Monthly Archives: May 2011

Best Of: May 22-29

Hope everyone is having a wonderful weekend!  While you are all out firing up your grills, smokers, or outdoor cookers, check out these few links that made this week’s “Best Of” cut:

  • I know many of you watched the Ultimate BBQ Showdown yesterday on CBS.  Even so, check out this great piece by Danielle Dimovsky of DivaQ about the show.  In my opinion, best post I’ve seen about the show so far.
  • Plank grilling — it’s not just for fish anymore.  Larry Gaian (The BBQ Grail) has a series of topics covering the many different things you can cook using plank grilling.  From chicken to mashed potatoes and even brie cheese with watermelon rind chutney, he shows that there are really no limits!  To view the entire series, check out his site at http://www.thebbqgrail.com.
  • Did someone say rotisserie roast beef?  Check out this tasty sounding recipe from Grilling Companion.
  • If you are in Ontario and have a craving for ribs, then you need to check out Wilfred Reinke’s post regarding the schedule for various RibFests in Ontario for 2011.
  • And finally…  watch out, world!  Tom Porter is on the loose!  The mad scientist behind Big Butz BBQ Sauce is getting ready for his first KCBS competition.  I wish him the best of luck!  He has blogged about his first three days in preparation so far here, here, and here.  Continue to follow his blog at http://www.bigbutzbbqsauce.net for more updates.

Review: Uncle Kenny’s Original BBQ Sauce

For diehards such as myself, BBQ and grilling season runs from January 1st to December 31st.  However, the majority of Americans look to Memorial Day weekend to kick off the official “grilling” season.  Tonight’s offering on the grill was pork chops.  However, I’m not here to talk about the pork chops.  I’m here to talk about the sauce I used on them — Uncle Kenny’s Original BBQ Sauce.

Uncle Kenny's Original BBQ Sauce

Uncle Kenny's Original BBQ Sauce

Let’s rewind back to a couple of months ago when I reviewed Uncle Kenny’s Spicy BBQ Sauce.  As you recall, this sauce was very well received in our home.  Along with the spicy sauce, I also received a bottle of original sauce and a bottle of mustard-based sauce.  I confess that I have not been as quick to publish a review of the original sauce — mostly because of my forgetfulness.  And for that, I apologize.  The original BBQ sauce from Uncle Kenny’s has been a hit here.  I’ve used it on everything from ribs to chicken to burgers to pork chops, which just happens to be today’s meat-du-jour!

Naked Observations

Uncle Kenny’s Original BBQ Sauce is a perfect example of what the majority of people think when they think of BBQ sauce.  It’s very thick with a dark, rich red color and aromas of brown sugar, molasses, and tomato.

A glimpse of sauce

A glimpse of sauce

When I took a taste of the sauce, it confirmed the flavor profiles I expected upon an initial glimpse of the sauce.  It was sweet, but with multiple types of sweetness rather than just high fructose corn syrup.  There was a very little kick of pepper to complement the sweetness of the sauce.  By itself, this sauce works very well with just about anything.  However, the true test lies ahead…

To the Meat of the Matter

Pork chops!  Pork chops!  Pork chops!  My wife finally bought us some pork chops for me to cook on the grill.  A light coating of vegetable oil, a light dusting of Plowboy’s Bovine Bold BBQ rub, and on the grill they go!

Mmmmm pork chop...

Mmmmm pork chop...

So good, it had to be seen twice!

So good, it had to be seen twice!

After approximately fifteen minutes on the grill (using Kingsford charcoal and apple wood chips), I apply a liberal glaze of the sauce to the pork chops.  The chops were moved off of direct heat, and they got cozy with the sauce for between 5 and 7 minutes.

Chops with sauce

Chops with sauce

And on to the plate they went!  Tonight’s pork chops were served with pork and beans (the fifth food group in our household) and butter and herb noodles.  The pork chops were a little bit overcooked, but that was my fault.  The sauce added a very nice, sweet flavor to the meat and did not overtake it at all in terms of taste.

This sauce is definitely a winner!  I can see why Kenny Nadeau (the man behind Uncle Kenny’s BBQ) has won awards with his line of sauces, and this one is no different!

All of the sauces made by Uncle Kenny’s BBQ available for purchase online, and there are a few brick-and-mortar retailers where they are available as well.

