Comparing KCBS and GBA Barbecue Competition Events

We have completed our first KCBS {Kansas City Barbecue Society} competition.  It was a whole different ballgame, than the GBA {Georgia Barbecue Association}, the sanctioning group, we were accustom.

Kansas City Barbecue Society Logo

Georgia Barbecue Association Logo







There are a few significant differences between the two competition barbecue associations.

Competition Meat

The main difference between GBA and KCBS are the meat categories for competitions.

Pork Butts cooking on a Big Green Egg

Butts looking good

GBA has three main categories, pork loin, pork ribs, and pork shoulder.  Occasionally, there are ancillary categories, such as brisket, dessert or “anything butt..”

In KCBS events, there are four meat categories, brisket, chicken, pork ribs and pork shoulder.

Most KCBS comps also include a People’s Choice, which the contest provides two pork butts, however, teams must allow for this addition.

Before our competitions, we construct a cooking timeline.  Although we adjusted for the KCBS event, it will take a few more competitions before we fully adapt to the turn-in-time adjustments.

Turn-in Times

When competing in a GBA event, meat boxes are turned in on an hourly basis; however, in KCBS, turn in times are every half hour – WOW!

For about two hours, 11:30 am to 1:30 pm, it is crazy!  Being organized is key to success.  Having your garnish already prepared is crucial, {garnish is not mandatory in KCBS, but necessary for a Championship trophy}.   Garnish is not accepted in a GBA box.

In the GBA, there are actually two rounds of “turn-ins.”  However, only the top three teams in each meat category will prepare a second box.  As a result, teams may be working on turn in boxes from 9:30 am to 1:30 pm.

Brisket sitting on a bed of lettuce barbecue competition turn in box

Brisket turn in box at KCBS competition

Comparatively, KCBS only has one round of turn-ins; therefore, after those two crazy hours, turning in meat every half hour, teams are DONE!

Since Doug, our pitmaster has to manage the fire, as well as the cooking times, JoAnn felt the garnish should be her responsibility.  Feeling pressure, JoAnn was relieved to discover, it really is not that difficult.  The comment cards we received gave us perfect scores on appearance.

Judging Differences

Both competition associations share the same criteria for judging meat; appearance, taste and tenderness.

The Georgia Barbecue Association uses comparative judging.  This means, each box on a judging table (usually 5 or 6 entries) are compared against each other, to determine the best box on that table – that day.  Judges are  instructed NOT to compare the samples to their own backyard pork, or their favorite barbecue restaurant.

The best box receives a “10” top score.  The top 3 teams, in each meat category, are notified and they will prepare a second “finals” box for master judges.  It will then be decided which team had the best meat sample that day {Grand Champion}, which could be ribs, shoulder or loin.

KCBS certified judges sample each meat one-by-one.  Samples are not compared against each other.  A judge accesses a box for its presentation, to form an appearance score; then takes a sample, tastes it and gives it a score for taste and tenderness.  A top score is “9.”  Each sample is judged individually.

Both the KCBS and GBA use taste as the main weight factor in the scoring system.

KCBS throws out the lowest overall score for each team, in each meat category.  The GBA actually throws out the lowest score per judging factor (taste, tenderness, appearance), per team, in each category.  We really like this idea because it seems to work as a benefit for competing teams.


Champions in KCBS and GBA

Smokin J’s Barbeque at Sip & Swine

Sipi and Swine Barbecue Festival LogoIt was a learning experience for our first KCBS competition; however, we finished about average.  Nothing spectacular, but there is plenty of room for improvement.

Our ribs were our best box on the day.  There were 6 samples, including ours, on the table and we finished 4th.  None finished in the top 10 overall.

Our chicken did not do so well.  There were 6 samples on our table, we were 5th; however, one box on our table scored 8th overall.

We were the 6th place box on our rib table; however, NONE of the teams on our table were in the top 15 – in fact, all but one box were in the bottom third, in the rib category.

A bit disappointing, however, there were 62 teams, who traveled as far away as Philadelphia and Arizona to compete.  It was some very tough competition.

We will stick to our formula and look forward to our next KCBS event at the Festival of Discovery.  An 19-year-old event expecting many great teams!

  More info at South Carolina Festival of Discovery




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Smokin J’s Barbeque’s Top 5 Healthy Grilling Techniques

Let’s face it, we are all trying to eat more healthy and watch our weight, but we also love our grills, smokers and outdoor cooking vessels.

When it comes to grilling, you might think of savory, fatty foods, slathered in a coat of sugary barbecue sauce; however, grilling – a high-heat method of cooking directly over the flames or hot coals, can be advantageous when trying to lose weight.

