I need practice on my competition ribs because at Sevierville* last weekend I averaged 8's for taste and tenderness which isn't going to cut it for what we want to do. Just under 2 years ago we did our first contest and were happy just to complete every category without finishing DAL. Now if we don't get 9-9-9's (KCBS scores 0-9 from each judge for appearance, taste, and tenderness), we're not satisfied.
So this cook was just a baseline to focus on the details of our rib program without being distracted at a contest and then figure out where I need to improve for our next contest in a few weeks.
|My Grill Dome didn't make it back to the deck after last weekend's contest so I just rolled it out front on Saturday. Never noticed until now that it is almost a perfect match for Trevor's car. You can get Grill Domes in custom colors but this was just a stock color.|
My highest rib score was 6th place at Sevierville last year when I cooked them on an Adjustable Rig but since then I've been using a homemade raised rack. Typically we run 4 racks of ribs. Using the raised rack means the bottom 2 ribs are close to the heat deflector so the ends can overcook. So time to go back to the A/R.
|To get back to using the Adjustable Rigs, I bought a set of oval heat deflectors from the Ceramic Grill Store. (And a Kick Ash Basket for the Mini-Max!) The longer heat deflectors are what they recommend for rib and brisket set ups anyway and I should have bought one that way to begin with.|
|This cook was the maiden voyage for a new fire box that I bought from Hearth and Patio this weekend. So ivory...for now.|
|Here is a side view of the full A/R set up. The main advantages for this specific set up are 1) the oval heat deflector protects the rib ends and 2) the 4 racks of ribs sit higher up in the dome for more even cooking.|
|I took an air temperature probe for my ThermaQ and clipped it just below the upper grate to get a more accurate temperature reading. Kamado grill tip: Pulling the dome thermometer out a little bit will also help by getting the tip of the thermometer further away from the cold meat.|
|The temperature difference due to the cold meat only lasted for the first hour or two. Once the meat was cooking, the dome thermometer came up and matched the ThermaQ.|
|Getting close to wrapping time.|
|Another benefit to the A/R set up is that I can just slide the rib racks out and shut the dome, doing a better job of maintaining cooking temps. I don't do anything much different than the majority of top comp teams for the wrap ingredients.|
|This is after coming back out of the foil. Lighting is harsh but whatevs...|
|Sauced and back on for a brief kiss of smoke before boxing.|
So these are good but I have some things that I will adjust. I'm going to reduce or eliminate one of the three rubs. Once that is set I'll test a few sauce changes (you only ever change 1 thing at a time). Finally for tenderness, I think I've taken too much time to foil the ribs which means less time in the wrap. I've streamlined that process to minimize time off the grill.
You might think I am nit-picking here. But any competition team will tell you that less than 1 point can make the difference between Top 10 and everyone else.
If BBQ competitions intrigue you, check out a local event. It's a great thing to get involved in as an organizer, volunteer, judge, or competitor. Here are some lists of events for different organizations. We like KCBS but there are lots of solid groups.
Kansas City BBQ Society (biggest, most widely recognized IMO)
Standard FTC Disclosure: I received no compensation for this post. We have no affiliation with Grill Dome (sponsor last year), Ceramic Grill Store, Hearth and Patio, or Cheshire Pork. We have good working relationships with Thermaworks and Kick Ash Basket but paid full price for their products shown.