I just completed my first experience as a KCBS BBQ judge and I had a blast. This was for the Bedford Blues and BBQ Festival in nearby Bedford, Texas, the same folks who sponsored the judging class I took yesterday. The first step was seating, where they mixed up experienced and new judges, separated husbands, wives, and friends, and basically tried to give each table of 6 judges a similar mix of people. Once that was accomplished, we went through an orientation and learned there was also a sauce category to be judged today. We went through orientation, listened to the judging CD and took the judges oath, then sat down for sauce. Our table had 4 sauces to choose from and only one got high ratings from me. It was thick and spicy and I would love to have more of it. One, I swear, tasted just like spaghetti sauce! One of the other judges on my table liked that one the best.
Next up was chicken. It was easy to tell the experienced teams because their boxes were prepared beautifully. Most were nice compact thighs with a fine glaze of sauce. A few had no sauce, and one competitor made the mistake of entering 2 half chickens! The KCBS rules state that judges must take 1 piece each, in order, with no breaking things apart. That meant the frst 2 judges got the whole box and the rest of us got nada. That means disqualification score on all 6 for appearance, and food and tenderness disqualification on the 4 judges who did not get food. Newbie mistake by someone. Two of my samples had perfect taste and one had perfect tenderness. Some pretty good chicken
The ribs were up next and I was amazed at the quality there. The first box that came out I gave a perfect 9 on appearance. All the rest got 8's or 9's, too. Every single rib was above average on taste and tenderness, with only one getting a slightly lower score due to the thickness of their fruity sauce. All in all a fine bunch of ribs.
The pulled pork was not as good. Most lacked smoke flavor and there was not much bark in most of the boxes. Some were sauced, but that wasn't always a good thing. Several included medallions, some were chopped, some were pulled. It didn't matter much, overall this was the weakest category in this cook off.
Brisket was the last entry we sampled but I have to say I was a bit disappointed. Every entry (except one) included burnt ends to go along with their slices. Only one of the 6 had real smoke flavor and it was off a bit on tenderness. Overall, it mostly tasted like DFW brisket usually does, like moist tender roast beef, not smoked meat. One competitor submitted chopped sauced brisket and it was just not very good.
I have to say, it sure is nice to sit in one place and have them bring you sample after sample of smoked meat. You don't get the travel experience of running around from place to place, but you do get to eat a lot of good food. However, since it is blind judging, you can never go back for more!!! One of the "perks" of being a judge is you get to take leftovers home. I left with several pounds of nice smoked meat which I will be enjoying for the next couple of days. I hope to do this again, soon!!