The Memphis Barbecue Network has guidelines for judging barbecue competitions. Judges score meat based on appearance, tenderness, flavor, and overall impression. For ribs, judges must give at least one score of ten for each category. In addition, they must grade the meat for its smoky smoke ring and glaze. The Memphis Barbecue Network recommends that the judges rate the meat on a scale of two to nine, with ten being the best.
When judging competitions, judges must maintain their poker face and avoid licking their fingers. Meats entered in barbecue competitions are much higher quality than those smoked at home. The rules are stricter than those of your average backyard smoker. You must be a skilled judge to score meat correctly. Amateurs who have paid $20 to sample barbecue for charity mostly fail the toughest rules. So what does a judge look for when judging barbecue?
There are many sources of training for people interested in becoming a barbecue judge. A good website for information on barbecue competitions offers a list of training resources. BBQ associations also offer CBJ training courses. For example, the Iowa BBQ Society sponsored a CBJ training class for aspiring barbecue judges. The Iowa BBQ Society has its own website where novice judges can apply. Once accepted, judges receive their certification and can judge barbecue competitions nationwide.
In addition to the guidelines for competitions, judges should be aware of the rules of barbecuing. The meat should look like something you would want to eat yourself. It is also important to keep in mind that barbecue competitions are largely subjective. As a judge, you may think that your barbecue is the best, but the judges might find it lacking.