NZBA Sanctioning System

NZBA Competitive Cooking League

The New Zealand Barbecue Alliance (NZBA) Competitive Cooking League comprises of cooking events run throughout New Zealand. The NZBA is a sanctioning body that administrates the judging and scoring of qualifying cooking contests. NZBA registered Barbecue Teams "cook off" and receive scores based on the NZBA Sanctioning system. These points are then accumulated over the Season Period. Barbecue Teams compete for event recognition, prize money and National Rankings to reward and validate their barbecue cooking skills.

Category Cuts

Championship Series Eligible

  • Chicken 1 – Open Chicken, any cut.
  • Chicken 2 – One-Half chicken, split vertical, served intact (not 6 Portions).
  • Open Beef – Open Beef, any cut.
  • Beef Refined – Brisket, Beef cheek, Ribs or Chuck.
  • Brisket – Whole, Flat, Half, or Point sections.
  • Beef Ribs – Short, back or chuck ribs. Cooked/served on or off the bone.
  • Open Pork – Open Pork, any cut.
  • Pork Refined – Shoulder, neck or Boston butt (all cuts skinless before cooking).
  • Pork Ribs – Skinless pork ribs. A bone must be present in every rib.
  • Open Lamb – Open Lamb, any cut
  • Lamb Refined – Shoulder only (all cuts skinless before cooking).


Non Grand Championship, Non Championship Series Eligible

Whole Hog – Whole Hog Category will be judged in two stages:

  • Part 1 – Onsite Judging. The teams’ whole hog will be presented, head on or off, split or intact, garnishes may be used to dress the hog for presentation. A panel of 4 Judges will ask for a verbal presentation from the teams’ nominated Pitmaster on the cooking process/methods used to prepare the pig. Verbal Presentation score will be out of 5 points. Visual appeal of the whole hog as presented by the team, excluding the team site will scored out of 5 points. Total points available in Part 1 is 40 points per team.
  • Part 2. Blind Judging. The teams may present one hand in box (box provided by the event), with the contents of the box to include 6 portions of each Shoulder, loin and ham presented in the box left to right in order, shoulder loin and ham, skin/crackle allowed, with all NZBA cooking methods, garnish and portion size rules applying to this box. Box scored based on the NZBA Judging criteria including weightings for Presentation, Texture and Taste. Total points available in blind judging is 360 points. Total overall points available including both judging elements is 400 points per entry. This is a Non GC Non CS Category. Judging window will be advised at the start of the competition cooking window by the NZBA Head Judge. Ties broken using the NZBA Processes as per any other hand in category.


Chef’s Choice

Cannot be served raw, must be cooked on approved unit, 6 portions minimum, lid must close. All other NZBA Rules apply.


Mystery Ingredient/Promoter’s Challenge

Rules determined per event.

ANY OTHER PROTEIN – Rules determined per event.


Judging Rules

All entries must be presented in a 9×9 inch clamshell container which will be provided to the teams at the competition team briefing (cooks meeting).

