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Sweet Smoke Q Competition BBQ Cook School Review

Sweet Smoke Q Cook School Lead

Wow. I spent this past weekend with Jim Elser and crew at a Sweet Smoke Q Competition BBQ Cook School, and I gotta tell you… that thing was jam packed! Not just with a great number of attendees, but the information, recipes, and “meat science” Jim shared went deep ya’ll. Way way deep. Before I go into the details, be sure to come back to the site soon for a video work up of Jim prepping his Pork! (Spoiler alert… some solid knowledge will be dropped!)


OK… so back to this article.

Having attended other Competition BBQ classes and been given a chance to review a few of those offered online, I can tell you that the work Jim, Tim and Chad Hughes, and Jim’s son Garrett put into giving attendees their money’s worth and more is to be commended.

Before I do the recap of the class, here’s a few things you should know about Jim.

One, he’s an Ohio State fan. But don’t worry… he’s still a good guy.

Two, he currently holds a considerable lead in this year’s Florida Bar-B-Que Association Team of the Year race – leading 2nd place Matt Barber of Hot Wachula’s by 52 points. If you’re interested, the TOTY standings are listed here and are updated regularly.

Over the past two years, Sweet Smoke Q has won: 

  • 6 Grand Championships
  • 7 Reserve Grand Championships
  • 9 Top 5 Overall Finishes
  • 28 Top 10 Overall Finishes
  • 17 Category Wins
  • 87 Category Top Ten Finishes

An engineer by trade, Jim approaches BBQ from a lot of different points of understanding, and he’s a huge proponent of knowing where you’ve come from statistically so that you are sure to stay on top of any changes that are required to improve and/or maintain excellent finishes.  This approach is reflected in the way Jim runs the Sweet Smoke Q Competition BBQ Cook School.

Here Are Some Highlights from the Sweet Smoke Q Competition BBQ Cook School

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The following represents some of what I feel made the Sweet Smoke Q Competition BBQ Cooking School such a success.

Store Bought vs. Homemade: Getting Your Competition BBQ Mind Right

As participants settled in at their tables set with Sweet Smoke Q injections and sauce offerings, Jim began the class by setting the record straight on a few things that really tend to get new competition BBQ folks wrapped around the axle. I have to be careful not to go into too much detail in this post on what was said, as I feel you really should take his class in order to take it all in for yourself. I will say this… some very good information was shared on the topic of making your own rubs and sauces vs. buying what’s already out there. Jim really opened some eyeballs WIDE with what he had to say here… and to be totally up front and honest, he did a TON of promotion for product makers out there with whom he has no direct affiliation or connection. In other words, as is the case with the rest of Jim’s class, the attendees got the real deal from oink to squeal.

Developing a Solid Routine and Recording Data During Each Comp

Another thing (again, of many topics) Jim spent time on was making sure folks truly understood the importance of establishing a routine, writing down exactly what you do as you do it, including what the weather was like, what outside temps were like, ingredient ratios used, how you ultimately scored, etc. I know this is all “old hat” for some of you pros out there, but many folks looking to move up from backyard to pro may not be doing this as diligently as they need to in order to start seeing improved results.

Insights from KCBS and FBA Judges On Site During the Class – Both Days

One of the things that really set this competition BBQ cooking class apart from others I’ve attended was Jim’s willingness to use feedback and insights from seasoned KCBS and FBA judges as part of the lessons he shared. On more than a few occasions, Jim asked Tim, Chad, myself, and other judges in attendance to give our opinion on what he’d just told the class. Not only did this add some additional validity to what he was teaching the attendees, but the class really seemed to enjoy having multiple perspectives by which to see a certain point, way of doing things or, more importantly – understand why certain things should be done a specific way.

Overall Impressions of the Sweet Smoke Q Competition BBQ Cook School

This was a great class for anyone who is new to competition BBQ and wants to start making some serious strides towards more walks and those ever elusive GC and RGC calls.  Jim covered KCBS and FBA rules, regs, and timelines to the “T,” and had some great things set up to give folks an idea of how to MacGyver situations when time, weather, power availability, or whatever else you can imagine goes haywire during a cook.

Pink Drinks? YUP! Think “Endless Waterfall of Wonder” and you’d be about right…. Oh…. and…..


There were some KILLA prizes given away! One in specific….

Among the many things given away to attendees as prizes at the end of the school was a Juice Can “Ugly Drum Smoker!” This bad boy sells for just under $400 each – and includes a very sturdy steel charcoal basket with handle as well as a computer controlled blower unit! BOoooOOOooooM! The winner of that baby got to go home with a killer UDS and all of Jim’s BBQ knowledge re: how to best put it to use! Whole class cost her about $100 net!

Want to Get In On the Next Sweet Smoke Q Competition BBQ Cooking School?

Honestly, with as much work Jim, Tim and Chad Hughes, and Garrett put into this class, I’m not sure there will be more than a couple of these classes offered per year. However, the best way to stay on top of future competition BBQ cooking school offerings from the Sweet Smoke Q crew is to connect with Jim directly via Facebook and be sure to visit the Sweet Smoke Q Website and their Product Store often!