Rules & Regulations

1)  Per the National Barbecue Tour (NBT), a BBQ Team is defined as one or more BBQ cooks that will prepare/cook and submit an entry to be judged per NBT Rules & Regulations at a NBT sanctioned event.  Each BBQ Team shall consist of a Pitmaster and any number of assistant cooks as required.  At any given BBQ competition, the Pitmaster and/or assistant cooks can only cook with team with which they were originally entered.  Teams are not allowed to compete at the same contest as two separate teams using the same name.  Teams are not authorized to compete in more than one contest on the same date under the same name.  A BBQ Team member shall not cook for more than one team at the same contest to include starting, running, or tending another team’s cooker, or altering another team’s meat in any way.It is the responsibility of BBQ Teams to review and adhere to the NBT rules and regulations outlined in this document.

2)  For the NBT, a contest/cook encompasses the entire BBQ competition process to include meat preparation (trimming, injecting, brining, seasoning, etc.), cooker management (from lighting to extinguishing), cooking of meat, placing meat in the turn-in container, and turning in your entry.  A BBQ Team is solely responsible for the entire BBQ competition process for their specific team only.  A BBQ Team cannot assist another team in this BBQ competition process.  If a team consists of only one member, or there is a reason a member of a specific team cannot turn in their own entries, they can enlist the help of a member from another team to turn in their entries with NBT representative approval.

3)  Each BBQ Team will be assigned a cook site by the NBT contest organizer.  It is imperative that all BBQ Teams respect the BBQ site boundaries of others.  When completing a contest application, be realistic when selecting the needed cook space.  ALL BBQ Team equipment, to include trailer(s), cooker(s), canopy/canopies, etc. must be contained within the assigned site boundaries.  If additional space is required, the BBQ team shall make arrangements with the NBT contest organizer.  BBQ Teams shall not share assigned cooking sites, and all cooking (to include meat preparation/seasoning) by that team must be done within their assigned site space.

4)  Only wood, wood pellet, or charcoal fired cookers are authorized for use in cooking NBT entries.  Electric operated power draft devices and wood pellet augers are allowed.  No open fire pits or fires built on the ground will be allowed.  No team may share a cooker or grill with any other team.  No equipment, water, electricity or other supplies will be provided by the organizer unless otherwise stated in the contest application.

5)  The only allowable cooking fuels are wood, charcoal, or wood pellets.  Starting a fire with a Propane or Electric source is allowed, but no meat shall be on the cooking device when utilizing these starting methods.  No electric/gas heat source is allowed for cooking or holding contest meat.

6)  Teams must maintain a clean and orderly site from contest start to finish.  It is the responsibility of the Pitmaster to ensure all trash is disposed of in the appropriate trash containers as indicated by the contest organizer.  BBQ Teams are responsible for the disposal and removal of their own ash, grease, and gray water during and following the contest.  A contest organizer may provide a means for the disposal of these items, but it is not to be expected.  All BBQ Team sites will be inspected at the end of a contest for cleanliness.  If any of the items previously mentioned are left on site or the space is not clean, that team may be disqualified from competing in future NBT contests.  All teams are expected to use good sanitary practices during the preparation, cooking, and judging process.  The use of sanitary gloves is required at all times while handling food.  All federal, state and local food safety rules and regulations must be adhered to at all times.  BBQ Teams must adhere to all electrical, fire and other codes.  A fire extinguisher shall be near all cooking equipment, and a current tag inspection may be done by the local fire department in which the contest is being held.

7)  BBQ Teams and guests must conduct themselves appropriately and be respectful of others at or visiting the contest.  Excessive use of alcoholic beverages, public intoxication, and serving alcohol to the public is not allowed.  BBQ Teams are responsible for adhering to local laws regarding the consumption of alcohol.  Quiet time for BBQ Teams will be in effect from 10:30 PM on the night prior to the contest judging, remaining in effect until 7:00 AM on contest judging day.  Failure to abide by these rules of conduct may result in expulsion from the contest and repeat offenders will be barred from competing in NBT contests.

8)  The four (4) NBT meat categories sanctioned by NBT include:

CHICKEN:  This includes whole, halved, or individual pieces.  Cornish Game Hen and Kosher chicken is allowed.  Entries can be submitted as whole pieces, sliced, pulled, chopped or diced (*must fit in provided container).  Manufacturer enhanced/injected chicken is allowed (excluding and not limited to butter injected, lemon pepper, teriyaki and other similar enhancements/injections).  Please confer with an NBT Representative if you are unsure a meat is legal to use.

