Frequently Asked Questions

If you have some questions, just look at this information


To qualify for this you must judge 30 contests, cook with a team at a contest, and pass a written  exam.  It is an honor, but doesn’t mean you are a better judge than anyone else or that you get any special privileges.

You get a CTC certification by taking a specific course on the Table Captain role.  You do not have to be CTC to act as a Table Captain, however (just volunteer).  The class is interesting and goes into more depth on certain rules and on the role of the Table Captain in the contest.  Interestingly, you do not have to be a certified judge to become a CTC, but most are.

No.  It’s a volunteer job, including your travel expenses.

As many as you can get accepted for.  The “season” (time of the year when most contests are held – most are on Saturday) runs from roughly April through mid November.  If you were willing to do a lot of travel and got accepted for say, 75% of the ones you applied to you’d easily judge 30 contests or more (and some folks have done this!).

Roughly one per team plus a few.  That doesn’t mean one judge is assigned to a team, that’s just how the math works out.  Let’s say there are 40 teams.  Forty teams turning in 4 entries each equals 160 entries to be judged.  Each table of 6 judges can judge 4 X 6 boxes or 24 entries.  Divide 160 by 24 and you get 7.  Seven tables of six judges equal 42 butts in chairs.  Add Table Captains (7 in this instance) and some help with turn-in, etc. and you’re going to see about 50 judges working this example event.

Each cooking team is assigned a team number by the Rep and provided 4 white Styrofoam boxes with that number printed on it (one for each meat type – chicken, ribs, pork and brisket).  When the teams turn in their entries, a judge re-numbers the boxes using a sticker to cover up the team number.  Records are kept (secret) of the change.  Judges see only the “new” number and score based on it.  Once the scores are computed, the Rep (or a team working for him) translates the number back to the original team number so that teams can get their scores (and some, awards!).

As far as the judging class goes, maybe three or four hours, one time. As to the time it takes to judge a contest there is the travel to get there and return plus being early enough to attend a mandatory judges’ meeting (usually around 10:30 a.m.) and stay for all four categories. The last category, brisket, comes to judging at 1:30 p.m. and judges are usually dismissed by 2:00 p.m. or so. For the majority of contests I judge, it’s a day’s effort.

Yes.  Some contests will include sauce.  Others might have dessert or “sides” competitions and judges are usually asked to volunteer for the extra duty if they are included.  There are very few instructions and standards for these “added” competitions and they are fun.  The winning cooks often don’t get any prize money, either but they get “bragging rights”!

Basically, judges doing anything more than just waving and saying “hi” to the cooks on Saturday morning.  The rules prohibit “meaningful contact” specifically on the morning of the contest in order to both cut down on any chance of collusion between a team and a judge (mighty hard to do, anyway given blind judging) and to keep the atmosphere in the cook area focused and free of distractions for the teams.  “Fraternizing” the day before the contest and after the judging is over is actually encouraged and fun.

No.  It is usually a lot better than most restaurant barbeque because there is abundant time, love and expense devoted to its preparation.  However, “backyard” barbeque can be subject to even more time, love, creativity, and expense.  Like a lot of other Pelletheads I’ll modestly tell you that the best barbeque in town is at my house!

Not much, if any.  The major, dominant teams compete all over the country and don’t typically change their recipes and approaches by region.  It is also common for judges to come from different areas, particularly at large contests.  Further, the standards and rules result in popular contest “styles” for food that tend to be fairly universal in application.  Given these aspects and the fact that good judges don’t judge based on their preferences, I don’t think regionality is a significant factor.