Below is a BBQ glossary of common terms used in the barbecue community, especially at barbecue competitions.
This is a method commonly used for cooking ribs. It means cooking 3 hours unwrapped, 2 hours wrapped and then 1 hour unwrapped with sauce.
Meat in Australia is graded on a quality scale from 1-9. An A9 is the highest grade meat can receive and is usually only found in wagyu beef. Some pitmasters will use a wagyu brisket with an A9 grade to ensure they’re starting with great quality.
Some contests offer ancillary contests, which is a category other than chicken, ribs, pork and brisket. This can include sauce, dessert or other proteins like turkey or sausage.
Bark is the mahogany crust that forms on the outside of meat as it smokes.
A vertical smoker made out of a barrel.
When you pick up a rack of cooked ribs, you want it to have a natural bend. If the rack doesn’t easily bend, it’s undercooked. If it bends so much that it breaks, it’s overcooked.
When your wood or charcoal is burning clean, the smoke will have a slightly blue hue to it.
The white Styrofoam box provided by contest reps that you use to turn in your meat entry. Everyone gets the same type of box to keep the judging blind.
A full packer brisket includes two muscles. The point and the flat. The point is the fattier, thicker cut used to make burnt ends.
A full packer brisket includes two muscles. The point and the flat. The flat is the thinner, leaner cut used to make brisket slices.
Build a Box
The art of filling a Styrofoam box with greens and at least six pieces of meat for the judges to taste.
While burnt ends were originally known as the crispy ends of the brisket that were slightly overcooked and full of bark, on the circuit burnt ends are created when you cook the point end of the brisket. The meat is cut into symmetrical cubes and usually brushed with sauce.
When someone says they hope to get a call, it means they hope to hear their name called at the awards ceremony.
Cambro is a brand name. The company makes insulated food tray carriers that keep meat hot or cold for hours. Pitmasters place their meat in the carrier after its cooked to keep it warm before turn ins.
Different barbecue organizations issue points based on how a team finishes. These points are used to determine the team of the year. When a team is chasing points, it means they’re trying to get more points to earn that title.
A charcoal chimney is a metal cylinder used for lighting charcoal. It has about a three-inch gap on the bottom that allows for air flow. You add your charcoal to the chimney and place a lighter cube under the chimney. Once the charcoal starts to ash over you dump it into your smoker.
Teams compete on the barbecue circuit, which is a collection of barbecue competitions throughout the year.
Compart is company that specializes in Duroc pork. Duroc is a breed known for producing high quality pork.
Contest is another name for a barbecue competition.
DAL stands for Dead Ass Last, meaning last place.
The deckle is another term for the brisket point. More specifically however, it is the hard fat near the point that connects the brisket to the rib cage.
A drum is a smoker built using an oil drum with the addition of an air intake and exhaust. Drums are also referred to as UDS or ugly drum smokers.
Fall off the Bone
This is when the meat (usually on ribs) is so tender that it falls of the bone with little effort. In competition barbecue, fall off the bone is considered overcooked.
Pitmasters will grind up their favorite rubs into a fine powder and sprinkle it on cooked meat just before boxing. The finishing dust gives the meat a final, delicate pop.
First place overall.
The greens that you put in a turn-in box.
The green lettuce or herbs that you add to a turn-in box. Check with your sanctioning body to see what greens are allowed.
A disposable 13 x 9 aluminum pan.
Instead of smoking ribs flat on a grate, some pitmasters hang them from a bar in the smoker, using rib hooks.
After meat is cooked, pitmasters hot hold it in a Cambro or cooler without ice. In this environment, the meat holds its temperature so it is still warm for turn-in time.
Hot N Fast
Cooking barbecue at temperatures at or above 300F degrees. When cooking at higher temps, the meat cooks faster.
Pitmasters use a syringe to inject a brine into meat before smoking it. Most brines are made with a combination of water and phosphates.
Jambo is a company that makes a line of custom offset barbecue pits that range in price from $2,600-$15,000.
A kamado is a ceramic cooker shaped like an egg. The grill does a great job at holding in heat and moisture. Multiple companies make kamado-style cookers including Big Green Egg.
Kansas City Barbeque Society
Lollipop is a specific method for butchering chicken drumsticks. It’s when the meat on the thin end is removed and the thick end remains, leaving the chicken in the shape of a meat lollipop.
Lump charcoal is wood that has been pre-burned to remove sap and moisture. What’s left is a piece of charcoal that burns clean with little ash.
