From the Beard to the Tail! “barbe-à-queue” KCBS Competition Style 101
Historical research suggests that the origin of the word “Barbeque”, stems from the old Anglo-Norman term “barbeque”, a contraction of the French expression “barbe-à-queue”, which translates as “from the beard to the tail”, the manner in which a goat was spitted through, and roasted slowly over an open fire. While Barbeque may be French in origin it has clearly taken the world by storm and continues to grow exponentially. The manufacturing of grills and grilling accessories in the US alone amounts to gross sales in excess of $740 Million USD annually.
Today, THE KANSAS CITY BARBECUE SOCIETY (KCBS), a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting and enjoying barbeque, and currently is the world’s largest organization of barbeque and grilling enthusiasts with over 20,000 members worldwide.
Barbeque styles vary regionally and in fact, globally. The intent of KCBS is to promote the American Style of Barbeque and it’s culture. By way of their International out reach they continue to dominate the scene. Currently there are over 15 officially sanctioned competitions scheduled for the 2015 season throughout Europe and this number will no doubt increase before the year ends.
To date there are over one hundred qualified KCBS Cook Teams in Europe and, much to my chagrin, only one from France. I would like to see that number increase. A country the size of France, with their rich culture in fantastic cuisine, should have many more KCBS members and Cook Teams. I have my work cut out for me, and welcome your help and assistance. Come on out and meet our team “The Sultans of Sting” we will be competing at the “Tony Stone Low and Slow BBQ Competition” in Hoofddorp, the Netherlands, on May 24th, 2015
For those of you readers that are not familiar with how a KCBS Sanction Competition is structured here is an explanation of a basic competition without any ancillary categories added. The typical contest requires all the teams to cook meats in 4 different categories. The categories are Chicken, Pork Ribs, Pork Shoulder aka Boston Butt, and Beef Brisket. All the entries are turned in at approximately 30 minute intervals. They are submitted in plain white Styrofoam boxes that are randomly numbered to insure a blind sampling and scoring system is maintained. The meats are judged by a sequestered panel of “Certified Barbecue Judges” (CBJ) and awarded points on a scale from 2 thru 9 with 1 being reserved for a disqualified entry. There are 6 judges per table and the lowest score, per judge is discarded. The criteria and associated points earned for each of the meats presented is judged are as follows:
1.) Presentation.Table Captains facilitate this by presenting the individual boxes for the judges viewing pleasure and are scored and tabulated based on a factor of .5600. Garnish is not mandatory, and while this is the lowest percentage of the total overall score, it can be an additional advantage to perfect an entry. Keep in mind that Judges are people too, and we all eat with our eyes first and the first impressions are lasting impressions. Today the quality of the end products presented are truly works of art and represent hours of practice and hard work. Here is a typical turn in rib entry.
2.) Taste. This is where entries are won or lost. Not only is this the highest percentage factor applied in scoring, accounting for a whopping 2.2972, it is also the most subjective category of the three. The judge’s individual preferences and tastes are called into play here. The cooks challenge is to develop his or her own flavor profile that is subtle enough as not over power the meat, yet improve and heighten the overall flavor, while retaining the authentic American BBQ experience.
3.) Tenderness. In my opinion, this is the where the wheat is seperated from the chaff. Each meat category has a unique state of doneness and this is ultimate cooks challenge. I believe that is why the scoring factor is weighed at 1.1428 as this is the most difficult category in which to achieve excellence. Lets look at the meats individually presented in the order that they are judged.
Chicken, the rules are pretty straight forward here. Even though this is most often the most dreaded of all the categories. It is typically the first turn-in and usually cooked hot and fast as opposed to low and slow. Whole chickens are allowed as well as any of their individual parts. Recently the most popular entries have been thighs that resemble deflated handballs. The preparation is grueling at best. Scraping the fat from the skin, trimming, dusting with baking soda, cooking them in muffin tins, the list goes on and on. They look so pretty glazed and sitting in the box. Only to arrive at the table for judging and hoisted up to the judges mouth for that ever so anticipated first bite. Will it be that highly coveted “Bite Through Skin” or a mouthful of blubber? Eew, or even worse, the inside is raw or under cooked. I’m sure you can envision a certain kind of Gordon Ramsey reaction from the individual judge.
As a CBJ and Cook give me over done rather than under. I’ll take the Over vs Under anyday.
Ribs come next and are my 2nd favorite off all the meats. The most common are usually well trimmed St.Louis Style Ribs. They are spare ribs that have been trimmed and the silver skin removed. Baby Back Ribs are also used but they have a lower fat content and tend to dryout more rapidly. Country Style boneless ribs are not permitted as they are not really ribs as they are cut from the sirloin or rib end of the pork loin. The key to competition style ribs is the bite. The ultimate rib should require a bit of tension and pull without falling off the bone. More often than not they are dry rubbed first and well sauced with a delicate balance of sweet and heat.
Now for the Primal Cuts AKA the All Nighters.
Pork. Here is the latest KCBS rule defining the category “Pork is defined as Boston Butt, Boston Roast, Picnic and/or Whole Shoulder, weighing a minimum of four (4) pounds at the time of inspection. After trimming, pork shall be cooked whole (bone in or bone out), however, once cooked, it may be separated and returned to the cooker at the cook’s discretion. It may be turned in chopped, pulled, chunked, sliced or a combination of any of these.”
This is perhaps the single most diverse meat category. Probably because it’s the most forgiving in terms of time, temperature, and overall skills required to achieve reasonable results. It does have a window of opportunity to be observed though. If it is over cooked and turns to mush there is not enough time to make another one and undercooked it will not pull easily for presenting a pulled pork, therefore time is of the essence.
This category is by far my personal favorite and one that strikes fear in the hearts and minds of many a new competitor. There are volumes of information on the inter webs and hundreds of classes taught by some of the winningest celebrity pitmasters ever to grace the stage at the awards ceremonies. All include the topic of how to produce the perfect beef brisket. Low-N-Slow?, Hot-N-Fast?, Foil or Butcher’s Paper?, Texas Crutch? Inject or not?, Salt & Pepper only? and the list goes on and on. Today most entries are turned in with a sampling of “Burnt Ends” which consists of cubed pieces of the point meat that is generally sauced and returned to the cooker to braise and render the precious beef fat into a highly prized nectar. Due to the higher fat content of the brisket point, it takes longer to fully cook to tender and render out fat and collagen. The results, when done perfectly, are worth their weight in the overall standings.
I hope that this has been informative and useful information that I encourage you to share. This really is a great sport and hobby to be enjoyed in many different ways.
Look for Team “Beast” at the World Food Championships in Kissimmee, Florida