Barbecue Competition Rules – These are the Catagories You Need to be Aware Of

BBQ Competition underway

Can’t wait to smoke the (BBQ) competition? But before you do that, you should be aware of the general rules of a barbecue competition and what most BBQ competitions ban.

Taking on the very best in a barbecue competition can be an exciting venture. You may be the standout chef of your neighborhood, and your culinary prowess may be phenomenal. But how do you stack up against the competition?

But the pursuit of excellence and competitiveness are not the only motivations for partaking in a BBQ competition. The camaraderie, the spirit, and the joy of creating (and tasting!) gastronomic delights alongside BBQ pros are something to remember and cherish fondly. Even if you don’t win, you can always take home the fun, friendship, and reminiscences.

But you will need to be fully aware of the rules of a barbecue competition to avoid any potential frustration and regret. Each competition will have its own set of unique rules, so you will have to peruse all the competition rules and carefully look them over.

But certain rules are general and therefore expected in most BBQ competitions.

Here is what you need to know about the rules – and what most BBQ competitions ban.

Team Size Limit and Rules

Too many cooks spoil the broth, they say. You can extrapolate that to BBQs quite reasonably.

BBQ competitions place an upper limit on team sizes. Most allow no more than 10. A lot of competitions have a lower limit.

The World Barbecue Association recommends no more than 6.

You need a head honcho to manage any team. BBQ competitions often require appointing a leader or captain of the team. Your competition may require team leaders to take part in a meeting prior to competing.

Mandatory Categories

Before becoming the BBQ King of the Hill, you may have to win on several fronts.

The biggest BBQ competitions often have mandatory categories that you must ace to get your bragging rights. Thus, you may have to come out on top in several categories like beef briskets, prime ribs, seafood, chicken, side dishes, and others.

So if you are great with briskets alone, then that is not going to cut it. You will have to master other categories if you want to make it big.

The competition will likely award points for each category. The one will with the biggest aggregate score will emerge as the victor.

So before taking part in a major BBQ competition, make sure that you have all bases covered.


You may have to use containers that your competition host provides. Or there could be rules to use only certain types of containers. Make sure that you know the allowed types.

Presentation Platter

The world will want to know what exactly you cooked up to take home the grand prize. So in addition to preparing the competition platter (that will be judged), you may have to make an extra presentation platter to flaunt your epicurean delight to the world. This presentation platter will not give you points for winning the competition.


Make sure that you note the deadline or turn-in time for your dish. You may be allowed no more than 5 minutes beyond this time limit.

Therefore, you should make all necessary preparations to ensure that your BBQ is ready before time runs out. Practice with a stopwatch and see how long it takes before you are all done.


Each category may have its permissible garnishes. Check what condiments, garnishes, and herbs are allowed for each type and follow them scrupulously.

Rules may vary everywhere. Thus, sometimes you are allowed to throw in herbs during cooking but are not allowed to garnish your culinary masterpiece with the same herbs.

Lard, tallow, and stuffing can have strong outcomes on how good your meal tastes. Hence, there are rigid rules and regulations for these important items.

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Prior Food Preparation

Your competition will likely stipulate the raw state for all ingredients before competing. Competitions expressly restrict any kind of preparation, treatment, or processing of ingredients before the competition is underway.

Make sure that you adhere to food safety standards mandated by the competition and your jurisdiction.

For safe food consumption, competitions require participants to have meat in a frozen state.

There will be rules for the minimum temperature at which meats should be frozen. You should know about it.

Ensure that you are well-versed in all food safety rules of your country and state and follow them to the letter.


Take note of all allergenic items forbidden by the BBQ competition. Be sure to avoid them all.

Team Area

Areas will be assigned for all teams. Ensure that you and your team members keep within their designated area. Keep all of your equipment and implements in your own space.

You will likely not be permitted to borrow or share equipment from other teams (remember exams?).

It is best not to keep any pets. The BBQ competition may not allow it in the first place.

Smoking may not be permissible.

You will have to keep your area clean of clutter and trash. Sanitize, clear up and restore the site to pristine condition before packing up and leaving. Besides being a rule, it is a matter of common courtesy and etiquette.

Conduct and Behavior

Any kind of rowdy, boisterous, or disagreeable behavior is inadvisable. Sure, BBQs are a lot of fun and should have a festive spirit. But there is a fine line between good-natured revelry and boorishness.

What may be acceptable to your clique might seem rude to others. So it is always better to be more cautious. It would help if you were especially careful past 10:00 pm when people will be sleeping.

Be super careful with alcohol. Drinking is best avoided. But if you insist, then make sure that it is done in a group so that you can look out for each other. Strictly forbid drinking alone.

You should check the rules for attire and dress accordingly.

Social Media

We all have smartphones, and many are only too happy to snap pics and post them online ASAP so that the whole world knows. But this could raise ethical issues.

Ensure that you know what the BBQ competition’s social media rule is. Most do not allow social media posting during the event. But once the event is completed, you will likely be permitted to post images on social media.

Fire Safety and BBQ Equipment

Fires are a major BBQ hazard. Check to see what kind of fuels are permitted. See pertinent rules for gas, wood, pellets, briquettes, and charcoal.

If gas is allowed, make sure that your canister is in good shape. Follow your regional protocols for compressed gas tanks.

Check to see the types of heating equipment that are NOT allowed. Fryers, ovens, and heating hubs may be restricted.

Also, remember to check heating equipment brands that are disallowed.

Automated heating systems will likely be impermissible. That should not come as a surprise. The whole point of the exercise is to check out your BBQ cooking proficiency, not how well your hi-tech equipment performs.

Dos and Don’ts of Presentation

The dos and don’ts of food presentation will likely vary significantly between BBQ competitions. So you should check the rules for your BBQ competition.

Judges are very meticulous about how the food is presented. They may have the authority under competition rules to deduct points for infractions.

‘Foreign’ objects like tinfoil, skewers, toothpicks, and the like may not be allowed. There will be strict rules for garnish and embellishments. There could also be rules on how much sauce is to be used. Excessive sauce use may be penalized.

In short, there are strict rules for presentation.

Never write your team name on the food platter or container. Judges may take serious note of this and may construe it as an attempt to appeal and influence them. The penalty could be severe. Be very careful about how your food platter or container is to be identified. Most BBQ competitions allow you to write your assigned serial number only so that judges cannot identify your team from the container.

There will also be different rules for each BBQ category. For example, deep frying may not be allowed for beef briskets.


You will have to submit your application and any fees necessary before the stipulated deadline. If interested, you will have to inform which optional categories you will like to participate in.

You can start making preparations as soon as the BBQ competition organizers consent to your participation request.

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Final Thoughts

There will likely be a long list of rules to follow. There will be many things that will not be allowed. And no, organizers are not demanding. They are just ensuring fair conditions, safety, and wellbeing for all. Reasonable and well-defined rules lessen the likelihood of controversies.

The best way to comply is to prepare a checklist of the BBQ competition rules. Be wary of what most BBQ competitions ban.

The checklist will allow you to follow all rules with minimum fuss and hassle. You will likely not miss out on anything come showtime. This way, you will avoid the frustration that comes with penalties and enjoy living the event to the fullest.