Think your sauce can stand up to Jim Shahin's scrutiny? Then send it in to the Smoke Signals BBQ Sauce Recipe Contest. (Katherine Frey/The Washington Post)

Last year’s inaugural Smoke Signals BBQ Sauce Recipe Contest was such a hit, we’re doing it again.

But this year, there is a twist. The first time out, we judged all the sauces under one smoker hood, so to speak. That is, a traditional tomato-based sauce was judged alongside a mustard-based sauce and an unconventional sauce, such as one prepared with coffee or papaya.

This time, we have established three categories. One for tomato-based sauces, another for mustard-based sauces and a third for unconventional sauces. In each of the categories, we will choose one overall champion, along with second- and third-place winners.

The specific rules are spelled out here.

In addition to all-important bragging rights, the winners earn the following prizes:

Third place: A collection of sauces from Rocklands Barbeque and Grilling Company, Hill Country and Pork Barrel BBQ, a copy of “Paul Kirk’s Championship Barbecue Sauces” cookbook and two tickets to the Safeway National Capital Barbecue Battle.

Second Place: All of the preceding, plus a one-day, behind-the-scenes tour of Hill Country, Rocklands and Pork Barrel restaurants led by yours truly. The tour will feature a discussion with the pitmasters about their methods.

First Place: All of the preceding, plus a trophy presentation onstage at the Safeway National Capital Barbecue Battle. You also get to enter your winning creation in the battle’s national sauce contest while serving as an honorary barbecue judge at the contest.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Safeway battle. Held on June 23 and 24, the event is one of the country’s leading barbecue contests, with teams from around the country competing for more than $40,000 in cash and prizes.

Battle officials have confirmed to Smoke Signals that Memphis in May-style judging, which was eliminated last year, will return this year. That style involves on-site judging. The Kansas City Barbeque Society judging, a blind tasting, will also be part of the contest, as it has been for years.

The entry deadline for your recipe is May 2. The three overall winning recipes will be published in the May 23 edition of the Food section. E-mail your entry to, with the words “SAUCE CONTEST” in the subject line. At the top of your recipe, tell us what category — tomato-based, mustard or alternative.

So, reach into your pantry for that eye of newt and ground bat wing — or just your tried-and-true ketchup — and concoct your special elixir to show the world that yours is the best barbecue sauce around.

BBQ at the Rammys. Hill Country is a finalist in the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington’s annual Rammy Awards. It is one of five finalists in the following categories: New Restaurant of the Year, Hottest Restaurant Bar Scene of the Year and Manager of the Year.

What happens in Vegas. Out of 111 teams competing, Pork Barrel BBQ won first place in pork and third place overall in the Academy of Country Music BBQ Throwdown, held recently in Las Vegas. Slap Yo’ Daddy BBQ, from California, took first overall and Lucky’s Q, from Iowa, took second. Full results are here.