MBN Contest Judging Information information provided by Big Tom
The following is some information compiled to help clarify any concerns about the judging & scoring process for the MBN sanctioned contests.
Some of the information is from the MIM judges training book, other information is from experience. MBN is a contest network that has evolved from the original MIM.
The judging and scoring fundamentals are the same. Most of this information centers on the Rib and Shoulder categories. Many of the same principals will apply to the whole hog,
with consideration that all of the meat used for the judging process will come from the single whole hog.
Quantities of meats for the contest: For shoulders we will cook six to eight 15 – 16 lb. avg. shoulders and one 30 lb. case of 2-1/4 down loin back ribs (15 racks to the case).
Shoulder usage will be 1 or 2 for the blind box. We will also display 4 shoulders to the 3 on-site judges. Most teams elect to serve each on-site judge their own whole shoulder.
You can either bring the shoulder to the table or allow the judge to observe the meat being pulled from the specific shoulder that is designated.
Depending upon what we do with the blind box we could have 2 shoulders to use for the finals, if needed.
Rib usage will be 3-5 racks to assemble the blind box. We begin the on-site with 4 or 5 racks to present to the judges. The remainder may be used to keep the grill presentation looking full.
There are also 4 racks that will be designated for finals. We like to serve each finals judge their own rack.
The blind judging for each category will take place at the same time of the on-site judging. You will be instructed of turn in times for each category.
Absolutely no decorations or garnish is allowed in the blind boxes. You can sauce, baste or dust with some rub, if it is not done in a way to identify your sample.
The shoulder blind box should be assembled using good size chunks of meat. I try to have a 50/50 mix of chunks with bark and without.
The large chunks will retain moisture better than small pieces or even chopped meat. Be very cautious of any pieces with visible fat; judges can be very critical of that.
For a whole hog you would be expected to serve portions of the ham, shoulder and loin. The loin could be cut into medallions for placement in the blind box.
No skin or bones are allowed in the blind box for whole hog.
That is an example of a shoulder box. You can also turn in more than one sauce with the blind box. You should be certain that the sauce(s) you turn in do compliment the meat.
The judges will be instructed to determine which sauce they prefer (if multiples) and then to judge and score the flavor including the sauce.
You may also give some regional consideration to your sauce selections to try and suit the judge’s tastes.
For the shoulder or hog category you are almost expected to turn in a sauce with the meat.
There are many different ways to cut & section the ribs to build the blind box. Most teams will section the rack of ribs into portions that consist of 3 pieces of meat and 2 bones.
This allows judges to pull the bones apart to check for doneness and tenderness. The 2 bone portions can be arranged in the box to make an attractive presentation.
Presently the trend is to serve wet ribs; you don’t necessarily have to submit a sauce with the blind ribs. The same instructions will apply, if you offer a sauce the judges are to judge and score with the extra sauce.
Blind Judging and Scoring
The blind samples will be judged on the following criteria: Appearance of entry, Tenderness, Flavor and Overall Impression. All of the judging is comparative of the samples for the day.
Appearance of entry is scored by how well the entry looks in the box. How does the bark look, smoke ring?
Most judges at the table like to look at all boxes at once to determine the appearance, before they all start eating out of them.
Tenderness criteria is where the judges are looking to see if the meat is moist, they also check the texture, look for fat not rendered, check the degree of doneness, etc.
In the blind ribs the judges will look for the meat pulling from the bone clean and easily, not falling off the bone.
Flavor is going to be which of the samples tastes best; the combination of the meat and the sauce.
The judges will be sampling the meat after it has been sitting in the blind box for 10-15 minutes; be sure the meat is as warm as possible to retain heat.
Overall impression is the only truly subjective criteria. This is when the judge will actually rank the samples and is scored with a decimal (ex: the top sample would get 10.0).
The judging manual describes this criterion as a place to record differences in performance between teams that offer samples that are equal or nearly equal.