Small or thin sliced pieces of food are best when it comes to grilling.  However, there are two types of grilling – direct and indirect.

BBQ Guru smokin js barbeque




Usually, direct grilling involves thin cuts of meat like, steak, pork chops, kebabs and vegetables.  The food is cooked directly over the flame and the high heat sears the food’s surface, which seals in the juices.  This is typically a quick cooking method, two to twenty minutes.  Make sure to keep the grill open, especially with flammable foods, like bread.  If you have a thicker cut of steak, you can speed up the process by closing the grill.


Indirect grilling

Indirect grilling set up with two hot zones.

Indirect grilling brings together barbecuing and grilling.  In barbecue, the food is cooked adjacent to, but not directly over the fire; however, the cooking takes place in the same chamber as the fire.  When a grill is used for indirect grilling, the coals are place on the side of the “firebox,” and the food goes in between.

Ideal foods for this method are whole chickens, ducks, turkeys, rib roasts, ribs and whole vegetables and fruit, such as stuffed onions, cabbages and apples.

However, we want to focus on foods to help you keep your waistline smaller.  The following grilling techniques encourage smaller portions and healthy food choices.


1.  Grill shrimp and shellfish more often.   Shrimp, clams or mussels are great and easy to prepare on the grill.

Lobsters split for grillingBecause different fires, put out different heat – cooking times can vary.  If grilling lobster, split them.  This may require more cooking surface.  It is best to turn the lobsters so that the claws are sitting over the hottest part of the fire. This helps them cook more rapidly.  Make sure the claws are lying flat.  Adjust placement if you notice some turning bright red faster than others.

2.  If you chose to grill meat, consider thin cuts or kebabs, which can cook faster and may help you control your portions.

Kebabs grill time depends on what is on the skewer.  Many people will grill vegetables, alternating with meat on the same kebab – we DO NOT.  We recommend each skewer hold a type of food; for example, onions on one skewer; beef on another; etc.  Peppers will not take near as long as potatoes, therefore, you can adjust the cooking times more easily.

Kebabs off the grill

A beef skewer; a squash skewer; a tomato skewer; a pepper skewer; an onion skewer.



Vegetables are great on the grill for weight loss3.  Shop your local farmer’s market to find nature’s bounty of food that can be brushed with a bit of olive oil and tossed on the grill.  Even dessert, grilled peaches or apricots can be brushed with a little bit of honey, along with a teaspoon of ricotta or yogurt for a summer treat.

Make sure to be cautious when using oil at the grill, it can cause flare ups.  Also, vegetables like to stick. Make sure you have a clean grill surface. Consider using a grilling basket with long handles, making it easier to turn vegetables while cooking. 


4.  Try meatless main dishes like grilled eggplant or meaty mushrooms; when grilled they have a “meaty” or umami flavor.

Umami Flavor

5.  Use cedar planks to spice up your meal.

Make sure to PRE-SOAK any wood planks you decide to use, for at least an hour.   For most intense flavor, place the soaked plank immediately on the grill grate, over direct heat, for 5 – 10 minutes.  Turn over the plank and place your food on the charred side of the plank.  




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Grilling Fried Chicken Wings

Fried Chicken Wings Using the Grill

Why Chicken Wings?

Chicken wings are one of our “go to” meals during football season.  We usually buy the five-pound bags at Sam’s Club, then divide them up into freezable, sealed bags when we get home.  Each bag includes about ten total wings, just enough for both of us – these wings are rather large.

Some stats indicate that Americans will eat over a billion chicken wings for the Superbowl in February.  Why do we like chicken wings so much?

  • Easy to hold and require no utensil
  • Can be flavored to almost anything to suit a variety of tastes
  • Good to serve a crowd or at a sports gathering
  • Chicken wings are an American food

Supposedly, buffalo chicken wings were first developed in Buffalo, New York.  Served either fried or sauced, a Buffalo establishment called Anchor Bar created the first buffalo wings in 1964.  Teressa’s and Frank Bellissimo would serve chicken wings with her famous hot sauce.  

In the 1960’s and ’70s, families would cook whole-chicken dinners, but in the 80’s home cooks wanted a more convenience; thus, boneless, skinless chicken breast became popular.  The wings of the chicken were a byproduct and resulted in wings being cheap. The low cost is why the Anchor Bar started selling wings. 

Chicken Wing Preference

Baking or grilling wings usually means a rub is applied before or during the cooking process and some sort of sauce is applied after cooking is complete.  Some will even dunk their wings in a sauce, ranch dressing or blue cheese.

