Monthly Archives: July 2011

Review: Pirate Jonny’s Caribbean Cowboy Steak Rub

I was contacted by Terri Toner of Pirate Jonny’s LLC asking if I would like to review some of their rubs.  By now you know that I’m always game to try out new things.  Today’s article goes into detail about Pirate Jonny’s Caribbean Cowboy Steak Rub.

Pirate Jonny's Caribbean Cowboy Steak Rub

Pirate Jonny's Caribbean Cowboy Steak Rub

Pirate Jonny’s is based out of Tampa, FL and specializes in rubs that are low-sodium, MSG free, and gluten free.  Their Caribbean Barr-B-Q rub won 2nd place in the 2011 National BBQ Association Awards in Excellence.  They offer several different products ranging from an original BBQ rub to a key lime chili seasoning.

Naked Observations

Some of the key ingredients in this rub include brown sugar, paprika, chili powder, black pepper, sea salt, and coffee.  The rub is a browish-red color, as you can see below.  The aroma of the rub leans strongly towards coffee and chili powder, as does the taste.  The rub is not an overly salty rub.

Caribbean Cowboy Steak Rub

Caribbean Cowboy Steak Rub

Rub closeup

Rub closeup

To the Meat of the Matter

Steak.  Wonderful, glorious, juicy steak.  That is the meat du jour for this rub.  It advertises itself as a steak rub, why not try it out on a steak?  And when you mention steak, it’s sure hard to beat a ribeye.

Ribeye

Ribeye

I preheated the grill for indirect cooking to 450 degrees, seasoned the steak liberally with the rub, and cooked the steak on indirect heat for about 15 minutes.  After that 15 minutes, I turned the heat to high and seared the steak for about 5 minutes.  Below is the final result.

The finished product

The finished product

I’m going to preface this statement by saying I’m generally a terrible steak cook.  However…  this had to be the best tasting steak I’ve ever cooked.  The tenderness of the steak was absolutely perfect, and I probably could have used a butter knife to cut the steak.  The flavor of the steak was spot on.  The chili powder and paprika gave the steak a good color, and the coffee in the rub was the star.  Absolutely tasty!

If the rest of the products offered by Pirate Jonny’s is as good as the Caribbean Cowboy Steak Rub, then they have a bright future ahead.

The website for Pirate Jonny’s is http://piratejonnys.com, and they have an online store where you can purchase their products.  Pirate Jonny’s can also be found on Facebook here.

Review: 521 BBQ & Grill — Indian Land, SC

I was out and about on a Saturday in the southern part of Charlotte, NC.  I realized that I was within striking distance of a BBQ joint that I had not tried yet.  So at the recommendation of my friend Steve Gibbs, I decided to stop in at 521 BBQ & Grill in Indian Land, SC.

521 BBQ & Grill

521 BBQ & Grill

This BBQ joint is located approximately 10-15 minutes from the Ballantyne area of Charlotte, just over the NC/SC state line.  The decor of the place is very down-home, with picnic tables nestled among standard restaurant tables.

Restaurant Interior

Restaurant Interior

The menu at 521 BBQ & Grill offers pulled pork and ribs as well as items off of the grill (pork chops, chicken, etc.).  After perusing the menu for a few minutes (and soliciting the advice of the super-cute waitress who took care of me), I decided on the BBQ tray which consists of pulled pork (which ended up looking closer to chopped than pulled), fries, and hush puppies.

BBQ Tray

BBQ Tray

The first bite of pork was just a little bit on the dry side.  After that, it was absolutely delicious!  The pork had a beautiful color, with bits and pieces of the outside bark mixed in.  It had a nice touch of smoke in the taste, thus allowing the pork to be the star.

Pork Close-up

Pork Close-up

I’ll visit the sides shortly, but I want to talk about the sauces.  There are 2 different sauces available — a thick sweet Kansas City style sauce and a vinegar based sauce.

Sauces -- KC style on the left, vinegar on the right

Sauces -- KC style on the left, vinegar on the right

The KC style sauce was very thick, very sweet, with a nice touch of smoke.  It went well with the pork.  The vinegar-based sauce, on the other hand…  it was fabulous!  The color of the sauce is a darker color than most traditional vinegar-based sauces (very similar to the homemade vinegar-based sauce that I make).  This sauce really gave the pork that extra zing.  Excellent sauce!

Now, back to the sides…  the fries were fried up perfectly.  They were very crispy and flavorful on the outside.  The hush puppies were tasty as well, although I would’ve liked to have seen just a touch more flavor in them.  Nevertheless, I ate them anyway.

