Steve Heyes

Here in the UK we have a small but rapidly growing BBQ competition circuit. There are several grilling competitions held each year including The Field to Fork Festival and the Ready Steady Q series of events but what I’m going to talk about are the Low and Slow Pit Master style BBQ competitions.

Typically held over 2 days, cooking 4 categories of chicken, ribs, pork and brisket, this is a style of competition influenced massively by the hugely popular BBQ circuits in the US. If you want to take part in this type of completion in the UK there is the Grillstock festival in Bristol or there are a series of competitions sanctioned by the International BBQ Network across the Summer.

Grillstock is held in July and is a small music festival combined with a BBQ/outdoor living tradeshow and BBQ competition. Categories are the expected main 4 and there are further rounds throughout the day. In the past judging has not been blind and there has been no site access overnight for cooking. This year there is overnight access but it is unclear exactly how judging will work as far as I can see.

The International BBQ Network (IBQN)IBQN offer several competitions per year, usually as part of larger events with wider scope. For example there will be an IBQN competition at Cartmel Racecourse this year as part of their racing weekend schedule in July. IBQN competitions, are a fixed format, 4 main categories (plus optional sides, dessert and sauce), blind judging and fixed turn in times. Judges are trained and certified and there is a guaranteed ratio of judges to entrants. These events are run very much as US events would be.

My favourite competition of the year is IBQN’s Mayhem in May. It’s the first competition in the British season and is held behind closed doors. It’s a very laid back affair with most teams arriving on Friday night for a pre-competition party. What I love about this event is it’s one for the people who love to cook, without the ebb and flow of Joe public visiting the pitches there’s plenty of time to bounce ideas around with other pit masters and also for those of us with experience to give the new teams some serious one-on-one time and help them get up to speed with all aspects of the competition. Experienced competitors will typically make themselves available to teach trimming, prep, and cooking at MiM. It’s one of the best weekends of the year for me!

A list of low n slow BBQ competitions happening in 2012 can be found below:

  • 26/27 May – IBQN Mayhem in May, Tongham, Surrey.
  • 23 June – IBQN European Championships @ The Big BBQ, Canvey Island Essex
  • 30 June / 1st July – Grillstock, Bristol
  • 7/8 July – IBQN Pit Masters Accumulator @ Paddle Round the Pier, Brighton
  • 21-14 – IBQN Pit Masters National Final @ Cartmel Race Weekend, The Lake District

For info on IBQN events, please see
For info on Grillstock, please see

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Competition BBQ in the US is massive. There are hundreds of competitions each year with the top ones offering prize purses in the tens of thousands of dollars and attracting hundreds of teams from around the world.

There are several competition circuits in the US, the biggest being the Kansas City BBQ Society (KCBS) who sanction competitions around the US, Canada and now even in mainland Europe. KCBS competitions are based on cooking 4 categories, chicken, ribs, pork shoulder and brisket. I could write an article on each of these individually but that’s not for today.

Royal Q Pit Crew Collecting a Trophy

Cooking competition BBQ in this style is about long slow cooking using smoker-style BBQ pits. Competitors may take up to 18 hours to smoke a whole brisket for turn in, during which time they will lovingly follow a process that they will have spent much time and effort perfecting.

Judging is typically blind (in most circuits) with entries submitted in unmarked boxes. Turn-in times are fixed and rigorously policed.

In the UK we have a small but growing competition circuit, with several teams also competing in the US several times per year as well. Recently in the first ever European KCBS competition, British teams took second and thirds spots, beaten only by a top American team who had made the journey over.

Editor Note: We would like to welcome Steve to our writing team, Steve is the Founder and Chief Cook at the Royal Q Pit Crew, one of the UK leading BBQ teams, we hope to follow Steve and his team mate Neil Welsh as they compete in BBQ competitions and hopefully teach us the skills of Competition BBQ.

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