Barbecue 101 for the Brenau Barbecue Championship May 24-25 on Brenau University’s Gainesville Campus
Here are the top 10 things you need to know about the Brenau Barbecue Championship:
What is the Brenau Barbecue Championship?
Now in its fifth year, the Brenau Barbecue Championship is a fundraiser for a scholarship fund for local students. Jim Barco, the event’s coordinator, initially envisioned the competition as way to combine the university’s mission with the iconic stature that barbecue and its cooking methods have in the South. In his words, it’s a community events organized around a barbecue competition. This year, close to 40 professional and amateur cooking teams will be on hand for the competition portion of the event.
When is the event and how can I attend?
The event begins with a preview party and concert at 6 p.m. on Friday, May 24. The main event starts at 10 a.m. on Saturday, May 25 when more than 4,000 people are expected on Brenau University’s Gainesville campus.
The preview party costs $10. Admission to the all-day Saturday event is just $5. Tickets can be purchased at the door.
What is the Memphis Barbecue Network?
The Memphis Barbecue Network is largest pork-only barbecue sanctioning organizations in the world, overseeing contests in the U.S. and Canada as well as managing a network of training sessions for contest sponsors and judges. The MBN is made up of contest representatives with over 80 years of combined barbecue experience in large and small contests.
What is the Georgia Barbecue Association?
Founded in 2006 by several barbecue lovers in Middle Georgia, the Georgia Barbecue Association now touts itself as the South’s newest barbecue competition sanctioning organization. Today, the organization boasts over 200 members, more than 100 certified judges and 80 competition cook teams.
What is the difference between the two competitions?
Both associations judge three different categories of pork with divisions for both professionals and amateurs. The MBN categories are (1) Barbecue, which is fresh or frozen but uncured pork meat cook only over wood or charcoal fire; (2) Whole Hog, which must be cooked as one complete unit or one grill surface; and (3) Pork Ribs, which includes spare ribs and loin ribs only.
Entries in the Georgia Barbecue Association competition include (1) Pork Ribs, which includes loin, baby back or spare ribs; (2) Pork Loin, which can be bone in or bone out; and (3) Pork, which could include whole shoulder, Boston butts, picnic hams or whole hams.
Some teams plan to compete in both competitions. Each offers bragging rights and cash prizes.
What are the criteria for being a judge at the Brenau Barbecue Championship?
Both the Memphis Barbecue Network and the Georgia Barbecue Association circuits have specific criteria in place for judges, and all judges at Brenau event have been trained and certified to know what to look for. Judges for the Memphis portion of the competition are from different states to give it some geographic diversity.
What are the judges looking for when evaluating an entry?
A judge will evaluate an entry on four key points: (1) Appearance – does the entry look good? (2) Tenderness – how easily does the meat pull off the bone? (3) Flavor – does it have a satisfying taste? and (4) Overall Impression – how does it compare to other entries in the same category? Winners in each category compete against each other for the grand champion title.
What do the winners receive?
The two grand champions – one from MBN and one from GBA – will receive automatic entry into the World Food Championships in Las Vegas in November. This four-day feature will showcase the best cooks in multiple food categories, such as best sandwich, best side dish, best burger and, of course, best barbecue. The category champions then compete against each other for a $300,000 grand prize and the title of World Food Champion.
Will I be able to eat any barbecue at the event?
Of course. Two vendors will be selling their barbecue during the event. Rick’s Smokin’ Pig of Gainesville and Dixie Que of Macon will also be competing in the competition as well as selling their barbecue.
In addition, all competing teams are encouraged to share samples with the public. Attendees who partake in the samples are encouraged to drop a small donation into the tip jar at each tent to help the teams offset the cost of the meat.
And, if for some reason, you are not a barbecue aficionado, Aramark, Brenau University’s food services provider, will be selling hamburgers and hot dogs and other vendors will be selling Italian sausage and unique treats like fried Oreos.
What else will there be to do?
Although the event is primarily a barbecue competition, Brenau has worked hard to make the event something for everyone. In addition to the barbecue and other foods for sale, the event will feature booths selling crafts, art, jewelry, soaps and pottery. It’s also kid-friendly, and the venue will feature inflatable bounces houses to keep the kids active. Live music from North Georgia bands like Riverstreet, Back in Time and the North Hall High School jazz band will be playing during the preview party and the festival Saturday.