Tuesday, July 14, 2015

BBQ Love--a hot Texas tasting

Colorful team names are plentiful on the BBQ cook-off circuit.

You might think you have to be an expert to score a judging seat in an official BBQ competition. Nope; at least not in the beginning rounds. Anyone who can read and eat can volunteer.

On a sweltering Texas Saturday afternoon I passed judgement on 21 bites of BBQ pork ribs followed by 15 bites of chili; 36 bites in all--washed down with 4 bottles of water and a light beer. 

Each contestant submits his or her entry in an identical container, which is assigned a number by the organizers to preserve anonymity. The boxes are then passed around the judging table. Using a new plastic utensil to keep from spreading germs, each judge cuts off a bite (or dips it out if you're tasting chili or beans) and scores it based on aroma, appearance, texture, taste and overall impression. Gotta' think fast, the next plate is coming.

About ten minutes into the rib round, a fellow judge, one of the old salts in the BBQ competition 'bidness', told me, "You don't have to eat it if it don't look right." 

I wished he'd said that a few minutes earlier, when I cut into a not-quite-done rib that might have come from a cook who'd had too fine a Friday night resulting in too late a start on Saturday morning. 

But the chili made the biggest impression. You wouldn't think 15 little bites would blaze a trail through your innards.  

You'd be wrong.  
Chili waiting to be tasted.  

Even if none of 'em burned your taste buds off, the accumulation of spicy spoon-dips would coat your tract all the way to the gut and maybe then some. 

By the end you might not want to eat again for a couple of days.

But when you recover you'll think maybe next time you'll go for the brisket panel. There's nothin' prettier than pink smoke rings, visual messengers of flavor.

And if you do judge chili, you'll know to drink a whole lotta beer to cut the grease and keep up your hydration. And you'll bring your spouse to drive you home.

So while you're thinking about it, check out the schedules for Texas BBQ cook-offs: Lonestar BBQ Society, Central Texas Barbeque Association, Texas Gulf Coast BBQ Cookers Association, and these other places too: BBQ Cooking Contests and Events.

When it's over you'll remember the people you met and stories they told and Texas-good time you had.  

Copyright 2009-2015 Kathleen Scott, for Hill Country Mysteries. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.


  1. Ha! Good to know, good to know... Recently a family member was commenting on a hot mustard sauce I offered with pork tenderloin..."Hooo boy, no one bite is hot but the cumulative effect is impressive!". Which I took as a compliment of course.

    I think having a designated driver and pacing chili bites with beer sips sounds like a good way to get through any summer event in Texas, don't you!?!

  2. Sounds like a great time Kathleen. I think I would pass on the chili though :-) You've probably seen that funny story on the internet about a chili cook off - http://www.twitfall.com/funny-stories/texas-chili-cookoff/ - cracks me up every time I read it. Personally though, I think I would stick with the brisket - that looks delicious!

  3. Deb, maybe we should sign up together, you've got the chops for it and we'd have great stories.

    Jayne, I laughed until my eyes ran. Thanks for the funny story link. The chili in real contests isn't that hot because judges don't like to burn out so the hot ones get lower scores--at least that's how it was explained to me. I think the grease is the killer.

    It's been a while since I did this but I think I'm ready to go again.

  4. You're a braver woman than I.
    And, you just might have a braver stomach.

  5. Quite a feat for you or your stomach, but I think I could do it!! Glad I ate before reading this, as I would disappear to Rudy's for the afternoon...


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