Barbecue 101: A Primer on the Two Popular Judging Bodies | Grilling with Rich Barbecue 101: A Primer on the Two Popular Judging Bodies

BBQ 101: An Introduction to BBQ Competition

Posted By: Seth Mellin
Published: May 28, 2015

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When it comes to BBQ competition there are two main sanctioning bodies that operate under different rules. You have the Kansas City Barbecue Society (KCBS) and the Memphis Barbecue Network (MBN). There are several other smaller ones as well but for the purpose of this we are going to focus on the two mentioned above.

Let’s give you a quick run down on the two sanctioning bodies.

Kansas City Barbecue Society (KCBS)

KCBS_Logo_LowResIn a traditional KCBS contest the entries are as follows:

  • CHICKEN: includes Cornish Game Hen and Kosher Chicken
  • PORK RIBS: Ribs must include the bone, country style is prohibited
  • PORK: defined as Boston Butt, Boston Roast, Picnic and/or Whole Shoulder (Note: Doesn’t allow whole hog)
  • BEEF BRISKET: may be a whole brisket, flat or point, corned beef is not allowed

In KCBS competitions the judging is all done blind, no onsite judging. The scoring system is is only whole numbers from 9-2 with 1 being a disqualification in that area. The criteria is weighted and is as follows:

  • Appearance – .5600
  • Taste – 2.2972
  • Tenderness – 1.1428

Once scores are rallied the low score is thrown out to give a final score for the entry. The Grand Champion is then awarded to the team with the highest overall cumulative points in all four categories. Therefore, a team could potentially not place in any category and still win Grand Champion.

Memphis Barbecue Network (MBN):

Memphis Barbecue Network logoIn the MBN teams cook whole hog, pork shoulder and pork rib. They are then judged as follows:

Seven different judges initially evaluate every pro entry:
4 blind and 3 on-site. No entry has the exact same combination of judges. Each judge assigns a score in each of the applicable criteria for each entry, with the best score for each criterion being a 10.

The judging criteria breaks down as follows:

For On-site judging teams are evaluated as follows:

  • Personal and Site Appearance
  • Presentation to the Judges
  • Appearance of the Entry
  • Tenderness and Texture of the Entry
  • Flavor of the Entry
  • Overall Impression, judges entire experience with entry

In the blind judging teams are evaluated on:

  • Appearance
  • Tenderness
  • Flavor
  • Overall Impression, judges entire experience with entry

The top 3 in each category (Whole Hog, Pork Shoulder, Pork Rib) then advanced to the finals. For the finals the preliminary scores are thrown out and a group of 4 judges, who were not involved in the prelim round, travel to each of the 9 finalists evaluating the entry using the same method above to determine the overall grand champion. However, if a team finals in more than one category the scores are still treated individually and they are not totaled, to avoid that team getting an unfair advantage.


There are obviously more rules then I noted above for each governing body, as I only looked at what the entries are and the judging styles. I honestly feel the other rules between the two is so similar and do not have an effect on the competition judging style or system. However, it is easy to see that the two largest governing bodies have very different styles. There are many smaller regional societies but the rules for the most part tend to be just a slight variation of one of the two main bodies.

I am curious to get your thoughts and opinions on each unique style. If you compete and prefer one system over the other tell us why.

Also of Interest:

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