A Happy BBQ Tray

A Happy BBQ Tray

So is it worth the trip from Charlotte to Indian Land to check out this joint?  Without a doubt!  I’m certainly glad I checked it out.

521 BBQ & Grill is located at 7580 Charlotte Highway, Suite 100, Indian Land, SC 29707.  Their website is http://www.521bbqandgrill.com, and they can also be found on Facebook.

521 BBQ on Urbanspoon

I Believe…


  • I believe in low and slow.
  • I believe that a good sauce enhances the flavor of meat and does not mask it.
  • I believe barbecue is universally regional.
  • I believe in a good peppery vinegar sauce with my chopped pork.
  • I believe those people in Alabama are nuts for having a white sauce, but I’d sure like to try it!
  • I believe that BBQ people are some of the nicest people ever.
  • I believe that BBQ brings a group of people together like no other food can.
  • I believe in bite-thru skin on chicken.
  • I believe I would like another rib, please.
So what do you believe?

Review: Country Chef Mustard Grilling Sauce

As you may recall, I recently reviewed two of the six sauces in the Country Chef Grilling Sauce line.  Today’s review is the third sauce in the Country Chef Grilling Sauce line — mustard.

Country Chef Mustard Grilling Sauce

Country Chef Mustard Grilling Sauce

To refresh you, Country Chef Grilling Sauces are the brainchild of Mike Espey.  They are heart-healthy sauces with no high fructose corn syrup, artificial flavors or colors, or MSG.

Naked Observations

Looking at the packaging, the jar gives me that home-made impression.  The initial scent reinforces the freshness portrayed in the packaging.  The sauce pours out thick, and the texture is uneven with the fresh ingredients that are used.  It is a golden color.

Sauce Swatch -- Country Chef Mustard Grilling Sauce

Sauce Swatch -- Country Chef Mustard Grilling Sauce

When taking a taste, the theme for this sauce is very similar to the other 2 sauces I’ve tried — an emphasis in fresh ingredients.  There was a flavor of mustard on the back end, but it was more of a sweet honey mustard flavor rather than a traditional mustard.

To the Meat of the Matter

For this test run, I decided to use the sauce as a condiment on a pulled pork sandwich.  The pulled pork was courtesy of a company BBQ.

Mustard grilling sauce on a pulled pork sandwich

Mustard grilling sauce on a pulled pork sandwich

Like the other Country Chef Grilling Sauces I’ve reviewed, the mustard sauce does not add an extraordinary amount of flavor.  However, it brings out the other flavors that are present in the pork while making it all seem just a bit more fresh!  The mustard flavor was just barely noticeable, but not in a bad way.

I could not find a website for Country Chef Grilling Sauce, but they do have a presence on Facebook.

Review: Butcher BBQ Sweet BBQ Sauce

Normally I would try to put in some kind of catchy, witty opening that would eventually segue into talking about the product that I’m reviewing.  However, today’s product really doesn’t need any kind of fancy lead-in.  So without any further delay, let’s take a look at Butcher BBQ Sweet BBQ Sauce!

Butcher BBQ Sweet BBQ Sauce

Butcher BBQ Sweet BBQ Sauce

Butcher BBQ is the brainchild of David Bouska.  Based in Chandler, OK, Butcher BBQ began in 1982 as Bouska was learning the ins and outs of beef, pork, and poultry while working at a meat market.  In 2006, Bouska hit the local competition circuit with very good results and decided to take his products on the market.  To this day, Butcher BBQ is one of the more successful teams on the competition circuit.  Butcher BBQ has an extensive line of injections, rubs, and sausage spices.  But to the best of my knowledge, this is Bouska’s only entry into the sauce market.  So let’s check it out!

Naked Observations

At first glimpse, the sauce appears to be a classic KC style thick and sweet sauce.  It has a nice dark red color.  However, when pouring it out, the rate at which it pours out of the bottle indicates that there is another ingredient that slightly thins out the sauce.  I looked at the ingredient label, and sure enough distilled vinegar and apple cider vinegar are listed as two of the ingredients.

Sauce Swatch

Sauce Swatch

Sauce Close-Up

Sauce Close-Up

When taking a sample taste, I find that there many different levels of sweetness.  With some sauces, there is just one predominant level of sweet (usually from high fructose corn syrup).  With this sauce, there seem to be multiple dimensions of sweetness that balance out well with a slight tang.  There is not much heat (if any) in this sauce.

To the Meat of the Matter

Plain and simple, ribs.  Spare ribs trimmed down to St. Louis style cut, to be exact.  I used the sauce as my finishing glaze on ribs that I cooked as part of a company BBQ.  If you’re interested in reading exactly how I cooked them, you can find a full write-up here.  Needless to say, the ribs ended up with a beautiful color, and I only had five rib bones left over out of nine racks of ribs.  I’d say it was a success!

