Thursday, July 31, 2008

REVIEW: Fork & Halo Heavenly Hickory Sauce

Fork and Halo Heavenly Hickory Sauce

Manufacturer Wicked Good BBQ

Quality *** (3.5 out of 5)
Viscosity *** (3 out of 5)
Aroma *** (3 out of 5)

Appearance *** (3 out of 5)

Packaging **** (4 out of 5)

The sauce reviews for the Home of BBQ are done with meat that is almost always cooked low and slow over hickory and apple. On occasion, the sauce will also be evaluated as a dipping sauce if the manufacturer lists it as such.

The sauce is a strong red color and comes in a glass bottle. There is a nice viscosity and the sauce pours well. It is thick enough to adhere to the meat without being ‘gloopy’.* It is slightly too loose to merit a ‘4’, but it does the job.

The aroma here is a bit stronger than their base sauce, which accounts for the jump from a 2.5 to a 3. The aroma is sweet and offers hints of the ‘hickory’ flavor in the sauce.

I was presented with an interesting problem with this sauce. Heavenly Hickory is a bit too sweet for my tastes. So, what do I do? Similar to encountering the same problem when judging at BBQ competitions, the answer is to try to judge sauce on its own merits. Regardless of my own preferences, is the sauce well made?

The answer is yes.

In addition to the sweetness that you normally find in sweet sauces, I also found an interesting and welcome molasses flavor. It may have been a bit more pronounced by the maillard reaction from the meat, but it provided a nice ‘base’ for the other sweet flavors to build on.

What helps me to appreciate this sauce is that the sweetness is not cloying and the flavors are layered and not overwhelming. The ‘hickory’ flavor sits at the rear of your tongue as the sweetness dances along the edges. The heat found in the sauce outlasts the sweetness and rewards the taster that gives proper attention to each mouthful.

For those that enjoy sweeter sauces, Fork and Halo’s Heavenly Hickory Sauce is an unqualified success.

*Repeated from the ‘Original Sin’ review


Tuesday, July 29, 2008

REVIEW: Mrs. Dog's Chipotle Salt

Mrs. Dog’s Chipotle Salt

Manufacturer: Mrs. Dog’s


I was lucky enough to receive a jar of Mrs. Dog’s Chipotle Salt from a friend a few months ago. To be honest, I’m surprised that I have any left. I use salt very, very sparingly so I still have a bit left in the jar. Having at least some left is a very good thing. This has become a new staple for my seasoning shelf.

As I received it as a gift, I have no idea how the customer service is at Mrs. Dog’s. If it approaches the quality of the product, then I’ll have no complaints. They sell a 4 oz. jar for $3.95. Four ounces will last you a good while.

The product has more than chipotle and salt as ingredients, but those are the primary flavors that come through. Some quick tasting and a little experimenting will help you gauge when and where to use it. This is an amazing product that deserves as much publicity as it can get. Use it where you would salt and at the same rate that you would use salt and you should be fine.

The three main uses that I have for the chipotle salt are using it on steak prior to grilling, using it on hard boiled eggs and using it on corn on the cob.

We grilled up some corn tonight and whipped up some melted butter with cumin. After grilling the corn for about ten minutes or so, we peeled the husks, added the butter mix and then sprinkled on some chipotle salt. Excellent.

Remember to soak the corn for at least fifteen minutes prior to grilling.


Sunday, July 27, 2008

REVIEWS: Fork and Halo Fire & Brimstone

Fork and Halo Fire and Brimstone BBQ Sauce

Manufacturer Wicked Good BBQ

Quality **** (4 out of 5)
Viscosity *** (3 out of 5)
Aroma *** (3 out of 5)

Appearance *** (3 out of 5)

Packaging **** (4 out of 5)

This sauce was used on pulled pork and chicken that were cooked low and slow. The opinions are both mine and Will Breakstone’s, owner and pit-master of Willie B’s Award Winning BBQ.

The sauce is a strong red color and comes in a glass bottle. There is a nice viscosity and the sauce pours well. It is thick enough to adhere to the meat without being ‘gloopy’. *

I’m not sure if it is the inclusion of the habaneros, but the aroma is stronger than Fork and Halo’s Original Sin sauce, but the aroma is not indicative of heat. The aroma is pleasing, but once again not very strong. The bump up from 2.5 stars to 3 reflects the quality of the aroma, not the strength.

Once again, Wicked Good BBQ has produced a sauce that smells, tastes and feels ‘fresh’. The adjective that I used for their ‘original sin’ sauce was that it tastes ‘clean’ and that is just as appropriate to the Fire and Brimstone variety. There is such a distinct lack of artificial ingredients that are so ubiquitous in most sauces that it is almost startling. Sadly, the cloying sweetness and artificial flavors that are so prevalent in sauces on store shelves these days have become the standard.

When listing ingredients for the Fire and Brimstone sauce, habaneros is number six. That is telling. This is clearly not a sauce that derives its heat from extracts or straight capsaicin. The natural flavor profile of the habanero is there in the bottle and it is pretty strong. I usually do tastings with the owner of Willie B’s BBQ. The sauce was too spicy for his tastes. Much. I, on the other hand, was fine with it.

