On the line with

Pat Adams, Barbecue Judge

Eamon Queeney—The North State Journal
Blind taste judge Pat Adams

When you hear that someone is a barbecue judge in North Carolina if you are like me you want to know — how they became one and what are they looking for in good barbecue.Talk with Pat Adams for a few minutes and her graciousness will make you forget the interview is about her. “My husband was a farmer and we had pigs.” Said Adams of her entrée into judging the ‘cue. “He was always involved with the Pork Council and it was just a natural transition for me because where he went I went.” Adams is a widow now and her dedication and passion for the distinctly North Carolina act of cooking a pig is going strong as she travels across the state sampling pork perfection.October found Adams in Raleigh to judge the Whole Hog Barbecue Championship during the Wide Open Bluegrass Festival. “When you get to Raleigh you’re getting the best of the best.” she said of the teams competing for the state title.It is of note that Pat Adams is the only female judge for the championship, but it is not noticeable. The lure of N.C. barbecue is an equal opportunity enticement and Adams went through the same training process as her fellow male judges in order to become certified by the N.C. Pork Council to judge their contests.The judges must go through a training and apprenticeship process. The apprenticeship involves shadowing a current judge until they sign off on your eligibility to evaluate barbecue at this level.N. C. Pork Council trained judges use a uniform scoring system every time they step to the plate. First they determine that the hog was cooked properly and then scores are awarded in six categories: Appearance (is the pig still intact from turning? has it been cut unnecessarily?) Brownness (is the meat golden brown, dark, or burned?), Skin Crispness (is the skin crisp, not burnt, does it have a good texture?), Moisture (is the meat moist and tender, not dry or tough?), Meat and Sauce Taste (does it taste hot and spicy, mild, pleasing?), and finally Completeness — an overall score that records the condition of the site, including cleanliness of the cook, and the cooker. On the scoring range and judging process, “Good judges … if you look at their score sheets they will almost always be the same or within a few figures of one another,” Adams said.Adams takes her position of passing judgement on barbecue seriously because she knows the chefs take their gastronomic art form seriously. “You have to remember that these cooks could be doing something else besides staying up all night cooking a pig so someone can judge it,” said Adams. “Barbecue is like a religion in our state.”