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Cooking at a Sanctioned Barbecue Contest
Photos by Jimmy Brod - Head cook of the Smokin' Cracker BBQ Team

Cooking at a Sanctioned Barbecue Contest is quite different from cooking at home. Sure you can tote all the necessary utensils and even outfit an RV to be your "kitchen away from home," but this type of cooking has more in common with camping out. Water comes from a hose, electricity from an extension cord, and ice will be delivered in ten-pound bags rather than a tray in the freezer.

What do you take with you to the contest? The simple answer is, "more than you think you'll need." There are plenty of lists floating around the internet; search for them and you'll be amazed at what you might never have thought to bring. And even with all of the lists combined and cataloged, you'll still find that you've forgotten something critical to the cooking process, five minutes after you unpack at your cook site! Fortunately, most contests are in close proximity to civilization and you'll be able to buy everything you forgot to bring... including your meat!

You're never alone at a contest for long. One of the things that makes the whole experience fun is the camaraderie that exists there. Sure, everyone is out to win, but more than that, everyone wants to have a good time and see even the losing teams come back and try again. The contest site becomes a village where you live outside in the open for a few days. New friends just wander into your cook site, often with a cold beer in hand. Advice is plentiful, especially from the seasoned cooks, so there's no fear for the novice of making a mistake that everyone else has already made... numerous times.

And when it's time to get serious don't worry, you will. The Friday night hangover will vanish on Saturday morning, just about an hour before you start building your Chicken box. Sure, it'll come back five minutes after the Brisket is turned in that afternoon, but in between you won't even notice if the sun is shining or not. And when it's all over and you've collapsed in your most comfortable folding chair with a cold drink in your hand, you'll look around the contest site and wonder why you waited so long to try this in the first place.

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