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World Series of Barbecue — Kansas City

August 31, 2011

Do You Barbecue, Smoke or Grill?

What’s the Difference?

 Is it barbeque or barbecue, BBQ or Bar-B-Q or Bar-B-Que? Honestly, the choice is yours; all are correct. Then there is the question of method: do you barbeque food, smoke it or grill it? Confused? Well, let’s have a look. In the United States, the experts almost unanimously stand by these definitions.

"Grilling" Chicken

Grilling involves cooking food directly above the heat source. Charcoal briquettes, gas and electricity are common sources for supplying heat. Grilling generally involves the use of marinades, salt, spices and herbs, and tomato-, sugar- or vinegar-based “barbecue sauce” to impart flavor. Grilling is quick, but because the temperature used is usually very high, grilling commonly produces somewhat less tender, often dried-out and charred food.

"Smoking" Ribs and other Goodies

Barbecue on the other hand is indirect cooking, where the food is not placed above the wood or charcoal heat source. Smoking implies cooking the food away from the heat, by exposing it to smoke from burning or smoldering hardwoods. Meat and fish are the most common foods used, although hard cheeses, some vegetables and even course grained salt can be smoked. In these two methods, a dry rub is often applied prior to cooking; a basting liquid may be used periodically to maintain moisture. Barbequing and smoking are usually long, slow processes where the meat is flavored and tenderized by the process. Wet sauces are rarely used during the actual cooking period; they are added when the food is served.

The Kansas City Barbeque Society (KCBS) is one of the largest barbeque contest sanctioning organizations in the world. Annually KCBS sanctions and judges nearly 3,000 events throughout the United States. Barbequing and smoking are the name-of-the-game at these competitions, where only wood, wood pellets or charcoal are allowed; gas and electric heat sources are not permitted for cooking or holding food at a KCBS event.

Cooked entries are judged in four KCBS meat categories: Chicken (including Cornish Game Hen and Kosher Chicken); Pork Ribs (which must include the bone; country style ribs are prohibited); Pork (defined as Boston Butt, Picnic and/or Whole Shoulder, weighing a minimum of five pounds), and Beef Brisket (may be whole brisket, flat, or point; corned beef is not allowed). Pork must be cooked whole (bone in or bone out) and shall not be separated (pulled) during the cooking process.

The circuit of the competitive barbecue season runs from August through the following July. The big-daddy of all KCBS sanctioned barbeque contests is the American Royal, in Kansas City.

The American Royal World Series of Barbecue (Invitational) is the season finale for the North American barbeque circuit. Taking up more than 20 acres in Kansas City’s historic Stockyards District, with nearly 500 competing teams, The Royal is, undisputedly, the largest barbecue contest in the world. Combined with a barbecue-related trade expo, this food festival is truly the “World Series of Barbecue.” The 32nd Annual American Royal ( fills the air with smoke September 29-October 2, 2011.

Only qualified, Grand Champion winning teams, from certified “State Championships,” are invited to compete at The Royal. To qualify as a state championship contest, the local contest must hold a proclamation signed by the Governor, declaring it a state championship.

In Missouri, a certified “State Championship” is held almost every week. These are great spots to experience Missouri and chow-down on some truly spectacular, down-home Que.

If you really love barbecue, barbeque, BBQ, Bar-B-Que—well, whatever you prefer to call it—get out to one of these fantastic events in Missouri. Heck, hit ‘em all and suck down some great American chow. Whatever you do, don’t skip The Royal. As Mr. Food is known to say: Mmm, it’s so good. Enjoy!

Find listings for barbecue contests in the “Events” section of

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