Website for Uncle Kenny’s BBQ: http://www.unclekennysbbq.com.

Best Of: May 15-22

My apologies for not posting this last Sunday.  I had to work, and I posted a restaurant review instead.  Let’s see what the past week had to offer us…

  • Recap the adventures of Robyn Medlin Lindars (aka Grill Grrrl) and her escapades at Memphis in May here and here.  Look for the coleslaw trophy — it’s one of a kind!
  • Check out this positive review from Larry Gaian (The BBQ Grail) of the GrillStar iPhone app.  I can vouch for this app’s usefulness and hope to have a review posted this week.
  • Like beef?  Like bourbon?  Well how about beef and bourbon?  Impossible, you say?  Fret not!  Check out this recipe from BarBQBoozers.com.
  • Finally, check out this interview with Charles and Allegra Wilson at the USA Barbecue Championship in Las Vegas.  You know Charles and Allegra better as C-Dub’s BBQ Rub.

Williamson Bros. BBQ Giveaway presented by Kevin’s BBQ Joints

Everyone loves giveaways!  Everyone loves BBQ…  well okay, everyone SHOULD love BBQ!  If you’re a BBQ fan, then I suggest you check out the latest giveaway being run by Kevin’s BBQ Joints.

Kevin has partnered up with Williamson Bros. BBQ (3 locations in the heart of Georgia) to give away not 1, but 4 different BBQ prizes to 4 lucky winners!  With prizes ranging from a Boston butt package to a spice gift pack, this is one giveaway you don’t want to miss!  The contest runs through midnight Pacific time on May 20 (tomorrow), so hurry up and enter today!

For more information on the giveaway, go to http://kevinsbbqjoints.com/blog/2011/05/12/williamson-bros-bbq-giveaway/.

Review: Uncle Joe’s BBQ Sauce in a Bag, Honey Mesquite

A few weeks ago, I participated in BBQ sauce giveaway on BBQ Sauce Reviews, not really expecting to win.  Because, you know, that’s just how I roll.  Well lo and behold, I actually won!  The prize was two different items from Uncle Joe’s BBQ.  Today’s review is for their Honey Mesquite Sauce in a Bag.

Uncle Joe's BBQ Sauce in a Bag -- Honey Mesquite

Uncle Joe's BBQ Sauce in a Bag -- Honey Mesquite

Uncle Joe’s BBQ is located in San Antonio, TX.  The idea behind the products from Uncle Joe’s BBQ is to offer up a dry version of BBQ sauce that consumers can take and come up with their own variations.  With only a couple of ingredients needed that are readily available in most kitchens (ketchup and water), people are allowed the freedom to improvise and come up with their own renditions and ideas.  So let’s get to work!

Naked Observations

This may be the first time in my knowledge that I do two different sets of naked observations for a BBQ sauce.  But then again, this isn’t your traditional sauce in a bottle or jar.

Dry ingredients

Dry ingredients

Above is a snapshot of the dry ingredients that come in the package.  Looking at the color of the dry ingredients, I’m thinking that the result is going to be a very dark and thick sauce.  The process for making the sauce out of the dry ingredients is super simple — add ketchup and water (or apple juice or beer or other liquid of choice), mix, microwave, and profit!

The resulting sauce

The resulting sauce

As you can see, the result is a very thick and dark sauce.  You can see the spices dispersed throughout the mix.  After mixing again and letting the sauce cool for a few minutes, I decided to take a taste.  I was expecting it to be really sweet, but it wasn’t syrupy sweet.  There were definite sweet profiles in the sauce from the honey powder in the dry ingredients, but it wasn’t an overly sugary sweet flavor.  There was also a little bit of peppery and spicy taste from the mesquite spices.  I was worried that making a BBQ sauce from a set of dry ingredients would make for a grainy BBQ sauce.  While yes, there were some instances of granularity in the sauce, the granular texture was a bit uneven and could probably be corrected either by using more ketchup/water or mixing a little bit better.

To the Meat of the Matter

Yes, I like BBQ sauce on my hamburgers. So what?  It’s a quirk of mine, and I think it gives a good finishing touch.  So I decided to make burgers stuffed with jalapenos and cheese to give the BBQ sauce a suitable test bed.

