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I'm hoping for an invite into a KCBS event (Harpoon New England Championship) this summer. Ribs and pulled pork are covered. Chicken thighs need some work so I'm hoping to tap the collective brain pool.

No matter which way I go, I'm planning to brine. I'll be cooking with a FEC100 but I'm open for alternative cooking suggestions for the thighs. Now for the questions:

1. Bone in or bone out? Do judges have a preference?
2. Skin - scrape fat or leave it be? If it's scraped, it will be hinged on one side, making it more susceptible to coming away in one piece when a judge bites it. Is that a "no-no" for judges?
3. Skin #2 - I can get it pretty tender (scraping) but have yet to get it crispy. What's the trick?

Thanks all...looking forward to hearing your advice.
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Steve Farrin,forums as Yankee Barbecue,and often cooks as Team Agave in your neck of the woods.

Steve helps support much of the NEBS,and has held a couple of basic comp cooking schools there to build interest and more entries at NEBS comps.

He has traveled and helped cook with several of the better teams at several larger comps.

He has set up next to us,as FireHouseBBQ,some in the past.

He is an FEC cook,as well as a couple others.

He could probably point you in some useful directions.

KCBS judges are trained the same and used to travel the whole circuit-so judging was often by many of the same folks,wherever you cooked.

The economy has had some impact on this.

Incorrectly,many judges-just like diners-discard the skin.

Many good judges,and cooks,would worry more about cooking the chicken correctly,than focus unduly on skin.

A well known CIA trained chef is known to cook whole game hens,or very small chickens,whole.

He then sections for presentations.

Texans cook a half chicken and the judges all attack it with plastic forks.

Not much regard for skin. Big Grin

There are a few,but not many ,good teams that go boneless.

Skin, that bites thru well,is often the goal of many better cooks.

An occasional cook may cook on a Weber,or finish on a grill to produce crispy skin.

Just my opinions,and you know what those are worth. Wink
Originally posted by MaxQue:
3. Skin #2 - I can get it pretty tender (scraping) but have yet to get it crispy. What's the trick?

Crispy? I'm not sure that's why you're trying to achieve, at least for contests. By the time you add sauce and it sits in the container, it won't be crispy when the judges eat.

Have you competed before? There's a lot more I'd concentrate on than just chicken skin.

But we'll stick with chicken. The key for any category is flavor first, then tenderness then appearance. That's how KCBS points are set up.

NO WHERE in the rules does it state that chicken skin must be bite through. That's just the #1 topic in forums, but when I talk to judges, only the judges in the forums are the ones making it an issue. I talked to 4 different sets of reps at Little Rock and they agree, skin isn't defined.

Focus on taste and tenderness.

If you really want to work on the skin, get a grill and work on the direct heat method that teams are doing. I must have seen about 100 mini pellet grills at NLR contest. Or weber grills or some variation.

There are plenty of forums covering the chicken skin methods out there (butter bath and deboning chicken/butter bath)

1. Bone in or bone out? Do judges have a preference?

Technically as a judge I don't have a preference. You're taught to judge it "as presented" and many judges will. I for one don't care. Do some? Well now, you're asking a question only that judge, that day can answer. I've heard some comment about boneless thighs after the scoring, saying they didn't know what they were eating. Many/most judges never visit a forum, they just go to eat good chicken.

Focus on ONE thing for each entry. Took me time to learn this, but don't forget it.

Anything that goes in the box can be judges whether boneless, skinless, white meat, dark meat, just make sure what goes in there has the Taste points first, then tenderness points. Appearance are the smallest points.

2. Skin - scrape fat or leave it be? If it's scraped, it will be hinged on one side, making it more susceptible to coming away in one piece when a judge bites it. Is that a "no-no" for judges?

No, it's not a no no. Any judge that says so is making their own rules and OVERTHINKING it. Way toooooo much. You eat, you score then move on to the next entry. For the judges out there that put that much time into it I ask, what do the rules say? Nothing about skin coming off or the skin has to be bite through to be tender. Too many judges making their own "interpretations" of the rules.

And that's not their fault, it's KCBS for not working for a better method.

But hey, can you tell I have an opinion about judging today in KCBS

Big Grin
For competition, I use a traeger 070 as I can get the heat up without burning the gasket of the FEC. I have only had one grease fire in 5 years and don't want another. With that said, I brine rub and cook fast apply sauce and set. Thighs take about an hour start to finish on the grill at 325 degree F. Any longer and they dry out. half cicken is about 1.5 hours max at the same settings. This time includes rotating, turning, saucing, etc. If you need a brine recipe, I'm sure Smokein will sell you his:-P

Look at the audiance that is judging. If a majority are smokers, add some salt. If they are not experienced CBJ's then figure out the most popular BBQ sauce in the area and use it. Sweet and hot tend to be the norm so far this year. It's not suppose to be a sauce contest but it almost always is.

Don't worry about the skin, worry about the taste and texture of the meat and remember, muffin pan chicken did not win on the Pitmaster series.
Fifty years of assorted tips above,to a cook that has yet to do his first contest ,as a head cook.

All of them,in its correct place could be good.

A bunch of fine yardbird cooks out there,use a Smokin' Okie type brine for four hrs,fire up an 18-20 inch cheap grill with $1.00 worth of charcoal.

Cook the chicken CORRECTLY,and walk a bunch!

Nice thought to win every category,every time,but...if you cook state qualifiers all the time,stay somewhere close to top ten in every category,consistently,a GC is more probable.

Seems like consistently good cooks tend to do better than those with the newest/best tricks
Just my $0.02

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