Chili competition judging standards

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EliseT
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2004/02/02 04:18:28 (permalink)

Chili competition judging standards

There was some discussion on another thread regarding benas in chili contests. I was watching one of those food shows and a judge was explaining his scoring standards, "If there is any grease floating on top, if it is too thin, or if it just tastes bad".

Do you know what the real judging criteria are? Do they have checklists for ratios of ingredients, color, etc?

Do you think the judging is too subjective or pretty accurate??
#1

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    Sundancer7
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    RE: Chili competition judging standards 2004/02/02 05:09:02 (permalink)
    Elise: Stogie posted this on another thread.

    http://www.chilicookoff.com/Event/Event_Rules.asp

    Paul E. Smith
    Knoxville, TN
    #2
    Bushie
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    RE: Chili competition judging standards 2004/02/02 08:50:40 (permalink)
    In essence, it is subjective, but I believe it is fair. Since the "basics" are that the chili must look good, smell good, and taste good, that leaves a lot to individual interpretation.

    However, there are some guidelines that are used (besides the rule that competition chili should have no beans):

    - It should smell good.

    - It should have a nice, even consistency. Not too thick, not too watery. The pieces of meat should be around the same size (some people carry this too far, and the chili comes out looking like kibble). The gravy and the meat should look they "go together".

    - It should have a reddish-brown color. It is, after all, a "bowl of red", not a "bowl of pale brown".

    - It should taste good. The flavors should blend well, and it should have a good "mouth-feel" (related, of course to the consistency). This is perhaps the most "subjective" element, but some of them really taste bad.

    - It should have a pleasant after-taste and "after-burn". Like any good food, it shouldn't leave a bad after-taste. And the heat should be noticeable without being over-powering. The goal is to have the heat "grow" somewhat in your mouth, then slowly fade.

    The chilis are run through a preliminary round of judging (the idea is to cull out the obvious losers), then they are narrowed down through subsequent rounds of judging. The final round is conducted by "experts" who have a lot of experience at cooking and judging.

    Many cook-offs of size will allow the public to volunteer for the preliminary judging rounds, with cooks given first choice. You ought to attend some cook-offs and volunteer to judge. It's really interesting and fun.
    #3
    Sundancer7
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    RE: Chili competition judging standards 2004/02/02 09:15:36 (permalink)
    Bushie: You must have been a judge. I say that because you were very comprehensive in your post. I have only made my version of chili which I am sure would not make anybody's list of great chili, but it works for me.

    I personally do not like it over hot, too much tomatoes, too much chili powder and too much sugar.

    I probably use too many onions and garlic. I like a beefy taste and I use no beans.

    Paul E. Smith
    Knoxville, TN
    #4
    Bushie
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    RE: Chili competition judging standards 2004/02/02 09:25:09 (permalink)
    Just the prelims, Sundance. I've cooked at a bunch of them over the years, and I usually always volunteer to judge. All just for fun. Good excuse to drink beer...
    #5
    Stogie
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    RE: Chili competition judging standards 2004/02/02 09:48:41 (permalink)
    Elise.....

    TOTALLY subjective! Which will always be a problem.

    I'm sure Bushie has been in contests where some of his scores were just plain "wrong". This happens a lot in the BBQ cook-offs as well. That is one reason in BBQ we throw out the lowest score.....keeps you from being killed by one "bad" judge.

    Really no way to fix this problem. In the BBQ community, we actually certify the judges and then try to have as many certified judges judging as is possible. The same is true in chili...as Bushie stated, the finals are judged by the pros.

    One great thing that chili judges do is to make comments on their judging sheets. The contestants then can see what the judges thought. Now, many times the comments are really useless, but they can also be a big help. In BBQ, there is no such thing...so you are left wondering how to improve your entires.

    ANY food contest will subjective.......UNLIKE many sports that are really more objective. Figure skaters have been mentioned. That judging is really OBJECTIVE...they are required to make certain moves and they either do or they don't(the free style programs are an exception). Same in diving and lots of other sports.

    So, really impossible to be objective when judging food. But, it is also fun to compete!

    Stogie
    #6
    tiki
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    RE: Chili competition judging standards 2004/02/02 09:49:08 (permalink)
    Hmm--a couple of hundred guys standing around in one place eating chili and drinking beer---NO WONDER THEY DONT ALLOW BEANS!!!!
    #7
    Lone Star
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    RE: Chili competition judging standards 2004/02/02 10:25:10 (permalink)
    Here is a link with an amusing take of an "inexperienced Northern judge" at a chili cook-off.
    http://tipsytankard.com/lore/funnies/earthly/texaschilicookoff.shtml
    #8
    Sundancer7
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    RE: Chili competition judging standards 2004/02/02 10:32:57 (permalink)
    Stogie and Bushie: Is the scoring done on blind samples of BBQ and chili?

