make you BBQ competition journey a little easier.

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Credit: author