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BBQ: Behind the scenes at a competition

Updated 8:32 PM ET, Mon October 28, 2013
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Jack Daniel's BBQ InvitationalJack Daniel's BBQ Invitational
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For 25 years, barbecue enthusiasts and pitmasters have converged in Lynchburg, Tennessee, for the annual Jack Daniel's World Championship Invitational Barbecue. There are cash prizes at stake, and some pretty serious bragging rights. Ribs, like the ones pictured, are a mandatory category. Jack Daniel's/EdRode.com
Pork is a compulsory category at The Jack. Teams may choose to smoke tenderloin, shoulder or various other parts of the pig and may serve it in several formats. Courtesy EdRode.com
Brisket is also required, and tenderness, along with appearance and taste, is key. Courtesy EdRode.com
Chicken rounds out the mandatory four categories, and it may be served in various ways -- though thigh meat seems most popular. Courtesy EdRode.com
Except for the 'cook's choice,' sauce and dessert categories, meats are presented in a numbered box for display to the judges. Almost all competitors arrange the meat atop a bed of lettuce or parsley, and no garnishes or other potential markers are allowed. Courtesy EdRode.com
Fans gather in the stands to watch the judging, and around 25,000 people show up at the festival. Attendees may buy food at concession stands, but unless judges hand it over, they don't usually get to taste the food from the competition. Courtesy EdRode.com
Teams must transport their entries from their smokers to the pavilion -- and get there in time. Courtesy EdRode.com
Before any tasting even begins, a table captain presents the meat to the judges for the 'appearance' score. Courtesy EdRode.com
Judges for The Jack must be certified by the Kansas City Barbeque Society and sworn in before they can participate. Courtesy EdRode.com
In 2013, a 'Winners Circle' of previous competitors took part in a separately judged contest. The Woo Pig Q-EE team's rig is a standout even among such lofty company. Courtesy EdRode.com
Before they hit the competition boxes, chickens are smoked for many hours for optimal tenderness and flavor. Jack Daniel's/EdRode.com
Sweet sauce is omnipresent and somewhat controversial amongst competitors who fear they can't win without it. Jack Daniel's/EdRode.com
Meats like chicken can be presented in multiple formats -- like a thigh and a slice of breast. Jack Daniel's/EdRode.com
While it would be tempting to serve a full rack to show off at The Jack, the ribs much be sliced into individual portions. Jack Daniel's/EdRode.com
Some teams with popular rubs will sell or trade them at the festival. Jack Daniel's/EdRode.com
And some teams might keep their rub secrets all to themselves. Jack Daniel's/EdRode.com
A master at work: Ardie Davis (a.k.a. Remus Powers, PhB -- Doctor of BBQ Philosophy) is an author of multiple books about barbecue technique and a noted expert on ribs. Jack Daniel's/EdRode.com
The Polish BBQ Kings team from, yes, Poland, totes in its molded chocolate dessert. Jack Daniel's/EdRode.com
So how do you get to judge a competition like this? You've got to earn your bones by way of a certification class from the Kansas City Barbecue Society. Jack Daniel's/EdRode.com
23 international teams from Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Estonia, Germany, Holland, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Puerto Rico, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom competed. The highest finishing international team was Bunch of Swines from the United Kingdom, placing 32nd overall. Jack Daniel's/EdRode.com