    That would remove any bias opinions.

    Paul E. Smith
    Knoxville, TN
    #9
    Stogie
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    RE: Chili competition judging standards 2004/02/02 11:34:38 (permalink)
    Yes they are, Sundancer. Actually double blind...the cookers don't know who is judging them and the judges don't know who they are judging.

    I don't think bias is an issue...I just think folks have such varying tastes that it is impossible to be objective when tasting food.

    Overall, I have no complaints about judging in either of these cook-offs. Besdies, if you compete, you know all about these subjective standards. I always tell contestants.....If you don't like it, don't compete!

    Stogie
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    Tom-Fl
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    RE: Chili competition judging standards 2004/02/02 12:00:11 (permalink)
    You should have been at Lakeland this weekend with Ribdog and me.

    It was more the "blind leading the blind".LOL

    Tom
    #11
    tiki
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    RE: Chili competition judging standards 2004/02/02 12:25:44 (permalink)
    quote:
    Originally posted by Bushie

    Just the prelims, Sundance. I've cooked at a bunch of them over the years, and I usually always volunteer to judge. All just for fun. Good excuse to drink beer...


    Bushie---on the idea of a "Wild West"-Tex/Ok roadfooders meet up---me thinks a chili cook of in Texas would be a fun day! May be worth considering.
    #12
    Stogie
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    RE: Chili competition judging standards 2004/02/02 13:35:44 (permalink)
    Tom...

    I am getting a huge kick out of the discussions on the BBQ forum!

    Sounds like they have some kinks to work out! My opinion overall........sounds like it works pretty good! These cooks have to get over the fact there scores may be much lower than they have been in the past. The great teams still won which is really telling me that it works.

    Do you have any "in-depth" comments? Would love to hear them! You too, John(RibDog)!

    Stogie
    #13
    Bushie
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    RE: Chili competition judging standards 2004/02/02 17:49:26 (permalink)
    quote:
    Originally posted by tiki


    Bushie---on the idea of a "Wild West"-Tex/Ok roadfooders meet up---me thinks a chili cook of in Texas would be a fun day! May be worth considering.

    tiki, that sounds like a good idea!! It would be great to find a sizeable cookoff around Dallas; that would make it about halfway for you, anyone around Austin, and anyone around Houston.

    I'll check the CASI schedule and get back to you. Sometime later in the Spring would be great.
    #14
    Bushie
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    RE: Chili competition judging standards 2004/02/02 17:52:19 (permalink)
    quote:
    Originally posted by EliseT

    There was some discussion on another thread regarding benas in chili contests.

    Elise, what exactly are benas, anyway??
    #15
    Sundancer7
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    RE: Chili competition judging standards 2004/02/02 20:05:20 (permalink)
    I sincerely wonder if benas is a East Tennessee terminology for flatus. If so, I sincerely recommend that you eliminate from your diet as you will have a serious loss of close friendship of your closest friends.

    Paul E. Smith
    Knoxville, TN
    #16
    EliseT
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    RE: Chili competition judging standards 2004/02/02 21:00:54 (permalink)
    quote:
    Originally posted by Bushie

    quote:
    Originally posted by EliseT

    There was some discussion on another thread regarding benas in chili contests.

    Elise, what exactly are benas, anyway??


    It is my secret ingredient...made by typing into the wee hours. Glad I didn't substitute a "p" for the "b"!

    So what about meats??? Texture...chopped vs ground, sausages, unusual meats???
    #17
    marberthenad
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    RE: Chili competition judging standards 2004/02/02 21:42:49 (permalink)
    I was such an inexperienced judge of chili when I was asked to judge the annual chili cookoff in DC last year, that I had never before tried chili with chopped meat. Preferred it though, over its ground cousin. Better texture and contrasts in flavours.
    #18
    tiki
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    RE: Chili competition judging standards 2004/02/03 06:43:52 (permalink)
    quote:
    Originally posted by Bushie

    quote:
    Originally posted by tiki


    Bushie---on the idea of a "Wild West"-Tex/Ok roadfooders meet up---me thinks a chili cook of in Texas would be a fun day! May be worth considering.

    tiki, that sounds like a good idea!! It would be great to find a sizeable cookoff around Dallas; that would make it about halfway for you, anyone around Austin, and anyone around Houston.

