Last weekend was the 2nd Annual Jim Dandy’s BBQ Competition. It was the first year that it was KCBS sanctioned. We were originally slated to compete, but Mark was really under the weather, so we didn’t. The competition got a great write up in the Cincinnati Enquirer (click on the photo below). Meggan Booker was the photographer there for the paper, and she waited patiently to get several judging shots; she took one of me feeding my face, but, fortunately, didn’t use that one!
The weather was so perfect for a competition – Highs around 70, lows around 45, clear skies. If I told you what weather I would want for a comp, this would have it. My wife and I stopped Saturday evening to talk to some of the teams and enjoy being out in the weather.
I called Jim Emig, the organizer, on Sunday morning, and he asked me to go down in case they didn’t have all the judges show. As it was, they did, but they still needed someone to do turn ins. One of the other judges volunteered, so I got to judge after all.
(continue reading for photos from the competition)
I really think cooks should judge a few times, just to get an idea
of what other teams are doing as well as to see what judges are doing
and hear what they say after the judging. For instance, one chicken
entry looked really great, but the box was pretty full. There was a
bit of sauce and a tiny bit of skin that stuck to the top of the box.
I saw that this box had another box on top of it, which is probably
what caused it, so I didn’t count off for the sauce on the top of the
box. However, another judge said, after judging was done, that he saw
that and counted down. This was a master CBJ, in fact. I pointed out
that the box in question had another box on top of it, so I didn’t
lower my score, and he said, if he’d known that, he wouldn’t have,
either. Well, come on… Give the teams the benefit of the doubt!
As I type this, I’m actually getting a bit mad about it. The cooks
put out all this money to compete in hopes of maybe winning some of it
back. But these Master Judges are so critical of something like that,
that’s out of hands of the teams. The reps also congratulated a judge
for judging his 30th competition… Big deal!!! So he ate free
barbecue 30 times, good for him! So, while I think it’s important for teams to potentially judge, I think judges should have to cook, at least as part of a team, at least once before becoming certified.
As I do this judging thing now and then,
I can understand more and more why teams don’t like them. I think KCBS
needs to do a bit more to give judges some perspective. It’s
not about them. Without judges, there would still be great barbecue
being made… Without cooks, the judges would have nothing to eat for
With that said, I was pretty hard on what I’m sure were first time teams. Not because I thought they were first timers, but because their food just wasn’t good. There’s a mimimum standard that has to be met, whether a seasoned team turns in the food or a brand new team.
On to the comp itself… Chicken entries were promising, and mostly
tasted pretty good. There was a clear distinction between experienced
and new teams just by looking at the boxes.
Ribs at my table were only
so so. No, they were bad. One, however, didn’t look great, and my first bite made me
think it wasn’t very good until I realized it was mustard based in
flavor, not tomato. After realizing that, I tasted again, and I ended
up giving it 9s in flavor and tenderness. Another rib entry, though, included full spare ribs, bone, cartilage and all. One end was dry, the other was underdone. Another rib entry needed to cook for another hour; the meat was safe, but not tender at all. On the flip side, they were really juicy!
Pork was odd; the first three entries looked horrible, but the next
three were great looking; again, a clear difference between new and
experienced teams. Even one of the experienced teams fell into a trap, though; they had pulled pork, medallions and chunks. The pulled and chunks were excellent, but the medallions were overcooked. As a judge, I try all forms of meat that are presented, and the medallions took their score down from what would have been all 9s from me.
Brisket was a pleasant surprise; in Ohio, you just don’t expect much here. I shouldn’t say that, now that i reread it. We do best in brisket, and we’re from Ohio! Anyway, the biggest mistakes in brisket had to do with trimming and some seasoning. Most of the brisket was done ok, but some weren’t trimmed to fit the box, and one in particular was way overdone in cumin. It’s not that I don’t like it, but it was out of balance.
If you’re a new team and reading this, there’s one thing you’ve got to get over, and that’s your own ego.
Judges want sauce. Period. Stop debating whether it’s right or wrong, or that you prefer dry. You’re not turning in a score for your food, but the judges are. If they like sauce, use sauce. One pork entry was done just right, and it had decent flavor. No sauce, though, and I know judges thought it was bland. Sauce would have added a bit. What you have to do is come up with a sauce that works with what you’re doing instead of covering it up. The food won’t be swimming in sauce, so consider it part of the flavor profile. But food will appear and sometimes taste dry without it, especially when the food has sat in a box for 10 minutes. Sauce you’re food for turn ins!!!!
Anyway, that’s my report on the 2nd Annual Jim Dandy’s BBQ Competition. I don’t have all the results, but Shigs n Pit won their third Grand Championship… Congrats!