Monday, April 5, 2010

Competition Chicken

If you follow the various Competition BBQ forums you'll see a lot of discussion about the chicken category as it seems to be a sore spot for many teams. Since appearance is an important factor you see teams heavily processing chicken thighs to create extremely uniform, perfect rectangle pieces, that do look great in the box. Tippy Canoe BBQ has a very nice example here. However, some comment that this type of preparation looks artificial and really doesn't look like chicken.

The appearance score in KCBS is supposed to be judged on the appearance of the meat only (not the garnish). The few times I've judged I gave 9's in appearance to those entries that looked REALLY appetizing. It's a roll of the dice though. Some judges may tend to give a 9 in appearance because the box looks uniform, neat and tidy... others may give a 9 because the meat just looks really tasty.

Could the uniform chicken rectangles actually be a bit synthentic looking and not as appetizing as the imperfect pieces with features like bits of caramelized fat around the edges? Also, could the process of removing lots of fat in order to create the perfect rectangle actually be detrimental to the more heavily weighted judging criteria - Taste? I ran a practice cook this weekend where I tried to answer these questions.

I started out with some Wicked Good Charcoal and apple wood in a Big Green Egg in dire need of a good cleaning.

Each bag of WGC usually has at least one mammoth piece of lump.

The Naked Whiz claims it takes 4 pieces of newspaper to start WGC in a chimney. While WGC is definitely not the easiest charcoal to light, I usually get it started with only one sheet, it helps quite a bit to sit the chimney inside the BGE with plenty of open space underneath and the vent to the BGE wide open.

I used Plowboys Yardbird rub and Blues Hog Tennessee Red (and drank a few Harpoons)

Prep entailed taking the chicken out of the packaging

Apply bbq dry rub

And that's it. No trimming, scraping or molding the chicken at all.

A bit of sauce applied at the end of the cook and we had some very tasty, very nice looking chicken that I believe could score 9's in taste, tenderness AND appearance with very little fuss, and it looked like real chicken.