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Competition BBQ, The Ultimate Guide To Becoming A Champion

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Here’s everything you need in order to be successful at your first or next barbecue cooking contest, including recipes, gear checklist, judging tips, and more.

Competition runs strong in hominids. No doubt macho cavemen began challenging each other to cookoffs soon after the first bonfire. Today, barbecue cookoffs are one of the nation’s fastest-growing sports. With scores of new BBQ competitions popping up every year, the current count is probably close to 1,000.

The first barbecue competition was the Kaiser Foil Cookoff conducted in 1959 in Hawaii, just a few months after Hawaii became a state. “For Men Only” contestants sent in their main dish recipes and 25 finalists were flown with their wives (assuming they were all married) to the Hawaiian Village Hotel on Waikiki for the cookoff.

First prize was the title “Grand National Cookout Champion” and $10,000 cash. 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th prizes were a Jeep Station Wagon! The entry form had “Bar-B-Tricks” that emphasized wrapping things in foil before putting them on the barbecue. It seems that the crutch has a long history.

The template for modern barbecue competitions comes from chili cookoffs, the first of which, like so many other food firsts, was held at the State Fair of Texas in 1952 in Dallas. The World Championship Cow Country BBQ Cookout, held June 3, 1972, in Uvalde, TX at an event called Arama Days was probably patterned after the many chili cookoffs around the state.

Today, all manner of BBQ contests take place throughout the year around the country. And if you’re entering a BBQ competition for the 1st or 50th time, we’ve got everything you need, including a competition BBQ checklist, award-winning recipes for things like competition pork butt and chicken, plus loads of pro tips and tricks.

Maybe you’re trying your hand at a local cookoff, or maybe you’re joining thousands of others in one of the country’s top 3 BBQ competitions, the Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest, the American Royal World Series of Barbecue, or the Jack Daniel’s World Championship Invitational Barbecue. Either way, we got you covered. 

Barbecue Competition

The History Of Barbecue Competitions


Meathead, BBQ Hall of Famer

Barbecue competitions have become big business with prizes ranging up to $100,000 and some getting national television coverage. Here is the fascinating story of how these contests started in Hawaii "For Men Only," and how they became a popular sport with more than 500 annual events.

Barbecue Competitions Are For The Real Iron Chefs


Meathead, BBQ Hall of Famer

About barbecue competitions, barbecue sanctioning bodies, and links to barbecue associations and contests.
Clint eating a rib

Adventures Of An American Barbecue Judge


Clint Cantwell, Champion Pitmaster

If you're a BBQ team interested in finding ways to better your scores, judging contests is a great way to see the other side of the turn-in table. I had the chance to judge four of the country's most prestigious contests and here is a breakdown of my experiences testing some of the best and worst competition BBQ.

Why You Shouldn’t Cook The Way They Do In BBQ Competitions


Meathead, BBQ Hall of Famer

Cooking contests on TV are not a good way to learn about how to cook barbecue. Here's why.

An Introduction To The Art Of Steak Cookoff Competitions


Clint Cantwell, Champion Pitmaster

If you’re like me, you likely fancy yourself quite the steak griller. But the true test of one’s talent is entering one of the countless steak cooking contests held each year. If you've ever considered competing in a steak cookoff, here's a first person account of what you can expect to encounter from start to finish.
competition pork butt turn in box

Award Winning Competition Pork Butt Recipe, Tuffy Stone’s World Championship Method


Clint Cantwell, Champion Pitmaster

Whether you are new to the competition BBQ game or are a seasoned pro, this recipe for competition pork butt from top pitmaster Tuffy Stone is certain to better your results. This award winning pork butt is one of the many mouthwatering recipes in Tuffy's first cookbook, Cool Smoke: The Art of Great Barbecue.
Competition BBQ chicken thighs in a turn-in box

Darren Warth’s Award Winning Competition Chicken Recipe


Clint Cantwell, Champion Pitmaster

Discover how to create perfect award-winning competition BBQ chicken with this tested recipe from Darren Warth of Iowa’s Smokey D’s BBQ. Arguably the hottest team on the barbecue cooking circuit, Iowa's Smokey D's guide you through the various steps involved in creating amazing 1st place worthy grilled chicken thighs!
Sliced brisket and burnt ends in a competition BBQ turn-in box

The Only Award-Winning Competition Brisket Recipe You Need


Clint Cantwell, Champion Pitmaster

Create award winning smoked brisket thanks to this recipe from top competition BBQ team Travis Clark of Clark Crew BBQ. Travis provides a step-by-step guide to replicating his first place competition brisket recipe including selecting the best brisket, trimming the brisket, seasoning, injecting, smoking, and slicing.
Pork ribs being judged

Competition Ribs Recipe and Award Winning Tricks


Clint Cantwell, Champion Pitmaster

Perfect your competition ribs with these simple tips and a competition rib recipe. Trimmed ribs are seasoned with a flavorful BBQ dry rub before being smoked for several hours. Wrapping the ribs with butter and other ingredients ensure that they are moist, tender, and packed full of flavor for the competition judges.

The Best Competition Chicken Ever, Tips from Top Competitors


Greg Rempe

If you're planning on entering a BBQ contest then this guide to smoking perfect award winning chicken is a must read. Ask competitors which category keeps them staring at the ceiling at night, and most will answer "chicken." From prep to flavor profiles, here is what's competition teams are doing with chicken.

The Texas Crutch: Wrap In Foil Or Butcher Paper To Tenderize And Speed Cooking


Meathead, BBQ Hall of Famer

Here's a useful technique for tenderizing, moisturizing, and speeding cooking by wrapping meat in aluminum foil for an hour or two. The Texas crutch beats the stall, in which meat stops cooking during barbecuing, sometimes for hours. This simple trick works for brisket, pork shoulder and ribs on any smoker or grill.

The Only Competition BBQ Checklist You Will Ever Want Or Need


Clint Cantwell, Champion Pitmaster

This comprehensive competition BBQ checklist is a must for anyone who is considering entering their first contest. This list contains everything you might need for cooking overnight at a contest so that you are well prepared for anything that might arise -- from food to kitchen gear to wash stations and so much more.

Barbecue, Grilling, And Judging Classes


Meathead, BBQ Hall of Famer

Barbecue and judging classes are a great way to learn from the masters. There are many across the nation.

Behind the scenes with a real iron chef – Part 1


Meathead, BBQ Hall of Famer

Come behind the scenes of high stakes KCBS barbecue competition with Candy Weaver and see what it's like to be a real iron chef, Part 1.

Behind the scenes with a real iron chef – Part 2


Meathead, BBQ Hall of Famer

Come behind the scenes of high stakes KCBS barbecue competition with Candy Weaver and see what it's like to be a real iron chef, Part 2.

Published On: 6/26/2019 Last Modified: 11/16/2022


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