Competition BBQ

Competition BBQ

Competition BBQ Podcast

In episode 11 of our HowToBBQRight Podcast, Malcom and Rachelle Reed talk about how to get started in Competition BBQ.

Competition BBQ Information

how to get started

If you are planning your first Competition BBQ Contest, there are a few tips that will make your life a little easier. This article and all these resources and competition recipes will give you a starting point – and help you get started in Competition BBQ.
If you are looking for a competition BBQ contest, you can check out your local BBQ Network and search for events. The largest is KCBS (Kansas City Barbecue Society). But a few of the other popular BBQ networks are IBCAFBA and MBN. These associations will allow you to search for local competition BBQ contests, get dates and discover the costs of entering a contest. If the competition BBQ contest offers a “backyard” or a “patio” section, I always suggest entering that division to start. It usually costs less, typically doesn’t require as much as the professional division and it will let you get a feel for competing. Once you find a Competition BBQ contest and submit your application, it’s time to start planning… It takes more planning than you would expect. Regardless how long you have been cooking BBQ, it’s always a good idea to do a few practice runs so you will be in-sync with the turn-in times of the cooking contest. If you want to judge a Competition BBQ Contest before you cook in one (which I highly recommend), you need to become a certified judge. Most Competition BBQ Cooking Contests won’t let you judge unless you are a certified judge (and you can get certified typically by attending a 1-day judging class). So if you want to become a Competition BBQ judge, go to the BBQ network website and sign-up for one of their judging classes. These classes typically fill-up quick… so if you’re interested you need to get on it. Judging will allow you to see what other people turn in, what judges expect and get you really familiar with all the rules. Plus, you get to eat some really great BBQ.

A Few Words To The Wise about Competing in Competition BBQ…

I don’t care how amazing your grandpa’s BBQ sauce is… or how mouth-watering everyone told you your ribs are… the guys in the professional division have spent years perfecting everything – all the way down to how to place the meat in the turn-in box. They know what the judges like and they cook 20, 30 some of them cook 40 weekends out of the year.
That is why I always suggest entering the “patio” division and then making friends with guys in the professional division and ask them questions so you can get a feel for what the contest is all about. Believe me, it’s cheaper to make your mistakes and work out your kinks in the amateur division than it is in the professional division.

A Few Things To Remember about Competition BBQ:

When it comes to competition BBQ, preparation is the key. It will make the entire experience more enjoyable if you are prepared for whatever comes your way. You need to set down and make a timeline – and then try your best to stick to it. It can be a huge challenge, trust me I get side tracked sometime. If you have the time, do all of your meat trimming at home. This is allow in most sanctioned contests – including KCBS – but make sure your Competition BBQ contest allowed you to trim at home before. Not having to trim your meat on contest day saves valuable time plus you can concentrate on cooking instead of being in a rush to get things ready for the smoker. Have a supply list. When I started out I made a list of everything I needed at home to cook. Bring those supplies with you and nothing else. It’s easy to over pack for a contest and this creates that much more work. As far as flavors and cooking goes you probably have an idea as to what it takes. Don’t deviate from what you normally do. Judges aren’t looking for anything crazy just BBQ that taste good and is perfectly cooked. I see people all the time making last minute changes. It kills them most if the time. Keeping things simple works. That’s why there’s a lot if one-man teams that do so well. Never take it so seriously that you forget why your out there in the first place… The main goal of your first Competition BBQ contest should be to keep track of time and get every category turned in on time. At that point it’s in the judges hands. There’s nothing else you can do to change the outcome. Most importantly have a Good Time!

