Sink Your Teeth into the World of Judging Competition BBQ with KCBS

Walking into a Kansas City Barbeque Society-sanctioned event, the atmosphere is full of flavorful smoke and dripping with excitement as the smells, tastes, sights and sounds delight the senses of the young, old and everyone in between. The best pitmasters from across the country—and the world—gather to compete in a sizzling competition, judged by Kansas City Barbeque Society Certified BBQ Judges. 

A Timeline of Kansas City BBQ Greatness

KCBS began in Kansas City during the fall of 1985, gathering roughly 20 members, and has since grown to become the world’s largest society of BBQ enthusiasts with over 16,000 worldwide members, sanctioning over 375 events annually. In the beginning, there was a humble criterion for membership: that none of it be taken too seriously — doing so would be grounds for disqualification.

The Society participated in the big three competitions in Kansas City: The American Royal, The Great Lenexa Barbeque Battle and the Blue Springs Blaze Off. But members wanted more ways to compete and showcase their cooking teams. The number of contests available to teams grew as the taste for competition kept heating up.

Becoming a Certified BBQ Judge

Interested in becoming a Certified Barbeque Judge and sinking your teeth into the juiciest competitions pitmasters participate in? Join KCBS and receive training from the world’s BBQ experts. At Q39, we were born out of BBQ competitions. Our late founder Rob Magee mastered the art of KC BBQ through the competition team Munchin’ Hogs, winning dozens of awards over the course of a decade.

Not only do KCBS Certified BBQ Judges have a say in what makes the greatest barbeque in the world, but they also taste the best of the best from award-winning pitmasters.

In order to become a KCBS Certified Barbeque Judge, you must:

  • Be 16 years old and up
  • Take the KCBS CBJ class (minimum 15 years old to take class)
  • Be an active member of KCBS


Mark Noordsy, KCBS Certified Judge and a writer for BBQ News Magazine, said in a post that the commitment to becoming a judge is one that is earned, not given. Competition participants put a lot of time and money into their entries, spending upwards of $1,000 or more per event.

“BBQ is very competitive and not every entry will win or score highly,” Noordsy said. “And, that is the judge’s job – to objectively and subjectively evaluate each meat presented to us.”

Once established as a KCBS Certified Barbeque Judge, judges have the opportunity to move up in the ranks, becoming a Master Certified Barbeque Judge (MCBJ). Judges who have completed the MCBJ requirements (30 signatures from contest representatives, cook with a team at a contest, completion of the online test with a minimum score of 90 out of 100), can receive recognition of 100+ contests with a 100+ CBJ pin and your name posted online.

KCBS Judging Classes

Certified Barbeque Judge classes are held on a regular basis worldwide. Each class is a half-day of learning the ins and outs of barbeque competitions, and how to judge them, led by a Kansas City Barbeque Society veteran.

In the classes, attendees will learn how to grade world-class chicken, ribs, pork and brisket. Judging students will also have the opportunity to taste the barbeque during the process. Upon completion, you’ll be ready to judge a competition in your area.

You can find more information on Kansas City Barbeque Society-sanctioned judging classes here.

The Kansas City Barbeque Society Judges’ Oath

Judges at these events take an oath of service before competition.

“I do solemnly swear to objectively and subjectively evaluate each barbeque meat that is presented to my eyes, my nose, my hands and my palate. I accept my duty to be an Official KCBS Certified Judge, so that truth, justice, excellence in barbeque and the American way of life may be strengthened and preserved forever.”

Kevin Sandridge of the BBQ Beat podcast said that this oath is repeated at the beginning of each KCBS judges’ meeting.

“I love it, and first said these words back about four years ago just prior to a Plant City Pig Jam BBQ competition,” Sandridge writes in a post about becoming a KCBS judge. “If you truly love BBQ and value the culture behind what the KCBS stands for — I strongly urge you to consider joining the ranks as a Certified BBQ Judge.”

Volunteering as a KCBS Certified Judge is fun, but also serious. Competitors work hard, and being the first to taste-and grade-the results of their efforts is a privilege not to be taken for granted. Barbeque traditions are passed down through the generations, and the result is experiencing the best smoked and grilled meats in the world.

Have a taste for more? Visit KCBS to find out how to become a Certified KCBS Judge, and when classes might be available near you. And if trying KC BBQ that has won dozens of awards and been recognized both locally and nationally for its competition-style BBQ with a twist is your thing, be sure to swing by one of Q39’s two locations in Kansas City or Overland Park.

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