National Capital Barbecue Battle 2018

National Capital Barbecue Battle 2010
Jeff Kubina/Flickr      

The National Capital Barbecue Battle is an annual competition between top BBQ restaurants and chefs from around the country. If you love barbecue you’ll enjoy the food samples, cooking demonstrations, interactive displays, and children’s activities at this sizzling summer festival.

The nation’s best barbecue teams cook off for up to $4,000 in prizes. The Giant National BBQ Championship is the main contest and is split into categories including beef brisket, chicken, pork rib and pork shoulder, and butt or picnic. Teams competing in the championship present their recipes to the judges, who then award $1,000 to the 1st place winner, $750 to the runner-up, $500 to the 3rd place team, $250 to 4th place, and $100 to 5th place. All winners will get a trophy. Teams who compete in all of the four categories qualify to become the overall grand champion, which has an additional $3,000 grand prize.

There are five other smaller contests as well as a military chef cook-off benefiting the USO Metro.

Entertainment and Activities

The Barbecue Battle features live entertainment including 30 rock, R&B, jazz, and blues bands performing on three state-of-the-art stages. In 2018, the lineup includes performances by the Plain White T's, Be'la Dona, and Kenny Allen. Patrons will enjoy special attractions like the World's Largest Grill, the Oscar Mayer Wiener Mobile, Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest, and the sampling pavilion where they can taste different foods for free. Children's activities including rides, magicians, and sports attractions.

 The BBQ Bazaar area will host BBQ legends from Destination America’s popular BBQ Pitmasters show with tastings, book signings and cooking demos.

Dates and Location

In 2018, the 26th annual festival will occur on the weekend of June 23 and 24. Gates will open Saturday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. The festival will be set up in a central location along Pennsylvania Avenue between 3rd and 7th streets, so you can't miss it. Parking is extremely limited around the event, meaning it's best to look for parking spots around the National Mall. Another good option is to take public transit to the Federal Triangle, Metro Center, or Archives-Navy Memorial-Penn Quarter metro stops.


Online tickets cost less than the same tickets you may purchase at the information stands outside of the event. Children ages 12 and under can get in for free as long as they're accompanied by a paying adult. There are also two-day passes available at a discount, and, for big spenders, there are one- and two-day VIP passes that include event admission, backstage access, catered VIP areas, and two microbrew or wine tasting cards. Children 12 and under can also get a kid's party pass, so they can join their parents in the VIP areas.