Gettin’ Ready for the Royal

BBQ Cooler

This week we’re heading west to Kansas City Missouri for the “World Series of Barbecue” the American Royal.  This is our first ever trip to the Royal and I’m already getting excited to cook in both the Invitational and Open BBQ Contests.

Of course it takes a lot of preparation and planning for a bbq adventure like this, so for this week’s newsletter, I wanted to talk about the one and only thing that’s been on my mind… getting ready for the Royal!

Unlike most out of town contests the Royal is going to be two events in one.  We’ll cook all four KCBS categories on Saturday and then turn around and do it all over again on Sunday.

This is a first for Waylon and me, so we really don’t know what to expect.  I’ve heard all sorts of rumors about the judging, huge crowds, and the nightmare of it all; so we’re going to do our thing and let the c ards fall where they fall.

You can’t go into a contest like this with any kind of expectations; we know that lady luck is going to have to be on our side if we’re going to hear our name called.

For every contest we devise a game plan of sorts to make sure everything runs as smooth as possible.

It starts with the supply list.  After taking inventory of items on hand, I go over the list and make note of items that we’ll need.  It helps me to have specific totes dedicated for these supplies.  This makes it easier not only for storage but also when it comes time to locate something.  I use clear totes with locking lids because they’re easy to see through and have a small foot print when it comes to packing.

Once I get the supplies handled, it’s time to think about the meat.  Now you’ll see some contests that advertise local meat suppliers where you can order and pick up the meat on site or close by the contest.

I never rely on this option because you just don’t know what kind of meat you’ll get.  It’s best to hand select everything you’re going to cook prior to arriving at the contest; plus you have the added benefit of being able to properly trim everything before you get there.  This helps out more than you realize.

If you run into problems, you have the option to go back to the butcher or local store and replace it.  Once you’re onsite this is a challenge.

To keep the meat as fresh as possible after trimming, I vacuum seal it.  The food saver brand vacuum sealer has been a valuable piece of equipment in my book.  Since I’ve started using it, I’ve never had a problem with spoiled meat or leaky bags.

The day before we hit the road; I’ll tri m all four categories and store it in the refrigerator.  The next morning it goes on ice in a marine cooler, and there’s no worrying about it.

One thing to note is if you’re trimming at home make sure you include the tag from the original packaging.  Some contest reps look for the tag during meat inspection.  Simply cut the tags off and stick them in the bag with the meat so it’s visible.  I’ve never had a problem with this during inspection.

After the meat is trimmed, it’s time to jump on the injections, sauces, and marinades.  This is another step that when done ahead, frees up valuable time which allows us to concentrate on cooking.

I keep a separate cooler ready for these item s and nothing else goes in there.  This cooler stays in a safe spot along with the meat cooler.  Also make sure to store these liquids in bottles or jars with tight fitting lids.  You never know when someone will rummage through your cooler looking for a beer and knock over everything in there.  It’s no fun finding a cooler full of your competition sauce!

Once everything is trimmed, bottled, and iced down I feel like half the battle is won.  The only thing left is packing the truck and trailer.  This is when I break out my final list.  It contains everything that we could possible need for the weekend (of course there’s always something we forget).

Taking the time to prepare for the contest beforehand has drastically improved our finishes.  Our list of supplies and equipment is ever changing but without it the job would be much more difficult.  I guarantee if you put in the tim e before you get to a contest, your results will improve.

About Malcolm (the Author)

For over a decade now Malcom Reed has been competing in barbecue competitions... and it didn't take long for this hobby to develop into a full-blown addiction. After being inspired by the comradery and brotherhood of the sport, Malcom developed, a website devoted to sharing BBQ techniques and promoting the Competition BBQ Lifestyle. Through his cooking team, The Killer Hogs, and his barbecue business, Malcom is a constant student of 'Que... and his goal is to and his goal is to share his knowledge and passion with everyone.