My Experience Entering Q at Kelly’s SCA BBQ Comp
I'm Julian and I am the National Wholesale Manager at BBQ Spit Rotisseries and I am also the founder of Cue by Smoke BBQ.
Recently, I had the pleasure of participating in the Q at Kelly's SCA Competition where I placed 10th & 12th (out of 17 entries) in the steak category. The competition featured a number of Australia's best-ranked SCA Competitors and was nothing short of a walk in the park. It also happened to be my debut entrance into the competitive circuit under the Cue by Smoke BBQ brand which was a milestone in my BBQ journey so far.
Prep started approximately a month prior to the event. I began practising at home with different flavour profiles using Scotch Fillet steaks and mastering the art of the perfect 'grill mark' (you'll need to get yourself a set of GrillGrates - this will make grill lines far more effective). In the space of a month, I believe I cooked more steaks than I would have cooked in an entire year. At least I know the family never went hungry!! It is important that when you are cooking for home practice that you are trying to option steaks that are at least 1 1/4 inch thick.
In the lead-up of the last few days prior to the event, I began collating a list of everything I needed for the day. The best thing about SCA Competitions - you most definitely do not need a trailer full of equipment. I was able to fit everything I needed into my sedan. The bare minimum you'll need is
- Charcoal BBQ (I used a Weber 57cm Kettle, however, many teams use a Weber Go-Anywhere)
- Tressle Table / Portable Work Bench / 3x3m Marquee
- Rubs, Seasonings, Sauces, Mops
- Kitchen & Cleaning Supplies (incl. Gloves)
- Knives and Chopping Board
Bump in on the day of the event was 8:30 am with Steak Selection occurring at 9:00 am. At this point, you'll draw tokens to determine where in the queue you'll be and at what point you'll select a steak.
Now there are pros and cons to being picked first and being picked last.
If you are first, you'll have a pick at every steak. But you are given a very limited amount of time to select the best steak and with every steak on display, it can be quite overwhelming. Going last leaves you with the least favourable looking cuts so you are forced to work with whatever you are handed.
But on the second steak, the tokens are flipped. If you were last, you are now first and vice versa. In a perfect world... you'll draw a token that places you right in the centre of the pack and allows you to still capture a decent-looking steak without being overwhelmed by all the options or having no option at all.
(Note: on your second steak selection, you get to pick an additional steak which is referred to as the burner. The burner is not used in official hand in and is merely there to test the temp of your grill, check your flavour profile, or simply... provide you with lunch)
Both cooks, I commenced my charcoal & grill preparation about 5 minutes prior to the window opening which placed my hand in approximately 10-15 minutes into the window. Even though you have 30 minutes to grill a 6-7 minute steak... the pressure is still on you to ensure every step is executed perfectly
I would say that both of my cooks went according to plan with maybe one or two hiccups that I put down to pressure or poor judgment during the cook. That being said, my aim was to have fun and place anywhere other than dead-last. So landing right in the mid-pack was far more than what I hoped for and really allowed me to reflect on where I could improve for the next competition.
So if you are considering an SCA competition, I highly recommend getting involved. If you are concerned about how much involvement is required - as I did, option the steak categories only to ease your way into the field.
I didn't capture a Golden Ticket on this occasion - but it's an aspiration I can work towards.
by: Julian Dragone