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Doug Halo has been involved in competitive barbecue since 1984, first as a contestant and then as a judge. Now he and his wife, Kathy, oversee the contests at the National Capital Barbecue Battle, happening in DC June 23 and 24. Here’s what he looks for when evaluating all that meat.
The Smoke Ring
That red ring along the surface of the meat is where the smoke has permeated the flesh. No ring? The meat hasn’t been smoked properly, or at all.
The meat’s the star, and smoke plays best supporting actor. It should enhance, not cover up.
It might look burnt, but a crusty dark bark is exactly what you want.
The flavor should develop and linger. “It doesn’t fade right away,” Halo says.
The meat should be moist and pull apart easily without being mushy. For ribs, you should be able to pull the bone clean out, but there needs to be just enough resistance.
The X Factor
Judges’ tastes can vary from region to region. In Georgia, they tend to like their sauces sweet. Not so much in Texas. “The winners don’t cook for themselves,” Halo says. “The winners cook for the judges.”
This article appeared in the May 2018 issue of Washingtonian.