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Competition Chicken Practice

In competition BBQ, your entry is judged on appearance, taste and tenderness. The chicken you turn in has to have good color and glaze, and the pieces should be neatly arranged and consistent in size and shape. Taste is subjective, but you have to remember that this is ‘one bite BBQ’, so you should go a little heavy on the flavor for that wow factor that will separate your entry from the other five the judge will be tasting that day. As for tenderness, understand that BBQ chicken is not grilled chicken. BBQ chicken skin is tender not crisp, and the meat is softer and moister. What you’re trying to achieve is ‘bite through’ skin that’s not rubbery and doesn’t pull off when you take a bite.

Here, I’m starting with some medium sized chicken thighs.

The first thing I do is remove the skin. I trim the thigh along the fat lines on each side and trim to a nice heart shape. Some people prefer square or round (as in muffin pan chicken), but this is the shape I prefer because it looks more natural.

Next, I turn the thigh over and remove the small dark triangular piece of meat that lays right on top of the bone.

This reveals a vein, which I go in and remove.

Now I fillet the fat from the underside of the skin. This takes a sharp knife and a lot of patience and practice to accomplish without ripping the skin.

Then I put the skin back on, vacuum pack and they’re ready for meat inspection.

As soon as they’ve been inspected, I unpack the thighs, put them skin side down in a foil pan and give them a liberal coating of my favorite rub. Then they get covered and go back into the cooler overnight.

Two hours, forty five minutes before turn in, I flip the thighs over skin side up and pour on some melted margarine, one tablespoon per thigh. I use ‘I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter’. I make sure all the skin gets a good coating. Two and a half hours before turn in, they go into a 275 degree cooker, uncovered.

When the hour is up, I take the thighs out shake some rub on the skin side, cover and put them back into the cooker for another hour.

Finally, the thighs come back out of the cooker, get submerged in sauce and go back in the cooker in a new pan, on a rack for ten minutes uncovered, to set the sauce.

Here’s how this batch turned out. Perfect tenderness and ‘bite through’ skin. The presentation is a little lacking in that all the thighs are not identical, but in competition I cook 24 thighs and pick the best and most similar 6. I also don’t like the bone projecting from the bottom of some of the thighs. Next practice, I’ll cut the knuckle off the bottom of the bone for better presentation.

34 Responses to “Competition Chicken Practice”

  • Mister Bob:


    I use Royal Oak lump charcoal for all my BBQ. Because poultry absorbs smoke so easily, I don’t add any additional wood. For pork I add cherry or apple, and for beef I add hickory or oak. I use mesquite for grilling only.

    I don’t rub under the skin on my comp chicken thighs because I’m afraid it might increase the chance of the skin sliding off when the judge takes his bite. I haven’t really tested that theory, but I get plenty of flavor without the extra step.

  • Branon:

    Also do you put rub under the skin(I do)? If not, why?