By Stephanie West, MABA Vice-President and “The Neck” Pitmaster for Team 270 Smokers
For years, I couldn’t walk out of a BBQ store without a half dozen bottles of the latest rubs and sauces. No doubt, with just a tweak of this or that (or as we jokingly say “Blues Hog plus….”), we could surely hit on just the right flavor profile to win over those 6 judges! How easily I was distracted by “hope in a bottle!”
The fact is, our time is better spent focusing on tenderness (even though it’s a mathematical contradiction with the KCBS scoring system). After 21 comps in 2015, our team is convinced that judges nationwide are much more consistent in their interpretation and scoring of “tenderness” than they are in “taste”. And they have a hard time getting beyond a lapse in “tenderness”, no matter how tasty your super special secret rub and sauce may be! Great sauce on tough meat seems like putting lipstick on a pig–a diversion that is usually fairly pointless!
We spent the last six months dialing in how to consistently render a brisket so that slices from the flat drape over our finger and the burnt ends are soft as marshmallows while having no visible fat–not an easy feat–and for the most part, leaving the flavor profile alone (sticking with the flavor rule of “offend no one”). Now, even with variation in the raw meat (marbling, weight, and thickness) from brisket to brisket, we seem to consistently nail tenderness. The result? We’ve shifted our mean brisket score up by 4 points and reduced the spread from +/- 11 pts to +/- 6 pts, meaning, we’re more competitive and more predictable. The journey isn’t done, but we’re on the right path for more calls and more cash!
I’m the pitmaster for Brown Liquor BBQ. I’m also a MABA and KCBS member for five years and a certified barbecue judge. My team has been competing five years and it’s become an absolute passion of mine. MABA is an organization that I strongly believe in, support, and want to see grow.
My occupation running a membership department for a trade association I feel suits me very well to take on a leadership role with MABA. I’ve worked for many types of non-profit associations for over 15 years and I have knowledge and experience in the way associations work and their purpose for the members they serve. I currently lead a membership department for a floral trade association that represents a very diverse membership that includes growers in many other countries, wholesalers, suppliers, and retail florists. I say this because I believe that MABA’s growth potential lies in getting many types of individuals and businesses involved to help grow barbecue…ALL barbecue, not just the many competition cooks but also judges, backyard enthusiasts, suppliers, manufacturers, mom and pop shops, and even other barbecue associations.
I get excited when I think about the talented and fine people in the Mid-Atlantic and vast resources and expertise we have right here that we can tap to help grow MABA. I want to see MABA be the best regional barbecue association in the nation and grow at the same pace that KCBS and barbecue in general has.