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How to go from backyard hero to comp barbecue newb

Comp barbecue is a lot of fun, great people and you learn heaps of tricks and realise you know nothing John snow.

This a list of things we have learnt from our time touring to comps, some hard mistakes, do’s and don’ts, comp etiquette and good times.

First thing I would mention is equipment apart from the default list that the ABA has some basic things can make life easier.

  • Marquee is a must, sides even better keeps pesky people and rain out
  • Catering foil, not the biggest roll you can get from Woolies but the industrial stuff used to wrap nuclear waste in. Sure it’s more expensive but doesn’t rip as easy and is a life saver.
  • Plastic zip lock bags, at the end of the comp you want to take some food home but you have nothing to put it in, grab 100 of these so much easier that transporting trays.
  • Some bench tables 2m long, more space the better.
  • Fridge if u have a bar fridge perfect. Ice is great for beer but not food.
  • Comfy chairs
  • Good storage solutions, put everything into tubs keeps it dry overnight and when it rains.
  • Paper towel, paper towel and paper towel the unsung hero of any comp.
  • Foil trays… And lots of them, you may think hey I’ll wash up. But after 2 days of cooking you will look at that baked pan full of crusty sauce and think can I just chuck it.
  • Your favourite hangover cure, Gatorade, iced coffee neurofen combo, berocca..anything to get you going at 5am.

Site setup is also worthy give yourself plenty of time at the first comp to setup and get to know your neighbors. Have an idea in your head about table setup for sunny and wet weather, rain at BBQ comps comes in sideways and the last thing you want to be doing in the rain 5mins before turn in is moving equipment.

Other competitors… Some are happy to share tactics and talk shop but a golden rule is if the site is all closed up I. E. Marquee sides are down and you can’t see in, then don’t enter for fear of loosing fingers. Overall everyone is their to have a good time. If you break something, forget to pack something ask around someone will give you a loaner.

Let’s talk meat, more specifically meat preparation. For the first comp preparing the meat off-site is a must. Between everything else going on you don’t want to be cleaning meat in a tent. So trim away just don’t apply rubs or do and be disqualified.

Timing, one of our biggest mistakes early on was to not have a game plan. Figure out what needs to happen and when. It gets a bit hectic when your chicken is due but you need to be basting ribs as well. So work out each step how long and when it is due, if you have a project manager in the team perfect job for them. You get 5 mins to get the box in, and you can hand in early so time how long it takes to walk from your site to judges tent so you have no surprises.

Listen to other competitors, if you speak to one of the elders and they suggest you change something it’s probably for the best. Comp barbecue is a strange beast, judge six is a bad person and always ruins your dreams and hopes. So listen to the guys on the circuit about saucing, presentation.

Which leads into one of the big debates, kale or parsley. Personally kale is as boring to look at as it is to eat which is why we always go for parsley. Pro tip is to speak to your local fruit and veg shop and see if they can get 2 commercial bunches for you otherwise we use about 1.5 bunches from Woolies or Coles. To keep it fresh during the comp, find the cleanest, shadiest spot and put the parsley into a bucket with water so it doesn’t wilt. Never put it in your esky, this is just a recipe for disaster.

Box presentation is another key component of comp life, you eat with your eyes so let the judges feast. You want it to look full but organised in a strange OCD kind of way. Always clean any sauce off the box, remove any bits of charcoal dust the drifts throughout the comp. A good technique is to sketch out a rough outline of box design prior to the madness of turn ins. This way the team are always on the same page and your hand ins make it to the tent without running.

That is a pretty basic crash course in BBQ comp life, one big thing to remember is to have fun and just back your flavours. We have turned in so many boxes thinking its the worst but surprisingly it gets really good results.

Good luck :)