One of the best parts of my job is going to BBQ competitions. There’s nothing better than cooking delicious food and meeting other pitmasters. Of course, the friendly competition is great, too! I’m taking you behind the scenes of the Memphis in May BBQ World Championship, one of the most incredible BBQ comps around.
For this competition, I made a decadent Competition Shoulder full of seasonings and my amazing sauces. You’ll learn how I pulled together a winning presentation and my methods for success. Backyard pitmasters and competition champs alike will learn something new.
I hope this video inspires you to take part in a BBQ competition. You’ll never meet people more eager to learn from each other! Even if you have no desire to cook in a competition, you’ll still love my competition-style pork shoulder. Try this method in your own kitchen, and let me know what you think.
I kicked things up a notch by using a mixture of basic and gourmet ingredients. If you’re replicating this recipe at home, add these things to your shopping cart.
- Pork shoulders. When cooking on the circuit, I always go with Cheshire Farms Pork. This high-quality meat always turns out amazing. If you don’t want to mess with a lot of trim work, go with Cheshire Farms Pork. For this cook, I used 14 Bone-In Pork Shoulders.
- Apple juice. I mixed apple juice with Heath Riles BBQ Pork Injection for a fruity infusion. Apple juice complements the pork without overpowering its natural flavors. It’s a must for any competition shoulder!
- Heath Riles BBQ Pork Injection. This amazing pork injection doubles as a brine. It’s my favorite way to keep pork juicy and flavorful. I developed this injection while I was competing in the MBN BBQ Circuit, and it’s helped me win several competitions. You can combine it with apple juice or water. This cook used a lot of injection mixture, but the official measurements are ¼ cup of Heath Riles BBQ Pork Injection to 12 ounces of liquid. This makes enough to inject ONE pork butt or shoulder.
- Mustard. There’s a lot of flexibility regarding binders, but mustard will always be one of my favorites. It gives the meat a little twang and is easy to come by. I recommend using smooth mustards like French’s for best results.
- Heath Riles BBQ Tangy Vinegar Sauce. If you want a vinegar-based sauce that’s not too sour, grab a bottle of this! It’s the perfect balance of tangy and sweet. It goes great on ribs, pork shoulders, beef roasts, or chicken. You can even use it as a salad dressing.
- Heath Riles BBQ Garlic Jalapeño Rub. My best-selling AP rub contains a brilliant blend of peppers and garlic. Use it on chicken, pork, beef, and popcorn! Once you have a bottle, you’ll never be without it.
- Heath Riles BBQ Sweet BBQ Rub. This blend was the first I ever perfected, so it always has a special place in my heart. It has just a touch of heat on the back end, making it perfect for beef, chicken, pork, seafood, and bloody marys.
- Heath Riles BBQ Sweet BBQ Sauce. This decadent sauce took over 10 years to perfect. It features an amazing blend of ketchup, mustard, garlic, and onion. It’s great on its own or paired with other sauces.
- Heath Riles BBQ Hot Rub. Heat things up with the hottest rub around! Add a dash to fish, chicken, pork, or tacos. A little goes a long way.
The Smoker Setup
Here’s the primary equipment I used for this cook. More of my grilling favorites can be found in the Equipment and Tools section.
The Process for Making Competition Shoulder
You can see this cook's detailed demonstration in my video and recipe card. Here’s a brief overview of how I pulled these savory pork shoulders together.
This recipe impressed the judges, who said my BBQ was just as top-notch as my equipment. The pork was juicy, tender, and flavorful. It had an outstanding balance of apple, pepper, and smoke notes. Whether you’re cooking for a crowd or your best friends, you’ll have a winning presentation.
Serving Suggestions for Competition Shoulder
Leftover pork can be stored for up to 4 days in the fridge or frozen for up to 4 months.
Equipment and Tools
Deep South Gravity-Fed Smoker, charcoal pellets, Royal Oak Charcoal Hardwood Pellets, BBQ Guru temperature-control device, paint paddle, Chop's Power Meat Injector System, Shaker with large holes in the lid, basting mop, Cambro Food Storage Container, heavy-duty aluminum foil, 1 or 2 half size deep aluminum pans, ChefAlarm, insulated gloves for handling meat
Competition Shoulder Memphis in May BBQ World Championship 2021 | Heath Riles :)
ire up the pit. I stoked the Deep South Gravity-Fed Smoker with Royal Oak charcoal hardwood pellets, then added two pieces of ARP wood, one hickory and one cherry. I placed my BBQ Guru temperature-control device on the pit, set it to 240℉, and got things rolling!
Prep the pork shoulders. My pork shoulders didn’t require a lot of trimming, but I cut the fat cap off, exposing the meat. I left the beautiful skin on top.
Mix the pork injection. When mixing a lot of injections, you have to think big! I prefer using 5-gallon buckets while in competition mode. I added the apple juice and Heath Riles BBQ Pork Injection to the bucket and mixed it with my drill and paint paddle attachment.
Inject the meat. I injected the meat with Chop's Power Meat Injector System to make the process go faster. I injected my pork in a grid-like pattern, pushing the liquid into the meat until it was plump.
Add binder and seasoning. I slathered the pork shoulders with mustard, then added a layer of Heath Riles BBQ Garlic Jalapeño Rub, followed by Heath Riles BBQ Sweet BBQ Rub. Then, I flipped the pork shoulders, placed them on a wire cooling rack and aluminum pan, and repeated the process.
Start cooking. I set the pork shoulders, still in the aluminum pans, on the Deep South Gravity-Fed Smoker. I let the pork cook for 4 hours without opening the doors once.
Baste the pork shoulders. I added another hickory and cherry wood stick to the fire to keep things flavorful. I created a baste that was half Heath Riles BBQ Tangy Vinegar Sauce and half strained Italian dressing, with a cup of Heath Riles BBQ Sweet BBQ Rub and some Bear and Burtons Worcestershire sauce. I used a BBQ mop to baste each shoulder evenly. I let the pork cook undisturbed for another hour and a half before repeating the process.
Wrap and finish cooking. I took the pork shoulders (still on the rack) out of the Deep South Gravity-Fed Smoker and laid them on heavy-duty aluminum foil. I basted the shoulders one last time, then wrapped the pork. You’ll want to watch the video to see my fool-proof method! I placed a ChefAlarm in each one of the shoulders and set it to 198℉. I added more Royal Oak charcoal hardwood pellets to the pit, shut the door, and let them cook until morning.
Sauce and serve. Once the pork shoulders reached temp, I unwrapped them and sauced them with a mixture of Heath Riles BBQ Tangy Vinegar Sauce, apple jelly, and Heath Riles BBQ Sweet BBQ Sauce. I topped the pork with a dusting of ground-down Heath Riles BBQ Hot Rub. I shredded the pork into large chunks for easy judging. My wife set up a beautiful presentation with some of the remaining pork that you just have to see!