7 Reasons why I'm quitting BBQ Competitions...

                                                                                                                                                March 2014

BBQ Friend:

1) It's too expensive - Even though I usually take home a paycheck at BBQ competitions, a competition can easily have costs near $1000 give or take a few hundred. And that does not include equipment and trailer costs. It's a very expensive hobby. Heck... for that kind of money I can take the whole family on a 7 night cruise or spend 3 weeks camping in the Smoky Mountains.

2) It's too much work - Don't get me wrong, BBQ competitions are a lot of fun, but behind the scenes there's about a week of very hard work... buying meat and supplies, making the sauces and injections, packing the trailer, traveling, setting up, the actual contest, packing for exit, traveling home, unpacking, cleaning the smoker, etc, etc. I could go on vacation for less money and all I have to do is sit around and relax, go sightseeing, or riding my Harley. And I can BBQ all I want without having to fork out $1000 and do all that work. And remember... I'm just a one man operation here - I don't have four, five, six or more team members like most of these other teams have. I have to do 95% of the work myself. I also have a 5 year old daughter that is just starting school, so that's going to take up more of my time.

3) It's not exactly fair - One thing I have never liked about competitive BBQ is the whole judging system. Yes... there are a handful of teams that seem to be able to cut through the fog and rise to the top in most contests. This usually depends on what the judges seem to like that year and how good you are at shigging (gathering info from other competitors), finding out what is hot, and cooking what the judges are looking for.

From an article by Gordon Hubbell in the November 2013 KCBS Bullsheet...

A few years ago I was a Table Captain at a large southeastern contest.
One judge at my table was pretty senior (four digit KCBS number), an
MCBJ, and a cook, too. When I collected the score cards for chicken, I
couldn’t help but notice his scores – all fives and sixes. So, I showed them
to the Rep as Table Captains are instructed to do when a judge’s scoring is
significantly different from the rest of the table. Before the ribs came, the
Rep took him aside for a little conversation. After the rib round, I noticed
his scoring had changed. It had gone up to mostly sixes with a seven here
and there. Again, I put his card on top and showed it to the Rep. We’d
had a good round on ribs and all the other judges were handing out eights
and nines, mostly. The Rep shook his head and had another confab with
my oddball judge. Nothing came of it. His scoring for pork and brisket
was still much lower than the table norm. After the judging ended, he told
me that he was on a one-man campaign to decrease the scores in general
because, in his opinion, all scores were inflated. Sadly, his ill-conceived
campaign just randomly hurt some cooks and had no impact on any other
judges. He didn’t think about that!

You might be surprised, but I don't mind low scoring judges. A judge should be able to score any way he or she sees fit. The problem arises when I get on that judge's table and another team does not. With the current judging system in all sanctioning bodies, that one judge can easily kick 24 teams right out of contention. All those costs and all that hard work right down the drain.

Also... all these Team of the Year (TOY) contests are quantity contests and not quality contests. A team that only does 10-20 contests a year doesn't stand a chance against those doing 30-40 contests a year. I have never done more than about 13 contests a year (one a month) - I couldn't even imagine having to do a contest just about every weekend.

4) Bad economy - As most of you know, I don't just compete for fun... I try to make a living at it. I sell the book Competition BBQ Secrets, the videos at www.BarbecueCoach.com , the Chatham Artillery Southwest Rub, BBQ thermometers, etc. Well, times are tough and sales are way down and I have to find other means to pay the bills around here. Hopefully, I can continue selling these products as they have helped 1000's of pitmasters to cook much better BBQ.

5) Other markets - Competition BBQ is actually a small subset of the BBQ population. I need to expand my horizons and get more into tailgating and helping backyarders out with their BBQ.

6) Cooking the same old stuff - At BBQ contests, all we ever cook is chicken thighs, ribs, Boston Butts, and brisket with occasional ancillary contest thrown in on Friday night at some contests. I want to cook something different!

7) Not traditional - We are always trying to cook for the judges and that means BBQ as sweet as candy except for brisket and even that is changing. I do not like this... traditional pit cooked BBQ would finish in last place in most BBQ contests and I think that is a shame. The mission statement of the KCBS is "Recognizing barbeque as America's Cuisine, the mission of the Kansas City Barbeque Society is to celebrate, teach, preserve and promote barbeque as a culinary technique, sport and art form". Well... I don't know what KCBS is preserving and teaching but it certainly is not traditional BBQ. It's what the judges like, and it's good, but it's not traditional. A lot of people who like vinegar sauces, mustard sauces, spicy BBQ, or fall off the bone ribs may even find competitive BBQ to be downright distasteful.

     So... I'm taking a little break from competitive BBQ. Maybe I will get back into it next year. Only time will tell. I may just do some judging - just traveling and eating a little competition quality BBQ - now that's the life!

     In the meantime, I'm going to keep bringing you more BBQ tips and videos. Just email me if there is anything specific you would like me to cover. Look for the next one in a week or two. BBQ season is fast approaching - so dig your smokers out of the snow and start warming them up! Get your rub for the upcoming season now at www.bbq-book.biz !

Bill Anderson
Chatham Artillery BBQ Team

Here's just some of the responses I received from this newsletter...

