Unknown BBQ Received GC Honors at 2013 Eagle Lake BBQ Festival
Competition BBQ entries were turned in , judges’ scores were tabulated, stories and lies were told, kids rode trolly trains and played on bounce houses, and at the end of it all Unknown BBQ won Grand Champion honors at the 2013 Eagle Lake BBQ Festival. Terry McKay of Git-R-Smoked won Reserve Grand, and it was nice to see that his big hands did not get in the way of his team receiving top scores.
The event benefited the Lake Region High School athletic programs, always a worthwhile cause. And, most importantly a good time was had by all.
Here’s a break down of the overall top 10 scores:
1. Unknown BBQ
3. Whiskey Bent BBQ
4. Blitzkrieg BBQ
5. United Pork Smokers
6. Big Papa’s Country Kitchen
8. Hot Wachula’s
9. Smokin’ Pink BBQ
10. Red Raymond’s BBQ
Getting the Call to Judge
Biggi Francis, lovely wife of Mr. Doug Francis (Hogs Gone Wild BBQ Team and the Let’s Talk Hog Blog), sent a shout out about a need for a few more judges at this event – so I put my hat in the ring. As it turns out, thanks to Mr. Jim Elser (Sweet Smoke BBQ Team) I did in fact get to judge the Eagle Lake BBQ Festival and man, there was some great ‘cue!
My Impressions of the Turn Ins
First I want to say that my take on judging BBQ starts with the understanding of how hard these teams work and the money and time they put into competing.
The Florida Bar-B-Que Association’s scoring system starts at 10 and moves down in increments of half of a point. I’m not a Super Judge in that for me… all entries start at a 10 in each category and they have the same shot at keeping that 10 in each category from the outset. I then score down as needed based on my observations – always trying to edge toward the higher side of a point determination and generally rooting for each entry to be good!
It’s kind of like when I used to do a lot of musical performing as a kid through high school and college. I found that even though I was nervous and maybe made a mistake here and there, the audience members generally wanted me to do well! This is the mindset I take into judging.
If it’s a dry rib… I try and based my scores on whether they did a good dry rib, rather than my personal preference for dry ribs over wet. If it’s in the box, it gets tasted. For me, skipping some pulled chicken in the bottom of a turn in box and only tasting the thigh and a breast medallion represents an incomplete judging effort. And it’s fair to all the other contestants this way. If the pulled chicken is dry, then that brings the overall taste and/or tenderness factor down. Skipping it then would result in an artificially high score.
This is an important distinction to make here folks. (HIGH HORSE ALERT!) I hear all too often from judges who score BBQ entries low because they basically did not like it. These judges speak of a sauce having too much pepper, or too much sweetness. This mindset misses the mark entirely. The idea is to judge entries for what they are attempting to be, not for what you prefer. Some seem to look for chances to score entries down, which is also wrong in my opinion.
OK. Enough of my babbling. Let’s get to it.
Overall, I’d say every table in the Pro Division reported awesome chicken turn ins. The chicken category was not my favorite at first, but I’m starting to really love the fact that it’s the first category. It’s messy, saucy, and tasty…. no better way to kick off a judging stint!
All entries were thighs, and a few had breast medallions, pulled chicken, or a mix of the two in the boxes as well. One entry was boneless thighs cooked muffin tin style. Visually it stood out from the rest, but I did find it to be a bit on the dry side.
Appearance for all entries scored well.
Ribs were very good on the whole. One entry though did seem to be a bit ‘off’ in terms of meat quality. We weren’t sure what it was exactly, but they may have been a bit past their prime prior to cooking. I didn’t need to sleep next to the toilet last night, so I guess if they were bad… my immune system fought a valiant fight!
Appearance wise most of the ribs were well placed in the box. One box had what appeared to be a missing rib, where there was a gap on the front row. This could have been a matter of the box shifting as it was being delivered at turn in.
All but one entry had the classic BBQ sauce shine and finish. The outlier was more of a dry rib, which scored well in appearance nonetheless – as it looked exactly how a well prepared dry rib should look.