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79 responses to “Competition BBQ”

  1. Bruce Reiman says:

    Thanks for the guidelines and you have a great year

  2. Dale Glasgow says:

    I bbq for catering alot ..I been told it is good but I would like to become a judge and know what I’m looking for in how u judge a contest and take it from there

      • Lisa Yanez says:

        My name is Lisa I’m a small country girl that lives towards Riverside County I or was sent a message on messenger from a casting show for West Coast BBQ Pitmasters but unfortunately only the second producer called me back and I didn’t hear anything else I got my hopes up thinking I was going to be on the west coast BBQ Pitmasters show for amateurs cuz they were looking for women but I guess I just didn’t make the cut everyone tells me my food is amazing and I have 42 791 views on my cooking page I don’t know if I’m the best at barbecuing but I do know I can Grill LOL and I love to cook I would be very interested in competing in a contest I just don’t have the know-how and the knowledge with emails computers and links so if you have any tips or any way you could help me along I would really appreciate it if you can email me at l i l l i s a c o w b o y s at or you can go ahead and give me a call at 951 355-6892 is at least saying is thank you and God bless

      • John Perkins says:

        in Competitions, do you bring your own meats? if you do, how much do you bring to a competition?

  3. Evan Gray says:

    Love your work Malcom! I’ve been working my way through your creations, keep it coming!
    Evan from Kansas City

  4. Simone says:

    Any preference on fuel source? Briquettes vs Hardwood (Using a Backwoods Smoker). Have you tried OAK charcoal on it? (thinking of adding a few fruit wood chunks in there to balance it out).

    • Malcom Reed says:

      For a backwoods I use briquettes as the fuel source and a few chunks of hickory and fruit woods. But you can use lump charcoal too – it jsut seems to burn hotter. A little Oak goes a long way – it’s a harsher smoke.

  5. Alvin Uhlich says:

    Looking for more information about BBQ teama in Louisiana st.tammany parish

  6. William Holley says:

    What up Malcolm, as far as the taste of Comp. Bbq are you just over seasoning for that one bite compared to seasoning to eat the entire dish?

  7. Randy Montoya says:

    Entering my first cookoff,nervous as all get out.any suggestions would be appreciated,Thank yall

  8. Thomas says:

    When I grill ribeyes, I like to also grill sausage; but it will split before I can get it to brown up. What am I doing wrong? I guess I can’t do both at the same temp?

  9. Justin says:

    Hey I am wanting to hoast a smaller BBQ event near Kc Mo at our fairgrounds. Any pointers or advice on this or anyone I could talk to? Any info would be awesome. Thanks

  10. Bo Brown says:

    Good day I live in MD and want to enter a barbecue competition but there aren’t any in my area how can I get started on that ?

  11. James Williams says:

    Hey Malcom,

    My son, he’s 17, will be doing his second BBQ Comp next weekend, May 11th and 12th. He finished 8th out of 9 his first comp, this was not a backyard division. He uses a home built 120 gallon reverse flow smoker that he and I built. He hopes to get better scores at the next one and is looking for a few tips on injections. Any tips you can share? Thank You

  12. Terrish says:

    Great info my man looking to enter a competition someday I have what it takes just need to see what the world like

  13. Marty says:

    Malcom, love your work, your YouTube videos are a big help. I was wondering what type of smoker do most competition teams use? Any particular brand that seems most popular?

  14. Jonathan says:

    My bestfriend and i do done weekend bbq catering, but are thinking about expanding and turning it in to a more serious business. With that said, we are looking to start getting involved in some competitions or festivals to get our name and bbq out there a little more. We are in St. Louis, Mo, so local competitions would probably be a good start?

  15. Robert Fortson says:

    Hey Malcom. Thanks for all the tips on bbq. Do you recommend one big pit for competitions or multiple pits?

    • Malcom Reed says:

      You could go either way. A lot of guys use the large Jambo pits for everything. We use our Ole Hickory for everything and a UDS for chicken. But there are guys out there that use multiple Drum Smokers that win all the time.

  16. Ronald Seitz says:

    I would like to be competitive in a couple years. Do you have any recommendations on how big my smoker should be when I make one?

  17. Will Bird says:

    Are there kamodo style smokers or grills in use? Electric pellets? Or is it all offset or drum?
    Thank you!

