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Feats of Smoke (9)

In the KCBS scoring system, a 9 equates to excellent and a score of 2 indicates inedible.

If the entry container is in violation of KCBS Official Rules and Regulations for any reason (such as foreign material, unauthorized use of garnish, sculpted meat), CBJs will mark it a 1, and the entry is disqualified.

According to KCBS rules, each meat must be rated independently and not ranked.

This is perhaps the most challenging aspect of judging. “You are not rating one versus the other; you judge each individually,” says Brad Henning of Ames, who has been a CBJ for seven years. “It is a very hard thing to do, especially when you first start.”

With experience, most CBJs cultivate a sense for rating each barbeque entry on its own merits.

 Dean Schoeppner of Des Moines, a CBJ for seven years, says there are subtle differences between each portion that finds its way to his judging plate, and he pays close attention to what he tastes.

“You’ll taste one and it’s got pretty good flavor, but it’s mushy,” he explains. “The next one will be perfect texture, but the flavor just won’t quite be there, at least not for what I’m looking for anyway.”

(Read more about Feats of Smoke)

Know Your Meat

After a one-day KCBS judging certification class, CBJs are able to register as judges for KCBS-sanctioned competitions in Iowa and around the country. (A class schedule and event calendar can be found online at The KCBS sanctions over 300 competitive events each year in more than 40 states.

The Iowa Barbeque Society cosponsors a Barbeque Spring Training Camp each March with the Iowa State University Meat Lab. The daylong workshop is designed for anyone interested in learning more about barbeque — whether a backyard cook, someone interested in forming a competitive barbeque team, or a seasoned pitmaster.
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