Top 3 Competitive BBQ Categories for 2017

The rise of competitive BBQ in Australia is unstoppable right now. To be a shameless punster, the sport is red hot. With 25 sanctioned competitions already scheduled for 2017, there will be an ever-growing number of new teams coming out to play. But with 12 different possible categories to compete in, where should you focus your attention and practice? To help out, here are the Top 3 Competitive BBQ Categories for 2017.

Top 3 Competitive BBQ Categories for 2017 – Background

With just one competition left on the calendar for 2016, I decided to do a breakdown of the categories in the 2016 competitions to work out which were the most common. This information would then indicate where competitors should focus their attention in order to maximise their chances of placing well in the 2017 ladder. I sat down with a cup of coffee and got stuck into the records on the Australasian Barbecue Alliance website.

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The ABA’s 2017 Event Calendar

In 2016 there were a total of 18 competitions. These competitions had a total of 12 different categories. However, not every category is included in every competition, and there were some doubling up of categories as some competitions broke larger categories into smaller ones. You can’t argue with the math though…

Top 3 Competitive BBQ Categories for 2017 – #3

Coming in third place, making an appearance at 12 out of 18 competitions is Chicken. In my opinion chicken is the trickiest of all the categories. There are so many different cuts to choose from and some of them take an incredible amount of work compared to others. Ever scraped the fat off the skin for bite-through cupcake chicken? Then you know what I’m talking about.

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Prepping Muffin Top Chicken…

And how do you even know which cut to try? There’s cupcake chicken, muffin top chicken, brownie chicken, lollipop chicken, chicken breasts and even wings. I’ve even competed with a whole chicken which I shredded and handed in as pulled chicken.

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Muffin Top Chicken…

Top 3 Competitive BBQ Categories for 2017 – #2

Second place is a little more contentious. It’s a dead heat for runner up in this battle of the meats. Both Beef and Lamb were categories at 15 out of 18 competitions. The three most popular cuts for lamb are racks, ribs and shoulders, though I did see some amazing photos of a rolled lamb belly from the always inventive Shank Brothers BBQ.

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Pulled Lamb with a Mango BBQ Sauce…

When it comes to beef, the two most popular cuts are brisket and ribs. Ribs can be a bit tricky to get into a hand-in box. One trick is to have your butcher slice a rack in half horizontally to make mini-beefies. I did this at the Burleigh BBQ Championships in 2016 and came in fourth.

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Six Beef Ribettes in a Box!

Another clever trick I’ve seen is to cook the rack whole, slice the meat from the bones in one big slab, and then slice the slab into brisket-like slices. I don’t know who it was as I was judging at the competition, but it was very clever.

Top 3 Competitive BBQ Categories for 2017 – The Winner

Coming in first place in the Top 3 Competitive BBQ Categories in 2017 is… drum roll… Pork Ribs! Pork Ribs was the only category to have been included in every single competition in 2016.

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My old nemesis…

Pork Ribs are the most difficult for me personally. It seems I overcook them 9 out of 10 times and end up with meat that falls off the bone. They still taste amazing, but are not comp worthy – competition pork ribs need to have ‘good bite’. That is, the meat needs to stay on the bone and there needs to be a clearly defined bite mark left behind. Perhaps I’ll make the switch from Johnny Trigg’s 3-2-1 method to Pitmaster Steve‘s 4@250 method!

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Pork Ribs with  Pineapple BBQ Sauce…

What does it all mean?

There are some things to remember when considering this information. Firstly, an event promoter is free to select any categories from the approved ABA list so each competition could be completely different.

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Focus and Concentration…

However, if the best predictor of future behaviour is the past, there are some great insights here. Pork Ribs appeared in 100% of competitions in 2016. Beef and Lamb appeared in 83% of competition and Chicken appeared in 66% of the competitions. The next closest is Pork at 44% and the rest are negligible.

Clearly, to maximise their place on the ladder for 2017, teams need to focus their attention and practice on the four most common categories: Pork Ribs, Beef, Lamb and Chicken, in that order.  Focus on your Pork Rib game first, then Beef, Lamb and then Chicken.

Want more tips to help you Get Comp Ready? Subscribe for updates on my upcoming Podcast – it’s gonna be a ripper!

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