  1. The lid on the clamshell container must close.
  2. All proteins must be cooked from a raw state, on site and wholly within the cooking window period.
  3. All entries must be presented within the hand in window of 5 minutes before to 5 minutes after the scheduled hand in time.
  4. Approved garnishes are allowed inside the hand in box, which are strictly and wholly green-coloured parsley, green-coloured lettuce or green-coloured kale.
  5. Only one entry per hand in category per team allowed.
  6. There must be at least 6 clear portions (can be more) in each box totalling 50g or the equivalent of a small handful per portion.
  7. Teams can hand in any combination of allowed cuts for that protein, provided there are at least 6 (can be more) portions in the box, the portions meet the minimum portion size/weight and the allowed cuts are fully adhered to.
  8. No identifying marks are to be present on the hand in box such as deliberate indentations, writing or scratching.
  9. No pooling sauce allowed in the box and all sauce to be contained wholly or predominantly on or mixed in with the protein.
  10. No foreign objects allowed inside the box which includes but is not limited to toothpicks, sauce containers, foil, other food elements other than those contained within the crust/bark or the sauce and wholly or predominantly on or mixed with the protein.
  11. Only approved units which are smokers/pits/barbecues/grills where the heat source comes only from wood or wood products including briquettes and pellets.
  12. Proteins must not be brined, rubbed, marinated or cured before the opening of the cooking window.
  13. Proteins may be pre-trimmed before the start of the cooking window.
  14. Cooking units may be preheated or started before the cooking window but competition proteins cooking processes must not start prior to the cooking window opening.
  15. There is no NZBA governed limit to how many team members are allowed per team. However, some Event Promoters will only recognise the first four team members for awards, on-ground attendance or team entry fees and/or other benefits at their sole discretion.
  16. Teams may not sell or distribute food to the General Public unless the appropriate Food License is obtained and only with the consent of the Event Promoter.
  17. Teams may only compete in one competition per weekend unless a double header by the promoter.
  18. One team per cook site only.
  19. Team sites must not be completely enclosed for the duration of the competition; one wall of Marquees must be open and facing the walkway/event so head judges, promoters and general public can view the area while the event is open to the public. Enclosed trailers must keep doors open to allow access for head judges and NZBA crew access and for safety purposes during the event while the event is open to the public. If the event is not open to the public, walls and doors must be open to NZBA crew at least 1 hour before the first hand-in until the last hand-in is complete.
  20. The NZBA Head Judge will be the sole arbitrator of any dispute or infraction and their decision on site at the competition will be final. In the rare instance of a data entry or coding error, results may be overturned to reflect the correct scoring and results after the event.
  21. Teams must adhere to the NZBA code of conduct and Event Promoter Rules and/or instructions from the promoter and NZBA Crew at all times on site.


Infractions and Penalties


  • Late to hand in. (Window is strictly 5 mins to 5 mins after hand in time)
  • Wrong entry handed in (eg. Pork handed into Lamb category etc)
  • Using an unapproved method or cooking unit to cook the entry.


Boxed Entry Major Infraction

  • An obvious identifying mark on the hand inbox.


Boxed Entry Penalties

  • Excessive/intentional pooling sauce
  • Incorrect or unapproved garnish
  • Foreign object found in box
  • Handing in less than minimum portion size/quantity


Infractions and Penalties Scoring Guide

  1. Major Infraction
  2. Raw, Inedible
  3. Portion or Garnish Infraction
  4. Minor Object or Sauce Pooling Infraction
  5. Poor
  6. Below average
  7. Average
  8. Good
  9. Very Good
  10. Excellent


Judging & Scoring

  • All entries are judged on Presentation, Texture & Taste.
  • Judges score each element out of 10 on their scorecards.
  • Scores are entered into the ABA data entry system and awarded weighting to the value of:
    • Presentation – Single Weighted (out of 10)
    • Texture – Double Weighted (out of 20)
    • Taste – Triple Weighted (out of 30)


The lowest Judge Score from each of the three elements will be deducted from the overall score.

Total points available per entry are 300 points.



Head judges are trained by the NZBA to execute the judging process with integrity in a  professional and unbiased manner at all times on and off the field.

Teams must show a sportsmanlike manner at all times towards head judges on and off the field and adhere to the NZBA Code of Conduct.


Additional Judging Notes

  • Ties are broken by counting back which team has the highest Taste Score for that entry. If the Taste Scores are tied between the teams, then the highest Texture Score for that entry will prevail. If the Taste & Texture scores are tied, then the highest Presentation Score will prevail. Further tie breaks will be applied thereafter including the highest number of 10’s or 9’s scored in each element and so on until a winner is awarded.
  • Judges may taste any or all portions in the box at their discretion.
  • Judges must not be team members of a competing team at that event.
  • Judges must not be spouses or partners of a competing team at that event.


Allowed Cuts & Methods

  • All cuts must be cooked on an NZBA approved unit as per General Rules and can be served chopped, sliced, diced or pulled in any combination of those.

Proteins may be trimmed and prepared off site and vacuum sealed, however no brines, liquids or powders are allowed to be added to the bag for preservation or curing.


Prohibited methods of cooking processes

  • Sous Vide, fully submerged poaching or parboiling
  • Deep or shallow frying in oil
  • Heat stamping with branding iron or similar


Prohibited cooking appliances

Gas or electric cookers/box warmers (where the heat source comes from gas or electricity) for any process of cooking or holding the protein at temperature. However, gas or electric cookers, may be used for sauces, glazing or starting a chimney or fire only.


Allowed Holding units

Esky/Chilli Bins, unpowered Cambro-style holding unit(s) or on an approved cooking unit only.