Burger before getting saucy

Burger before getting saucy

All sauced up

All sauced up

The BBQ sauce did not overpower the burger.  I got a few tastes of the honey in the sauce.  I could not distinguish any of the mesquite spices on the burger, but it probably had something to do with the eleventy billion jalapenos I used in the stuffed burger.

I read earlier on the website for Uncle Joe’s BBQ that using apple juice instead of water will give a much sweeter sauce.  Maybe I should’ve used that instead of water, but unfortunately I did not have any readily available.  And as they say, you’ve gotta work with what you’ve got.

So would I go out of my way to purchase this at all costs?  Probably not.  But I do like the flexibility that is available in giving you the dry ingredients and letting you add others at will to come up with your own creation.  Perhaps I should have been a little more adventurous in what ingredients I added to make the sauce.  Or maybe I should have used the sauce on something other than burgers.  It is a solid product that should work for most consumers.

If you are interested in more information on Uncle Joe’s BBQ sauce, you can visit their website at http://www.unclejoesbbq.com.  You can also find them on Facebook here.

Review: Midwood Smokehouse — Charlotte, NC

A couple of weeks ago, I heard rumor of a new BBQ joint opening up in Charlotte.  As I read more and more about it, I started getting excited and determined that I just had to check this new place out soon.  Well that new place is Midwood Smokehouse, and I took the opportunity today to check it out before having to head in to the office.

Midwood Smokehouse

Midwood Smokehouse

Nestled in the Plaza-Midwood neighborhood of Charlotte, NC, Midwood Smokehouse is the newest restaurant opened by longtime Charlotte restauranteur Frank Scibelli.  Scibelli is the brain child behind several popular Charlotte restaurants such as Big Daddy’s Burger Bar and Paco’s Tacos and Tequila.  As noted in an interview with Charlotte Magazine, Scibelli’s restaurant fully intends to produce serious, authentic BBQ using a cooker fueled by nothing but wood (thank you for the correction regarding this).  To accomplish this goal, he traveled around North Carolina to research the state’s well-known pork barbecue joints, and he also collaborated with James Beard award winner Robb Walsh on the intricacies of Texas barbecue (read: brisket).  My task for today was to see how close he came to meeting this goal.

While the location of the restaurant may be in a trendy part of the city, the interior decor was inviting.  A mirror behind the bar stated the daily specials as well as some rather interesting one-liners:

The bar with its specials

The bar with its specials

Good Wood, Big Racks, Great Times

Good Wood, Big Racks, Great Times

Since Midwood Smokehouse has been open for less than two weeks, the menu was a little limited.  However, plenty of options were still available, ranging from Eastern Carolina style pork to brisket to sausage made on the premises.  After perusing the menu, I ordered a half-rack of ribs (St. Louis style) with a side of BBQ baked beans.  I requested that the ribs be sauced.  In addition, I ordered an additional side of bacon-wrapped jalapenos stuffed with cheese (which I lovingly refer to as ABTs, or atomic buffalo turds).  The server was very pleasant, taking her time to go through several of the menu options and offer her personal recommendations.  After about 10 minutes, my order arrived.

My order -- ribs

My order -- ribs

The first thing I notice is that the ribs were served with sauce on the side instead of being glazed on the ribs (as I expected).  The food certainly looked appetizing, and I will get to my thoughts on the food shortly.  As I was taking pictures of my food, the general manager came over to my table.  I introduced myself to him (as I emailed him a few days ago about arranging a time to see their smoker), and he immediately offered to bring me a sampling of their other menu items.  How could I possibly refuse?  As if I wasn’t already starting to feel full enough, out comes a sampling of pork, brisket, prime rib, sausage, and other goodies.

A sampling of meats

A sampling of meats

Smoked Prime Rib and Brisket

Smoked Prime Rib and Brisket

In addition, I also got to sample all of the sauces that Midwood Smokehouse offers as well as a small sample of collard greens.  Now on to the verdict…

The ribs had an excellent flavor. The meat was not too smoky, and I could actually taste the pork rather than an overabundance of rub to mask the flavor of the meat.  However, there were two things I immediately noticed:

  • The back membrane had been left on the rack when it was cooked.
  • The rib meat pulled right off the bone without any resistance, which signified that they were a bit overcooked.

