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 in Downtown Memphis!

The World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest is happening May 17-20, 2023 at the riverfront and Tom Lee Park. 

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

Tent at WCBCC
Alex Shansky

1. World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest: Dates and Ticket Info

World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest (WCBCC) is four days of competition barbecue and entertainment. Gates open at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, May 17, at 11 a.m. on Thursday and Friday, and at 10 a.m. on Saturday (Judging Day). 

Also Check out the ABCs of Memphis In May for more tips for this month-long celebration of food, music, and fun in Memphis. 

World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest Tickets

Everyone should know this is a contest and not a food festival. BBQ is irresistible, so there are options to be a part of the fun. General Admission tickets are $15* for a single day or $54* for a four-day pass. Buy tickets ahead of time online or at the gate.
*plus fees

There are add-onsincluding BBQ Alley and Kingsford Tour of Champions that are available once you select your admission ticket and tap “Add to Cart”. See screenshot below. BBQ Alley tickets will be available for purchase once you get inside the event, while supplies last. *Heads up it looks BBQ Alley tickets are already sold out online (try at the gate instead)

screenshot of the add ons for WCBCC

WCBCC Tent Views
Alex Shansky
bbq fest party tent
Raphael Tenschert

2. The Meat Is For The Competition

In case you missed it….this is not a free-for-all eatin' ribs situation. Think of the WCBCC as a big group of private parties all next to one another. 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 the competition barbecue.

Do not despair, though— there are a few options to get to try some good BBQ! See #3 and #4.

    meat on the smoker
    Raphael Tenschert

    3. How to Eat BBQ At Memphis In May: Get An Invite

    Another way to eat food and BBQ is 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 and figure out which days or nights are best.
    • The team may or may not be serving BBQ on the night they are accepting guests. Some teams have other meals throughout the week. Ask your friend what's on the menu for the night they're accepting guests into the tent.
    • Don’t try to bring a big pack of friends with you if you get an invite. This is just not cool. Most teams have limited numbers of wristbands.
    • Mind your manners. 
    • Bring cash for tip jars think – $25 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 would add much more. Competition tents aren’t cheap.
    BBQ Alley, the public eating lounge option, at WCBCC
    Alex Shansky

    4. BBQ Alley, Tour Of Champions + Patio Porkers

    BBQ Alley is here to save you from hunger with BBQ food vendors and cooking from  Big Green Egg & Friends. It’s $25+fees on top of your general admission ticket available for pre-purchase online (it only appears when you put the GA tickets in your cart and go to checkout, see screenshot above) and limited quantities available onsite.

    BBQ Alley sessions: 

    • Thursday 2 p.m. and 4 p.m.
    • Friday 2 p.m. and 4 p.m.
    • Saturday 11 a.m., 1 p.m., and 3 p.m.

    Kingsford Tour of Champions

    Tour three barbecue team tents and sample (& judge) barbecue from competition teams with the Tour of Champions. Each tour is an hour and a half, and tickets available for pre-purchase online (it only appears when you put the GA tickets in your cart and go to checkout). 

    Kingsford Tour of Champions schedule: 

    • Thursday 2 p.m, 3 p.m., 4 p.m.
    • Friday 2 p.m., 3 p.m., 4 p.m.

    If you can't make it to the river, for the first time there will be a separate Patio Porkers on Beale. 30 teams will compete in a one-day ribs smoke-off. The competition is free to spectate and will be at Handy Park. If you're craving some 'cue after watching the action -- hit one of ten restaurants on Beale serving up bbq.

    bbq fest wcbcc tent
    Alex Shansky

    5. Common Sense, More Tips, and It’s Going To Be Hot This Year

    This year the forecast is in the 80s for World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest. Thankfully we'll be by the river again this year, so expect a cool breeze here and there. Here are a bunch of other tips and need-to-knows.

    • drink water! please! taking a shot down the rapidly melting ice luge does not count
    • there will be cooling stations in the park
    • wear sunscreen! you think you don't need it but you do
    • don’t drink and drive, 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 or sturdy sandals (is that a thing?) is best; people will make fun of you if you wear heels or flip flops
    • All About Bikes will have a bike valet stand like they did during music fest. 
    • Look for the selfie stations, including the Memphis sign. Tag me @ilovememphisblog in your pics!
    • charge your phone!! if you don't have a portable charger, get one ASAP
    • The Too Sauced To Pork team puts out a very in-depth unofficial guide every year that you might be interested in. 

    6. Check the schedule.

    The schedule is here. Screenshot that webpage, because it can come in handy. Also, see the map below for the flow of the contest.

    map of wcbcc

    Don’t skip Ms. Piggy Idol; it’s hilarious and at 6 p.m. on Thursday.

    Grizzlies Elvis Hog serves as tent decor at WCBCC
    Alex Shansky

    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 and use hashtag #ilovememphis. Happy Memphis in May.

    Comments Make Us Happy

    Leave a Comment
    The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
    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