Barbecue Competition: KCBS verses GBA

We have completed our first KCBS {Kansas City Barbecue Society} barbecue competition and it was a whole different ballgame, compared to the GBA {Georgia Barbecue Association}, the sanctioning group to which we were accustomed.

Kansas City Barbecue Society Logo

Georgia Barbecue Association Logo








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

Competition Meat

The main difference between GBA and KCBS is the meat categories for barbecue 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, from 11:30 am to 1:30 pm, it is crazy!

Being organized is the 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 the pressure, JoAnn was relieved to discover, it really is not that difficult.

The comment cards we received gave us perfect scores on appearance.

Judging Barbecue Competitions

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) is 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 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 with 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 a very tough competition.

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

  More info at South Carolina Festival of Discovery





  • Shelby

    Hey JoAnn, the weather today is pretty nice, I think rain tomorrow, so Cecil , Joel and my brother Jimmy are on the way here with two and a half wild hogs ( the half is a little one ) that they caught in their cage, and good recipes ?? lol

    • JoAnn

      Have fun field dressing those hogs! If smoking the whole hog, place bacon throughout the interior cavity. A quick, delicious rub with just a hint of heat is Bad Bryon’s Butt Rub. It has a mixture of spices and you can apply easily.
      If you are going to grind some up and make sausage, I have a great recipe I could send you!

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