What is “GOOD” Competition Chicken?

Back in 2004, during my first year of judging the New England Barbecue Competition, I remember having a piece of chicken which was an epiphany.  This was a dry-rubbed chicken thigh perfectly cooked with a great savory spice rub.  The skin was crispy, the meat was tender and juicy, it was cooked perfectly all the way through without falling off the bone or becoming mushy, and it tasted like it had actually been barbecued, not cooked in an oven.  That still stands as the single best piece of chicken I’ve judged since becoming a barbecue judge.

The topic of what is "good chicken" in competition is hotly debated.  Most teams submit chicken thighs – a few will do legs, and only a rare handful will even attempt chicken breast – it dries out too easily.

Thighs are great for barbecuing since they have a lot of flavor and fat, which keeps them from drying out.  However, this also means that they have a lot of fat under the skin which can become rubbery and soggy if not cooked thoroughly.  The new KCBS judging guidelines say to not judge a piece of chicken up or down depending on whether it has skin or not.  I agree with that.  However, a piece of chicken that has good skin will always get higher points from me, since I think it simply has better taste and texture – two of the three things the entry is being judged on. 

What is "good skin"?  It is skin that has been cooked so that at least most of the fat has been rendered out.  Crispy skin is a plus, but simply cooked to the point of tenderness is fine.  "Bad skin" is anything that is fatty, rubbery, and takes away from the taste and texture experience.

However, in the end, the judging isn’t about the skin – its about the meat.  So the biggest complaint I have about many chicken entries is that too many of them taste like they have barely been on a grill or smoker.  I’m not sure how teams manage to cook a piece of chicken over a charcoal or wood flame and not get some smokiness or grill taste in there.  They are juicy, tender and have a nice sauce or rub on them, but they simply don’t taste barbecued.  I’m not looking for something with dark black grill marks, but something that shows and tastes like its been in contact with either an open flame or the grill above an open flame would be great.


9 thoughts on “What is “GOOD” Competition Chicken?

  1. Yes, they all contain dirffeent types of bacteria. And no, mixing them will not kill you. The problem is when you mix food that don’t get cooked at the same temperatures, thus possibly not killing that foods bacteria. Or the foods that don’t get cooked at all. Like cutting chicken on a cutting board, and then using that same unwashed board to chop up raw veggies that you aren’t going to cook is very bad. The bacteria transfers to the veggies and never gets cooked out. :O

  2. I will try this next, The BBQ Pit Boys are ALWAYS on top of their game and I have had nothing but SUCCESS folowling their advice.What is the Spicy Vodka BBQ Sauce?

  3. Thanks for stopping by… Which cosrue did you take? What did you learn to cook? Was it hands-on? I’ve enjoyed Trish Magwood’s shows on the Food Network so I have high expectations. Good to know I’m not deluding myself.

  4. That’s awesome! Now and then, my Mum makes soeimhtng like this, but when she serves it, she gets this big pan and flips the pot on it to make it into a cool shape (You know, like what you do with custard soemtimes). Anyways We would have this game when we eat, and we would all put our own rice, but the first one to make the rice get out of it’s original shape has to clean the dishes that night lol. Whoever reads this should definatley try it. Remember, don’t knock till you try it. =]

  5. oh this restaurant.. :)i had some wrledofunly amazing curry noodle, the best i ever tried. As for chicken rice,i never prefer chicken rice no matter where or how good they are because im not chicken rice guy.In all, i think its a good place for good food and good price, believed it or not just try for yourself.Hup

  6. I have plenty of reepcis, however as they’re mine and my families (for generations, mind you) I have never and will never share them with a bunch of strangers. Heck my friends can’t even get some of the reepcis I have. So now you know.Besides, shouldn’t you appreciate the fact that ppl are trying to help? Regardless of where the recipe comes from?

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