This is layer silverskin found on the back of a rack of ribs. It doesn’t render when you cook it, so it yields a tough bite. You want to remove it before cooking your ribs. To do this, grab a corner with a paper towel and pull it off.
Money muscle is a coveted piece of the pork butt that is located on the opposite end as the bone. It has characteristics similar to a pork loin. Teams often slice the money muscle into medallions or chunks for their pork turn in.
A mop is a blend of liquids and spices used to add moisture to meat. It is either applied with a mop brush during cooking or it is poured into a foil wrap after the bark has developed.
An offset smoker is a smoker with a fire box set off to the side. The heat and smoke travels from the fire box into the cooking chamber and out the other side through an exhaust.
A one-bite challenge is an ancillary category at some contests. While this doesn’t count toward the overall title, it gives teams an opportunity to showcase a creative recipe. The concept is to limit the judge’s serving size to one bite. However, many teams will turn in full jalapeno poppers or armadillo eggs, which are larger than one bite.
People’s Choice (PC)
Some competitions offer a People’s Choice category where teams serve barbecue to the crowd. Teams earn money for the number of tickets they collect, and the crowd selects their favorite team based on sales or votes.
Pit is a slang term for a smoker.
A pitmaster is a cook who manages the fire of the pit (see above) while cooking meat.
In America, beef can receive a grade of select, choice or prime. Prime is the highest grade, meaning the beef has more intramuscular marbling, which yields a better flavor.
When pitmasters probe their meat, it means that they pierce the meat with a thermometer, usually a Thermapen (see below). Sometimes they probe the meat to actually check the temperature, but sometimes they probe the meat to feel how much resistance they get, which helps determine how close the meat is to being done.
Sanctioned contests are monitored by representatives from the sanctioning body to ensure all rules are followed.
Reserve Grand Champion
Second place overall.
A sanctioning body is an organization that creates rules and standards for barbecue competitions, such as Kansas City Barbeque Society, South Carolina Barbeque Association, Memphis Barbecue Network, Florida BBQ Association, Georgia Barbecue Association, International Barbeque Cookers Association and Steak Cookoff Association.
Steak Cookoff Association
When turning in chicken thighs, it’s important for the skin to be bite through. Since the skin on a thigh can be thick and rubbery, teams will scrape the fat off the skin so it will render more quickly.
Shiggin’ is when a cook spies on another team to try to learn their techniques or what products they use.
A shiner is a bone that sticks out of the top of a rack of ribs. This happens during the butcher process. When you select a rack of ribs, you want an even layer of meat on top – with no shiners.
When meat is smoked, a red ring will form just under the bark surface. This is caused by a chemical reaction between the myoglobin in the meat and the nitric oxide created from the fuel source.
To keep meat moist, cooks may squirt or spritz the meat with liquid throughout the cook. Some cooks use water while others create custom blends using ingredients like apple cider vinegar, apple juice or even beer.
St. Louis Cut
This is a cut of pork ribs that most teams turn in to the judges. It comes from the belly side of the hog and is flatter than baby back ribs. You can buy St. Louis Cut ribs at the store, or you can buy pork spare ribs and remove the pork brisket or rib tips.
When smoking meat, especially brisket, the internal temperature may plateau or stall for a couple of hours. This is caused when the internal meat evaporates and cools the meat from the inside. You can use the Texas Crutch to help bust through the stall.
A stick burner is a barbecue pit that uses wood for fuel.
Snake River Farms. This company specializes in Wagyu beef. Many winning cooks use SRF Black or Gold graded briskets.
Tennessee Red is a vinegar and pepper-based sauce from Blue’s Hog often used in mops for pork and ribs.
Once brisket hits the stall stage (between 150-170F degrees), cooks will wrap the brisket in foil or peach paper with liquid to break through the stall more quickly. This technique is called the Texas Crutch.
A Thermapen is an instant-read thermometer used by many cooks on the circuit.
When meat is undercooked, it is often referred to as tight. This means that when you take a bite, there is still some resistance.
When it’s time to turn your barbecued meat into the judges, it’s called the turn in. The container you put the meat in is called a turn-in box.
Wagyu is a breed of beef originally from Japan. It has an extreme amount of intramuscular marbling, which yields very flavorful results.
To be called a world champion, you have to win one of the following barbecue contests: The American Royal, The Jack, The Houston Rodeo or Memphis in May.
After meat has formed a bark, teams will wrap the meat in foil or peach paper with liquid to speed up the cooking process and to lock in moisture.