    I'll check the CASI schedule and get back to you. Sometime later in the Spring would be great.

    Sounds good to me!! All you folks in the area--take note and theres bound to be SOME roadfooders on Texas roads in spring!
    #19
    Stogie
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    RE: Chili competition judging standards 2004/02/03 08:41:04 (permalink)
    Elise...

    The use of specific meats seems to be a very regional preference. For the most part, the winnners use cubed beef and not ground. However, in certain regions seems you can only win by using ground meat.

    I use ground meat for serving the public, but my comp chili uses 1/4" cubed meat....specifically..Tri-Tip.....the top of the sirloin. This meat is about as good as it gets. It will hold up for 3 hours of simmering without falling apart and it tenderizes better than other meats.

    Several cooks use sausage, but in reviewing the winners over the past many years, it appears sausage is not used too often. I personally use a pork bone in my pot, but I pull it out before serving. The pro's will tell you not to get too adventuresome with your meats.

    The one that I have never seen used by winners is...chocolate!

    Finally, many folks think you need to load everything in your chili pot. This simply isn't true! Many recipes are quite simple with very few ingredients. Here is the winner of the 1989 Champion.......

    Tarantula Jacks Thundering Herd Buffalo Tail Chili
    World Champion 1989

    Source: Phil Walter
    Submitted By: www.chilicookoff.com


    Ingredients:
    3 lbs cubed beef
    2 medium Walla Walla Sweet Onions (chopped fine)
    3 large cloves garlic (finely minced)
    2 10-oz cans of chicken broth
    2 12-oz cans Hunts Tomato Sauce
    7 tablespoons Gebhardt Chili Powder
    2 tablespoons ground cumin
    ¼ teaspoon Tabasco Pepper Sauce

    Instructions:
    Saute beef in skillet. Put beef into your favorite chili pot and simmer with onions and garlic broth for one and a half hours. Keep your hands off and leave the lid on!
    Add the Hunts Tomato Sauce, Gebhardt Chili Powder and the ground cumin. Stir.

    Fifteen minutes before eatin time, take off the lid and enjoy the aroma of the greatest chili ever to slide into a melmac bowl! Add the Tabasco. Put the lid back on and simmer for another 15 minutes. Add salt to taste.

    Its now ready top serve. Give out the Pepto Bismol samples to all small children and women who wish to eat your chili. Give your empty chili pot to the chili groupies and suggest they use new Dawn Detergent to clean it up. (Its the Official Grease Cutter of the International Chili Society) Comb your hair, straighten your hat and practice being modest before you receive applause OR the Championship Trophy if you are competing in a sanctioned ICS Cookoff. Serve with a cold Budweiser. This will serve 6-8 hungry Varmints.

    Pretty basic stuff!

    Stogie

    #20
    Bushie
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    RE: Chili competition judging standards 2004/02/03 08:55:06 (permalink)
    quote:
    Originally posted by EliseT


    So what about meats??? Texture...chopped vs ground, sausages, unusual meats???

    The cookoffs around here specify either meat cut into small chunks, or else a course "chili grind". Whichever, it would apply to the whole cookoff. (In other words, if the cookoff is "chili grind", then everyone would be expected to use that in that event.)

    Most everyone would be using beef, and I honestly don't know if there have been grand champion winners using pork, venison, etc. Good question.

    Of course, since a lot of folks are out there just to have fun, you'll see all kinds of stuff being used. I think the one I remember most is the time this team had some big (dead) rattlesnakes hanging from the top of their booth. They were skinning them right there and planned to use the meat in their chili.

    Lots of colorful characters at these things...
    #21
    Lone Star
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    RE: Chili competition judging standards 2004/02/03 10:50:40 (permalink)
    Stogie - when and why did it become the common practice to cut the meat into those tiny little uniform cubes? I think it looks strange. Is it a requirement, or will the judges count off if your beef is not precisely cut?
    #22
    EliseT
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    RE: Chili competition judging standards 2004/02/03 16:09:19 (permalink)
    See, that Gebhardts is magic...what drug are they putting in there??? I never thought of sweet onions...I always use red for the "bite".

    And I think tiny, uniform cubes does make it look like Chuck Wagon.
    #23
    Lone Star
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    RE: Chili competition judging standards 2004/02/03 16:24:29 (permalink)
    Gebharts is the best.
    #24
    Stogie
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    RE: Chili competition judging standards 2004/02/03 18:01:19 (permalink)
    Lone Star.....

