How to Join the Competitive BBQ Circuit
Your grilled recipes are all the rage at parties and get-togethers. Why not show off that talent by checking out competitive barbequing? Maybe you’ve been to a competition before, or maybe you didn’t even know BBQ competitions existed. Joining a barbequing competition is a great way to show off your skills and share the fun of grilling, all with a little competitive edge.
While your main goal at first shouldn’t be how to win a BBQ competition, you can get there eventually with the right preparation. Get your grill ready and read on for a BBQ competition checklist.
Finding a BBQ Competition
Before you begin to practice, you need to find out what competitions are closest to you. Your city or one nearby may be host to a BBQ competition depending on the time of year. To find a competition, you could:
1. Ask around: Talk to friends, family, your butcher or fellow barbequers. Find anyone with a passion like yours for barbequing and ask them about BBQ competitions. They could know about local or nearby competitions, or they could point you in the right direction. You may even find people who are interested in joining your team or some who have competed in the past and can give you some BBQ competition secrets.
2. Search on social media: You may be able to find local BBQ competitions through social media events, so be sure to take a look online. You may also find groups for barbequers in your area, where you may find information about competitions nearby. Again, you could find tips or others who are willing to join your team in these groups online, so be sure to branch out and talk to new people.
3. Check the BBQ Network: The American BBQ Network lists other competition networks in various states. Check out the networks in your state to see local events, rules and more information on how to join the competitive BBQ circuit near you.
If your state isn’t listed with the BBQ network, do research online for your area. You could always host a mini competition with your friends and family if you’re itching to compete, but to join the competitive BBQ circuit, you may have to travel. This is especially true if you live in a state that isn’t as known for its barbeque as others. If you’re serious about competing, it’ll be well worth the trip. You’ll meet new people who share your passion for grilling and get inspired for your future grilling endeavors. Just make sure you have your expectations set right for the competition.
Realistic Expectations for the Competitive BBQ Circuit
If you’ve watched reality competition shows, you may have high expectations for the competitive barbeque circuit. As you start out in the competitive barbequing scene, it will be a bit different than what you see on TV. Set realistic expectations for yourself before joining the competitive BBQ circuit by knowing about:
1. The pros’ equipment and techniques: It’s important to remember that competitors in major BBQ battles have a lot of experience and access to high-quality products and tools. Their competition BBQ secrets revolve around these expensive ingredients and a lifetime developing barbeque knowledge. Don’t expect to pull off their techniques without getting in a lot of practice.
2. The professional division: You may also not be able to enter the professional division of the competitive BBQ circuit right away if you’re new to the scene. You would be a bit out of your league anyway, so it’s best to wait until you have other competitions under your belt before diving into the professional division. Instead, you’ll start with a backyard- or patio-level competition to hone your skills.
3. The pros on TV: There are a lot of steps left out on competition shows that don’t include everything a competitor may use in a recipe. You won’t see every step of prep work, during and leading up to the competition, or how long the competition really takes. For realistic expectations of a barbequing competition, visit one in person.
4. The things you have to pay for: You’ll have to expect to fund yourself and your competition BBQ team. You will want quality ingredients and materials, and when paired with an entrance fee, the cost may rack up. If you’re dedicated to the competition circuit, you’ll have to consider the cost of traveling to and competing in events across different states.
5. The effort you have to put in: Any competition takes effort. With practicing, finding competitions, preparing and actually participating, you have to devote a lot of time to barbeque. If grilling is something you love, it’s worth the rewarding experience, but it will take a lot of devotion.
Don’t let these factors scare you away from joining the competitive BBQ circuit. It’s essential to have realistic expectations before entering a barbequing competition so you don’t enter the wrong division or show up expecting everything to be like how it is on TV. With your expectations set in the right place, you can better prepare for a competition.
How to Prepare for a BBQ Competition
Before you get grilling in a professional competition, you have to start small. Begin with a backyard-level competition to get used to the competitive circuit. Even at a beginner level, you’ll want to prepare for the competition. As you get ready for your first time to compete, be sure to prepare with BBQ competition tips like:
1. Do your research: Go to a competition or find out more about the rules for the specific event you’re participating in or do research online. Learn the rules, and learn more about who you may compete against. Don’t let the other competitors intimidate you, though. Just see what you have to go up against to motivate you for the competition.
2. Know what you need to make: Every competition requires something different of the barbequers involved. Some will have you prepare ribs, chicken and more. Others may have you focus on a main meat dish and prepare sides to go with it. Check the rules and guidelines to see what it is you have to create for the judges.
3. Make a timeline: Knowing how long you have to complete each step of your prep will keep you organized throughout the competition. See how specific your timeline needs to be to help you stick with it and not get overwhelmed. Do you work better with something general, or do you need a guideline right down to the minute to keep you on track? Practice with the timeline to make sure it helps you get done in time, and make adjustments if you need them.
4. Trim meat beforehand, if it’s allowed: Some competitions will allow you to trim the meat you plan to cook before the competition. The amount of prep you can do beforehand varies between competitions, so consult the rules before you get carried away with prep work. Do whatever prep you can before the competition because it will save you time to focus on other tasks during the event.
