Yesterday I attended a certification class to become a certified BBQ competition judge! The class was sanctioned and ran by the Pacific Northwest BBQ Association and hosted by the McKinley Springs Winery (they have a very nice late season dessert wine). The class was about 6 hours long including a general lecture on BBQ judging, and a considerable amount of time spent actually tasting the four primary meat types, putting our rapidly expanding BBQ judging knowledge to work.
The four primary meat types are pork butt, brisket, ribs, and chicken. Often competitions will have a special category which can include anything from another meat type, such as salmon or sausages, to desserts. Each meat has different standards by which they are judged on three categories: appearance, texture/tenderness, and taste.
At real competitions cooks will often be preparing their tasty meats for hours and hours on end. Most of the big competitions have cooks starting preparations the night before the judging. The end product is some truly tremendous BBQ, which really is not like the BBQ we usually encounter in restaurants and at home grilling. Professional BBQ tends to be light on the sauces but with a strong emphasis on cooking quality and the meat itself (it’s a meat competition not a sauce competition). As a sauce guy, I had to adjust to this. Fortunately, I’m also a meat guy, so it wasn’t very hard.
After eating a lot of truly excellent meat, I was certified as a judge! Now I can sign up to be a judge at any of the PNWBA cook-offs, which I think is a good deal. After all, who doesn’t like the idea of sitting around and being fed some choice meat masterfully prepared by serious cooks for free!
Let me know if you have any BBQ you want me to judge. I’d be happy to stop by.