The Best BBQ Competitions in 2012

I am mapping out my 2012 and hope to be able to hit a few big BBQ competitions.

Many of you are active members of the BBQ community and actively participate in BBQ competitions.  If this is you, these events and dates are already etched into your memory.

But if you are just learning more about competition BBQ or just want a schedule of when the events take place, then this post is for you.

Most BBQ competitions usually beginning around in April and go until late October.   These events feature intense but friendly competition between teams of cooks and are usually divided into separate competitions for the best pork, beef and poultry barbecue and sometimes for the best barbecue sauces.

There are two main kinds of competition: 1) “invitational events” (invite only based upon a certain criteria) and 2) “open events” where anyone can enter.  Prize fees and tasting rules also vary by competition and by state.

Let’s get into each one!

Jack Daniel’s World Championship Invitational Barbecue Competition

Smokin’ Hoggz BBQ from Abington, Mass celebrate!

Smokin’ Hoggz BBQ from Abington, Mass celebrate their win in 2011!

  • Years: 25 (as of 2012)
  • When: October 27, 2012 (last weekend in October)
  • Where: Lynchburg, TN
  • Prize Money: $40,000
  • Size:  89 Teams

The competition, referred to as “The Jack”, is like the Super Bowl of the BBQ competition circuit. To qualify for entry, teams must win a state championship with at least 25 teams, or win one of the premiere barbecue competitions that qualify a team for an automatic berth.


American Royal BBQ Competition (Invitational and Open)

American Royal BBQ Contest Winners Tippy Canoe BBQ Crew from Iowa

  • Years:  33
  • When:  October 6, 2012 (first weekend in October)
  • Where: American Royal Complex, Kansas City, MO
  • Prizes: $100,000
  • Size: 500+ Teams

The American Royal Barbecue Contest is held each October in Kansas City, Missouri with an invitational and an open contest. This open contest is the largest championship barbecue competition in the world, with the 2007 event attracting 496 teams.


Safeway BBQ Battle XX  

  • Years: 20
  • When:  June 23, 24 2012
  • Where:  Pennsylvania Ave, DC
  • Prizes: $40,000
  • Size: 40 teams

One of the only times that 150,000 people are allowed to shut down Pennsylvania Avenue, the BBQ Battle in DC features 30 bands on 3 stages, Safeway Sampling Booth, The Johnsonville “World’s Largest Grill,” The Oscar Meyer Weiner Truck, and more.  The big draw is the National Pork Championship – with shoulder, pork rib, picnic, or butt categories. Also a traditional KCBS championship, Perdue Sizzlin Chicken Contest,and a Ranchers Reserve Beef BBQ Championship.



Memphis in May

  • Years:              36 (in 2012)
  • When:             May 17, 2012
  • Where:            Tom Lee Park, Memphis TN
  • Prizes:            $110,000
  • Size:                   About 400 teams (?)

The World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest is held annually in Memphis, Tennessee, during the Memphis in May festival.  According to the Guinness Book of World Records, it is the world’s largest pork barbecue contest.  There are lot of fun extras like the Ms. Piggie Idol competition where the finest swine tests their vocal skills, and grown men dress in tutus and snouts and women kick their heels (hooves) up. There is also a t-shirt competition and even a best booth contest.




Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo

  • Years:              39th (in 2012)
  • When:             Feb 23 – Feb 25th
  • Where:            Houston TX
  • Prizes:            ?
  • Size:                  244,000+ fans

The World’s Championship Bar-B-Que Contest (the “Contest”) is three days of cooking, competition, eating and dancing. The sweet aroma drifts over the Houston metropolis, drawing crowds like bees to honey as a record 244,184 guests joined the feast in 2011. While the camaraderie is fun and festive, the judging is all business as teams vie for the coveted title of World’s Championship Bar-B-Que Contest Grand Champion. Trophies are awarded to teams preparing the best dish in each category (brisket, chicken and pork ribs) as well as an overall winner. Awards also are presented to the most colorful team, the team with the cleanest area, the most unique pit and the team with the best skit. Go Texan teams are honored for best barbecue and most colorful team. Recycling awards and the Dutch Oven Dessert award also are presented.


Smoke on the Water

  • When: March 30, 2012
  • Where: Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas
  • Prizes:  $400,000 in total prize money




Roc City Rib Fest

  • When: May 5, 2012
  • Where: Rochester NY
  • Prizes: $15,000
  • Size: 145 teams in 2011



That’s most of the real big ones – have any others that are a must-see?

Please let us know which ones and why in the comments!


Site Editor, BBQ Sauce Lover, Family Guy, Hi Tech Marketer by Day. He recently wrote the Ebook “How to Market Your BBQ Sauce” which can be purchased on this site.



  1. Would love to make it to the Royal one day!

    • Same here Kevin. Went to The Jack this past year and had a blast. Should be going to the Safeway BBQ Battle in D.C. this summer. Looking forward to that one as well.