The sausage was a very mild sausage.  It had a bit of a crumbly texture.  Since I’m not an expert on how authentic Texas-style sausage should taste, I won’t give an opinion on that.  The brisket was good, with a nice texture and taste.

The pork was, in short, PERFECT!  It had a perfect savory flavor, and the texture was on point (and not mushy like a lot of Eastern Carolina style pork can be).  Honestly, the pork did not need any sauce, but I decided to try it with the vinegar-based sauce.  The sauce added an extra dimension to the pork.

Finally, the prime rib…  why didn’t someone introduce me to smoked prime rib before?  Completely and totally droolworthy!  This one is definitely on my repeat list.

So would I recommend this BBQ joint?  Absolutely, with no reservations whatsoever!

The website for Midwood Smokehouse is http://www.midwoodsmokehouse.com.  You can also find them on Facebook here.  They are located at 1401 Central Ave., Charlotte, NC 28205.  

Midwood Smokehouse on Urbanspoon

Review: Draper’s BBQ Smokin’ Sauce and A.P. Rub

One of the new up-and-coming stars in the BBQ sauce and rub scene is Shane Draper of Draper’s BBQ.  He has embraced social media as a primary platform for marketing his sauce and rub, and it has been a resounding success!  After reading several reviews of his products (including reviews done by Kevin Kelly of Kevin’s BBQ Joints and Wilfred Reinke a.k.a. the Oshawa Ogre), I knew this was a product I had to try.  Shane was gracious enough to send me a bottle of his Smokin’ Sauce and A.P. Rub to review.

Draper's BBQ Smokin' Sauce and A.P. Rub

Draper's BBQ Smokin' Sauce and A.P. Rub

Before I start on the rub and sauce, let me give some background information on Draper’s BBQ.  Draper’s BBQ (or DBQ for short) is located in Western Kentucky and is the result of three generations of BBQ knowledge and devotion.  When Shane’s sauce placed 8th overall in the tomato-based sauce category at Memphis in May, he knew that this was the writing on the wall to get his products out on to the market.  You’ll see the phrase “Three generations of pride and flavor in a bottle” on every bottle of sauce and rub, and Draper’s takes that phrase very seriously.  (If you’re interested in the full story, you can read it here.  It’s a very well-written piece, and my quick summary doesn’t really do it justice.)

Naked Observations

One of the things I like to do whenever I review a sauce or a rub is to see how it looks and tastes by itself.  This doesn’t necessarily give a clear indicator of whether or not a product will be excellent, but it does set the table for how a product may fare later.  First off, the rub…

Close-up of Draper's BBQ A.P. Rub

Close-up of Draper's BBQ A.P. Rub

When I read the ingredients label on the rub bottle, I saw that the first two ingredients listed were sea salt and turbinado sugar.  I am a HUGE fan of using turbinado and demerara sugar as ingredients.  Taking a close-up look at a sample of the rub, you can see that there is a nice uniformity to the different components of the rub.  Also, the color is a very nice orange shade that works beautifully in BBQ.  When I took a taste of the rub, I found that the sweet and salty flavor profiles of the rub worked together very well.  All in all, I was very pleased with the balance of flavors contained in the A.P. Rub.

Draper's BBQ Smokin' Sauce

Close-up of Draper's BBQ Smokin' Sauce

I did the same thing with the Smokin’ Sauce.  It is a very thick sauce that pours out quite slowly (thanks to the molasses, honey, and ketchup components).  The color is a very deep crimson red, and you can see specks of pepper and spice distributed fairly evenly throughout.  I took a taste of the sauce, and I determined that there is a LOT going on in the sauce!  There are multiple flavors going on that you taste all at once.  I detected flavors of molasses and honey, picked up hints of the ketchup that is being used, and tasted something that I thought was cinnamon.  I looked at the ingredients list, and sure enough cinnamon and nutmeg are listed as ingredients in this sauce.  A “Kraft BBQ-er” (and by that term, I refer to a person whose primary sauce of choice is Kraft BBQ Sauce) may be a bit confused with all the flavors going on in this sauce, but I found it to be excellent and complex.

Maybe it was my imagination, but I thought I read somewhere that the two products were manufactured to be used together.  My next instinct was to try tasting them together.  When I combined the A.P. Rub with the Smokin’ Sauce and tasted them together, things clicked!  The flavors of the rub were a perfect complement to the sauce!