  18. Wesley says:

    Can you use any type of smoker in competition? Or are electric and propane frowned upon in competition?

  19. The ring is strange and unique

  20. Brad Dreyer says:

    I have been doing comps for a few years now just me and my wife. I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around half hour intervals in KCBS comps. What meats are people getting done first? It takes longer to prep pork and brisket than ribs and chicken. Do you have any type of timeline or pointers i could use? It would be greatly appreciated. Thank you for all that you share you have really helped me out a lot.

  21. Chris says:

    do you have to make everything on the list or can you just focus on one thing? And any grill that’s not electric will work? Iv got a trailer grill that can be used as a smoker also but it’s not really that big. I think it’s a 125 gallon tank.

  22. Michael Vinson says:


    Thanks for all the great tips here and on your website, along with Youtube. Really enjoy your videos and everything Ive tried is fantastic! Along these lines of getting certified as a judge, do you or someone you recommend do a BBQ cooking school for amateurs ? I think Id really enjoy sitting through a class for a weekend, and of course eating amazing BBQ.

  23. Evan Staley says:

    Will the judges critique you or give you notes on how to improve for next time?

  24. David Canteo says:


    Where could i find a list of events for a competition Nearby my area? I’d like to walk around a event to see how its done and one day maybe compete. your youtube videos have shown me a lot about how to cook some killer food. keep up the good work and great videos. Do you ever come out to California?

  25. Jason P says:

    Just wanted to say “thanks” for the info you put out. We competed at the Royal this year and took 7th at the invite which was truly amazing for a first. I was hoping to meet you but I’ll just leave this here. I very much appreciate your products and the energy you put into promoting BBQ. You’re truly top notch in my book!

  26. Roger Rathbun says:

    I love your videos on You tube and I have a question that maybe you can help me with
    I work for a brand new fresh pork plant in Michigan and we harvest 10,500 hog per day . Well next labor day weekend we want to have us a little fund raising cookoff for charity and bragging rights . How do I go about finding out how to pull this off ? as it was my Idea so I’m in charge of making it happen. How do I figure out how many judges and volunteers I will need ? Determine prize money. How I get sponsors, a venue Etc,Etc any help will be greatly appreciated

  27. Michael says:

    how many smokers do you bring when go to competitions?

  28. Corey Hormell says:

    Hey Malcolm, love your stuff! Will you be at Memphis in May this year?

  29. Carsten Metzmacher says:

    Hey Melcom,
    what a nice blog. i’m watching your videos and i tryed the pork belly burnt ends. it was amazing an we all was flashed from the taste.

    I’ve got a question. I often see that many competition teams have 6 or 7 watersmokers. Why do they use so many? The most of them are smoking with the 50cm Napoleon Apollo AS300k. Are they full of meat?

    Greets from germany

  30. Adam Burrow says:

    Hey Malcolm, huge fan here from NC. I wanted to see if you could give me a tip on reheating BBQ. A lot of times I cook on Saturday for the family and we don’t eat until Sunday lunch. For example ribs, do you reapply glaze or add moister and what source of heat and what temp? Or do we just need to eat when it comes off the smoker:)
    Last thing, are you cooking any in NC this year? Would like to meet you.
    Thanks Malcolm

    • Malcom Reed says:

      For pulled pork, it is pretty easy to reheat. We cook it as normal, then we will rest it, pull it – and at this point is where you can add anymore rub or sauce to the meat.

      Then we place it in a vacuum-sealed bag and will either store it in the fridge or the freezer. If you froze it, let it thaw in the fridge for 1-2 days. Then you can take it out and place the unopened bag in a foodservice pan or casserole dish and place it in the oven (or the smoker) at 250 for 1-1.5 hours. Let it heat all the way in the bag.

      Then you can throw the bag in a dry cooler and take it with you. Or just serve it right then. We just cut the bag open and pour the pulled meat out. It stays hot and juicy. Best way we’ve found to reheat it.