The other criteria scores can be duplicated for the other samples. The judge will only be allowed to score one 10.0 in the overall. The overall impression is not supposed to be an average of the other scores given to an entry.
A good tip for all blind boxes is to carry them in an insulated carrier, such as a pizza delivery bag.
The on-site judging is the portion of the MIM/MBA events that has many competitors intimidated.
The on-site judging will be scored in 6 criteria; the same 4 criteria as in the blind with the addition of Area & personal appearance and Presentation.
The 3 on-site judges will go to their assigned teams in a specific order in 20 minute intervals. The judges will be instructed to spend a minimum of 10 minutes and a maximum of 15 minutes.
Have your presentation timed and rehearsed to last about 12-14 minutes. This is your chance to sell your product to the judges.
Area & Personal Appearance is all about how neat and clean everything in the cook site is. The team does not have to have matching outfits; but everyone should have on clean shirts and aprons if used.
You also want to have the area well policed for any trash, cigarette butts, etc. You don’t have to use crystal & china to score well, as long as the table setting is clean and appealing.
Keep all the trash cans out of sight from the cooking and eating area.
Presentation will be scored based on how well the team transfers information to the judge about the cooking process, preparations, sauces & rubs, the team, times, temperatures and etc.
The presentation does not have to be truthful but should be believable.
If you tell of any special ingredients or techniques the judge may expect that (what ever it may be) to be detectable in the product. You can also incorporate multiple presenters during the presentation to the judge.
The judge is going to expect to be informed about specifics of the meat, prep techniques, cooking time and temperatures and the type of wood/coal used and about the selection of the cooker.
Appearance of the Entry is scored by how the product(s) look on the cooker.
For the on-site judging you can decorate and garnish the grill.
The judge will also judge this based on how well the product looks when it is brought to the table.
The cooks will be instructed to serve the judge the meat that was shown on the grill. A couple of examples of some grill decorations are:
Tenderness is the same consideration as mentioned above in the Blind judging information.
The judges will look for the meat to be tender and pull cleanly from the bone; for the shoulders they may want to pull on some of the bones, or you can offer that option to them to demonstrate the level of doneness.
The correct tenderness that they are looking for is meat that will pull clean from the bone with a gentle pull but still retains its body (not mush).
A seasoned judge will try and pull the meat apart across the grain to test the tenderness.
Another on-site presentation trick is to allow the boned pulled from the shoulder to sit on a plate and bleach out to a white shade as the residual heat dries the moisture from the bone(s).
Flavor is the combination of the meat and the sauce.
The sauce could be added before, during or after the cooking process.
Any sauce you offer or display at the table may be subject to the judging and scoring.
Sauces are not required.
Overall Impression this is the place for the judge to reflect a completely subjective score that would sum up the total experience of judging the entry.
All of the scoring is done on a 10 point system and is comparative for the samples of that day.
A 10 does not mean the sample is perfect it is an excellent sample, the best in an individual criterion for the samples of that day.
The judges are instructed to start your scoring with all 10’s; and take any deductions from there.
Judges are allowed to score 10’s in all the criteria for the teams/entries of that day except the Overall Impression, as mentioned before that is where the judge has to score any differences.
The preliminary blind and on-site scores for each category are compiled to identify the top 3 teams for each category and establish the rankings for the rest of the teams.
The traditional finals judging is done on-site only by a team of 4 judges traveling together to the top 3 teams for each meat category.
You would present and serve all 4 judges at the same time.
Some contests are electing to experiment with an all blind judged finals.
The teams that are in the finals will be notified of the estimated time that the finals judges will be at the team site.
The same time limits also apply in the finals round.
All of the same criteria are used for the finals as in the preliminary on-site judging; the only exception is that all scores are to a decimal value.
In the finals round all of the entries are competing against each other for the Grand Champion award.
There may still be specific questions, feel free to ask.
Hope that helps!