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BBQ Contest Introduction for Organizers

BBQ Contests can be a fun way to bring attention to your community or organization, and are often used as fund raisers for charities.  Contests can vary from small intimate affairs focused on competition to large public events with many sponsors and tens of thousands of attendees. This page is intended to help contest organizers understand the different options available from NEBS to help deliver the best possible contest experience for the public, the cook teams, and sponsoring organizations.

Amateur Contests

Barbeque contests can be put together only by the organizer, with the organizer responsible for determining the evaluation process for the competitions.  These are know as amateur events on the BBQ circuit.

This type of contest can feature low entry fees, and can be put together with a short lead time.  Nevertheless, competitors tend to avoid this type of event, as there is no consistent judging process from event to event and no guarantee of contest integrity.  Competitors tend to gravitate toward sanctioned events.  Sanctioned contests have contest rules and processes determined by a sanctioning body.   Sanctioning ensures that standard processes are applied, and judging is done fairly for the competitors.

Currently, the most common types of sanctioned events in the northeast are sanctioned by NEBSKCBS, and the SCA.  It's not uncommon to combine multiple sanctioned contests from different sanctioning bodies into a single event.

Look here for more information about sanctioning.

NEBS Sanctioned Contests

NEBS sanctions three different kinds of contests. Competitors in most sanctioned NEBS contests accumulate points for the NEBS Team of the Year programs. Please see the TOY page for details on eligibility. 

The Tailgate contest is a two category contest, often chicken and ribs.   It's designed to be a low cost contest for competitors that can be completed in a half day. 20' x 20' spaces are common for competitors.   Small tents are common for this type of event, RVs and BBQ trailers are not.

The NEBS Classic contest is a four category contest. The four categories can vary widely in terms of what they cover. The format allows for a lot of creative entries.  Generally this contests costs more for competitors to enter, due to the  higher cost of the foods used.  A NEBS Classic contest may cover a full day, and many organizers offer an overnight stay option to the teams.  20'x20' spaces are often adequate, but larger sites are common.  This is especially true when NEBS Classic and KCBS Master Series contests are combined in the same event, a fairly common combination in the region.

Some people refer to this as a "grilling" contest, although the format is not restricted strictly to grilling. Since the categories can be very broad, accurate descriptions are important.  This is a big portion of the cook's packet review process for this type of event. NEBS provides some sample category descriptions on this website to assist organizers in putting together events of this type.

The Kid's Q contests are designed as simplified contest to allow children to compete.  The complexity of the entries allowed may vary based on the age ranges allowed in the contest.  It's not uncommon for organizers to offer more than one Kid's Q contest at a single event to cover different age ranges.  These contests are typically brief, running no more than half a day.

NEBS Contest Rules apply to all NEBS contests.

Kansas City Barbecue Society Sanctioned Contests

KCBS Master Series contests are quite popular, featuring four barbecue categories which are always the same: chicken or cornish game hens, pork ribs, pork shoulder, and beef brisket. KCBS contests are long events that require an overnight stay. 20'x20' spaces are the minimum needed, but may teams require larger spaces.  20' x 40' is the most commonly requested size, and some teams will require more than that.

Combined Contests

Events that combine NEBS Classic and KCBS Master Series contests are common in the Northeast.  This format supports the popular KCBS contest format, while challenging cooks with the sometimes unusual categories found in a NEBS Classic event.

When NEBS and KCBS events are combined in a single event, the KCBS Reps run both events, and the KCBScore software is used to score both contests.  This means organizers pay both NEBS and KCBS sanctioning fees for the event, including KCBS fees for hosting what KCBS refers to as an "additional contest."  Any KCBS Rep can run this type of combined event, but there are KCBS Reps in the northeast that are familiar and comfortable with this kind of format.   NEBS can help direct you toward those KCBS Reps upon request.

SCA Sanctioned Contests

The Steak Cookoff contest is growing in popularity in the northeast. This is a single day contest often held in conjunction with a larger contests such as NEBS Classic or KCBS.  The Steak Cookoff Association acts as the sanctioning body for these events.  Note that Steak is a commonly used category in NEBS Classic contests, so you don't need SCA sanctioning for a steak cookoff, but may be suitable if you are looking for a single category contest that's only focused on steak.

To learn more about contest options and what it takes to host an event, please reach out to