The American Royal Barbecue Competition has trademarked itself “The World Series of Barbecue.”
Memphis in May declares itself “The Super Bowl of Swine,” the “largest pork barbecue competition on the planet.”
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So which one has really earned the biggest bragging rights? Here’s your scorecard.
AR: We’ve been sending up smoke signals since 1980, starting off in the parking lot of the now-closed Golden Ox and then spreading to the West Bottoms, formerly Kansas City’s stockyards. This year the caravan of cookers will set up at Arrowhead Stadium, a much larger venue with more amenities.
MIM: The city-wide festival celebrating music, food and culture kicked off in 1978. It is held in Tom Lee Park, a stretch of land on the banks of the Mississippi River. If you can snag a corporate sponsor, then chances are your team’s triple decker booth includes a full bar and is decked out with amenities such as chandeliers, disco balls, race cars and more.
AR: Kansas City boasts the largest contest in the world (618 teams from 38 states and three countries) that gather to compete in four meat categories (chicken, pork ribs, beef brisket and pork shoulder or butt).
MIM: At the Super Bowl of Swine, pork is king, y’all. There are three main categories (shoulder, ribs and whole hog), and whole hog is the big deal here. Around 250 teams compete.
AR: Blind judging rules. All entries start at 9 (excellent) then are knocked down accordingly, based on objective criteria of appearance, taste and tenderness. One entry is not judged against another. Judges do not pay a fee, but they must have active Kansas City Barbeque Society certification.
MIM: Judging is a combination of blind and on-site. Ratings are based on appearance of entry, tenderness, flavor, overall impression, area, and personal appearance and presentation. For on-site, three judges are sent at intervals to the team’s cooking. They are given a spiel on the team’s philosophy, techniques and more, then taste samples.
Teams have a 15-minute time limit. The competition uses a 10-point scale and no two teams can be awarded the same score. (Note: A 10 does not mean perfection; it means it’s the best the judge ate that day.) Finals judges go on-site again to narrow down the nine finalists to an overall grand champion. Judges pay for the privilege and must take a certification class.
2015 prize money
AR: $10,000 for grand champion
MIM: $14,500 for grand champion