Waynesboro, GA BBQ Contest - The Boss Hog Cookoff

Dear BBQ Friend:

Originally written in 2008. I have since went on to win 8 Grand Championships.

As most of you know, I am co-author of "Competition BBQ Secrets". To be honest with you, I am more of a marketing guru than an "experienced" BBQ guru. I say "experienced" because I was always the assistant cook on the Chatham Artillery BBQ Team. In order to gain more hands on BBQ experience, I decided to try my hand at some BBQ competitions as the "pit boss". And let me tell you... it's not as easy as it looks! So... in this newsletter, I am going to tell you about some of the mistakes I made in my first BBQ competition as pit boss and how I plan on correcting them in future competitions. In the future, I'll also be "studying" new techniques of competition quality BBQing in an attempt to improve upon the already successful techniques in the book. Of course, I'll keep you informed every step of the way. Hopefully, you may learn a thing or two in the process.

The first contest I entered as pit boss, was at the Boss Hog Cookoff in Waynesboro, GA. There were thirty teams there at a very nice facility of a local golf cart rebuilder. It was a KCBS sanctioned event. I placed 12th overall.

So, what were the mistakes I made?...

Preparation - 

1) I did not quite have enough room on my smokers for all the meat I cooked. 2 butts, 2 briskets, 20 chicken thighs, and 5 slabs of ribs. I brought a Traeger Texas model pellet smoker and my CharBroil Silver. I used the Traeger for the butts, brisket, and 5 slabs of ribs with a rib rack. What I really needed was to cook the ribs on their own smoker, cook the butts and brisket on the Traeger Texas, and cook the chicken on the CharBroil Silver. If I had cooked the ribs on their own smoker, I could have controlled the temperature a little better and I would have had more room to avoid using the rib rack.

2) One of my thermometer probes was bad and I didn't figure it out until it was too late. You really can't do stuff like this and expect to cook competition quality meats. The problem showed up when I started my chicken on the CharBroil Silver. I was trying out my recipe for avoiding the dreaded rubbery chicken skin problem. This recipe requires precise control of the temperature for the first 30 minutes and throughout the rest of the smoke too. My thermometer probe went bad after about 10 minutes and I tried to "wing" it with the thermometer in the lid. Needless to say, this did not work too good and the skin turned out slightly rubbery and not "bite through" like I was looking for. I should have been more prepared. I'll have a spare thermometer ready to go in minutes next time.

3) Buying "good" meat is a lot harder than I thought. I could have done a better job with this. I knew what to buy, I just had a very hard time finding it in Savannah. The Piggly Wiggly grocery stores here are supposed to be selling Certified Angus Beef, but they sometimes label choice as CAB. I ended up just buying choice and trying that instead of CAB. My scores in brisket showed the error of my ways! I could have done a better job with the other meats too.

Experimenting - I changed things up a bit and tried some new stuff that is not in the book. I should have stuck with what I knew was good information... the techniques in "Competition BBQ Secrets". Trying new stuff is not bad, you just need to change one small thing at a time and see how it works out. I went overboard and tried new times, temps, glues, rubs, injections, sauces, etc. What was I thinking?

Lessons learned -

1) Be prepared - Know what equipment you will need, make sure it works right, and spend a little extra time finding and buying quality meats.

2) Stick with what works - Don't go overboard with trying new stuff and techniques. Changing one small thing at a time is OK, but don't throw out everything you ever knew about BBQing and start over from scratch.

In the future, I will enter more contests as "pit boss" and I will keep you informed of my progress along the way.

Here are some pics and results of the contest....


Bill Anderson