Holy Smokes leadership created this webpage with the express purpose of passing on our years of award winning barbecue knowledge and experience. As competitors ourselves we understand how frustrating it can be to receive a low score on a category you managed for the entire weekend, so we created this page to help educate and promote KCBS competition style cooking.

If you remember anything from this page we hope you remember these three simple but effective points if you want high scores:

  1. Smoking meat at 240° usually takes between 1 1/2 to 2 hours per pound, so plan accordingly.
  2. Holy Smoke's judges are trained Kansas City Barbecue Society (KCBS) judges. Adapt your flavor profile to KCBS judging.
  3. Strive for a balance of flavors. Don't try to K.O. a judge with a ton of flavor or smoke. Balance grasshopper, balance.


KCBS Award Winning Rubs

The best rubs are often a balance of strong and mild spices and herbs that enhance the flavor of the meat without being overbearing. One seasoning should not stand out above the others. You want judges to taste the flavor of the great meat you purchased especially for them, enhanced by a balance of flavors.

  • Smoking Guns Hot
  • Plowboys Yardbird Rub
  • Butcher's Premium BBQ Rub
  • Cimarron Doc's Gourmet & Bar-B-Q Seasoning
  • EAT BBQ Rubs

KCBS Award Winning Sauces

These sauces are proven winners. Be sure to heat your sauce before you apply it to competition meat.

  • Blues Hog Original Sauce
  • Joe's Kansas City BBQ Sauce
  • Cimarron Doc's Bar-B-Q Sauce
  • Rufus Teague Honey Sweet
  • EAT BBQ Sauces


Sausage (3:50 - 4pm Turn In)

Bacon, ham or any other meat are not allowed to be on, around, or placed inside the sausage.

Sausage cannot be pre-cooked and does not need to be ground and/or stuffed on-site.

The goal for sausage is to make a sausage loaf stuffed with sautéed vegetables and some cheese. We recommend using prepackaged bulk sausage, not the kind already in a casing so you can mix the sausage with additional ingredients without needing to separate the links from their casings. You also want to buy sausage that tastes like sausage, not a specialty flavor like maple.

Example Sausage Cooking Schedule (1 Hour Prep, 1 ½ Hour Cook)

Before noon - Prep the sausage. Place the sausage loaves in a cooler.

1pm - Preheat your smoker to 300°. Lightly apply rub to the sausages.

2pm - Smoke the sausage.

2:50pm - Heat the sauce.

3:05pm - Apply the sauce, covering the entire sausage.

3:20pm - Flip the sausages over, creating a nice even grill mark appearance.

3:35pm - Sausages off; Make the turn in box.

3:50pm - Turn in!

Additional Info:

Watch Diva Q's Competition Sausage Video

View Sausage Turn In Boxes

Pork Ribs

Pork Ribs (4:20 - 4:30pm Turn In)

The fat should not be in large pockets but evenly distributed over the entire area of each rib. Do not buy racks that have shiners, which are bones showing on the top part of the meat denoting a bad trim job by the packing plant. Make sure the bones go down in a straight line within the meat and don’t curve at the end, making the cutting and final presentation difficult.


Example Pork Ribs Cooking Schedule (1 Hour Prep, 4 Hour Cook)

The Night Before the Comp - Trim the ribs. Place the ribs in a cooler or refrigerator when done.

11am - Preheat your smoker to 280°. Apply your rub to the ribs. Soak the wood chunks.

12:25pm - Add soaked wood chunks for smoke. Place ribs in the smoker meat side up.

2:25pm - Foil the ribs, place them in the smoker meat side down and cook for one hour.

3:25pm - Unfoil the ribs and reapply rub to bare areas.

3:30pm - Heat the rib glaze.

3:55pm - Lightly apply the rib glaze.

4:25pm - Remove ribs from smoker; Trim ribs; Make the turn in box.

4:30pm - Turn in ribs

Additional Info:

Listen to the BBQ Central Show Ribs Roundtable.

Watch All Things BBQ Competition Spare Ribs Video

View Rib Turn in Boxes

Tenderloin / Butts

Pork Tenderloin or Butt (4:50 - 5pm Turn In)

    Pork Tenderloin

    The tenderloin is muscle cut from the spine of the pig and is very lean and tender. Look for white fat and pink meat. Buy two 1lb 8oz packages (1 ½ lbs) of unseasoned center cut loin meat, which will be used for slices in the pork butt / tenderloin box.

    Pork Butt

    Buy bone-in butts (butts are the bottom half of a pork shoulder) that are red in color and have white marbling. Look for a large money muscle, which is the best part of the butt. It is the striped muscle at the opposite end from the bone, right in front. Make sure there are no blood pockets or bone fragments on the pork butt.

Pork Injection Recipes

Here are three very good pork injection recipes:

Example 7-8lb Pork Butts Cooking Schedule (Overnight Prep, 13 Hour Cook)


Right after set up - Prep the pork butts. Place them in a cooler.



2:35am - Preheat your smoker to 240°. Apply rub to the butts.

3:35am - Place the meat in the smoker fat side down.

10:50am - Foil if the butts have a good bark (around 160°). Return butts to smoker.

1:50pm - Check for tenderness. Foil when done and place in hot box to rest.

3:50pm - Heat your sauce on the smoker.

4pm - Un-foil pork butts and add to smoker fat side down. Paint butts with sauce.

4:30pm - Remove butts and sauce from smoker.

