BBQ Contests: Judging Pork at Blues, Views and BBQ
So let's talk about Pork. Pork is the third category judged at a KCBS sanctioned event. Pork is defined as Boston Butt, Picnic and/or Whole Shoulder, weighing a minimum of five (5) pounds. Pork shall be cooked (bone in or bone out) and shall not be parted.
I love the wording of the rules for this category... "Pork shall be cooked." Gee, ya think?
Since I've been revealing my personal preferences about the other barbecue meats, I will tell you that pork shoulder is my third favorite of the barbeque meats, but I probably cook it more often than the other three combined. Pork shoulder is very easy to cook, very flavorful and the left overs can be used in many, many ways.
The cooks were very creative at Blues, Views and BBQ when it came to the pork category and it was probably the best of the event. My note taking was very limited this time and I'm only going to focus on a couple of entries.
The first box that stands out in my mind was an entry that included sliced pork, pulled pork and cubed chunks of bark. This box was so full of meat and so heavy that our table captain visibly strained holding the box open for presentation to us. Because there was so much meat in the box, the pulled pork stained the underside of the lid. One of the judges, who is also a competitor, questioned if this could constitute marking. His opinion was that the cook could have put the stain on the underside of the lid as a sign or "mark" to allow a judge to know that this was their entry. The reps disagreed with the marking argument, and we moved on.
The meat in this box was laid out in a fashion that reminded me of an old aluminum TV dinner tray, which each variety of meat segregated from the other by greenery. The sliced pork looked great, the bark looked OK and the pulled pork looked like an orange brick. Now I don't know if that was the cook's intention, or it was compressed when the presentation box was closed, but the pulled pork with its orange color and resemblance to a solid block hurt the appearance score. Based on the appearance only, I had no desire to try that pulled pork.
This entry was unique in my years of judging. Each style of pork was cooked using a different recipe. This cook had cooked at least three different butts for this cook. The sliced pork seemed to be a fairly straight forward cooking method with little spices that allowed the flavor of the pork to shine through. Unfortunately the sauce on the outsides of the slices tasted burned and sooty. The chunk bark presentation was again a different flavor, although my notes don't expand on it and finally the pulled pork was orange with a very vinegary sauce which overpowered the taste of the meat.
Another entry of pulled and sliced pork was again, obviously from two different pork butts, were flavored completely differently from each other. In this entry I liked the pulled pork much more than the slices which were dry and a bit chewy.
There was another entry which in my mind was laid out in a fashion that could have constituted marking in my never to be humble opinion. On a bed of lettuce, the cook laid out thin strips of pulled pork in a single layer. Down the middle of this thin bed of pork, the cook used a squeeze bottle to put a thin line of bbq sauce. This was a presentation that I have never seen before and it wasn't very attractive. The meat looked almost like match sticks and to my eye looked just as dry. Unfortunately tasting the meat didn't change my opinion.
The last box that I made notes about was a box that consisted entirely of bark. The bark is the outer most section of the meat that is exposed to the heat and the smoke of the cooker. On the pork butt, this is the area with the most fat and where the rub of spices is placed. Cooked correctly the bark is flavorful, a bit chewy and a little crisp. Two judges I spoke with thought this was the best entry in the category. I didn't agree. To me a little bark goes a long way. With all the smoke and spices, you really didn't get a chance to taste the pork.
I don't have any notes about the rest of the entrys. For some reason the judging times seemed to go by very quickly at this event. We really didn't have much time between categories to talk or compare meats, which I guess is a good thing.
On to brisket.
Photograph of the pork courtesy of White On Rice Couple.