PORK RIBS:  Loin Back (Baby Back) or Spare Ribs only (no country style ribs).  Ribs shall include the bone (no chopped, pulled, or sliced loose rib meat).  Manufacturer enhanced/injected ribs are allowed (excluding and not limited to butter injected, lemon pepper, teriyaki and other similar enhancements/injections).  Please confer with an NBT Representative if you are unsure a meat is legal to use.

PORK:  Whole Shoulder, Boston Butt, Boston Roast, and/or Picnic (Bone-in or Boneless).  Must weigh a minimum of five pounds after trimming and must be cooked as a single piece of meat.  Once cooked, it may be separated and returned to the cooker for finishing.  Entries can be submitted sliced, pulled, chopped or diced (*must fit in provided container).  Manufacturer enhanced/injected Pork is allowed (excluding and not limited to butter injected, lemon pepper, teriyaki and other similar enhancements/injections).  Please confer with an NBT Representative if you are unsure a meat is legal to use.

BEEF BRISKET:  May be flat and/or point.  Corned beef and pastrami is not allowed.  Entries can be submitted sliced, pulled, chopped or diced (*must fit in provided container).

9)  All contest meats shall be inspected by an assigned NBT Meat Inspector prior to cooking, injecting, marinating, and seasoning.  BBQ contest meats can be pre-trimmed off-site before arriving at the contest.Inspection will begin in the morning, the day before judging (Start time TBD by NBT Representative or designee), and no sooner.  Once inspected, contest meat must remain within the BBQ team’s assigned site.  Prior to cooking, meat must be maintained at 40° F or less.  All meat that is resting in preparation for cooking must be covered at all times.  All meats must be cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 145 degrees F.  After cooking all meat must be maintained at a minimum temperature of 140 degrees F or above in a covered container until turned in for judging.

10)  A representative from each BBQ Team is required to attend the official BBQ Team’s meeting which will normally be held the day prior to judging.  The time of the meeting will be communicated to all BBQ teams no later than noon the day before judging.

11)  A minimum of five (5) portions of meat must be submitted with each entry.  There must be enough portions for all five (5) judges.

  • Container:  All entries must be submitted in a Hefty one-compartment hinge lid container (9 1/2 x 9 x 3).  The use of any other container must be approved by NBT.  An NBT representative will provide the authorized entry containers the day before judging with your assigned BBQ team number written on the top of the container.  The entry number must be displayed on top of the container at turn-in.  Only the entered meat and optional authorized garnish are allowed in the container.  No identifiable markings are allowed on or in the containers. 

  • Garnish:  Garnish is optional.  Acceptable garnish includes green lettuce (no cores), curly parsley, flat leaf parsley, curly green kale and/or cilantro that is chopped, sliced, shredded or whole leaves.  Other vegetation is not allowed.

  • Sauce:  Sauce is optional.  Sauce can only be applied directly to the meat and not pooled or puddled on the meat or in the container.

12)  NBT Judging will normally start at 11:00am on Saturday or Sunday.

     The four (4) NBT category Turn-In times/windows are as follows:

          CHICKEN – 11:00 am (10 minute Turn-in window:  10:55:00 to 11:04:59)

          PORK RIBS - 12:00 pm (10 minute Turn-in window:  11:55:00 to 12:04:59)

          PORK - 1:00 pm (10 minute Turn-in window:  12:55:00 to 1:04:59)

          BEEF BRISKET - 2:00 pm (10 minute Turn-in window:  1:55:00 to 2:04:59)

     Any modification of turn in times or the order to be judged must be approved by an NBT representative and communicated to all BBQ Teams as early as possible, but no later than the cooks meeting the day before judging. 

13)  NBT uses a blind judging process for all entries.  Entries will be submitted in authorized containers only (as described in section 10) at the prescribed turn-in times listed in section 11.  No decoration/marking on or within the container is allowed.  Judging will be done by a team of five (5) persons at each judging table.  The number of tables needed to properly judge the contest will be determined by the NBT Rep.  Each NBT certified judge will judge each entry on three criteria: APPEARANCE, TASTE, and TENDERNESS.

