KCBS and WBQA Rules: Which Differences?


The nuances of Regulation between the two circuits

In Europe, two competitive bidding circuits have been established: the Kansas City Barbecue Society, or KCBS, and the World Barbecue Association or WBQA, which has found a particularly effective application in the NBC national championship in Italy.

Right in Italy, the strong identity of NBC has inevitably resulted in a confrontation between WBQA and KCBS in terms of opportunities offered to teams. An Italian team today has the opportunity to choose from a very intense and interesting competition calendar that goes beyond year by year.

La Premiazione del NBC Motor Valley – Credits: Marco Covella

I personally see the characteristics of the two circuits as very different and I conceive it as complementary and not alternative within the overall barbecue offer. Consequently, each represents the best solution for a team basing on their features by offering services in some ways at the antipodes. In the last two years I have personally seen new teams born, maybe by my ex-students, and I have directed each one towards to one or the other really convinced that it was the right indication to give concerning what they were expecting and what they wanted from their competition experience in the BBQ world.

Not always, however, the road seems so clear. The ideal would be to try both, but often raise up what in economics would be called the conversion costs, or all those elements that for one reason or another constitute the classic “duty to pay” if you decide to try to change. The first of these is probably the lack of confidence with the rules of the circuit opposite to what they are accustomed to.

We thought to involve SPQR and Southern BBQ friends, or two teams born in the KCBS circuit and then migrated to WBQA as well as Domenico Martini, President WBQA Italia, to make a parallel between the two-circuit approach and to allow teams reduce conversion costs, both in one way and another.

The Competition

Some differences are obvious. Three of them above all: in WBQA you can use gas powered grills, not allowed in KCBS, in addition to the usual 4 there is an additional category in the mandatory group (the fish) and it is not possible to bring your own meat but it is mandatory to use what provided by ‘organization, equal to everyone.

To these are added the obligation to add to the Chicken and Fish categories a side dish specified on the subscription form and that to present the Chicken with both white and dark meat cuts, for which reason it is possible present this category through two boxes.

Brig IBC
I Brig Boys Vincitori del recente KCBS IBC – Credits: I Brig Boys

Other subtleties that may be useful are the fact that the portions in the box in KCBS must be at least one per judge while in WBQA they must be exactly that number, so they are six and the fact that you can add sauces only when cooking, so no glazing out of the smoker.

Compared to KCBS, the auxiliary categories in WBQA are far more important, being them included into the final ranking. These are real cooking competitions where barbecue is the context of application. This greatly expands the areas in which the chef’s skill is measured, compared to the only American Barbecue and allows greater national identification through typical dishes of that state.

But the most important difference is the very concept of the competition. KCBS envisions a two-day long preparation and a cynical and adrenaline turn-in. It’s a race on nerves, concentration, performance sublimated in a short time, like a 100m rush. On the other hand, in the WBQA, the two-day competition is interrupted by continuous turn-in and immediate prize-giving. This is more like a marathon, based on long-term repeated performance.

The Judgment System and the Flavor Profile

Piatti WBQA
Piatti WBQA – Credits: I Porci Scomodi

In KCBS, the judgment parameters are 3: appearance, taste and tenderness. In WBQA, to the corresponding Appearence, Taste and Texture Creativity is added, whose judgment is somehow linked to appearance. The specific weight of appearence added to creativity is higher than only creativity in KCBS at the expense of that of taste. In other words, in WBQA you need to pay more attention to the presentation, because its vote affects more on the final result.

In terms of flavor it seems that the main discriminant is related to tenderness: especially with regard to the ribs in WBQA you are looking for the perfect bite, you prefer a degree of cooking slightly lower than that commonly accepted in KCBS. This is accompanied by a greater search for the smoky profile and less acceptance of the spicy profile.

The Context

Emotionally, the continuous turn in and the WBQA’s in-real-time updated ranking make the competition very exciting all the time long, while the KCBS award ceremony is an adrenaline concentrate. In NBC, 100% of the teams are national teams, so there is an extreme ease of socialization and the certainty of becoming part of a core of participants who resort very frequently to the circuit. In contrast, KCBS is characterized by a greater cultural heterogeneity. This is a more varied and wide-ranging experience, though objectively it requires a greater initial acclimatization period before becoming truly confident with all the teams. KCBS is likely to be more inclined to pure competition, resulting to be slightly more rigid but extremely effective in terms of data circulation. NBC proposes perhaps a more relaxed climate with less barriers to entry in the economic matter, being is far less expensive.

Both offer a truly live experience, each unique in its own way. If you are undecided, test them both, taking into account the differences described: for each of you there is the perfect circuit, you just have to find it. Do you feel more KCBS or WBQA?

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