Let me tell you; there is a lot more to judging barbecue then you may think.
Last month, I attended a seminar in Aiken by the South Carolina Barbecue Association where I learned the ins-and-outs of judging barbecue.
True barbecue isn’t putting your meat on a grill.
It’s cooking your meat with different type of woods like pecan or apple and cooking it slow to pick up the flavors.
Use whatever woods are native to your area is what Morrey Thomas, a grill master and a master chef, told me. Serious barbecuers cook their meats on low, slow indirect heat. They use a rub sometimes in addition to sauce.
Becoming a SCBA certified judge is no easy task.
You have to complete seminar where you learn how to judge, then judge in four different SCBA events.
To become a senior judge, you have to judge in 15 different contests and cook with a team in a contest. To become a master judge, you have to have judged in 30 contests, 20 of which are different and cook with at least three teams.
Barbecue is judged on appearance – the texture, color, fat to lean ratio, burned meat. Judges also consider tenderness – moist and tender versus dry and tough.
Taste is another judging scale. Is the sauce too hot, too mild or excessive versus a pleasing blend of sauce, spices and meat?
The food that they served at the SCBA seminar was provided by Pit Master Larry Bowling of Smokin’ Stack’s. I want to tell you that his pulled pork was excellent, and I really would hate to have to judge some of these cook teams at the seminar.
For the judges and pit masters, it’s not about selling barbecue. It’s about competing to make the best slow-cooked barbecue in the country.
It’s all about team work and cooking for the love of South Carolina barbecue.
I hope you go and try some great barbecue the next time you hear of an event where all these pit master chefs are cooking. There are about 700 members across state so there is a lot of competing going on.
Submitted photo J.T. Handy, a champion pit master from Charleston, sauces ribs while they cook slowly in his large smoker.×
Submitted photo Pit master Jeff Smith, of Aiken, holds a plated box of smoked pork butt that would be ready for barbecue judges to judge.×
Submitted photo This slow-cooked brisket is plated as it would be for judges in a barbecue competition. The pink ring around the edge of the meat is the smoke ring, something the judges look for and part of what gives the meat a wonderful flavor.×