Feb 282017

I am on the Cook Team Committee for the Florida BBQ Association (FBA). One of the key points of the FBA since day one was to be more “cooker friendly”. We were talking about updating our judging standards and getting teams and judges on the same page. The goal being that both groups agree on parameters used to judge tenderness and taste. I volunteered to try to put it into writing in easy to understand, common sense language. After a couple of revisions with the committee I am happy to say that our proposal was presented to the Board of Directors and was accepted and passed. It will now be a part of the Judge’s training, and hopefully help bring us all together with a unified understanding of what teams are striving for. Below is the accepted script.

This first paragraph in italics was left out I believe, but I still like it. EDIT: This first paragraph did in fact make it in.

It is our hope that our judges go to a contest with a positive mind set. Ideally they show up in a great mood because they are going to get to eat some fantastic food that the pitmasters have been working on to get just right for up to 24 hours. We prefer that positive thinking over the judge who arrives in a crabby mood and nitpicks each entry trying to find flaws, even if they don’t affect tenderness, taste, or appearance. Celebrate the good.

Taste: Taste should be pleasing and represent the meat that it is, because each meat has its own distinctive flavor; brisket should taste like beef etc.  The spices, rubs or sauces used should be flavor balanced so that they only complement as opposed to overwhelm the meat presented.  There should be no overpowering flavor of spices or sauce.

Tenderness:  Avoid using any tenderness indicators that may have been viewed on Television BBQ shows and then shared in the judge’s tent.  Such as the fold test with brisket or that the bone will turn white after biting ribs.  These expectations are nonsense and have little to do with tenderness.   Focus on the sample at hand and whether it has a pleasant eating experience.  Keep in mind, you are judging what is presented as opposed to what you think should be presented.

Chicken: sample the entry as presented.  Leave the skin in place, removing it will significantly alter the flavor and tenderness the pit master intended.  Take a bite, there is no need to dissect it.  The skin should bite through easily and the rest of the skin should still be in place.  The chicken meat should release easily from the sample and should have a tender and pleasant mouthfeel as well.  If it is chewy, rubbery, or mushy/too soft it is either undercooked or overcooked.  Tenderness should be based on mouthfeel and the chewing experience.

Ribs: Your bite should be from the middle of the rib and deep enough that your teeth gently come in contact with the bone.  Avoid biting the bone but bite to the bone.  The meat should release cleanly and easily from the bone, and there should be a relatively clean outline of where your bite was removed from the rest of the meat.  The rest of the rib meat should still be attached to the bone.  The mouth feel and chew should be a pleasant experience. 

Pork: Pork should be tender but not mushy.  If medallions are presented take a bite to check for tenderness.  There should be no tugging required.  Medallions, chunks, pulled or sliced should have some body and maintain its integrity but at the same time easy to chew.  Your senses will let you know if it was tender as opposed to mushy and unpleasant.  If  ‘bark’ is presented, and it is optional, there is a different guideline for tenderness.

Bark is the dark crust on the exterior of the pork butt.  It is acceptable for bark to be considerably more chewy than the interior meat.  Good bark can be a chewy flavor bomb in your mouth.  Understand what it is and how different it is than the interior meat.  No entry should be judged down because the bark is chewy and has a concentration of flavor.  On the other hand if you are unable to chew it and the flavor is bitter or too extreme judge it accordingly.

Brisket: Brisket is typically presented as slices, burnt ends, pulled and/or chunked.  The accepted standard thickness for slices is roughly that of a pencil thickness.  You should be able to gently pick up the slice from the box and it should stay together as one piece.  It should be limp and hang mostly straight down when held by one end.  A simple pull test can be an indicator for slice tenderness.  Hold an end of the slice in each hand and gently pull until the slice parts.  If it separates before you pull it is likely too tender (over cooked).  If it takes more tugging it is likely a little too tough (undercooked).  Take a bite, and let your mouth decide.  Your first mouthfeel impression will guide you.  Does it maintain its body and have a tender chew?  Does it maintain its body and take a little longer or more effort to chew?  Do you have to pull the bite away from the slice with some effort? Is it is undercooked?  The level of effort will determine the level of doneness.

“Burnt ends” are optional. If burnt ends are presented,  they should be a tender, smoky and meaty bite size piece of the brisket.  There is no size standard for burnt ends.  Burnt ends come from the fattier part of the brisket and will be very juicy.  The juiciness comes from intramuscular fat that is rendered down.  They will be tender and offer little to no resistance when chewing.  “Melt in your mouth” is desirable as opposed to mushy or tough.   However if you feel unpleasant chunks or globs of un-melted fat in your mouth after chewing, those can be undesirable and be judged accordingly.

Remember you are judging what is presented, not what you think should be presented!


 Posted by at 10:33 am
Feb 272017

Word of mouth advertising is the best kind. I am very thankful to these people who have shared their experiences of Swamp Boys Q School.

Anybody looking to become better in BBQ, whether it be competition BBQ or just showing off to your friends and family in the backyard, I highly recommend taking Swamp Boys Q School! He goes through all of the basics and then shows you the most efficient ways of trimming, injecting, rubbing and presenting your BBQ. The fact that people travel from all around the world to come pick Rub Bagby‘s brain should speak for itself!
Garrett W

Will it help your game? Is it worth your time and investment? Can’t speak for you! My results jumped from occasional walks to GC’s. From being competitive, to being a part of the Royal and Jack. Rub Bagby helped up my game! I think he will help yours too!
Mark B.

If you haven’t had the year you wanted so far, here is your chance to make it right, or if you are new and want to cut years off your learning curve. Get with Rub and get signed up for this class. I took it a few years back and that was the best money that Bald Hawg BBQ has spent.
Andrew C.