  2. David Edwards says

    Braggin rights only

  3. Great stuff. This is the year of the BBQ. Can’t wait to see what the masters do this year!


  4. You forgot the Texas Rodeo brother. The big 4 of Que are Memphis in May, the Royal, the Jack, and the Rodeo. Good luck in 2012 ya’ll

    Neil Gallagher
    Too Sauced To Pork BBQ Team

  5. Don’t forget the National BBQ Festival held in Waycross, GA the first weekend in November. Friday is the Best of the Best Invitational and Saturday is the Smokin’ in the Swamp Open along with the Smokin’ in the Swamp Backyard and Kids Q. There is a Pie contest as well!! Over $50,000 in prizes for the weekend. See more information here

  6. Can you eat any of the competitor’s foods?

  7. You can at some of them, depends on the contest. let me try to add that in there somewhere.

  8. Greg Bane says

    Save the Date: Glen Ellyn’s Backyard BBQ Sept. 8

    4th annual Backyard BBQ will be held from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sept. 8.

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    Submitted by Bridge Communities

    Glen Ellyn’s Backyard BBQ Cook-Off returns for a fourth year of food, fun and festivity in a relaxed, downhome atmosphere. Glen Ellyn’s 4th Annual Backyard BBQ Cook-Off Competition takes place Saturday, Sept. 8 in the Glenwood Avenue lot in downtown Glen Ellyn. The event is open to the public from 10 a.m. until 9 p.m. and there is no cost to attend. Attendees are encouraged to bring their own chairs, relax, and hang out for the afternoon.

    “What started in 2009 as a small, block-party-like BBQ contest for a bunch of amateurs with a love of BBQ and delusions of grandeur has grown to a full blown event in downtown Glen Ellyn,” says Bob Solak, Bags Tournament Coordinator for the 2012 BBQ.

    Both amateur and seasoned barbecuers are taking their backyard talents to downtown Glen Ellyn in hopes of winning bragging rights. Forty six teams will be competing in this year’s BBQ competition. Judging is from 2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Competition categories are Best Ribs, Best Dish, and – new this year – People’s Choice Award for Best Sauce.

    While grilled and smoked meats will take the spotlight, there is much more to the event than just BBQ. Food vendors include Smokin’ Wills, Brand BBQ Market, Tap House Grill, and Dippin’ Dots.

    Tom Koprowski, a Glen Ellyn resident and barbecue enthusiast and co-founder of the BBQ who goes by the nickname “Pig Daddy,” adds, “This year’s music lineup is fantastic. We’ve got Amy Kelly with the Bill Ande Band returning, along with Buzz Kilman and the Blues Rocket Scientists and Cadillac Dave and His Chicago Red Hots also performing. It’s going to be great!”

    Another competition takes place at the Glen Ellyn Backyard BBQ Cook-Off: the Bags Tournament. In its second year, the Bags Tournament welcomes two-person teams for a double elimination format competition. The Tournament begins at 11:45 a.m. and ends with the final four at approximately 4:00 p.m. The 1st Place team wins a trophy and a set of Glen Ellyn Backyard BBQ cornhole boards. The 2nd place team will receive a trophy. Winners will be announced on the main stage along with the BBQ competition winners. The entry donation is $30 per team minimum (more is always appreciated!), and registration will close after 32 entries are received.

    “Everything that we do here funds and supports Bridge Communities’ mission, which is transforming the lives of homeless families in DuPage County by partnering with talented, resourceful individuals and groups in our community,” says Koprowski.

    To enter the either the barbecue or bags competitions, participants must submit a form and a fee. Applications for the contests and more information can be found at

    Sponsors include Glen Ellyn Bank and Trust, Advanced Healthcare Associates, 90.9fm WDCB Public Radio, Pirate 50 Trophies, Glancer Magazine, Stubbs, Bryall YMCA, Abbey Resort, House of Graphics, 360 Digital, Professional Paving and Concrete Company, Inc. and Euclid Beverage.

    Greg Bane, member of the BBQ planning committee, says, “After participating for the first time last year, WDCB is so happy with our event that Marketing Director Ken Scott indicates WDCB will double its support from last year!”

    The Glen Ellyn Backyard BBQ is an unofficial community gathering run by neighborhood volunteers and is not affiliated with any organization other than its sponsors and not-for-profit beneficiary, Bridge Communities. Entrants and guests participate at their own risk. Questions? Email

  9. Craig Brown says

    Hello, My name is Craig Brown, CoOwner of Millies BBQ Sauce, recently place 3rd in the KC American Royal, and 2nd in the National BBQ Sauce News. We are looking for sauce contest for 2013 to enter. Can you help. My contact is

  10. Leslie Mart says

    Don’t forget the “Don’t Be Cruel BBQ Duel” in Tupelo, Mississippi. The 2013 event, held March 15 & 16 had 100 teams from across the nation with a waiting list 6 weeks out. We awarded over $15,000 to teams placing up to 10th place. Great assortment of masters from across the board. Chris Lily with Big Bob Gibson’s BBQ said it was one of the best competitions he had been to. Plan ahead for March 14 & 15, 2014.

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