The major drawback to these cooking methods is the wing is somewhat bland, except for the rub applied.  Rubs can be harsh and overwhelming.  If I am served grilled or baked wings, I usually end up dipping it in ranch dressing, just to perk it up.

I prefer wings with a crispy crust, much like fried chicken.  However, I HATE deep frying any food – not only for the horrible health issue, but I have a cardinal rule in my kitchen – NO DEEP FRYING INSIDE THE HOUSE!  The lingering odor, after deep frying, is intolerable to me.

Therefore, I have been searching high and low for a way to obtain a crispy, golden crust on my wings, but grill them on the gas grill, outside.

I finally found the perfect recipe.  The key is heat application, timing and placing the chicken wings in a brine before grilling.



Tools for this recipe:

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Southern Outdoor Adventure at River Vista RV Resort

Camping at River Vista RV Resort Clayton, GEorgiaFresh mountain air in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains is the best vacation for me.

A recent trip to River Vista RV Resort just north of Clayton, Georgia proved to be the perfect weekend getaway.

Only a two-hour drive for us, as well as another couple who recently purchased a motor home; we met at the resort to enjoy some down time.

Located near many attractions and full of amenities, River Vista RV Resort maintains a beautifully landscape campground which can accommodate larger rigs.

Why River Vista?

Issaqueena Falls Rabun County, GeorgiaDuring most of our camping trips, we like to do three things…

  • make a campfire and be lazy
  • hike to local waterfalls
  • visit nearby vineyards or wineries

Being in Rabun County, extreme northeast Georgia, River Vista is near so many waterfalls, it could take years to visit them all.

The same can be said for wineries. So many to choose from, but we narrowed our adventure to just two.

We were so glad to hear our friends were excited to try some wine and hike to a waterfall with us!

After looking at several campgrounds, we chose River Vista because it easily accommodates larger RV’s. Paved roads are wide enough and sites are relativity easy to back into; although there is pull through sites available, just not the weekend we visited.

Campsite at River Vista RV Resort Dillard, Georgia

An outdoor pool with a whirlpool, an adult-only indoor heated pool, a playground, two bath houses and two laundry facilities are within the resort.

Full hook-ups are at each site, as well as cable television and a picnic table.

A spacious pavilion is available for any guest, which includes a fireplace. Although sites do not have fire rings, campfires are allowed as long as they are at least 6” off the ground and contained.

Waterfall Hiking and Vineyard near River Vista

Many scenic waterfalls and hiking trails are a short drive away. Other activities include:

  • Shopping in Highlands, NC
  • Golfing at Sky Valley, NC
  • Trout Fishing at Lake Burton
  • Black Rock Mountain State Park
  • Tallulah Falls State Park

Our first night, we decided to dine out in downtown Clayton. A quaint main street is lined with eateries and antique shops.

Cocktail at Clarks On Main Clayton, GEorgiaWe ate at Clark’s On Main and enjoyed a roof-top view (although our home back deck view is better).

Despite the large craft cocktail menu, I asked for a sweet, fruity vodka cocktail and the bartender did not disappoint.

With over 30 beers on tap, anyone can find some suds to quench their thirst. 

The soft pretzel served with a Guinness-spiked cheese dip was the perfect appetizer.

Hunger convinced me to try the Unapologetic Pub Burger with house fries. Half-a-pound of beef, topped with a friend egg, smoked cheddar cheese and a house made bacon jam was decadent and delicious.

Fries were served with a Chipotle Aioli which was not too spicy, even for a spice-whimp, like me.

Several other locally owned restaurants are on Main Street, as well as fast-food chains.

One night we dined at the infamous Dillard House. No menus here. Diners are brought portions of fried chicken, fish, shrimp and a version of beef steak. Sides included fried okra (which was the most redeeming item served), squash, and beans.

Very disappointed. Our friends admitted they had eaten at the Dillard House many years ago and the restaurant has declined. I cannot recommend it.

Wine Tasting

12 Spies Vineyard After the arrival of our friends, we decided to go wine tasting the next day.

12 SPIES VINEYARD coined its name from the Bible, however, only four grape varieties are grown on site.

The small tasting room is rustic but inviting. Unfortunately, it was hot the day we visited, so the adjacent, larger veranda went empty.

However, 12 Spies has “Friday Night Pizza on the Veranda,” and up until recently, you could purchase an unbaked pizza from several local eateries (or make your own), bring it to the vineyard and they would cook it in their brick oven. Now, they are serving cheese, pepperoni, veggie or supreme pizza, which are already on-site!

