BBQ judging!

A couple of months ago, some friends and I became certified BBQ judges for the PNWBA. Yesterday, we put that certification to work judging the many entries of the McKinley Springs BBQ Showdown. The event took place in Prosser, Washington, which is a good three and a half hour drive east of Seattle, so it was an early day for us as the judge’s meeting started at 10 AM. After a quick refresher session on criteria for judging and then doing some prep work, we waited until 11 AM for the first turn-in.

BBQ competitions have different rounds called turn-ins with each focusing on a different meat category. This competition just focused on the primary competition meats: pork butt, brisket, chicken, and ribs. My favorite was the chicken, which is odd because normally I’m not a chicken guy. Usually I find it to be a pretty boring meat unless heavily sauced, but this competition chicken was amazing.

As judges we were encouraged to take our job seriously. This showdown was a qualifier for the big national competitions, and the cooks were taking their meat very seriously. We had to maintain poker faces and silence during the judging. Sometimes this was difficult when an especially good piece of meat was tasted. We’re socially trained to be loud and exclamatory about excellent food, but in this environment you just had to sit there silently, stoically chewing. Of course, some of the entries were far from excellent, but even these would have been pretty good for backyard BBQ.

After eating meat for nearly 4 hours straight, the competition wrapped up, and the judges were treated to some free wine while we enjoyed the weather and the band there.

Getting judge packets together prior to the start of the competition.

There was a lot of meat cooked that day. This was just a portion of the left overs. Unsurprisingly after eating BBQ for 4 hours, the left-overs just don’t seem that appetizing. Plus I had 4 zip lock bags full of my own left-overs.

Enjoying some wine after the competition. As a judge you are not allowed to drink before or during the competition.

Perfect weather.

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