Question for barbecue judges


 

Lynn Dollar

TVWBB Gold Member
Yesterday, I did a comparison cook between smokers and between duroc vrs commodity ribs. I bought two racks of natural commodity whole spare ribs from my grocer. And a whole spare rack of duroc ribs.

I put a rack of commodity and the duroc on my offset stick burner. The other rack on my Masterbuilt gravity feed. All other variables were the same, except I wrapped the gravity feed ribs 30 minutes after the stick burner, because the color was not where I wanted it.

Then Mrs Dollar and I did a side-by-side tasting. Now here's my question, I took two bites from each rib and could detect differences. But as I ate more of the ribs the flavors began to meld together.

I just had three ribs to compare, so how does this work when you're tasting a number of ribs ? Do your taste buds " wear out " , so to speak ? Does it all start to taste the same or are the differences too distinct for that ?

Here's my plate, left rib is duroc, middle from the gravity feed, and right from stick burner.

20210703_190530.jpg
 

Bob Bass

TVWBB Guru
I am a judge - kcbs mcbj & ctc.
Generally we only take a single bite out of each rib, since we also judge chicken, pork butt and brisket (and maybe desserts too). That's a lot of food ! Under normal circumstances, we judge 6 team boxes at a time, per meat. AND some meats almost always have multiple samples, such as pork butt where you might have sliced money muscle, pulled tubes, and chopped.
What makes the most impact in ones score is how well balanced the end product is. That single bite needs to impress us with how well balanced it is and how enjoyable it is. Team turn-ins can be all over the place, balance wise. Some are too sweet, some too spicy, some too salty, some too bland. I have yet to get to a place where my senses has issues discerning differences between samples. We do have both unflavored water and bland crackers at our station to help cleans ones palate.
When a team's turn in is too spicy or too hot (especially the latter), our palates become toast. At least mine does. A overly spicy or overly hot product will not only ruin that team's chances, but also the team who product I sample next.

ADDED: One item I forgot to mention is the taste of whatever meat is being judged. The meat's natural taste must be there and is part of that balance. Also note, we are not to compare samples to one another in our scoring as they stand on their own merit.
 
Last edited:

C Lewis

TVWBB Super Fan
I am a judge, kcbs mcbj.
Generally we only take a single bite out of each rib, since we also judge chicken, pork butt and brisket (and maybe desserts too). That's a lot of food ! Under normal circumstances, we judge 6 team boxes at a time, per meat. AND some meats almost always have multiple samples, such as pork butt where you might have sliced money muscle, pulled tubes, and chopped.
What makes the most impact in ones score is how well balanced the end product is. That single bite needs to impress us with how well balanced it is and how enjoyable it is. Team turn-ins can be all over the place, balance wise. Some are too sweet, some too spicy, some too salty, some too bland. I have yet to get to a place where my senses has issues discerning differences between samples. We do have both unflavored water and bland crackers at our station to help cleans ones palate.
When a team's turn in is too spicy or too hot (especially the latter), our palates become toast. At least mine does. A overly spicy or overly hot product will not only ruin that team's chances, but also the team who product I sample next.

ADDED: One item I forgot to mention is the taste of whatever meat is being judged. The meat's natural taste must be there and is part of that balance. Also note, we are not to compare samples to one another in our scoring as they stand on their own merit.
Great info Bob, thanks for sharing.

Charlie
 

Chris Allingham

Administrator
Staff member
As Bob mentioned, it's standard to have 6 entries at the Judge's Table, but in some instances it can be 5 or 7 samples. I like 5 samples, hate 7 samples--too much meat!

You can really discern the differences between entries by taking a single, good-sized bite*. If a sample isn't too intense, I can go to the next sample without cleansing my palate, but if needed I'll take a small sip of water or nibble on a saltine...some judges nibble on a piece of parsley that was used as a garnish in the entry box and find that to be an effective palate cleanser that doesn't fill you up.

Then we get a short break before tasting 6 samples in the next meat category. Order is always the same: chicken, pork ribs, pork butt, brisket.

* There are some contest organizers and/or contest representatives that strongly encourage judges to take 2 healthy bites when sampling barbecue, believing it's more fair to the teams that way. But it can be hard for a judge to do that...2 bites x 6 samples x 4 meats = 48 bites of meat, not to mention the possibility of an additional Featured Meat/Anything Goes meat category or a Dessert category with another 6 entries.
 

Donna Fong

TVWBB Super Fan
Hi Lynn,
So to answer your question, I think by the end of the four meats times six entries, my tastes buds are less acute. That's 24 really different meats, which I'm guessing isn't what you did on the 4th. I have found myself upset whenever I get an entry that is over smoked because it messes up my ability to taste the next entry. And I want to be fair.

I haven't watched myself, but I think I tend to drink a sip of water between entries with strong flavors. Or the parsley trick. I don't turn to the cracker. Sometimes I'll look over to the other judges (when I know my score for the entry) and giggle when I see their reactions (which they shouldn't express) for low scoring boxes. And if the score isn't obvious after one bite, then I take as many as needed. More bites isn't an indicator of quality but rather confusion on my part where the score lands based on what I'm tasting.
 

scott hares

New member
It's too small a sample to judge your own - we cook 4+ racks per comp, and all things being equal, they come out very different.
But having said that, a KCBS judge owes it to each competitor to clear the pallet with water or cracker before sampling the next entry.
 

Mike Shook

TVWBB Member
I am a creature of habit, and when I judge I always do the cracker and water swig between each entry. It's about as close as you can get to a complete reset.

I have never noticed that my tastebuds are dulled or monotonized by all the food. My belly may get full, but I smell each sample and take two bites of each item offered. And even if I have been at it a while, I don't believe I ever overlook a truly good (or a truly not good) entry. There are differences between all of them, even if they start with the same basic ingredient. That's what makes it fun, and what makes it worth driving 6 to 8 hours or so round trip to some of these venues on a Saturday.

At least here on the east coast, more and more competitions are adding a turkey category. It's not KCBS sanctioned, but I have from time to time stuck around and lent a hand with that. But adding 6 samples of a fifth meat is admittedly a challenge to my girlish figure, especially facing a drive home.

I have never judged the steak competitions (also not KCBS) but most all of them are the night before KCBS turn in.

As to your picture, all those ribs are pretty.
 

 

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