Got to thinking the other day, why do so many people choose to judge every piece of BBQ they eat like they are some sort of all-supreme bbq judging deity?
Before I get too far, let me state that if you are at contest judging, then by all means take every bite, smell, taste as serious as possible. That’s why your there. You owe it to the cooks and the organizers and ultimately yourself to do your best to judge the tastes, smells, textures…to the best of your ability.
What I’m talking about is the person who walks into a restaurant and orders a ½ lb of brisket. Or maybe pulls over at a roadside stand for a pork sandwich, or is eating ribs at a ribfest on a hot summer evening. They carefully analyze and scrutinizes every millimeter of this piece of meat. With perfectly choreographed fingers, the rib bone or brisket slice is twirled and spun so the front side and back side and all over can be analyzed. Then the morsel is placed between the teeth, and they gently try to glide through the meat like a precision cutting instrument. The bite is savored and the palate absorbs all sorts of complex flavors…intertwining of sauce and rub…the subtle hints of smoke…is it hickory….
It’s a rib. It’s a pile of pork. It’s a couple hunks of brisket. Some pit boss cooked it for you. It’s BBQ, now just eat it. BBQ is made to be enjoyed not analyzed.
Ironically, competition cooks are often the most likely to break this rule of BBQ etiquette. We spend so much time seeking perfection that we can never really shut it off no matter where we go. We are constantly comparing how this stacks up against our own ribs. The nature of most competition BBQ is to impress people (read judges) with one bite. It all comes down to that single opportunity to connect with and impress the judges. Formulating opinion about BBQ with one bite is absurd. At a contest, there is no choice. But if you’re not at contest, eat it like it’s meant to be eaten, an indulgence in porcine or bovine morsels that are consumed with gluttonous abandon that would have made Roman royalty envious.
Recall the first time you started preparing BBQ food for people. You saw their eyes roll back in the head. You heard the guttural grown of pleasure. You saw the eyes light up and you watched them dive back in for another helping of B A R B E C U E. The burliest men, the frailest of females, all react the same way. They dive in for more. Fresh pieces taste the best, and the best way to taste the BBQ is make sure you’re getting a new morsel often. But this one bite habit has to end, one bite…huh…how in the world can you think that’s the way BBQ should be consumed.
Next time you go into a BBQ restaurant and you order up a rack of ribs, dive in like you’re supposed to do. Leave the overly analytical efforts for the judging table. Pick up a bone, eat the meat off, grab another bone, repeat. You will feel better about eating it, and the pit boss or owner or just the worker there will notice how much you’re enjoying your meal and that is the thanks they crave.