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Feats of Smoke (8)

Scrutinize, Savor, Score

As the team runners arrive at the turn-in table, the clock begins ticking for the judges. In the next two hours, each will evaluate six portions in each of the four meat categories.

Judging is performed in double-blind fashion. Cooks don’t know who will judge their entry; CBJs have no idea who cooked the meat they are about to taste.

At turn-in, the Styrofoam containers are randomly renumbered and recorded. KCBS rules further ensure judging purity by forbidding CBJs to fraternize with cooks before the competition.

Guidelines clearly dictate that “meat shall not be sculptured, branded or presented in a way to make it identifiable.”

Because the one-day KCBS certification course has trained these men and women to be fair and impartial, judges don’t talk much while tasting.

Following instructions, they maintain a neutral body language while judging — “facial expressions of rapture or disgust” will not be tolerated.

After closely inspecting the meat inside each container presented by a designated Table Captain circling the table, CBJs mark a score for “Appearance.”

Next each judge selects one portion and places it on the corresponding square of the official KCBS Judging Plate in front of him or her.

Barbeque is a sensory experience, and after smell and sight come touch and taste. Fingers reach for the goods.

“Chicken is always the messiest,” says Miller of the judging process.

Although napkins are provided for this hands-on experience, many CBJs bring along their own damp dish towel to de-sauce between tastings. (According to KCBS rules, premoistened wipes are not allowed because they may contain scent.)

There are no forks, no knives — this, says Miller, is not only how barbeque is meant to be eaten but also provides CBJs with critical tactile feedback about the texture and tenderness of the meat.

(Read more about Feats of Smoke)

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