Championship BBQing Techniques
We've asked Smoky to enlighten us on preparing pork fit for
judging. Following his guidelines will not only help you win at
the next contest, but will surely impress your friends, family and
neighbors. For the backyard cook, don't worry about the times for
turning in the meat. Just pretend your guests will be the judges.
Let's raise the bar on excellence!
In each of the topics we will be visiting, (selection, preparation, etc.) we will explain how the contestants move through the process of creating award winning entries for the judges to select from. There are thumbnail photos, which when "clicked" will display the full sized photo.
Preparing Your Mind
"Championship" presupposes that you intend to enter a contest and
win. If that is your goal, the first step is to learn for whom you
are cooking. It is immaterial how you like your barbecued pork and
what your sweetie likes it isn't worth a hill of beans. Your goal
is to satisfy the nebulous palates of six unknown judges, some of
whom may never have tasted a real piece of barbecued pork. Most
contest sanctioning bodies now have what they call "certified"
judges. This means that the judges have had a short course in how
to apply the rules of that organization and how to fill out the
score card and the mechanics of the judging process.
It in no way indicates that they have the ability to taste, the
knowledge of what real barbecue is, how to balance texture with
tenderness or the mental capacity to not narrowly impose their
personal tastes and prejudices upon your barbecue. So you must
cook for the "lowest common denominator" of their personal tastes.
What this means is BLAND. The seasonings and sauces must not be
too anything - not too spicy hot, not to tart, not too sweet, not
too salty, not too done, not too dry, not too moist and forget
exotic spices that may shock their Provencal palates.
Setting the Schedule
Contests allow about a 10 minute window in which you must present
your entry to the judges. If you bring your meat to its peak 2
hours before it is due, it may well be way past its prime when it
reaches the judges. And producing the best barbecue in the world
is fruitless if delivered 5 minutes past the deadline. If you
intend to become a consistent winner, you must establish a
schedule based on your experience with your cooker and continue to
refine it and somebody on your team must make certain that you are
faithfully following the schedule. Record times, temperatures -of
the meat, internally at the beginning and at 30 minute intervals,
of the cooking chamber and of the ambient temperature along with
humidity, wind, precipitation and then record your impressions of
the finished product and how the judges rated it.
Selecting the Meat
Have made the right mind set, the next step is to choose the lumps
of hog carcass from which you will create your masterpiece.
Whether you use shoulders, which is the whole front leg and
shoulder are called, or the Boston butt, which is actually the
shoulder separated out from the leg, there are certain
characteristics which produce better barbecue. Look for fat evenly
interspersed within the meat rather than collected in pockets.
This interspersed fat is why this part of the hog is so popular
for barbecuing. If the fat is properly dispersed and cooked out
slowly at around 200° until the internal temperature of the center
reach around 200° the meat will be moist and tender. Most folk
will opt for the butt. So look for compact Boston butts with fine
veins of fat, evenly distributed. You will need several, 3-6, to
cook and then choose the best of those for your entry. Choose the
middle size range, not the largest, nor the smallest. But, if upon
experimentation, you find that you and your pit do better with
larger ones, do not hesitate to use them.
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