I finally agree with you on something. Yes BBQ Competition is just not worth it. Way to expensive for the meager prize money and yes a whole lot of work. With the knowlage you have aquired, you may want to concider opening a BBQ Pit. Yes I know there are a lot in the south, but not enough GOOD ones. Also the northern states have very little, to none what so ever, true BBQ Pits to choose from. If you build it we will come!

Hey Bill:
I certainly understand your quitting the competitions. I agree with your reasons for sure.  Anyway, I will still be a large fan and continue buying your great products. For sure, you have made a positive difference in my back yard BBQ/Smoking experience and expertise and I appreciate your professional advice and most of all, your caring attention to your customers.

Hi Bill, you don't know me. Just a person on the West Coast that bought your book. I'm sorry to hear you are semi-retiring, but heavens sakes one can understand! Just wanted to thank you for being out here for so long for us. I think you'll find you'll enjoy helping the "backyard" cooks. (uh, what I am). I flew down to SoCal and took Harry Soo's class before I even had a smoker. We had a blast! Newbies like me, and folks that did the circuit too. Everyone was there to learn things. I think it will do your soul good to see everyone's bright eager eyes and falling out of their chairs in joy eating the food you have taught them how to make. Best of luck to you sir. :D  Dede

Hi Bill,
  I've been competing for 3 years and I've got a 9 year old that means the world to me.  I just read your article and found your arguments compelling.  I certainly haven't gained your status but I agree with you.  If I were rich, maybe things would be different.  Even so, a nanny doesn't replace what a parent could give.  And if your kid doesn't absolutely love BBQ, you're just making them bored with your hobby and spending their college funds. 

  As a solo cook, a single income wage earner, who loves BBQ and BBQ people, I'm taking a year off to judge and teach in my spare time.  I will continue to help with the California BBQ Association when I can but I won't sweat the fact that I'm only cooking four contests this year.  Thank you for your article and helping to justify some sanity around here.  I applaud your efforts.


Good for you! As a serious back yarder 7) Not Traditional really hit home. I enjoy and rely on your book almost every time I cook. Take a ride thru the Smokeys for me; there two years ago and would love to go back.

Thanks for all the help!

I could not agree with you more. Cost to a one man team and the lack of attention to the judging detail has landed me with the same feelings. Wish you well in your future endeavors.

Sounds like you're quite comfortable with your decision to give up the competitions ... I always enjoy your newsletters.

Hi Bill,

You leaving the barbecue competition circuit --- even if only for a short period of time --- will creat a definite void. I did read your blog stating your reasons and I understand --- and even agree with your reasoning. Just know you'll be missed my friend. Hope to learn that you are returning one day soon.


I can't blame you 1 bit, Bill.......   I run a bbq trailer 5 days a week, and I am a 1 man show, also.... It's a ton of work, and I get 3 bucks for a brisket taco....... hahahhaahhaha  no kidding......  I need to get 5 a taco as the customers don't know what u have to go thru to get a brisket done right.   8 to 10 hours of smoking, cooling  before going into the fridge for the   next days of selling..... take it easy....  I have a Road King and no time to drive it, but that will soon change ....... take care Bill    Mickey

Hi Bill,

Good luck in your future endeavors, I couldn't agree with you more as to your reasons for retiring.  It didn't take me long to figure out competitions weren't my cup of tea.  I've had my BBQ business for 10 years now and my customers are my judges.  When I get their praises and complements, well those are my blue ribbons.  Thanks for all your tips through years.


Sorry to hear that the comp. circuit is so bad. I would love to have done at least one, someday I might. I've only done a backyard rib cookoff and won but still had more in it that we won. But I still have bragging rights. I hope you still continue to make videos and help us amateur cooks perfect our skills. 

10 4 on kcbs tradition barbque true smoked meat want even get you on the sheet in a contest I build my on pits rubs sauce with little success thank you for all the info hang in there bro

Good luck, Bill. I also quit the competitions for mostly the same reasons. I have enjoyed your newsletters, and all the tips. Again, Good luck to you. Dennis

Good morning Mr Bill, thank you very much for your wisdom, in-site and knowledge. I wish you and your family the very best. Keep up the good work.


Bill:  I completely understand your rationale for getting out of competition cook-offs.  Take a well deserved break and get some rest.


Good luck in your new adventures!  Your reasons are ALL legitimate....especially having a little one starting school.


I can understand your frustration with competition cooking and dont.blame you for taking a break. My wife says it is too much like beauty contest. I have cooked with my cousin in competitions and it is a lot of work. I just wanted.you to know I appreciate you producing the bbq book. I bought it and have employed the techniques.
Look forward to future tips. Slow down and enjoy what God has given you. Thank you. 

P.S.  your email is the only ones I read all of.

thanks, and good luck....thought I was the lone ranger thinking the same thoughts, to expensive, not so much bad judges just not consistent, and going up against these new insulated timed and temp controlled pits is hard for a poor boy with an old butane tank with a fire in one end.
I do love the process and the end results, I have started doing more charity cooks for fund raisers for church, civic clubs , they provide the meat and most of the expenses and some help and fellowship, they are appreciative and I get to cook and see folks enjoy reasonably good  Q...good luck and I look forward to your updates


I quit three years ago for the exact same reasons....I'm thousands of dollars ahead of ya

...good luck to you

You get the picture... I received 100's of other email just like these!

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