question regarding unsanctioned contests


fred nevill

TVWBB Member
Hi all, I have officially entered my first contest with a few still to come. The one i entered as well as a few of the others I am interested in are unsanctioned events.

My question(s) is being that these events are unsanctioned i am assuming that there may not be very many if any trained judges, so I am curious if i should have my chicken and ribs be a bit "sweeter" than I normally would.

We will be doing the big 4 on the meats so along the same lines as untrained judges i also wonder should I maybe consider making the ribs more tender than I would for a regular contest? And should i turn in only pulled pork without and sliced or money muscle and with the brisket should i completely avoid burnt ends?

I know what we know as good BBQ and what the person on the street consider good BBQ is 2 totally different things. But being my first contests I want to do the best I can.

fred nevill

TVWBB Member
Loosely based on KCBS rules, and did not pay KCBS sanctioning fees. Usually it is members of the organizing party or community members that are judges.

Mike Roller

New member
"loosely based" I would take to mean kinda sorta.
You may want to look into the format at the IBCA. Interesting format and it doesn't turn into a "sauced meat" contest. I'll be doing my first in Sept. and really look forward to it.
There was another post in this section that I would like to quote
"I'm kinda ticked that as time goes on, it appears that BBQ competitions aren't meat contests, they are appearance and sauce contests. There's something to be said about great tasting meat that has little or no sauce to camouflage the lack of flavor."

Dale Perry

Hi Fred and welcome to the site.
You are right about the average person having a different idea about BBQ then us. I agree 100% with that BUT good taste wins. I have learned what Judges are taught about ribs is not what you want to turn in. Our scores are higher if the ribs are more soft compared to the tug factor that they are told to use. With that said, pork is our nemisis.

What we turn in at any comp "KCBS or whatever",is what we like to eat. I know many teams turn in sweet bbq but that isnt something I enjoy so I turn in what I think is best and cross my fingers. A touch of sweet isnt bad IMHO but honey drenched chicken isnt my thing.

I really think that turning in sliced money muscle helps your score "if it is cooked correctly" if it is not right, leave it out.
Same with burnt ends except I think you need them in the box even more than you need sliced in a pork box. Good tasting pulled pork can score high on its own but great burnt ends will win over sliced brisket in my opinion. (IF) the Burnt ends are done right.

Good luck!

Kevin French

TVWBB Member

Being a judge for the FBA, I know a little about KCBS, but I am not trained with them. FBA allows sauced meat, but the sauce has to compliment the meat, not the other way around.

One good rule I heard from a championship cook team you see on TLC was that instead of trying to find the formula that pleases the most amount of folks, try to find the formula that offends the least. That struck me as a very good perspective on everything from BBQ to life in general.

Another good bit of advice that I am following is to become a certified judge in the sanctioning body you wish to compete in. I am doing this for a year and then entering some of the backyard division contests. This gives me a lot of reference from conversation and such as to what wins.

Even unsanctioned events that mirror other sanctioning bodies rules will follow the same guidelines.

Good luck! Let us know how you do.
I've heard that 'unsanctioned' also can mean that the panel of judges will be the mayor, the fire chief, the grocery store owner, etc, etc. The typical panel of celebrity judges. Unfortunately they know the BBQ they like is what they get at the local chain restaraunt.

If that is the case then I wouldn't get crazy with doing complicated flavor profiles that they won't get. I would just cook it 'til it's almost mush and then sauce the heck out of it with KC Masterpiece or something.

They'll think it the most tender and flavorful Q they've ever eaten.


fred nevill

TVWBB Member
Thanks Russ and others for your comments.

Russ you nailed it with this one contest for sure and that is the one that worries me.

I am a KCBS certified judge and have judged several contests, but I have judged one place that has a "non-sanctioned" contest for the past few years and they honestly have high school kids or anybody else they can find to judge.

Another place i have been to, but I did not judge, had the county fair queen and county fair board members judge.

I have done several cooks of the big 4 meats for my wifes employer and employees and it seems that on ribs those people like the ribs almost ridiculously sweet and extremely tender. And with chicken I have worked hard to try to get the skin right and noticed almost every one of the said they dont like skin and pulled it off, without even trying it.

At another contest I will be entering on payday things will be more normal and I will at least sort of know what i am doing, It was these "nonsanctioned" that was throwing me

thanks for the advice.

Rick Kramer

TVWBB All-Star
Non-sanctioned events are tough! I'd say Russ hit the nail on the head though. Overcook it (by KCBS standards) and sweeten it up.


TVWBB Wizard
Fred, Just curious, besides the fun of competion, what motivation for cooking a non-sanctioned event?
I have only cooked one "bar" rib cook off. The judging was lousy, IMHO. The bar teams did good, the non-bar teams did not.

Think I'll stick with sanctioned events and most probably KCBS in which I pretty much know what to cook and who to cook for.

what motivation for cooking a non-sanctioned event?

If I may be so bold....

If I was asked to 'compete' in a non-sanctioned contest where the proceeds went to a charity that I firmly believe in, I really wouldn't care about the judging or the final standings. In something like that it's all about having a great time, tellin' some lies, maybe tippin' a couple, and supporting something good. It really doesn't have anything to do with the scores. My $0.02


fred nevill

TVWBB Member
Mark that is a fair question and I think Russ was right in what he said especially the telling lies and having fun.

But to go with all that, some of the main factors in my decision is that I consider the non-sanctioned as practice or like a backyard contest.

Probably the main factor however is cost. the non-sanctioned events are cheaper and closer than the sanctioned events.

Being my first year competing I would like to do as much as I can and it seems much more economical to "learn" at one of these events to make sure I love it as much as I think I will.


TVWBB Wizard
Fred, excelent choice then. I have a new team this year and fortunately our state BBQ association has had 2 non-sanctioned practice events. We were very fortunate to have many CBJs that were able to spend 5-7 minutes with each cook and their turn in. We all learned a lot and hopefully will do better in the sanctioned events for our trouble. Oh, and lots of fun to go with the hard work.
Good luck on the trail!!!!
Keep yer powder dry!


Dale Perry

My son has cooked 2 amatuer events. His first contest he went with what he liked and won 1st place. I think he was 14 years old. The 2nd contest he cooked was against an all adult field "ribs & chicken contest" except he was 15 and he won 1st place in both meats. He didnt cook for the Judges, he cooked what he liked and great taste won. I know everyone says to cook what the Judges are looking for but isnt that supposed to be great looking bbq with great taste and excellent tenderness? That is what the Judges are looking for.



I've done both KCBS and unsanctioned contests in Wisconsin. The judges' tastes were the same in both type of events. Make those ribs so sweet that you wouldn't think to serve them at home.

I think this applies to the upper Midwest, more than the traditional BBQ Belt. You get the same bunch of yahoos in both groups and most of them have not been exposed to regional barbecue variations.