Do you like barbecue? Are you intrigued by the processes and ingredients which go into making really good barbecue? Do you have a discriminating palate which can tell the difference between good and great barbecue? If so, you could qualify as a barbecue judge.
Twin Oaks Winery will be hosting a barbecue certification class on April 14. Cost for the course will be $65. The class is being sponsored by the Farmington Fall Fest and the St. Louis BBQ Society.
The one-day course will be taught by members of the St. Louis BBQ Society, and participants will leave qualified to judge any St. Louis BBQ Society-sanctioned competition.
This includes the annual BBQ Battle at Arcadia Valley, the Farmington Fall Fest, and three annual contests in Festus. The last Fall Fest had an attendance of 29 teams, and the last BBQ Battle had 39 teams. The turnout goal for Fall Fest this year is 40 teams.
“It costs nothing to judge, and you basically get to eat professionally-cooked barbecue for free,” said Paul Grindstaff, a certified barbecue judge and occasional competitor who organized the upcoming class.
On the day of the class four teams will arrive at 12:30 p.m. to cook the judging samples. Participants taking the judging course can converse with the teams and watch how they cook. The class will start at 2 p.m.
The first part of class will be a presentation on what judges are supposed to look for and how to judge the different categories. After that, a contest will be simulated where participants will taste and judge chicken thighs, pork ribs, beef brisket, and pork butt – the four meats judged in a contest.
Each of the four teams will cook a different meat for the class.
There will be pictures of bad examples, but all of the edible ones, cooked by the professionals, will be competition quality.
“They’ll show you what under-cooked meat looks like, or meat that was just thrown in a box,” Grindstaff said of the pictures of bad examples.
At a competition, judges base their score off of taste, tenderness and presentation … which includes how the meat is displayed in the box. In a real competition, after giving out scores, the judges also offer feedback. Giving some examples of feedback, Grindstaff said, “You can say, ‘I scored this a 7 because…’ it was too smoky, too spicy, or not smoky enough.”
At a competition each team is assigned a table of six judges. Each table has 30 minutes to eat, score and then give feedback before they get another sample to repeat the process.
The total prize money for the Farmington contest will be $8,000, according to Grindstaff.
“Some of these teams do a competition 20 or 30 weekends out of the year,” he added. “As a judge, you have to take it seriously and really know what you’re doing, because for some people this is how they put food on their table.”
Applicants for the judging class can register online at the St. Louis BBQ Society website or by going directly to https://stlouisbbqsociety.com/event/judge-certification-class-farmington/, or the Farmington Fall Fest website at farmingtonfallfest.com.
Matthew Morey is a reporter for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at 573-518-3617, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.