There are several types of contest that happen at various events. We’ll group them together in to several types. It’s worth noting that anyone can run a barbecue contest and devise completely their own rules and format, but most fall in one of these types. We’ll give them names also, but these aren’t necessarily common parlance.
Master series – The most common and the most keenly contested in the UK, Europe and all over the World. Usually sanctioned by, and run by a representative of an organisational body to enable competing teams to earn points, qualification in to other events and providing consistent rules and standards.
These contests run on a consistent set of rules and rounds that consists of four rounds of Chicken, Pork Ribs, Pork Shoulder and Beef Brisket. In Europe the entries take place on Sundays, but in the USA contest judging largely takes place on Saturdays. Main sanctioning body in the UK and Europe is KCBS. Internationally there are others. Including MBN (Memphis Barbecue Network) and some US State based associations amongst others.
Single Product Contests – These contests often run alongside other contests at events. They are often sanctioned by a sanctioning body or aligned to an organisation, but aren’t always. Examples of these include steak cook-off contests, chili cook-off contests and whole hog contests.
Again these contests are run to a consistent set of rules and judging standards and will often be run by a representative of the sanctioning body. Key organisations include SCA who sanction steak and whole hog contests. KCBS also sanctions steak cook-off contests, but currently SCA is much more prevalent.
Multi Round Freeform – This is the most varied category and covers essentially everything else. These contests are usually run to a set of bespoke rules and rounds defined by the organiser. They are usually part of a bigger event but not always. They can focus on the theatre of cooking with fire and smoke, barbecue cooking for fine dining, or anything in between and often in combination. They normally offer teams the most freedom to be creative and from a judging perspective are often by invite.
KCBS (Kansas City Barbecue Society) – The biggest barbecue organisation and sanctioning body in the world. Sanctioning and running master series events, cooking courses and judging classes. Based in Kansas City they sanction hundreds of contests all over the USA, Europe, South America and Australia.
SCA (Steak Cookoff Association) – Based in Texas, this organisation sanctions steak cook-offs and whole hog contests. They also provided judging and cooking classes to support their members.