Q-City Charlotte BBQ Championship – we were rib judges!

Last week, we had the opportunity to not only attend the annual BBQ festival, but also judge the rib entries!

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The Q-City Charlotte BBQ Championship takes place during the BBQ festival in downtown Charlotte. It’s a typical street festival – lots of food booths, live music, vendors, etc. Except with BBQ. LOTS of BBQ.

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Downtown smelled AMAZING with all the smokers and grills going. I think I gained weight just walking the streets! You know that Charlotte BBQ = pork. ALL pork. I’m an equal opportunity BBQ fan so I have no issue chowing down on pork (though I miss my Texas beef brisket sometimes!).

All the judging is done through theΒ Memphis Barbecue Network (MBN). One of the things I learned was that there are actual certified BBQ judges who travel to these events and eat BBQ. They are serious about their work. And when I say serious, I mean it. Some might say they are hardcore…. They’ve all been to classes on proper BBQ techniques and know what to look for, what shouldn’t be done, etc.

For instance, did you know that ribs should NEVER be referred to as “fall off the bone”? That means it was overcooked if it literally falls off the bone. It should have a bit of pull when bitten off the bone. Not tough, but not mushy either. Tonight we were at Texas Roadhouse for dinner and they refer to their ribs as ‘fall off the bone’ and we both laughed.

When we arrived, we chatted with some other newbie judges before we got a crash course in rib judging. A couple of the judges we met were local newscasters – everyone was super friendly and we were ALL excited to eat free BBQ!

After getting our crash course in BBQ ribs, we were assigned tables. There were 10 tables of 4-5 judges. Each table had around 2 “certified” judges to help if needed. Or, in my case, just watch and follow their lead.

This was the view from my table across the room:

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At my table were two certified judges and the wife of a certified judge (they were in town just for this event). All nice, but very serious. There was no talking until after we submitted our scorecards πŸ™‚

This was at each place setting:

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No silverware – you only use your hands. On that placemat is a box for each submission – you put a submission in each box so you can tell them apart and easily compare them.

There were also boatloads of napkins and wet wipes, as I’m sure you could guess!

This was the scorecard:

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Once everyone is seated and settled, they start bringing the boxes of ribs out. Every table gets different boxes and there is no possible way of knowing who they belonged to. Some tables had just 5 submissions because they had a few participants drop at the last minute but my table got 6.

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They tell everyone to open them at the same time. First you judge appearance – while they are in the box. The whole room stood up and peered over the boxes to get a good look at each box.

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Then you take a sample from each box and put it on your placemat. There was silverware there to help get it out of the box but since they were ribs, you really didn’t need anything.

{once I had the ribs on my placemat, my hands were covered in BBQ sauce so I didn’t snap another picture.}

They are judged on appearance, tenderness, and flavor and then given an overall score. Scores went from 1-10, with 8 being restaurant quality and you could give several of them the same score if deserved. The overall score, however, was a ranking with a decimal being used (ie, 9.9, 9.5, 9.2, etc).

The top ribs from our judging would advance to the next round, which was judged by professional judges.

The ribs – when compared side by side – were SO different! On my table, there was a mix of dry rub, wet rub, sauced, and dry rub with sauce on the side. Also a couple different types of sauces – thick and molasses, thin and ketchup, thick and fruity – were represented. One in particular was SPICY. We were all chugging our water!

My favorite was one with a dry rub + apricot based sauce on the side.

You take a few bites of each one and score them. After you hand in your scorecards, you are done! The others at my table just got up and left so I followed their lead. Walked across the room and found out that you’re free to chow down once you finish – a lot of judges take a box and load it up from all the different tables. So, I grabbed a box of one of my favorites and enjoyed lunch πŸ™‚

Here is Jason at his table:

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Leftover boxes are gathered and put outside the judging room for the staff and volunteers to dig into. Nice job perk, right?

The winners were announced a few hours later but of course I’d have no idea if my favorite won! This was super fun and something I’d LOVE to do again in the future. And I learned a lot about proper rib making in the process! πŸ™‚

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