A while back, I read an article about how competitions are killing barbeque. I wish I could find the piece (so I could give proper credit to the author), but the basic premise was that the ultra-competitiveness of these competitions are impeding the networking and sharing of ideas that are necessary to improve the barbeque craft. Indeed, teams invest a lot of money and time in these competitions, and some teams may not want to share the exact recipes or cooking methods that would give up their advantage. But at the New Jersey Barbecue Championship in North Wildwood, I did not find that this was the case. Unfortunately, I couldn’t stay for the entire weekend, and Justin and Bill had to take on all of the cooking without me, but I was hard at work for those 2 days that I was able to attend. Hopefully, you have already read the article that I wrote on the history of the competition. But the other reason I wanted to go down was to survey the teams on some of the ways that they cook and present the various categories to the judges. Established competition teams, new or veteran, can see how other teams are doing it. And hometown heroes, doing barbeque in the backyard, can gain insight into how competition teams are going about it, whether they are thinking about entering the barbeque circuit themselves or whether they just want to see what the best of the best are doing. As I went from tent to tent to talk to each team, I found a willingness to share drinks, stories, and techniques that directly negate the premise of the article’s author. Every team that I met seemed to welcome the opportunity to share their experience, and understood the importance of sharing this information with others.
Although I was not able to meet every team at the event, a majority of the teams are represented here. A huge thank you to each team that spent time with me to answer the survey. In some cases, I have refrained from offering insight to the data, so that you could have more opportunity to form opinions, and hopefully share them in the “comments” section.