Let’s Stick It On Some Meat

Of course we all know that the most important thing about sauces and rubs is how well do they work when used on some form of meat.  My meat of choice for the day: RIBS!!  Anytime that I have an opportunity to do ribs on the smoker, I seize that opportunity.

I trimmed down a rack of spare ribs to a St. Louis style cut.  After removing the back membrane, I lightly coated the ribs with vegetable oil (since I was out of mustard) and dusted both sides of the rack with the A.P. rub.  The rack (along with the trimmings which I used to play around with some other combinations) went on the smoker, and the ribs cooked at 250 degrees using oak wood.  After about 3 hrs and 40 minutes, I gave the ribs a nice glaze using the Smokin’ Sauce.  Twenty minutes later, the rack came off.

Ribs using Draper's BBQ A.P. Rub and Smokin' Sauce

Ribs using Draper's BBQ A.P. Rub and Smokin' Sauce

Nice Rack

Nice Rack

After resting for about 15-20 minutes, it was time to dig in!  The ribs were a touch overcooked, but that’s no fault of Draper’s BBQ — that one lies squarely on my shoulders.  The flavor is what I’m here to talk about, and WOW!  Flavor-wise, these were probably some of the most flavorful ribs I’ve eaten.  I was able to taste the meat of the rib, and the rub and sauce enhanced those flavors rather than overpowered them.  To me, that’s the mark of a very good sauce and rub.

Overall, I would highly recommend using both of these products.  I would also recommend using them together to obtain optimal flavor profiles.

If you are in the Western Kentucky area, you can find Draper’s BBQ products in certain stores.  A listing of these stores can be found here.  Their products are also available for purchase online at the BBQ Pro Shop or through their own online store.

Website: http://www.drapersbbq.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Drapers-BBQ/105461296168040
Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/drapersbbq

In the Trenches: Competing at a KCBS-Sanctioned Competition

It all started in early 2010.  A couple of friends and I heard of a charity BBQ cook-off going on in Charlotte, and we decided to enter.  We entered 2 of the 4 categories and ended up taking 2nd place in both categories.  The competition bug bit me.

Fast forward almost a year, and I get another opportunity to help out on a competition team.  This time, the stakes are much bigger.  About two weeks ago, I got the opportunity to be a part of the Sir Porkalot BBQ team (@SirPorkaLot on Twitter) that competed at the BBQ Capital Cook-off in Lexington, NC (a KCBS-sanctioned competition).  I arrived with huge ambitions and an eagerness to learn.

There were a lot of well-known BBQ teams present at this competition, so I admit to being a bit starstruck.  Every one of the teams that I spoke with were very down to earth, friendly, and welcoming.  Even one of the most famous people in terms of competition barbecue (Tuffy Stone of Cool Smoke) took time out to talk to me for at least a good 10-15 minutes.  Again, BBQ people are some of the friendliest on the face of this planet.

In short, many good times were had.  The banter flowed (as did the beer).  The food was excellent.  The sleep… well, there wasn’t much of that going on.  Overall, it was a great experience!  Anyone who can cook four different kinds of meat overnight to turn in at 30 minute intervals the next day has all the respect in the world in my book.  And even though the team may not have placed where we liked, I feel it’s a one-of-a-kind experience to be an active team member!

Oh yeah, don’t think for one minute that I forgot to go and take pictures!  There are several of those, but I’ve uploaded them to Facebook.  So you can view the pictures here.  And if you haven’t added me on Facebook, add me here!

Best Of: April 25 – May 1

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time once again for this week’s “Best Of” in the world of BBQ and food!

  • What do you get when you combine bourbon and ice cream?  You get Hanneke Eerden (of The Dutchess Cooks) whipping up another dessert creation!  Now I’m craving ice cream!
  • The guys at Epic Meal Time are at it again.  Three words: fast food lasagna.
  • Larry at the BBQ Grail brings us spam sushi!  Yes, I said it.  Spam.  Sushi.
  • Finally, if you’re a fan of Pork Barrel BBQ sauce and live in the Mid-Atlantic region (Virginia/Maryland), you’re in luck!  Pork Barrel BBQ sauce is now being sold in Costco stores in that region.  Find out more details here.