My favorite wine, we bought a bottle, was the 2017 Holy Moses Sweet Red. A semi-sweet, balanced blend of Cab Franc, Tannat and Malbec grapes. It will pair nice with a steak cooked on the Big Green Egg.

We also visited Tiger Mountain Vineyard. I was a bit disappointed because we were not invited to tour the vines (I didn’t even see them). More focus was spent on all the awards and accolades for their wines. They were displayed everywhere. I was not impressed with their wines and did not purchase any. I felt we were rushed through the tasting.

Waterfall Beauty

Our final day worked up an appetite – which Doug grilled us steaks and potatoes on the Big Green Egg for dinner.

Issaqueena Falls Walhalla, South Carolina Issaqueena Falls Walhalla, South Carolina










Issaqueena Falls is about a 40 minute drive from River Vista; however, it was so worth it.

A small parking area leads to a small, short path to the top of the falls. A small observation platform is adjacent to the falls; however, I was eager to tackle the very tough, straight-down hike to the bottom of the falls.

Myself and Lois were guided by Doug. Grasping for roots, rocks and anything stable, the hike was very strenuous 50-yards going down.

The 100-ft high waterfall cascade is beautiful, with many boulders and rock out-cropping.

Crashing water on the rocks is so loud, it is hard to hear.  I highly recommend making the trip to see this impressive water fall, as well as, Stumphouse Tunnel, which is nearby.

A wonderful weekend getaway with some of our barbecue family was relaxing and fun.

River Vista RV Resort is a wonderful campground with many things to do in the Georgia Blue Ridge Mountains.

Check out the quick video I made of the campground.

Read about other camping adventures at: Smokin J’s Barbeque RV Travel


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Successful Smokin’ Flamingo BBQ and Music Festival

Smokin J’s Barbeque spent five days at the Flamingo Lake RV Resort for the 6th Annual Smokin’ Flamingo BBQ & Music Festival.  It was a mini-vacation, for us; not just a barbecue competition.Flamingo Lake RV Resort / Smokin J's Barbeque

There have only been a few Georgia Barbecue sanctioned events at RV campgrounds and this was one hellva campground.  Over 285 full hook-up camping sites offering both 50 and 30 amp service, cable, sewer and water, along with 4 furnished cabins and two Yurts, provide diversified camping experiences (no tent camping allowed).

Other amenities at Flamingo Lake RV Resort include free wi-fi service, laundry facilities, a general store and a large Walmart within 5 minutes of the park.

For the kids, a large playground, swimming pool, a beach area on the lake, and a large rec hall are available.

The Sun Rise Cafe is located in the campground, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner 7 days a week, with delivery to your campsite, free of charge.

Site 80 Flamingo Lake RV Resort / Smokin J's Barbeque

Site 80 – campsites are very close together in most areas.

Although a large campground and sites to accommodate larger rigs, in some areas, the sites are extremely close together.  Close enough that you can hear your neighbor’s conversations.

Because the 17-acre resort is so large, golf-carts can be rented by the day, on-site.  Which during a barbecue competition, was a necessity for some teams.

Be aware, many sites are occupied by either full-time residents or “snow-birds…” those visitors traveling from up north, for a bit of Florida warmth.

Friday Night Steak Competition

Rib-eye steaks for Steak Cookoff Only our second steak competition, we are still learning the skills it takes to place in the top 10.  Disappointed in our “middle of the pack” placement, we might need to add a bit more salt to our meat.

However, we thought our steak was delicious – good enough to be our dinner on Friday night.




Barbecue Competition Main Event

The Florida Barbecue Association sanctioned the previous five barbecue festivals at Flamingo Lake in Jacksonville, Florida, however, the Georgia Barbecue Association sanctioned event attracted a record-setting 59 teams for the 2018 contest.

The best competition barbecue teams from Georgia and Florida competed for over $15,000.00 in payouts!  One of the largest in GBA history!

We were very proud of our 19th place overall performance.  Taking home a check and walking to the stage for 10th overall in the pork category.  We were just shy of receiving a check for our ribs, 12th overall.

Smokin Flamingo Pork Butt/Smokin J's Barbeque

10th place out of 59 teams for our pork butt entry.

We are still working on perfecting our loin submission, however, we will be taking a short break from the Georgia Barbecue Association until April.

Our next stop will be our first ever, Kansas City Barbecue Society competition in March, held in Lawerencville, Georgia.

Be sure to sign up for our emails to stay notified of our competition schedule.




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