6 Things to Know About The World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest

6 Things to Know About The World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest

The largest barbecue event in the world is back!

After a year off for the pandemic, the World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest is happening May 12-15, 2021 at Tom Lee Park in downtown Memphis, Tennessee.

I’m so excited that WCBCC is back this year! I know the competition teams are eager to fight for eternal smoked pork glory and celebrate all that they’ve accomplished.

Kudos to Memphis In May for making the difficult call to cancel last year’s event in the midst of the pandemic, and kudos to them and all the teams for agreeing to some tough changes so we can actually have the Contest this year.

The following list may seem a little preachy, but that’s not my intent.

Hopefully these six tips will help you have the best possible “BBQ Fest” experience on a year that’s different than other years. 

1. Get Tickets In Advance + Ticket Dates Matter

Tickets are limited and must be purchased in advance. Let me say it again: no tickets purchases will be allowed at the gate. Plan ahead and get your tickets online ASAP. Here is the link to buy them: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/2021-world-championship-barbecue-cooking-contest-tickets-101335529296?aff=Website

I’d buy them now, they may sell out due to capacity requirements. 

Tickets for general admission are about $13 with fees and are good for the day you choose when you purchase. If you buy a Friday ticket, you have to go on Friday. This is for crowd control purposes. 

Don’t buy a ticket for Wednesday, decide you want to go on Thursday, then show up on Thursday. It’s not gonna work and you’re gonna be sad. Don’t read your ticket wrong (I have don’t this before, it sucks!) and then show up disappointed. I don’t want that for you!

2. The Meat Is For Competition 

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 rive. It's 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 the competition happening and to get grub from your usual fair-food vendors (Pronto Pups, etc.) but not barbecue.

3. Safety and Mask Regulations

This is the first truly big event that Memphis has hosted since the pandemic, so don’t expect a full “back to normal” vibe. Masks are required when not eating or drinking (yes, masks outside) and capacity is limited in tents.

This is what you’re agreeing to when you go, so just don’t be a weirdo about it and follow the guidelines. It’ll be smoothing sailing if so!

In the "Anything But" category.

4. Less Teams This Year 

Not only will there be less teams this year (about 150 instead of the usual 240 or so) but there will be less people in the tents. Usually I tell  you to find a friend with a tent and ask for an invite but keep in mind, most teams aren’t allowing extra guests for their members. 

If you do manage to a) get an invite, b) purchase your ticket in advance, and c) plan for which day you’re going, here are some pro tips I always give:

  • plan (and agree) in advance for a convenient time to visit your friend’s tent
  • follow all the health guidelines and anything the team asks of you
  • TIP! Tents, drinks, and food for guests is pricey and this year has been a challenge. Drop at least a $20 in your friend’s team’s tip jar or Venmo if you’re enjoying their hospitality 

5. No Live Entertainment This Year

Usually, event organizers have a stage full of live music, Miss Piggy Idol Contest, sauce wrestling, and all kinds of things happening during the competition and celebration. This year, Memphis In May is putting safety first and putting the live entertainment on hold.  

If you’re not on a team, don’t have a team invite, but you still want to go, it’s great people watching (from a safe distance) and the full spectacle of the event is still on display. Just know before you go. 

6. Common sense.

Common Sense Memphis In May Pro Tips Still Apply!

  • 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 (Miss PIggy Idol is off this year, but DO NOT miss it when it comes back!

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.


World Championship Barbecue Coking Contest Park Hours: 

  • Wednesday:  5 p.m. - 10 p.m. 
  • Thursday: 3 p.m. - 11 p.m.
  • Friday: 3 p.m. - 11 p.m.
  • Saturday: 1 p.m. - 10 p.m.

They will not have free admission during the daytime.



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 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.

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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.
February 6, 2020 10:10pm

Holly Whitfield
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!
February 7, 2020 12:47pm