How to Win a Barbecue Cook Off

When you participate in a barbecue cook-off, there are several practices and strategies you can implement to create a dish rich in taste and flavor to help you win the cook-off. In addition to following the competition rules, you can use quality ingredients and make the dish look aesthetically pleasing to the eye, which can cause you to place ahead of your competitors in any barbecue cook-off contest. Continue reading this article to learn how you can prepare for and experience a successful barbecue cook-off.


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    Review the rules of the barbecue cook-off. To qualify for winning the cook-off, you must follow and adhere to all the contest rules. For example, if the rules prohibit you from using lighter fluid on the coals within your grill, start the grill using newspaper and matches instead.
    • Obtain a copy of the rules by consulting with the panel of judges for the cook-off or by visiting the website for the cook-off.
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    Learn about the backgrounds of the cook-off judges. This practice may help you determine the flavors of and cooking methods for preparation of your meat. For example, if you are participating in a cook-off in the city of Memphis, but your judges are from Kansas City, they may prefer sweeter Kansas City-style flavors as opposed to Memphis-style flavors rich in vinegar.
    • Read the short summaries or biographies about the panel of judges in your cook-off rules, brochure, or from the cook-off website.
    • Introduce yourself to the judges far in advance before the cook-off, if possible, to determine the background and experience of each judge.
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    Participate in Internet discussion groups about barbecue. Engaging in forums and discussions about barbecue may give you new, additional tips and ideas for unique and flavorful barbecue dishes.
    • Perform an Internet search using keywords such as "barbecue forums" or "barbecue discussions" to locate online barbecue communities.
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    Obtain items as required for the barbecue cook-off. Depending on the competition rules, you may be required to purchase a fire extinguisher or sanitation supplies for your booth at the cook-off.
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    Use meat that is high in quality. High-quality meat is considered to be fresh and either all-natural or organic, and in most cases may taste better than pre-packaged meat found in many grocery stores.
    • Consult with farmers in your local area or region who can provide you with fresh meat, or order high-quality meat from farmers in other regions.
    • Visit grocers who specialize in all-natural or organic products to purchase your meat for the barbecue.
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    Develop a unique flavor for your barbecue. Barbecue cook-offs often judge participants on their ability to produce a new, unique barbecue flavor.
    • Try combinations of different sauces, dry spices, and cooking methods to develop a unique flavor based on the rules of your cook-off. For example, if the cook-off allows you to use either cherry wood or hickory wood in your grill, experiment using both types of wood to determine which produces the better flavor.
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    Develop a sauce or glaze that is not extremely messy. Most cook-off judges prefer barbecue dishes in which the sauce does not retain a watery or runny consistency.
    • Create a glaze that sticks to the meat without dripping or add small amounts of honey, or dehydrated honey, to your flavor in order to decrease your chances of a mess.
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    Display your barbecue in an appetizing and clean manner. Judges will rank your food according to how appetizing the dish appears, and may also inspect the area in which you are preparing your barbecue for cleanliness.
    • Use paper towels to wipe up sauce spills from counters and sauce streaks from the edges and sides of boxes or containers.
    • If you place toothpicks in your meat, use neutral, wood colors instead of colored toothpicks. The dye on colored toothpicks may transfer onto the meat when the toothpick is pulled out.
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    Keep your food warm or hot. Warm or hot barbecue may taste better to the judges and give the impression that the food is fresh; whereas cold food may give the impression that the prepared food is less fresh.
    • Cook the meat shortly before the judges' taste test or use a chafing dish to keep the barbecue warm after cooking.


  • Maintain an air of professionalism at the barbecue cook-off without consuming an excessive amount of alcohol; as this factor may not allow you to focus accurately on the cooking and presentation of your barbecue dish.


  • In most cases, failing to follow the rules of the cook-off will result in your being disqualified from the competition.

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Categories: Barbecue