Sunday, March 18, 2012

How To Be a BBQ Judge

A Raleigh News & Observer writer attends a class for prospective BBQ judges sponsored by the Kansas City Barbecue Society (KCBS).

I’ve judged more than 50 cooking contests in the past five years, from pies at the N.C. State Fair to office chili contests. While determining a winner is serious, judging tends to be informal. We chat, share impressions about the food, even come to a consensus on the winner. My favorite technique is to save samples of dishes I like to compare with others as the judging continues.

That is not how it’s done in the world of competitive barbecue. Teams spend about $1,000 to compete (entry fees, food, fuel and travel expenses), and it soon becomes clear how serious KCBS is about the process.

Harwell, the instructor, spends the first three hours explaining the rules – minutiae that ranges from what garnish is allowed in the entry boxes with the meat (green leaf lettuce, parsley or cilantro only) to a ban on pooled barbecue sauces. We sign a “Judges’ Code of Conduct” that requires us to refrain from consuming “alcohol or other mind-altering substances prior to or during judging.”

We learn about the blind judging process. No fraternizing with cook teams before judging. No peeking when teams drop off their entries (judges are actually sequestered!).

Do: Arrive on time. Cleanse your palate between tastes. Eat with your fingers. Judge each entry on its own merit.

Don’t: Talk to the other judges while tasting. React to the food either verbally or by facial expression. Share your scorecard. Compare one entry against another. (One judge was stripped of certification for texting and taking photos, based on suspicions that he was communicating with contestants.)

At this point, it dawns on me this going to be a lot harder than it looks. It’s very hard not to react to food, to prevent a “mmmm” from escaping your lips or to refrain from frowning after a bad bite.

Click the link to read the rest. That's something I'd enjoy doing.

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