The pork entries our table judged hit the mark in most cases. Visually, they all looked great except for a box that consisted only of what appeared to be buffalo chopped pork. It almost looked deviled.
The pork entries that scored well had a blend of money muscle, tube meat, pulled pork and smaller pieces with excellent bark. Again, I didn’t mark down boxes in appearance for not having all these components if they still looked visually enticing. I’m just reporting that the varied selection of pieces (styles) presented extremely well.
A couple entries did well on the pulled portion (sauced) and parts with bark but had tubes and money muscle slices that lacked flavor. They just sat a bit flat. I’m not talking injection levels necessarily, because good pork flavor can be enough.
I really enjoy brisket. Living here in Florida we don’t see a lot of it, so it’s nice to get it professionally prepared at competitions! The first entry we judged was amazing. Rows of brisket slices that were about 1/4 inch thick were lined down the center and burnt ends filled the front and back of the box. Man. Those burnt ends were so great. They weren’t overly fatty at all, had a nice balanced flavor, and melted in your mouth! The slides pulled just as they should, were moist, and had great beef flavor.
One entry stood out as a misfire. The slices were cut about 1/2 inch bordering on 3/4 of an inch thick, and the flavor and texture was more like pot roast than brisket.
2013 Eagle Lake BBQ Festival – Final Thoughts
Overall the 2nd Annual Eagle Lake BBQ Festival was a hit! The weather held out nicely with partial cloud cover. There was a good crowd for much of the day, which made it nice for the vendors. Kids seemed to have a great time with the activities that were there for them to enjoy.
On a personal level it was nice to be able to hang out with some of the teams I’ve not seen in a little while like Whiskey Bent BBQ. Chad and Jared were among the first to welcome me as a new BBQ Blogger back several years ago, so it’s always nice to share a beer with them and catch up. Be sure to tune into Chad’s “In the Pit” BBQ Radio show. You can catch past episodes here. Great BBQ knowledge is shared from Chad and others who are proven Pro Pitmasters themselves.
The Eagle Lake BBQ Festival This Weekend is Packed With Top Pro Teams!
I can’t wait… got a call out from Biggi Francis the other day that Jim Elser needed a few more FBA BBQ Judges for this weekend’s Eagle Lake BBQ Festival in Eagle Lake, FL. As it’s minutes from my home in Winter Haven – how could I say no? Oh – and the fact that there are going to be some amazingly gifted Professional BBQ Cook Teams on site … well, let’s just say I’m already drooling!
Here’s a list names of the teams scheduled to be there … comment below if you approve!
- “Too Talls” Cook Shack
- All Racked Up BBQ
- American Piggers
- Beachneck BBQ
- Big Papa’s Country Kitchen
- Blitzkrieg BBQ
- Boca BBQ
- Cracker House Crew
- Florida Skin & Bones
- Get-Cha-Some BBQ
- Gourmet Rednecks
- Hogs Gone Wild BBQ
- Hot Wachula’s
- J & J Bar-B-Que
- Kings Burgers & BBQ
- Palm Beach Porkers
- Red Raymond’s BBQ
- Shanty Town BBQ
- Smokin’ Hooligans
- Smokin’ J’s Florida
- Smokin’ Pink BBQ
- The Swhinery
- Two Crackers Cooking
- United Pork Smokers
- Unknown BBQ
- Walking Dog BBQ
- Whiskey Bent BBQ
I’ve written about a few of the teams you see above here at the BBQ Smoker Site… click the links for those articles. But all of the teams listed are top quality, and they’ll all tell you that Competition BBQ “Florida Bar-B-Que Association” style is absolutely an Any Given Saturday type deal. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that the FBA is the “SEC College Football Conference of Professional BBQ.”
If you’re going to be hangin’ around Polk County, FL or anywhere nearby… definitely come on out to the Eagle Lake BBQ Festival this weekend. Bring the kids on Saturday for some fun, live music, and great food! It’ll be a blast!