How Does the Competition Work?
A BBQ Festival is exciting: smelling the aroma of wood-burning grills and smokers, getting a hint of smoked ribs or brisket, imagining the taste of a tangy sauce. But it can also be a bit confusing and overwhelming to know what is going on, who is doing what, and whether (and when) you can approach the cook teams. So here are some pointers to make your experience as a BBQ spectator even more awesome!
- Most teams are very friendly, so don't be afraid to engage with them and ask questions. However, the times between 12pm-2:30pm on Saturday, and between 11am-1:30pm on Sunday, are turn-in times, and teams are less likely to be sociable because they are rushing to make last-minute tweaks to their dishes.
- Teams are competing for a share of $5,000+ in prize money, as well as trophies and ribbons for top placings. Additionally, the points they accrue at this contest are added to their other contests to rank them nationally, so they take the competition very seriously. But mostly, teams are competing for fun and a love of barbecue.
- During each day’s contest, teams have a 10-minute window to turn in their dishes on every half-hour. All entries are entered blind in a plain styrofoam box and the only thing allowed in the box is the meat and either parsley or lettuce as garnish.
- For Saturday’s grilling contest, teams will turn in dishes for Stuffed Fatty (bulk sausage that is stuffed, formed into a loaf and smoked), Pizza, Fajitas/Tacos, and The Mystery Box. The Mystery Box category is designed to let cooks have some fun and show off their culinary creativity. Each team receives the same mystery ingredients, including an unseasoned protein. Competitors must use EACH of the ingredients within the box to create their entry, but can supplement with salt, pepper, sugar, butter, and a cooking oil.
- For Sunday’s BBQ contest, teams will enter the four official categories of chicken, pork ribs, pork shoulder, and beef brisket. Teams spend all night Saturday into Sunday cooking in preparation for the barbecue contest. An optional 5th category called “Anything But Dessert” allows teams to prepare anything other than the main meats, as long as it is not a dessert.
- All entries are judged by certified Kansas City Barbeque Society (KCBS) judges. Each team's entry gets judged by 6 judges, so each entry needs at least 6 samples (i.e. 6 ribs, 6 slices of brisket, 6 pieces of chicken, etc.). Judges are volunteers who have taken special classes to teach them how to score the entries.
- Entries are judged on presentation, tenderness and taste, with taste weighted the most, and each is scored from 2 to 9, with 9 being the highest; 1 is a disqualification and 2 is considered inedible. Out of the 6 scores, the lowest score is dropped. 180 is a Perfect score in a category, something that is very rare; even rarer is a “Perfect” Perfect, where all 6 judges give a 9 across all three judging criteria. In 2015, our contest produced two Perfect scores, and one "Perfect" Perfect score.
- The Grand Champion for each day is determined by the highest number of points across all official categories. Our BBQ Grand Champion from Sunday’s contest is also eligible to compete in other national contests including the Jack Daniels World Championship in Tennessee, the American Royal World Series of Barbecue in Kansas City, and new in 2016, the World Food Championships and Sonny's Smokin' Showdown Invitational.
- If you’d like to taste BBQ at the Festival, you have several options. Some teams and vendors will be selling BBQ both days. On Saturday afternoon, the Sauce Showdown will take place with an opportunity to try samples of sauces created by BBQ teams and by local producers; at the same time, brisket samples will be provided courtesy of Sadler's Smokehouse and cooked on Humphrey's Cookers. On Saturday evening, complimentary People’s Choice Sampling will take place at individual team sites, so try a few samples and then vote on your favorite. And on Sunday afternoon, teams will be selling their Competition samples, which were also entered into the competition. This will give you a chance to try the same things that the judges tasted.