Typically a BBQ contest will take up a couple of days. From our experiences, it’s an all day event on a Friday and Saturday (at least most of Saturday). On the day the event starts, it is a good idea to get to your site as early as you can. Some contests don’t have folks around to help get you checked in until later in the AM – but in most cases you can get checked in as early as 7AM or even the Thursday night before.
Getting there early provides many advantages, some examples:
- If gives you flexibility to work around the weather if it isn’t cooperating
- You can get your meat checked in earlier so you can begin your marinade, brine or whatever you’d like to do to the meat before you cook it
- You are less rushed getting your camp/kitchen setup which creates a far more organized area
- It gives you a larger window to run out and pickup anything that may have been forgotten.
- You can begin to scope the competition as it comes in!
- You can start drinking beer earlier!
There are many other advantages – but these are the main ones.
There will typically be a meat inspector running around whenever you get there so you’ll want to get this out of the way as soon as you can. You cannot unpackage any of the meat you are cooking until it has been “checked in” by one of these inspectors – so don’t bring anything open or in a marinade or already seasoned, etc. It will disqualify you before you even begin.
Sometime in the evening, usually between 5PM and 7PM, there will be a cooks meeting. You or someone representing your team will need to be there during this meeting. At the end of the meeting you’ll get your clam shells (the styrofoam thingers you typically get from a restaurant for left overs) and whatever “goodie bags” the contest is giving each team. You will get at least 4 clam shells (or more depending on the contest). Take care of these and don’t mark on them! You can be disqualified for trying to “mark” your box in an attempt to tell a judge who’s food this is. A very serious rule in these contests is that turns ins are to remain annonymous, unbiased and fair. I have seen more than one team given a diqualifying score.
Turn ins will usually be on Saturday for the big 4 (chicken, ribs, pork, brisket) and will usually start at noon and then be every 30 minutes. For KCBS the order of turn in is chicken, ribs, pork, brisket…so it would end at 1:30. Juding is then typically between 3 – 4 PM depending on the size and number of teams.