Ribs finished with Butcher BBQ Sweet BBQ Sauce

Ribs finished with Butcher BBQ Sweet BBQ Sauce

Pile of Ribs.  Apologies for the fuzzy picture.

Pile of Ribs. Apologies for the fuzzy picture.

I would definitely recommend this sauce to anyone.  It has an excellent flavor that will work great on most meats.

Butcher BBQ’s website is http://www.butcherbbq.com.  From there, you can order any of their products online.  You can also find Butcher BBQ on Facebook.

Review: Hak’s Chipotle Bourbon BBQ Sauce

It’s not everyday that you get the chance to review the product of a TV show contestant.  I got the chance to today with trying out Hak’s Chipotle Bourbon BBQ Sauce.

Hak's Chipotle Bourbon BBQ Sauce

Hak's Chipotle Bourbon BBQ Sauce

The sauce is the creation of Sharone Hakman, whom many of you may know as one of the contestants from the first season of MasterChef.  Hakman made it to the next-to-last week of the season before being eliminated.  He has since used the wave of publicity from the television show to launch his own line of BBQ sauces.  The chipotle bourbon sauce is the first in the line of sauces, and a Thai chili tamarind sauce and a habanero pineapple sauce is slated for release later this year.  Now… on to the sauce!

Naked Observations

The first thing I notice about the sauce is the style of bottle that is used to contain the sauce.  The sauce is in a glass bottle that is somewhat reminiscent of a whiskey or bourbon bottle.  The sauce pours out very, very thick with a deep, dark red color.  The consistency of the sauce is broken up by the bits of caramelized onions distributed throughout the sauce.

Sauce swatch -- Hak's Chipotle Bourbon BBQ Sauce

Sauce swatch -- Hak's Chipotle Bourbon BBQ Sauce

Closeup of sauce swatch

Closeup of sauce swatch

When I took a taste of it, there were many flavors going on within the sauce.  There is a balance of sweet, spicy, heat, and tang.  The sauce also contains that distinct taste found in alcohol-based sauces.  I did have to take a couple of tastes — the first one did not have a lot of heat, while the second one did.  Shaking the bottle before pouring the sauce out should help in evening the flavors.

To the Meat of the Matter

I confess that I had to do a couple of different tests for this sauce.  My original test about 2 or 3 weeks ago was to use this sauce as a finishing glaze on some grilled sausages.

Sausages.  Pay no attention to that crusty one.

Sausages. Pay no attention to that crusty one.

Frankly, the sauce did not add a lot of flavor to the sausages.  I was a bit disappointed, to say the least.  But then I  decided that I would put the sauce away for another test run.  That time came today when I decided to make a rib trimming sandwich (using spare rib trimmings from my catering gig), and I used the sauce in more of a condiment style.

Rib Trimming Sandwich using Hak's Chipotle Bourbon BBQ Sauce

Rib Trimming Sandwich using Hak's Chipotle Bourbon BBQ Sauce

This test seemed to let the flavors of the sauce shine more.  I could taste the different flavors from the sauce that were added to the meat, yet the meat was not overpowered at all by the sauce.

One thing that could be a potential deal-breaker is the price of the sauce.  The website for Hak’s BBQ Sauce has the sauce listed for $8 per 12-oz. bottle (plus $2.99 shipping) or 3 bottles for $18 (plus $10.95 shipping).

Overall, I think this sauce definitely has some potential.  This would work well on larger cuts of meat (burgers, chops, ribs).  However, the price point for the sauce definitely puts it in the “gourmet sauce” realm and out of the reach of a lot of potential customers.

The website for Hak’s BBQ Sauce (where you can purchase the sauce) is http://www.haksbbq.com.  You can also find Hak’s BBQ Sauce on Facebook.

Best Of: July 17-24

Geez, it’s been hot!  Hope you’re all staying cool.  Here are a few links to check out to keep you out of this ridiculously hot and steamy weather:

  • Robyn Medlin Lindars (affectionately known as GrillGrrrl) explains what the big deal is about the reverse sear with this recipe.
  • Paul Height of No Excuses BBQ cooks up some beautiful ribs, now that he has plenty of time to do so.
  • Two of my favorite people are tag teaming to run a contest.  Check out this blog post on how you can enter to win a really sweet Draper’s BBQ gift set courtesy of Kevin’s BBQ Joints.
  • And to toot my own horn, I survived my first pseudo-catering gig

Ribs for 30, Or How My First Pseudo-Catering Gig Went

Today was THE day I had been anticipating for quite some time.  About a month ago, a co-worker and I volunteered to cook for the entire office (around 30 people).  The original plan was for us to just cook pork butt, but it ended up that I volunteered to cook ribs while my co-worker would take care of the pork butt.  So here’s how that went…

First step — two days ago, I bought a whole bunch of spare ribs from Restaurant Depot (9 racks) and trim them to a St. Louis cut.

