What I learnt from attending my first American Royal

Jesse Rogers
Jesse Rogers, team Eureka Smoke

Ever thought about competing at the world’s biggest BBQ event? I’ve put together a few tips and observations from my first ever trip to, and cook at, the American Royal World Series Of Barbecue Competition.

Anyone can enter
While there is an Invitational competition restricted to Grand Champion winners, the Open event accepts anyone.  Watch the American Royal website for when entries open and get in quick. This year was the biggest ever with 564 teams.

The top teams will definitely be there
Teams are given the same site if they come back next year. Most of the top teams are placed together but if they don’t attend, they could be placed 10 minutes walk away. This virtually assures the big names will keep coming back. Even if you get to beat just one of them, it makes the trip worthwhile. Most of them were very approachable and happy to have a chat.

Stick burners rule
The most popular BBQ by far are offsets, or stick burners as some call them. The food I tried off them was incredible – guess what my next pit will be?

Logistics aren’t scary
The onsite bbq expo sells fuels (including a massive variety of wood in chunks and logs), sauces, rubs and tools. Just outside the complex is a Restaurant Depot, where KCBS members get free access and can buy all their competition meats, groceries and foil pans.  You can get almost everything you need to compete within 2km of the Royal site. Leave room in your bag for sauces, rubs, knives, t shirts and sponsors swag.

Motorhomes are the norm
Most teams do all their food prep inside motorhomes. It makes life comfortable, especially if the weather is bad, but shigging difficult. (Shigging is BBQ slang for learning from your competitors).

Learning opportunities are everywhere
From the free master classes held by the masters like Myron Mixon, Johnny Trigg and Chris Lilly, to the KCBS judging class where you get to taste food, practice scoring and seeing how others score, to just having a conversation with your neighbours – so much information is shared your head will hurt (or maybe that was the moon shine)

The flavours aren’t that different
I was afraid Australian tastes would be worlds apart from the US but thankfully it wasn’t the case. I tried food from 2 of the top 20 and we’re not that different. I think BBQ will be like the America’s cup…  Aussies will be the first to wrestle a world championship cup away from the yanks! Go Aussies!!

BBQ competitors are awesome
At the end of the day, people start BBQing to feed their friends and family so I shouldn’t be surprised how friendly BBQ competitors are.  But time and time again, the generosity of the people we met blew me away. Its not a macho culture at all – its family friendly and and fun is the focus.

Note: A special thanks to Andy Groneman and his incredibly tolerant family for having 6 Aussies take over their home.




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