7 Reasons why I'm quitting BBQ Competitions...

Dear BBQ Friendchatham artillery bbq team:

1) It's too expensive - Even though I usually take home a paycheck at BBQ competitions, a competition can easily have costs near $1000 give or take a few hundred. And that does not include equipment and trailer costs. It's a very expensive hobby. Heck... for that kind of money I can take the whole family on a 7 night cruise or spend 3 weeks camping in the Smoky Mountains.

2) It's too much work - Don't get me wrong, BBQ competitions are a lot of fun, but behind the scenes there's about a week of very hard work... buying meat and supplies, making the sauces and injections, packing the trailer, traveling, setting up, the actual contest, packing for exit, traveling home, unpacking, cleaning the smoker, etc, etc. I could go on vacation for less money and all I have to do is sit around and relax, go sightseeing, or riding my Harley. And I can BBQ all I want without having to fork out $1000 and do all that work. And remember... I'm just a one man operation here - I don't have four, five, six or more team members like most of these other teams have. I have to do 95% of the work myself. I also have a 5 year old daughter that is just starting school, so that's going to take up more of my time.

3) It's not exactly fair - One thing I have never liked about competitive BBQ is the whole judging system. Yes... there are a handful of teams that seem to be able to cut through the fog and rise to the top in most contests. This usually depends on what the judges seem to like that year and how good you are at shigging (gathering info from other competitors), finding out what is hot, and cooking what the judges are looking for.

A few years ago I was a Table Captain at a large southeastern contest. One judge at my table was pretty senior (four digit KCBS number), an MCBJ, and a cook, too. When I collected the score cards for chicken, I couldn’t help but notice his scores – all fives and sixes. So, I showed them to the Rep as Table Captains are instructed to do when a judge’s scoring is significantly different from the rest of the table. Before the ribs came, the Rep took him aside for a little conversation. After the rib round, I noticed his scoring had changed. It had gone up to mostly sixes with a seven here and there. Again, I put his card on top and showed it to the Rep. We’d had a good round on ribs and all the other judges were handing out eights and nines, mostly. The Rep shook his head and had another confab with my oddball judge. Nothing came of it. His scoring for pork and brisket was still much lower than the table norm. After the judging ended, he told me that he was on a one-man campaign to decrease the scores in general because, in his opinion, all scores were inflated. Sadly, his ill-conceived campaign just randomly hurt some cooks and had no impact on any other judges. He didn’t think about that! - From an article by Gordon Hubbell in the November 2013 KCBS Bullsheet.

You might be surprised, but I don't mind low scoring judges. A judge should be able to score any way he or she sees fit. The problem arises when I get on that judge's table and another team does not. With the current judging system in all sanctioning bodies, that one judge can easily kick 24 teams right out of contention. All those costs and all that hard work right down the drain.

Also... all these Team of the Year (TOY) contests are quantity contests and not quality contests. A team that only does 10-20 contests a year doesn't stand a chance against those doing 30-40 contests a year. I have never done more than about 13 contests a year (one a month) - I couldn't even imagine having to do a contest just about every weekend.

4) Bad economy - As most of you know, I don't just compete for fun... I try to make a living at it. I sell the book Competition BBQ Secrets, the videos at  www.BarbecueCoach.com , BBQ thermometers, etc. Well, times are tough and sales are way down and I have to find other means to pay the bills around here. Hopefully, I can continue selling these products as they have helped 1000's of pitmasters to cook much better BBQ.

5) Other markets - Competition BBQ is actually a small subset of the BBQ population. I need to expand my horizons and get more into tailgating and helping backyarders out with their BBQ.

6) Cooking the same old stuff - At BBQ contests, all we ever cook is chicken thighs, ribs, Boston Butts, and brisket with occasional ancillary contest thrown in on Friday night at some contests. I want to cook something different!

7) Not traditional - We are always trying to cook for the judges and that means BBQ as sweet as candy except for brisket and even that is changing. I do not like this... traditional pit cooked BBQ would finish in last place in most BBQ contests and I think that is a shame. The mission statement of the KCBS is "Recognizing barbeque as America's Cuisine, the mission of the Kansas City Barbeque Society is to celebrate, teach, preserve and promote barbeque as a culinary technique, sport and art form". Well... I don't know what KCBS is preserving and teaching but it certainly is not traditional BBQ. It's what the judges like, and it's good, but it's not traditional. A lot of people who like vinegar sauces, mustard sauces, spicy BBQ, or fall off the bone ribs may even find competitive BBQ to be downright distasteful.

So... I'm taking a little break from competitive BBQ. Maybe I will get back into it in the future. Only time will tell. I may just do some judging - just traveling and eating a little competition quality BBQ - now that's the life!

In the meantime, I'm going to keep bringing you more BBQ tips and videos. Just email me if there is anything specific you would like me to cover. Look for the next one in a week or two. BBQ season is fast approaching - so dig your smokers out of the snow and start warming them up!


Bill Anderson