How to Become an NC Barbecue Society Competition Judge
For any barbecue lover, the thought of being able to eat lots of delicious smoked meats – and having the power to say what’s best – is a dream come true. But, like most things, there is more to it. We spoke to a few bona fide barbecue judges about the pros and cons of being a taste arbiter.
1. Are you sure you want to be a judge?
âA lot of people think it’s great,â said Jason Frye, a Wilmington-based travel writer. “And it is. You eat a food that you like. But, again, you have to eat a lot of it.”
And, when it comes to barbecuing, it can be a food known to be rich and fatty.
âThere are times when it’s too much,â he said. Frye recalls an experience where he had to try barbecue sauces and (temporarily) overwhelm his taste buds with the spicy selections.
Alan Nichols, based in Belews Creek, said he has judged over 100 competitions and tried thousands of ribs, breasts and chicken. The only way to make it work is to taste small amounts.
âYou can really only take one bite, maybe two,â he said.
Often the meats are so similar that you have to make quick decisions on which is best.
2. Choose a tail style
After his retirement, Nichols decided he wanted to live a more barbecue lifestyle. He began his journey through the North Carolina Barbecue Society and learned the ins and outs of the styles of that state. But he’s since judged (and competed) through other barbecue organizations, including the Kansas City Barbecue Society, which has described itself as the world’s largest organization of barbecue and grilling enthusiasts, and the Florida BBQ. Association.
âThey all have their own criteria and their own way of doing things,â he said.
Her advice is to do your research and find the organization that best suits your style.
3. Attend classes or training camp
For the NC Barbecue Society, for example, judging classes are typically held during a two-day BBQ Boot Camp. Nichols is an instructor for some of the events that teach the basics of local styles.
âThey go through the different cuts, the basics of friction, the way everything fits together, the different shades,â Frye said. “And they bring in pit masters, you learn from the best.”
They also discuss how to organize tasting notes for competitions.
Unfortunately, NC Company training camps have been canceled until the end of 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, more are in the books for 2022. If you’re impatient, there’s a class scheduled at Rutherford College in North Carolina in October through the KC organization.
4. Get the details
Judging is probably not a good idea for those who are not concerned with details.
âAnd the details can be very specific,â Nichols said. “Some of them allow greenery, some don’t.” And that specificity can mean disqualifying an entry if there’s a kale on a plate or if it’s the wrong type of lettuce.
âFor the most part, the criteria are broken down into what’s called EAT – workmanship, looks and taste,â Frye said. “And there are certain things that you are always looking for in everyone.”
5. Continue with the judgment
Frye said that once you’ve taken the training, it’s worth applying these skills in a real competition. You can learn more about the judges’ responsibility to the process and to the competitors who go all out for the signal. Then you have the real references when you discuss barbecue with others. For the most part, he said that while people love the idea of ââbeing a barbecue judge, what they really want is to know more about it.
âThat’s what I’m trying to do,â he says. âGive a little education when I talk to people, something they can take with them. ”