Connie and I attended Rub’s class last weekend and I want everyone to know that you would spend years learning how to do competition barbecue before you would even get close to what Rub teaches in this class.  If you want to reach for Grand Champion – go to Rub’s class as soon as you can.
-Gary W. 

There were people who flew in from Denmark, Germany, Curacao, GA, AL and of course Florida.  We have no plans to compete, but we learned a lot as Judges from a cook’s perspective.
Connie W.

Just a quick note of thanks. My team, Pork, Sweat & Beers took Backyard Reserve Grand this weekend in Apopka. That was our fourth competition. No way that would of happened without your Q school.
Again, thanks.
Mike S.

Big shout out to our host and professor Rub Bagby of Swamp Boys BBQ. If you want to elevate your BBQ, I highly recommend Rub’s class.
-Bobby K

939.9 – Number of miles we gladly traveled over the weekend to learn from the master at Swamp Boys BBQ School!
-Tim W.

His class is well worth the miles.
-Gee M.

You’ll have to take my word for when I say you should definitely take Rub’s class if you get a chance.
-Randy B.

Had the pleasure of learning some BBQ techniques for one of the nation’s best – Rub Bagby and Swamp Boys Bbq this past weekend. World Champion, and a super guy. If you ever get the opportunity to attend one of Rub’s classes, it will be well worth it. Thanks Rub
-Ronnie G

Your class rocks!
-Steve W.

Had a great time! Wish it could have lasted longer….(that’s what she said!) lol Thanks a bunch, it was great.
Darlene P.

Had a wonderful time, Rub – you’re a great teacher and I learned a lot! Thank you so very much!
-Tim W.

Thanks for the class Rub Bagby. I enjoyed it and it was good meeting all those who attended the class.
Brian J.

Thanks Rub. Enjoyed the class. Brain is still on overload! thanks.
Darrell B.

Look forward to trying out all the new tips. Thanks.
Mark T.

Hey Rub:
Thank you for a fantastic class and sharing your techniques and tips. I’ll be using some of the tricks I learned in my coming contests.
Here’s some pics from the class.
Harry S.

Great class by a BBQ great. Rob is a class act!
Harry S.

Hey there, this is Steve Ackley, Ack-Que. Took your class last year in Chicago, just GC’d at Hudson Valley and wanted to extend my thanks for helping make that possible.

Thanks for your friendship ! Your class rocks can’t believe how much I got from it !!!
Steven W.

Great class. Highly recommend it. Applause now.
Steve R.

Great class great time, the next contest I cooked after this class I got a 2nd place call in Ribs, paid for the class…. Yah the Professor Rub Bagby got the first place call in ribs that day.
Frank N.

Hey Rub:
I would like to personally thank you for sharing with me some of your vast knowledge and experience about the art of competitive BBQ’ing. I thought the class was great!!! I feel that the problem that I was having preparing chicken thighs is a thing of the past. Your approach is well organized and mine wasn’t – I just start whacking on a thigh and usually wind up with a mess. You made good points on the other meat categories that I will incorporate into my techniques. Again, thanks.
Dave C.

Hiya Rub–
Just wanted to send you a personal note of thanks for the class this weekend.  I definitely learned some things, made some great connections and had a good time. You’re 100% right about it being 100 things that need to be done.  I definitely got some new tools in the arsenal that i’m looking forward to trying out.
Thanks again, and keep in touch.
Luke D

Awesome class! I highly recommend this class to everyone! Thanks again Rub.
Kyle M

Thanks again for the enjoyable time, I would recommend you class to anyone interested.
Rob C

Just wanted to say thanks again for the class and all the knowledge.  It was great hearing about your background and where you came from.  I can’t wait to add the details that I learned from you into our cook and see if it helps get us that first GC.
Pete H

The class was great!! Had a few duh moments wondering why I’m not already doing that.  Lol. I believe you answered all my questions and shown me things that I’m not doing and things I’m doing too much. For that I want to thank you and your help and I will recommend anyone to your class. Can’t wait it we get to put the skills together and cook a competition.
Jon H

Rub,  thank you for the class it was an awesome experience. I learned a lot and hopefully soon will be able to give you a run for your money in the next competition!
Kris F

It’s a great class everyone, money well spent! I learned a lot! Rub is very thorough with his process and how he does things. Pay close attention to how he trims his brisket!
Nicholas A

Invest in your craft, or keep scratching your head? Impress your family or walk more at contest, a great skills class.
Mark B

Good class to take if you want to improve!
Brent N

Great investment folks!! I want to come to another one.
Rick W

Just a quick note to let you know how much Barb and I enjoyed the class last Sat and Sun (even the rain!). You do a great job and we can’t wait to put all that new knowledge to good use. I was a little concerned about my wife enjoying the weekend but she loved it, said you made it very enjoyable.
Mike and Barb S

 Posted by at 9:40 pm
Feb 012017

I am giving up a seat for any of my Q Schools in the future. The next class is being held February 18-19 in Winter Haven, FL behind the Boy’s Club. Click the PayPal link to make a donation of $25 for the Winter Haven Citrus Center Boy’s and Girl’s Clubs. Each $25 donation will earn you a chance in a drawing for a free seat in my class which is valued at $500. This will stay open through Feb. 6, or until it hits $500+ for the kids. I will have a live Facebook drawing and notify the winner. I will give a check for 100% of money donated and will cover the PayPal fees. Thanks for helping the kids and good luck!

Thanks to all who participated, we will be giving the Club $775.00!

 Posted by at 10:46 pm