Appraising BBQ is both complicated and simple.
Judging is on a one to nine basis. The low score for each category — appearance, taste and tenderness — is thrown out so competitors aren’t penalized by someone’s inexperience. If a judge’s scores are often at odds, he or she will be offered some coaching, said David Londeen, a master judge from Edina.
A few of the rules from the Kansas City Barbecue Society:
• Chunks in sauces must be no larger than 1/8-inch diced.
• You can’t roll your brisket slices into rosettes for an attractive presentation. You can, however, use an ice cream scoop to make a mound of pulled pork.
• Sauce should not pool in the box, but cling to the meat. If, however, a pool develops along the bottom edge when the table judge tilts the box toward the judges, that’s OK.
• Entries must serve six. If a carelessly sliced rib causes the fifth judge to lift two from the box, leaving the sixth judge with nothing, that judge will award a low score of one.
Yet for all the rules, judging is subjective. The challenge for competitors is to deliver a blend of flavor and technique that will appeal to most of the judges — to serve up a rib or brisket or thigh that leaves judges sighing, “It’s just good.”