OWATONNA — When you think of good barbecue, what does it include?
If you asked Kansas City Barbeque Society certified judges, they would say it based on appearance, taste and tenderness.
On Saturday, more than 50 people with varying levels of barbecue expertise became certified judges —among more than 20,000 others in the nation — after learning the society’s standards and regulations and tasting eight different styles of barbecued meat.
With this certification, individuals are eligible to judge barbecue contests sanctioned by the Kansas City Barbeque Society across the country.
Lyle Coleman, one of the organizers of Smokin’ in Steele — a barbecue contest each June in Owatonna — welcomed everyone at the door.
“You’re at the doorstep of culinary delights,” she told the eager participants.
Barbecue, a worldwide cuisine, can be cooked, seasoned, and decorated in many ways, but attendees learned in a two-hour course Saturday morning how to judge barbecued chicken, pork ribs, and brisket according to the society’s standards.
And yes, that included some taste-testing.
But finger licking wasn’t allowed, as it is against the judging rules and regulations.
“Score what is presented to you,” said Dave Londeen, a representative for the Kansas City Barbeque Society.
People traveled from within Minnesota, and also came from Iowa and Wisconsin to attend the class, which was offered for the first time in Owatonna.
“It’s because we have a nice facility and we’re centrally located,” Coleman said.
Dave Fandel from Owatonna and Del Point from Waterville are familiar to with this area. The two have competed in barbecue contests at Smokin’ in Steele for several years.
Point, a member of the Grumpy Old Men barbecue team, decided to take the class to find out what judges are looking for in good barbecue in an effort to improve his own product.
He particularly enjoyed taste-testing the barbecued chicken and brisket.
And after this class, he can’t wait to get outside with his new smoker.
“I’m ready to try new things and get back to competing once the weather gets good,” Point said.
Fandel, a member of the Brandy Buddies barbecue team, came out looking for the criteria the Kansas City Barbeque Society judges look for.
He also enjoyed sampling the chicken and ribs.
Fandel said he hopes to judge at some point, but for now, he has another agenda.
“Competing and hopefully beating Del,” he laughed.
Jessie and Scott Crane traveled from Rochester for the class.
“I have an acquaintance that is a judge and thought it would be a good thing for me and my husband to do together,” Jessie said.
And she thought the concept of garnish in the cooker’s entry was interesting.
“I thought it was interesting because you’re just judging the meat itself,” Jessie said.
Now that she and her husband are certified judges, she is looking forward to judging an event with the different tastes of barbecue and enjoying the atmosphere cook-offs provide.
Brett Rodriguez traveled from Milwaukee, Wis., to learn more about judging criteria.
“I like cooking in my backyard and I thought about entering competitions, but wanted to know what the judges were looking for,” Rodriguez said.
He thought it was interesting how the criteria are determined.
“It isn’t just what you do or don’t like. There’s reason and rationale to it. It is based on the standards defined by the KCBS,” Londeen said.
According to the society, judging is based on a nine to two scale based on three criteria: appearance, taste and tenderness. A nine means the product was excellent and a two means the product was inedible.
Attendees taste-tested each piece of meat with the three criteria in mind. After the judging, Londeen led discussion about the pros and cons of each piece.
After the taste testing, individuals stood and took the judging oath.
They will receive their certification in the mail after a couple weeks.
An upcoming Kansas City Barbeque Society sanctioned event is Smokin’ in Steele at the Steele County Fairgrounds on May 1 as well as June 1 and 2.
Reach reporter Ashley Stewart at 444-2378 or follow her on Twitter.com @OPPashley