Spare ribs, trimmed to a St. Louis cut

Spare ribs, trimmed to a St. Louis cut

Last night, the ribs were slathered in Famous Dave’s Rich and Sassy BBQ Sauce and lightly seasoned with Willie’s Hog Dust Original Blend BBQ Rub.  After being slathered and seasoned, the ribs went into the refrigerator for the night.

Slathered and Seasoned

Slathered and Seasoned

This morning started early as I woke up at 3:45am to fire up the smoker.  At 4:45am, the smoker was up to 250 degrees, and in went the ribs!  The ribs cooked at between 225 and 250 degrees using oak wood.

Lots of ribs, about 2 1/2 hours in

Lots of ribs, about 2 1/2 hours in

At the three hour mark, I re-seasoned the ribs and put them back in the smoker.  At four hours in, I pull the ribs, add some dark brown sugar and honey, and foil them.

Ribs prior to brown sugar and honey drizzle

Ribs prior to brown sugar and honey drizzle

After another hour, the ribs were unfoiled and glazed with sweet BBQ sauce from Butcher BBQ.  The ribs were pulled after a grand total of 6 hours in the smoker.

About to be sauced

About to be sauced

The finished product.  Bad lighting, but it had beautiful color!

The finished product. Bad lighting, but it had beautiful color!

When the ribs were finished, they were wrapped in foil and placed in a towel-lined cooler for transport.  Once on-site, the ribs were sliced and ready to serve.

Yours truly slicing the ribs

Yours truly slicing the ribs. Picture courtesy of the company president.

Ready to serve.  Crappy cell phone pic.

Ready to serve. Crappy cell phone pic.

So how did it turn out?  If I go by how much food was left, it was a success with there only being five ribs left.  Feedback was overwhelmingly positive, with one woman declaring it the best ribs she’s ever eaten.  Now if that doesn’t boost my ego, nothing will!

So that was my first experience with cooking for more than 3 or 4 people.  Except for the whole “getting up at 3:45am” part, I thoroughly enjoyed it and would not hesitate to volunteer to do it again!

Brisket Burrito, anyone?

Leftover brisket from Meyer’s Elgin Smokehouse… check.  Habanero peach BBQ sauce… check.  BBQ rub… check.  Sounds like the makings of a brisket burrito to me!  Let’s get started… I apologize for the crappy cell phone cameras.  It’s all I had with me at work.

Burrito-sized tortilla

Burrito-sized tortilla

Diced brisket

Diced brisket

BBQ sauce -- this is peach habanero sauce

BBQ sauce -- this is peach habanero sauce, also courtesy of Meyer's Elgin Smokehouse

Your favorite rub.  I used C-Dub's BBQ Rub

Your favorite rub. I used C-Dub's BBQ Rub. It's my work emergency stash!

Take one tortilla shell…  add meat…

The start of a beautiful friendship...

The start of a beautiful friendship...

Add some rub, some sauce, and some cheese…

Almost there...

Almost there...

Roll it up… and just for the heck of it, garnish with more sauce and leftover brisket.

The finished product... TA-DA!

The finished product... TA-DA!

And there ya go!  If you have any rice, you can add that to your fillings as well.  It’s pretty much limited by your imagination and what you have handy.

Best Of: July 10-17

As you get ready to watch the Women’s World Cup final, take a few minutes and check out these interesting articles:

  • Check out how our neighbors to the north of us do KCBS competitions, courtesy of this in-depth blog by Wilfred Reinke.
  • We should all follow in the footsteps of the BBQ Grail and just say no to Subway’s BBQ pulled pork sub.
  • Check out this post by Robyn Medlin Lindars (also known as Grill Grrrl — yes, that’s with 3 r’s) about how to do it cave man style… grilling steaks, that is.
  • Wiener Schnitzel?  Yes, please!  This recipe is a guest post on The Dutchess Cooks courtesy of Doug and Biggi Francis of Hogs Gone Wild BBQ.
  • What has the mad scientist/wizard of sauce Tom Porter of Big Butz BBQ Sauce been up to lately?  Check out his latest escapades here.
Enjoy the rest of your weekend!