    Cubing the meat has been around since the start......around 1968. I never cubed my meat until I started competing. I like to use ground beef.....around the Midwest it seems to be the norm. Both ground and cubed have won, but it appears the cubed wins far more often.

    Cubing is a pain, but I chop and cut most of my stuff on site at the cook-off. That way, you can talk with some of the folks that are just milling about.

    As far as the judges marking down...no idea. I learned that the pros know what the judges are looking for at each of these events. So, you gotta talk with other cooks and get the low down. For instance, this coming weekend you should use cubed meat.......so, we will all chop, chop! At the Winter Freeze cook-off in Springfield, IL you have to cook ground beef to win.....so it's just a matter of knowing in advance what to look for.

    Bushie, what are your thoughts?

    Stogie
    #25
    Bushie
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    RE: Chili competition judging standards 2004/02/04 09:22:01 (permalink)
    quote:
    Originally posted by Stogie


    Bushie, what are your thoughts?


    Cubed meat as opposed to ground was definitely there from the beginning (of the Chili Wars), but the practice of cutting the meat into small uniform cubes is something that evolved. I think it would have turned Tolbert's stomach.

    Stogie is absolutely correct in saying that you have to get to know the whims of the judges. The consistent winners cook great chili, but I'm convinced the REAL secret is making a pot based on what you know about the final panel of judges. Fortunately, all the great cooks seem to be willing to share what they know.

    Personally, I cut using kind of an irregular criss-cross, instead of making uniform cubes. The pieces are consistent in size, but they don't look like they came out of a machine. Some judges, of course, prefer the uniform cubes, but it just doesn't look good to me.

    At home though, I prefer ground beef.
    #26
    Edwaste
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    RE: Chili competition judging standards 2004/02/06 10:09:59 (permalink)
    Not to offend but:
    Looking at the above recipe and others that have won chili cook-offs, I'm not seeing anything real impressive, in fact the recipes are very simple and lacking depth. I guess it doesn't take much to impress these judges. It seems like they're more concerned about meat chunk size than flavor and uniqueness.

    If my wife and I were make a SERIOUS batch of chili, we would use a variety fresh chili pepper types, preparing them by fire roasting them til the skin turns black, then placing them in a brown paper bag to cool. Afterward, wash the pepper skin, remove the seeds and inner membrane, so that only the pepper meat is used. Or we would use dried whole chili peppers.

    We still use chili powders, only to make up for what fresh peppers we're lacking. We try to get chili powders of specific chili types.

    To me, making a batch of chili just using some generic powder or hot sauce, is skipping a lot of the creativity of chili maiking.
    There are so many different forms of peppers, all with a unique taste, and that blending of the different types can be a lot of fun, and very rewarding. Also you never, ever get two batches that are the same.

    #27
    Lone Star
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    RE: Chili competition judging standards 2004/02/06 10:33:55 (permalink)
    I would hardly call Gephart's "generic". It has been made in Texas since 1896 after being invented by William Gephart to meet the year-round demand for his chili in his cafe in New Braunsfels. Gephart's is made from Ancho chiles as well as cumin, oregano, and black pepper.

    Most competitions have a novelty chili, or other some such category where experimental chilis are judged.
    #28
    Edwaste
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    RE: Chili competition judging standards 2004/02/06 11:17:55 (permalink)
    Yeah, I like Ancho chiles, it's one of my favorites. But it's not the only chili pepper on the planet, and I wouldn't think that blending different fresh chilis as "experimental" or a "novelty". Being imaginitive? yes, experimental? no.
    As Edgar Varese said about his music, "I don't experiment with music, it's the listener that experiments"

    If I use chili powder, I try to stick to chili powders that are just chili powder, not some blend with other stuff stuff thrown in. I like to decide what goes in the mix.

    Clothier: when I referred to "a serious batch" of chili, I meant when my wife and I put a lot more than our usual effort. I'm not saying other people's chili is not serious.



    #29
    Sundancer7
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    RE: Chili competition judging standards 2004/02/06 16:50:12 (permalink)
    Bushie: what is a chili grind and how does it differ from hamburger. I have enjoyed this thread and obviously there are some really chili experts that know how to do it.

    Some chili's are overwhelming with spices. I do not like it so hot. I do not like a lot of sweet or tomato taste either but that is just personal preference.

    Paul E. Smith
    Knoxville, TN
    #30
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