**UPDATE** Grillin' With Rich has invited me to participate in a live chat about "How to get involved with Competition Bbq" on April 3rd at 7:00 pm CST. If you would like to be part of this discussion sign up at: www.grillingwithrich.com/chat to get a reminder to join! We will also be giving away a set of Sauce and Rubs from Drapers BBQ.
If you are interested in getting started with competition BBQ, there are few things I would suggest doing before you enter your first contest. These little tips will save you A LOT of money, get you prepared for your first BBQ cook-off and make sure you show-up to your first BBQ contest ready to COMPETE.
I don't care how amazing your grandpa's BBQ sauce is... or how mouth-watering everyone told you your ribs are... the guys who compete in Competition BBQ have spent years perfecting everything - all the way down to how to place the lettuce and the meat in the turn-in box (and yes, that does make a difference to a judge).
You just ain't going to beat these guys your first time out because there is so much more that goes into competition BBQ that most people ever realize.
But... there are a few ways you can get yourself ready for it...
The first thing I would recommend you doing is going through judging school… it will give you that edge over everyone else who is just starting out because you will know exactly what the judges expect (and you will see exactly what your future competition is doing). You can find out the details about judging school by visiting the KCBS (Kansas City Barbeque Society) or the MBN (Memphis Barbecue Network) websites.
I have competed in both the MBN and the KCBS circuits for over 12 years now, and I still like to judge at least 2 contests each year.
When you are choosing which TYPE of BBQ contest to start entering, I would recommend KCBS. This is because the cost to get started in KCBS is a lot less than MBN and other BBQ Networks. Once you get the ball rolling, you can always pick-up some other BBQ network contests in the future.
If you really want to get a feel for competition BBQ before you do your own contests, one big thing you can do is to "shadow" a team for a weekend. You can find a local BBQ team and offer to help them out for a weekend bbq cook-off.
Don't expect these guys to give you their secrets, but being around and watching what they do will give you a good idea of what it takes to compete. And believe me, a lot more goes into it than what you would expect. By shadowing a team you can see what supplies you are going to need, what it takes to build a blind-box and just get a feel for bbq contests.
Then I would start practicing at home. When I practice at home, I run through my cooking times and my turn-in times just like I am at a contest. Your cooking times are very important and you need to have it all down before you put down several thousand dollars on your first contest. When you show-up at that contest, you want everything to come as second nature.
Next I would get a good smoker (you can just stick to a few Weber Smokey Mountain smokers if you are only going to do KCBS) and enter a few small contests.
Then once you are at these contests, go around, introduce yourself and start making friends. Each region is different in how they judge. And the other BBQ teams can give you tips and pointers that will give you the insight you need to start winning.
If you still want to compete after doing all that... THEN I would recommended you to start investing in the big smokers, get a trailer and start searching for a sponsor.
BBQ Contests are not cheap. Entry fees range from $300 – $2500, then you have meat cost, supplies and most times travel. Just at Memphis In May alone we spent over $8,000. But you can do a small contest - without travel - for around $400-$700 (if you already have all your equipment).
Killer Hogs BBQ Team