4:40pm - Separate the money muscle and chunks by the bone. Paint both with sauce and some rub before placing in the turn in box.

4:50pm - Turn in!

Additional Info:

Listen to the BBQ Central Show Pork Roundtable.

Watch All Things BBQ Competition Pork Butt Video

View Pork Turn in Boxes


Briskets can be either flats or whole packers.

No other type of beef is acceptable in the brisket category.

Brisket (5:20 - 5:30pm Turn In)

Buy 12lb Choice packer briskets that are kind of flexible and have a straight grain line. The straight grain line helps keep the final cutting of the meat easier; the grain doesn’t drift and the knife adjustments are kept to a minimum. If the brisket isn't fresh and the package isn’t labeled with a meat grade, the cut is probably “Standard” which is not good enough for contests.

  • Pros of the 12lb briskets; You can make burnt ends from the point meat of the brisket.
  • Cons of the 12lb briskets; It can take a LONG time to cook.

Brisket Injection Recipes

Here are three very good brisket injection recipes:

Example Beef Brisket Cooking Schedule (Overnight Prep, 15 Hour Cook)


Right after set up - Prep the briskets. Place them in a cooler.



1:30am - Preheat your smoker to 240°.

1:40am - Apply the rub to the briskets and set them aside.

2:30am - Squish each brisket together to make a thicker brisket. Cook the briskets fat side down.

5:30am - Check temps

Around 11:30am - Double wrap the briskets in foil if they have reached 170°.

Around 2:30pm - Check for tenderness around 197°.  Place them in a hot box to rest.

3:30pm - Heat the smoker to 300°.

4:15pm - Separate points from flats. Add points to smoker, flats back in bag.

4:30pm - Heat your sauce on the smoker.

4:45pm - Remove flats from bag, taste; add best one to smoker, paint with sauce.

5:15pm - Remove meat from smoker, slice flats and points, paint both with sauce.

5:20pm - Turn in!

Additional Info:

Listen to the BBQ Central Brisket Roundtable.

Watch All Things BBQ Competition Brisket Video

View Brisket Turn in Boxes

Turn-in Process

Entries will be judged on three criteria: Appearance, Tenderness, and Taste.


People eat with their eyes first so all your food needs to look amazing. Your food also needs to look moist, not dry, and you should show off the smoke ring in the turn in box.

  • Use au jus from the meat when possible. Mix 1 cup of au jus with 1 Tablespoon of sauce.
  • Always use sauce. Strive for a semitransparent coat.
  • Fill the box with meat. Judges like a full box, not a skimpy one.
  • Always use garnish.
  • Use a damp paper towel to clean the turn-in box of all debris, including stray sauce.


Garnish in the Box

In KCBS competitions competitors have the option of turning in a box either with or without garnish. The top teams are separated by presentation scores since they already nailed taste and tenderness. The turn in box should appear over the top fabulous, as everyone eats with their eyes first and then decides (before eating) if the food presented to them looks delicious.  

The best scoring garnish presentation over the years has been the "putting green" of parsley. It is simple and effective for presentation.

A “Putting Green” box places an emphasis on the garnish, which allows you to display the meat anywhere in the box on a bed of parsley. This style of presentation is time consuming but it ranks very high with judges. Teams also need to purchase a LOT of parsley to accomplish four boxes and have some parsley left over, just in case you need it.

  1.  Start trimming parsley around 8am in the morning. Leave a ½” stem on each piece.
  2.  Fill the box with parsley, putting the stems down, creating a tight surface.
  3. Add pieces until the box resembles a putting green.    



Judges expect the meat to be cooked to the perfect degree of doneness, be tender and juicy. The meat should not be undercooked and tough nor should it be overcooked and too tender. Perfectly cooked meat will have a great “mouth feel”; it feels just right in your mouth.

  • Sausage is safe to eat by FDA standards at 165°
  • One bite of rib meat should easily pull away from the bone when bitten, the rest of the meat should stay put.
  • Pork should pull apart easily, but should not disintegrate in your mouth.
  • Brisket slices should come apart with a slight tug but not fall apart in your hand.


KCBS does not instruct judges how to score taste, it is just the judge’s opinion how the meat tastes to them at that instant, without judging it against other entries on their mat.

If your not sure what judges are looking for... ask your neighbors or ask someone who has won before. The barbecue community is more than happy to share information. Feel free to ask Jake any questions you have regarding competition barbecue.


Additional Info

Feel free to download this content and use it to your advantage.

You can find more info regarding competition barbecue from these locations.

The BBQ Central Radio Show

We can't stress enough how good this show is for barbecue information. You can watch the live stream every Tuesday night or subscribe to the podcast and listen to BBQ pros on your tablet or mobile device.


Free info at your fingertips, all on the web.

Suggested Reading

You can borrow these from a local library or buy them from your preferred book retailer:

  • Smokin with Myron Mixon by Myron Mixon
  • Big Bob Gibson's BBQ Book by Chris Lilly
  • Smokin' in the Boys' Room by Melissa Cookston
  • Wicked Good Barbecue by Chris Hart and Andy Husbands
  • Peace, Love, and BBQ by Mike and Amy Mills
  • Secrets to Smoking on the Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker by Bill Gillespie
  • Grill on Grill Competition BBQ by Ryan Amys
  • Smoke & Spice by Cheryl and Bill Jamison
  • Dr. BBQ's Big-Time Barbecue Cookbook by Ray Lampe
  • Paul Kirk's Championship Barbecue by Paul Kirk