14)  Once an entry is turned in by the BBQ team, a member of the judging team will renumber the container to ensure the blind judging process is followed.  The entry will then be placed in a tray assigned to a designated judging table.  Each entry will be presented by the Table Lead individually for all judges to score for appearance.  Once all entries have been scored for appearance, each entry will be circulated to the judges to remove their sample from the box to judge for taste and tenderness.  Following the scoring portion, each judge will be required to complete a comment card for each entry judged regardless of score.  The hour between turn-ins should allow each judge to provide constructive comments for each entry.  Each judge will then turn in their scoring/comment sheets to the Table Lead, who will audit each for completeness and comprehension.

15)  The scoring system is from ten (10) to six (6) (whole numbers only), with ten being the highest.  The weighting factors for the point system are:  Appearance - .5872, Taste – 1.4236, Tenderness - 1.9892.  A score of one (1) will be given for a penalty or disqualification and requires approval by an NBT Representative.  All five (5) judges scores will count in the total score for each category.

16)  An entry can only be disqualified by an NBT representative.  The following items represent reasons an entry may be disqualified and will result in a score of one (1) in one or more criteria and by one or more judges (**this list may not include all reasons for disqualification, and final disqualification authority is by the NBT representative):

          - Marking or Sculpting of an entry.  Marking is considered to be any mark on or within the container, whether handwritten or mechanically done.Sculpting is considered to be the placement of meat within a turn-in container that may aid judges in identifying the team that submitted the entry.  The entry will receive a score of one (1) in appearance by all judges.  The entry will still be judged for taste and tenderness and comments cards provided to the BBQ team.

          - Prohibited garnish used.  Any boxes containing garnish that is not authorized (see section 10) will receive a score of one (1) in appearance by all judges.  The entry will still be judged for taste and tenderness and comments cards provided to the BBQ team.

            -  Foreign object.  Any box containing a foreign object will receive a one (1) in appearance.  The entry will still be judged for taste and tenderness and comment cards provided to the BBQ team.

             - There is not a minimum of five (5) separate and identifiable portions within the box.  This is most common when BBQ teams do not completely cut in between rib bones, which causes two or more bones to be stuck together.  Judges are not authorized to cut or shake the bones to create separate entries.  In this case, the BBQ team will get a score of one (1) in appearance from all judges at the table, and a score of one (1) in all three (3) criteria by all judges that didn’t receive a sample.

           - Blood present in the meat sample that indicates the meat is undercooked.  This is common with the chicken category.  All teams should ensure all entries are cooked to the proper internal temperature using a “Thermapen” or similar device.  Uncooked entries will receive a one (1) in taste and tenderness by the judge(s) impacted for that entry but the appearance score will stand.

      If a BBQ Team does not turn in a product, disqualified and not allowed to turn in, is late for turn in, or turns in the wrong meat, that team’s category is not accepted, not judged and receives no score.

17)  A category winner will be the team with the highest total points received among all teams judged in that category.  The cumulative points for all 4 NBT categories will determine the overall Grand Champion and Reserve Grand Champion for a contest.  If there is a tie in one of the categories, it will be broken by the computer, as follows:  The scores will be compared (counting all five (5) judges) for the highest cumulative scores in tenderness, then taste, then appearance.  If still tied, then a computer-generated coin flip will be used.

           - For ties in paid positions, the teams split the respective award monies.  For example, if 1st and 2nd place tie, the award monies for both places will be combined and split between the 1st and 2nd place teams.

18)  For NBT contests, judges are required to not only score each entry, but must also provide a comment card for each entry judged.  Once scoring and score tabulation is complete, it is the NBT representative’s responsibility to collate a team scoring package for each team to include the overall contest score breakdown, contest scores for each category, team score breakdown, and the team’s comments for each category.  While it will be the intent of the NBT representative to provide all these details immediately following contest awards, some of these details may need to be provided at a later date via email or other means.

19)  The use of Social Media to share positive NBT contest experiences is highly encouraged.  However, it is highly discouraged that BBQ teams or judges share anything on social media platforms that shows judges or other teams in a negative light.  As part of the NBT BBQ family, it is imperative that we fully respect each other when posting pictures and/or comments on any social media platform.

**Interpretations of these NBT Rules and Regulations by the NBT Representative(s) are final.  These rules and regulations may not be all inclusive, and may not cover all situations/events, etc.  If certain events/situations arise that require a judgement by the NBT representative, that judgement is final.**