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If you're new here, the FBA sanctions barbecue contests throughout the southeastern United States. What is a Sanctioned Barbecue Contest and what to do if you want to cook or judge one? Well, a Sanctioned Barbecue Contest is a gathering of cook teams that are preparing specific categories of meat, to be submitted for judging at an assigned time, and to be judged by persons certified by the sanctioning body to use a predetermined set of criteria to rank the product presented to them.

Or in plain English, a bunch of folks who get together, pay some money, cook some food, and hope the judges like it so they can win back the money they've spent to do this in the first place.

Sounds a little weird? Okay, it is; but it's weird in a really fun way. A sanctioned barbecue contest has its moments of absolute panic, intensive concentration, and calculated deliberations, but it also has a party atmosphere that will take you back to frat house keggers and weekend family barbecues. Despite the seriousness of the hours between ten in the morning and two o'clock in the afternoon, when the cooks are loading their turn-in boxes and praying to the gods of smoke, rub, and sauce, most sanctioned barbecue contests are more fun than a family reunion.

So how does it work? Well, the cook teams start arriving on Friday, usually after a preset opening time in the morning, but some contests can take you in on Thursday as well. Once the cook site is setup and ready for cooking, a representative - either an FBA Contest Rep or an inspector assigned by the contest organizer - will inspect your meat and, if there's no problem, tell you that you can start preparing your meat for cooking.

Friday night, there's always a cook team meeting around 5pm that you have to go to. After that, you're free to party. Cook dinner, drink adult beverages, play music, whatever you would normally do on a Friday night with a bunch of friends... well, not everything. Sanctioned contests are required to have a quiet time starting at 11pm for those serious cooks, but that just means you have to be quiet. You can sit around and swap recipes until dawn with anyone who'll listen, just as long as the folks nearby can sleep.

Saturday is the contest and rather than recap the rules, you should click here and read them. But suffice it to say, from ten o'clock in the morning when you start looking hard and long at your chicken and two o'clock in the afternoon when you put that brisket box on the turn-in table, all the fun is put on hold.

The winners will be announced late Saturday afternoon or early evening, awards will be presented, checks handed out, and the FBA Contest Reps will give you a score packet so you can tell how you did.

And that, in a nutshell, is a Sanctioned barbecue contest.

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