5. Be prepared for a multi-day experience: Many BBQ competitions in the circuit span a weekend or a few days. Get ready to camp out or search for hotels near the competition site so you’re rested for the event. Remember to bring whatever you need to spend a few nights away from home, not just what you need for the competition.
When you take the time to prepare, you will go into the event feeling more relaxed and ready to take on your competitors. Figure out what preparations best work for you and create lists along the way to keep you on track. With these BBQ competition tips, you’ll be ready to set up a BBQ competition team and gather your supplies.
Gathering Supplies and Teammates
Any successful pitmaster has a dedicated team working by their side and the supplies they need to win a BBQ competition. Build your team with friends or family members who are as passionate and serious about competitive barbequing as you are, and work together to get what you need.
When you make your competition BBQ team, promote yourself to boss. You’ll be the one responsible for successes, failures and everything in between. If you’re the one who started the team and has a passion for grilling, you deserve the position, so own it!
If you’ve been asked to be on a team, you should still familiarize yourself with BBQ competition tips, so take pride in your team member status and try your best to bring success to your team.
Once you’re on a team or have one, you have the more fun task of choosing a name. You’ll use the team name when you enter competitions, but it’ll also unite you and your friends as serious BBQ competitors. As you choose a team name, you’ll want to:
- Choose something that represents your personalities
- Check team names in your area to avoid having one too similar to someone else
- Consider the opinions of everyone on your team
- Know you could change the name later on, though it could be inconvenient if you’ve invested a lot into personalized team gear
Your team name is essential, but what’s even more important is knowing what you need to bring to the competition. Create a BBQ competition checklist that you can add to or edit after competitions so you’re more prepared every time. Some essential BBQ competition supplies include:
- A smoker
- A grill
- Fuel, charcoal or wood pellets
- A canopy or tent
- Basting brushes
- A grill brush and other grill tools
- Sharp knives
- Various kitchen utensils
- Various measuring cups and spoons
- Pots and pans
- Aluminum foil
- Plastic wrap
- Coolers and ice
- A device with an alarm or timer
- Food-safe gloves
- Hand sanitizer
- Dish soap
- Water jugs
- Paper towels
- Kitchen towels
- A meat thermometer
- Meat and other components of your sides
- Sauces, rubs and other ingredients
While the BBQ competition checklist of supplies is long — and you may think of other things to add, like a coffee maker and coffee for an energy boost — you likely have many of these items already. Think about what you need when you grill at home, and you’ll probably need it at the competition. Work with your teammates to assemble everything and discuss beforehand who will be in charge of bringing what. You could all invest in a new grill or smoker together, though, since that will give what you make a quality boost.
Other BBQ Competition Tips
If you’re ready to join the circuit, there are some more BBQ competition tips that could help. After creating your team, putting together a checklist and signing up for a competition, don’t forget to:
1. Scope out competitions: Check out some competitions to get an idea of the BBQ competition site setup. You may be able to talk to competitors as long as they aren’t prepping or busy with other work.
2. Do a practice run: Prepare to do a practice run so you can get used to working with your teammates and in a time constraint. Work with the amount of ingredients and supplies you’d bring with you to a competition because you won’t have any luxuries of home at an event.
3. Stay organized: Whether you’re practicing or competing, an organized space is a successful space. Separate tools and ingredients in different plastic tubs and see what setup keeps you and your team organized. You’ll use your time more efficiently if you know where everything is.
4. Communicate: While practicing, during and leading up to competition, communicate effectively with your teammates. Figure out who is in charge of what and set a game plan to ensure that when it’s time to compete, everything goes smoothly.
5. Stay safe: Practice food safety. Remember, you’re working outdoors and with meat. You want everything to be the right temperature, and you don’t want to risk any cross-contamination as that could cost you the competition. Wear disposable, food-grade gloves when handling raw meat, and clean up as you go with paper towels.
6. Follow the rules: Many organizations will provide competition BBQ teams with information about safety regulations and other requirements. Read up on these rules and be sure that everyone on your team understands them and is ready to follow them to the letter.
7. Stick with what you know: Don’t experiment with a new ingredient, especially when you’re in the middle of the competition. Be confident in your recipes, and wait to play around with flavors during practice time. You don’t want to risk making any mistakes during the competition itself.
8. Consider being a judge: For most competitions, you’ll have to become certified to be a judge. The one-day class is worth it to familiarize yourself with the rules and see the quality of food people create for competitions.
Those tips could give you some insight on how to win a BBQ competition, but remember that it isn’t always about winning. Your first couple of competitions will give you a feel for the circuit and help you improve your strategy, recipes, teamwork and more. Get involved in the circuit, and with time and practice, you could make a winning meal.
Gear Up With BBQ Competition Supplies From Grilla Grills
Once you’ve got your BBQ competition checklist together, gear up with us at Grilla Grills. Check out our portable Chimp Wood Pellet Grill or our Kong Kamado Grill for high-quality equipment at a great value. Rest assured that Grilla Grills equipment is durable and will last through countless competitions and get-togethers.
Whether you’re joining the BBQ competition circuit or you want to impress a panel of your friends and family at your next barbeque, check out our supplies at Grilla Grills. Browse our grill selection and contact us today with any questions you have about our high-quality grilling products and how they can help you take on your BBQ competition!