Pauls Valley, Oklahoma — If you love barbecue, you should join a sanctioned barbecue society. It's one of the most enjoyable decisions I have made.
There are a number of “official” barbecue societies. I happen to be a member of the Kansas City Barbecue Society. It's one of the largest in the county, and sanctions a number of barbecue competitions all over the country.
I also took a class to become a sanctioned judge. The KCBS offers the class at various locations all over the country, year round. It's amazing how serious the judging process is. The competitions are based on four categories. Chicken, pulled pork, brisket and pork ribs. The entrees are scored based on visual appearance, taste and texture/tenderness. The scores are from 1 – 9, with 1 being a disqualification, and 9 being the best.
The barbecue teams are supposed to prepare exactly one serving per judge in each category. There are six judges per table. As a judge, if you take a rib out of the container and another rib is stuck to it, you
have to take both ribs. Your cannot tear them apart. That means one judge won't get a rib from that team. The result? A big fat “1” on the score card from the judge that didn't get a rib.
In the chicken category, the breast used to be the cut of poultry used by all the teams. Now, it has totally gone to the thigh. Why? There is an old saying in the judging business when it comes to chicken breasts. Oftentimes, the breast is either undercooked or leather. The thigh is moister and
gives you a larger margin for error on cooking times.
The beef brisket is the cut that drives barbecue teams crazy. As the brisket cools it has a tendency to become dry. Many teams base their entire reputation on the quality of their brisket, since it is the toughest cut to cook.
Oh, and back to the ribs. If a rib is “so tender it is falling off the bone,” that's not considered a good rib. That is considered overcooked. The meat should be attached to the bone, but pull away cleanly
And get this. These teams literally know how you will eat a piece of meat, and which part of the meat your tongue will contact first. As an example, they typically put most of the spice rub on the bottom of
the chicken thigh. They have determined that typically our tongue goes to the bottom of the thigh, not the top.
Each team takes great pride in the presentation of their entrees. They accomplish this with garnish.
When the Styrofoam container is opened the garnish springs forward and spreads out like a miniature Kirigami display. And here's how seriously the issue of garnishes is taken in the competitions - this comes directly from the rules book.
“Garnish is optional. If used, it is limited to chopped, sliced, shredded or whole leaves of fresh green lettuce, curly parsley, flat leaf parsley and/or cilantro. Kale, endive, red tipped lettuce, lettuce cores and other vegetation are prohibited.
Visit http://www.bbq-my-way.com for a link to the various barbecue societies. There are 19 that I am aware of.
Dave Lobeck is a barbecue chef from Sellersburg, Ind., who writes a weekly column for CNHI News Service. Visit his website at www.BBQMyWay.com.