  31. Stanton Adams says:

    Thank you for the information I am looking to participate in my first competition this year

  32. Rick Cobb says:

    Wanting to order some St. Louis Cut ribs for a local competition. Where is the best place to order online for competition grade?

  33. NATHAN N CURTIS says:

    Hey Malcom, I am gonna take the dive into comp (KCBS Backyard). I was curious if you could share the list of “must have” items for a competition?

  34. Russell Nye says:

    Myself and some friends were planning on having a amateur backyard bbq contest
    My question is
    Do we need any permits

  35. What’s the best way to reheat pulled pork without drying it out?

    • Malcom Reed says:

      For pulled pork, it is pretty easy to reheat. We cook it as normal, then we will rest it, pull it – and at this point is where you can add anymore rub or sauce to the meat.

      Then we place it in a vacuum-sealed bag and will either store it in the fridge or the freezer. If you froze it, let it thaw in the fridge for 1-2 days. Then you can take it out and place the unopened bag in a foodservice pan or casserole dish and place it in the oven (or the smoker) at 250 for 1-1.5 hours. Let it heat all the way in the bag.

      Then you can throw the bag in a dry cooler and take it with you. Or just serve it right then. We just cut the bag open and pour the pulled meat out. It stays hot and juicy. Best way we’ve found to reheat it.

  36. Steven Freie says:

    Hey Malcom! Really been getting into your videos lately and love the information you provide. Feel like I’m right in the backyard with you talking shop. Ive been considering a new grill purchase and have always been a fan of the weber kettle grill, but I wonder if Im limiting myself with this grill.

    Will I be more versatile with a pellet grill? Also will the purchase of a pellet grill be inevitable when it comes to competition grilling?

  37. gasNtools says:

    I loved the information you have shared in this post. I do agree that trying new things instead of normal may spoil the taste. Thanks for sharing this post.

  38. John Maxwell says:

    Hey Malcom,
    I’m having a problem with the ribs recipe that you and Heath Riles did and I’m thinking that the problem is my grill’s temp. Even setting the grill to 250 after about 75 minutes my pin says that the ribs are already hitting 207. The rub doesn’t even have time to set well like in the video. By the time I get them in the butter bath and then glazed them, the ribs are tough. The flavor is good but I cant wiggle the bone out like you did in the video. My thought is to lower the grill temp down to 200-225 and try again. Any thoughts or suggestions?

    • Malcom Reed says:

      I don’t think the ribs are at 207 in less than 2 hours. And they are tough because they haven’t had time to cook fully. Don’t worry about the internal temps next time. Cook them for about 2-3 hours (until the rub has set) then wrap them and cook them until they feel good and tender. Then glaze them…

  39. Scott D Foster says:

    Thank you for your words of encouragement and support this helps me out a lot

  40. Greg K says:

    Thanks Malcom,
    Your BBQ tips have taken my cooks to a whole new level. Keep up the good work and the tasty recipes.

  41. Mark Ferguson says:

    I know I am the best
    I am from Philadelphia no body from has been on the show. I have something different to show you.

  42. Eddie says:


    What’s you opinion on using a pellet grill for competitions. Just getting started the price of some towable and ‘competition” grills can be pricey.

  43. Benny B says:

    Hey Malcom,

    Thinking about doing a KCBS Backyard BBQ event with just chicken and pork as a first event (no patio events near me.) I can handle the ribs part, but just wondering how you would suggest turning the chicken in that will appeal to the judges? Should I just do thighs like the pros do? Smoke the whole things and turn in sections of it? Rule book said we have to use Cornish Game Hens…any info on the chicken part would be great.


  44. Kevin says:

    I was a Smokin Guns Hot fan on all my pork……..until I tried your hot rub…….on point for pork butts


  45. Tim Ross says:

    Hi Malcolm,
    Thank you for all of your knowledge! I noticed on your comp ribs recipe your cook is at 250F, however Keith Riles was at 275F. Can you expand on this?

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