6 Things to Know About The World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest

Posted by Holly Whitfield | January 12th 2020 5296 0

The largest barbecue event in the world is happening May 13-16, 2020 at Tom Lee Park in downtown Memphis, Tennessee. We have 200+ teams from dozens of states and multiple foreign countries that have all flown in, swooped in, and drove down to MEMPHIS to compete for prizes, money, and eternal meat-loving glory.

Here are the six quick points I’d like to make about WCBCC 2020, followed by the schedule.

1. If you haven’t checked out the ABCS of Memphis In May, now’s the time.
I take the alphabet and I turn it into a list of tips and trick for making the most of all four of Memphis In May’s big events for 2020, including this weekend’s barbecue competition.

2. In case you missed it….this is not a free-for-all eatin’ ribs situation. Think of this as ton of private parties/team cook-offs all gathered together on the river…not a festival where anyone can buy food from the teams. In fact, they aren’t allowed to sell it at all. If you go there without a team invite, expect to see some fun entertainment and get grub from your usual fair-food vendors (Pronto Pups, etc.) but not all their barbecue.

HOWEVER – BBQ Alley is here to save you with BBQ food vendors and cooking from the Big Green Egg – you can buy tickets to this online ahead of time, or buy tickets ($20, in addition to your $10 entry) and there are sessions on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Read all the fine print here.

3. Get an invite. To get around this, you may be able to gain entry to a friend’s team. Some thoughts on this:
– A friend who is on a team might invite you to stop by during a convenient time, sometimes you can ask/beg them.
– Don’t try to bring a big pack of friends with you if you get an invite. This is just not cool.
– Mind your manners.
– Bring cash for tip jars think – $20 at least, especially if drinks are free and you’re drinking them. If I’m staying in a friend’s tent eating and drink all night for free, I will add much more. Competition tents aren’t cheap.

In the “anything but” category.

4. BBQ Alley. I already mentioned this, but let me drive it home: Another way to get around the “there’s no BBQ” is to buy tickets to the BBQ Alley, which is now in its fourth year. These $20 tickets are in addition to your admission ticket. They will have tickets for sale at the gate, while supplies last. I’ll post the session schedule when it becomes available.

5. Common sense. If you’re heading down there, it sure won’t hurt you to keep in mind some of my favorite tips:

– drink water, please
– wear sunscreen
– don’t drink and drive, there is literally no reason on earth to do this when there are lyfts and ubers and cabs, and surge pricing is nothing compared to the cost of a DUI or, you know, someone’s life
– wearing real, closed-toe shoes is best; people will make fun of you if you wear heels or flip flops
– charge your phone!!
– don’t skip Ms. Piggy Idol; it’s hilarious and it’s at 6 p.m. on Thursday

The Too Sauced To Pork team puts out a very in-depth unofficial guide every year that you might be interested in. John over at Carbunkle Trumpet has an even more unofficial, entertaining “guide” as well.

6. Check the schedule.

The schedule is here.

To say the teams are excited is an enormous understatement. They’ve been planning their tent setup for months and getting ready to cook recipes they’ve been perfecting all year…or maybe for decades.

In additional to elaborate multi-level “tents”, tantalizing smells, hilarious entertainment, and honestly, some of the wildest partying I’ve ever seen, this is a damn serious cooking competition with world-class winners and judges.

Good luck everybody! PLEASE tag me in your photos online or use hashtag #ilovememphis.

Show Comments


  1. Karen says:

    Thank you for the info! If we only had one day to go to the contest, which day would you recommend? We will actually be getting into Memphis on Wednesday afternoon and flying home on Sunday, so we can go any day or multiple days. Any advice and info would be appreciated.

    • Holly Whitfield says:

      Hi Karen! Quick answer: Thursday is usually the biggest party, but Friday is lively as well. Saturday is mostly serious judging and not a lot going on for the general public.

      Longer answer – Do you have a team connection that will allow you into a tent or tents? If so, check with them to see when they are opening their tent to the public (and if they are feeding friends). If you do not have an invitation to a private cooking team, look into BBQ Alley and look at the entertainment schedule (live music, Miss Piggy Idol) and choose that way! If you don’t have a team, then one day is probably enough.
      Hope this helps!

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