How to judge award-winning barbecue
Sauce should be an accent, and chicken skin should be bitten through easily, with no tearing. Meats at the Jakey in June Bar-B-Que Cook-Off will be judged on taste, appearance and tenderness. Don’t care for a type of meat or particular spice? Try to set that aside, organizers tell the judges – scores need to reflect adherence to rules set by the Kansas City Barbecue Society.
Jakey in June organizers Richard and Susan Schmidt, of St. Jacob, say this year’s 10th annual Jakey in June will be its last. They’re ready to retire. But first, they had another round of training about in the art of barbecue judging. Jakey in June has a total prize package of $6,000 for the winners.
Look for flavor deep down in that chicken. Look for smoke. If there’s not smoke, you could have made that in your oven.
Susan Schmidt, advising this year’s Jakey in June judges
The Schmidts have been judging barbecue for 17 years across the country. That’s 251 competitions in 18 states and in Canada. Before each Jakey in June, The Schmidts hold two nights of training to ensure their judges each fully understand the rules and expectations.
“You’re judging by the rules, not by what you like,” Richard said.
Jakey in June starts at 6 p.m. Friday, and teams will sell their meats until they’re gone. On Saturday the contest starts at 4 p.m., and ends again when the meat is sold out. Sunday’s sales are from noon to 3 p.m. There is music on Friday and Saturday, and a Kids-Q BBQ Cook off on Saturday at 4:30 p.m.
Nearly 20 judges were at the first 2017 training on May 8 at the Schmidts’ old offices of HomeTel, where they are somewhat retired. Another training was to be held May 9 to accommodate the other two dozen or so judges.
Although most of this year’s judges are repeats to the contest, subtle changes by the Kansas City Barbecue Society needed to be reviewed as well as reminders about judging etiquette.
“Hide your scorecard,” Richard advised the judges, “so not to influence other judges. Don’t talk to other judges ... and keep a straight face” when eating.
After the score cards are turned in, he advises talking with the other judges at the table to talk about what was good or bad and why.
The Schmidts showed a dozen or so pictures from previous barbecues to illustrate their points on what judges should be looking for, with Richard’s comments ranging from “this is just an ugly-looking entry” to “ooh, this is a nice one.”
“Look for flavor deep down in that chicken,” Susan told the group. “Look for smoke. If there’s not smoke, you could have made that in your oven.”
Repeat judge Harry Kreutzberg, of Marine, is looking forward to the event and to the leftovers.
“Normally I show up early. Of course you’re going to poke your nose around because it smells too good not to,” he said, but he is careful not to linger at any competitor’s rig because he is a judge. The Playmate cooler gives him away.
“You’re the guy who is going to take the meat home with you,” he said, saying it would be a waste not to package each uneaten portion in its own sandwich bag.
Richard also recommended that judges bring coolers, ice and sandwich bags for that purpose.
Judges take just a small taste of each meat. The 31 teams can each cook ribs, chicken, pork shoulder, brisket, chef’s choice, dessert and margaritas. It’s a lot of food.
Butch and Linda Haberer were at their 10th judge’s class on May 8, a task they have enjoyed each year of the competition.
“Well, we live right where they have the competition,” Butch said. Before the first event, the Schmidts approached them about being judges “because we have to give up our street and our driveway for a week anyway.”
Some things can disqualify a competitor’s meat offering, but hair in the food is not one of them, Richard told the group.
“The rules are you don’t know where it came from. So the rule is eat around it,” he said.
The Schmidts also urged judges to be kind in their scoring. The top possible score is a 9 each for appearance, taste and tenderness.
“If you can keep it in your mouth, it’s a six,” Susan said. “If you have to spit it out, it’s a five.”
Jakey in June
31 teams from Southern Illinois and the St. Louis area will compete in ribs, chicken, pork shoulder, brisket, chef’s choice, dessert and margarita categories. Teams will also sell to visitors.
- When: Starts 6 p.m. Friday, 4 p.m. Saturday and from noon to 3 p.m. Sunday
- Where: North Douglas Street and W. Greenberg Lane in St. Jacob
- For more information: Go to www.jakeyinjune.com