It’s amusing to note that my sole concern with their Original Sin sauce was their description of it having a devilish touch of heat that I wasn’t able to discern. The Fire and Brimstone sauce more than makes up for that.

If you are looking for a sauce with a crisp, natural flavor and a significant kick; this is the sauce for you.

*Repeated from previous review.


Friday, July 25, 2008

RECIPE: Asian Peach BBQ Sauce

Asian Peach BBQ Sauce

I wanted to experiment a bit and make a sauce for pork that had an Asian influence. I’m going to experiment a bit more, as the flavors were a bit strong and not exactly what I was looking for. I believe that I have a great jumping off point here and I hope that you join me in using this as a base for experimenting.

1 can 8.5 oz peaches

1 can 8.5 oz apricots

4 oz pineapple juice

8.5 oz rice wine vinegar (I used a garlic infused version)

¼ teaspoon thick soy sauce

¼ teaspoon lemon zest

¼ teaspoon orange peel

1/3 teaspoon ginger

Blend the fruit with the vinegar until there are no ‘chunks’. Place in a medium size pot and put burner on high. Stir in soy sauce. Add dry ingredient. Bring to boil and then reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for another 20 minutes. Add pineapple sauce.

The coloring will darken considerably as the soy is worked in and the liquid boils down.

Quick recommendations for modifications:

Cut back on the vinegar by half. Add toasted sesame seeds.


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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

REVIEW: Sutphens Texas Thunder

Sutphens Texas Thunder Sweet Grillin’ Sauce

Manufacturer Texas Thunder BBQ

Quality **** (4 out of 5)
Viscosity **** (4 out of 5)
Aroma **** (4 out of 5)

Appearance *** (3 out of 5)

Packaging ** (2 out of 5)

This sauce was used on pulled pork and brisket, cooked ‘low and slow’ over apple and hickory. It was also used as a grilling sauce on chicken.

Well, we had a bit of a quandary with this sauce. The label says ‘grillin’ sauce but the site identifies it as a BBQ sauce. Seeing as the sauce is really good, no one had an objection to trying it on both.

The packaging on the bottle is oddly counterintuitive and it works. I’m caught between giving it a low score or a high score. I went with ‘low’. Oddly, the simple and rather plain design on a pure white background helps the bottle stand out. There is no mistaking it when looking at your sauce shelf and deciding what to try.

The package has a black bull as the manufactures icon. The image rests on a while label with red lettering. The sauce comes in a 16 oz. plastic bottle.

The sauce has a nice aroma. It mixes a sweetness with tomato elements for a pleasing result. It’s almost similar to a Memphis sauce, but it is unique unto itself. The aroma is almost an exact mirror of the flavor, just not quite as much sweetness.

The sauce is a dark red in color and lacks variation. The sauce is fairly opaque and I wasn’t able to discern any of the ingredients by viewing the liquid. The color is very consistent, both in the bottle and on the meat.

The sauce is fairly sweet, with a very pleasant tomato influence. It’s a bit strange, but the flavor is not ketchupy; as might be expected. Let’s face it, sweet + tomato = ketchup. Not here. The flavor was mild enough to not overpower the meat while pronounced enough to not lose any of its own integrity. The flavors were well integrated while still being layered.

When used as a grilling sauce it gains some sweetness and loses a bit of the tomato, but is still very enjoyable. It works particularly well on poultry, such as chicken as it melds well with the more delicate flavors.

If you happen to be on the competition circuit and see Joey Sutphen and his team, stop by and say hi. If they are selling their sauce pick it up. I hesitate to mention that it’s only $5.00, as I don’t want to give the impression that it’s a ‘bargain’ sauce. Let’s just call it a heck of a deal.


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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

RAMBLINGS: Site Design

I hope that you all like the new layout of the Home of BBQ site. I certainly do. I'd like to thank Ragan of bloggerboutique for her hard work, excellent job and quick turn around. You can visit her site by clicking on the tab in the sidebar to the left.

We've been hard at work behind the scenes lately and we hope to have some interesting things coming up in early August.

We have a bunch of new interviews, some book reviews, a number of new recipes and tons of sauce reviews coming your way.


Saturday, July 19, 2008

RAMBLINGS: Biggest BBQ Competitions

Here in the United States it’s pretty much agreed on that there are four premier BBQ contests. Where each stands in the hierarchy depends on where you’re from, what your outlook is and who you are talking to. What makes an event stand out from the rest of pack? Size, prestige, prizes and tradition make these more than competitions; they are seminal events that are as memorable for the visitor as they are for the competitor.

The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo is held annually in (believe it or not) Houston Texas. To beat the famed Texas heat, the competition is held in late winter (next year it will be February 26 – 29). How many people will be showing up? Just a bit shy of a quarter of a million. Yup, over 200,000 people will be strolling through the aisles, smelling the amazing aromas of true BBQ.

The categories are standard for the Houston event. Judges can look forward to the best pork, brisket, spare ribs and chicken that Texas has to offer.

The American Royal Barbecue competition has been an annual event since 1980. Termed the ‘World Series of BBQ’, the American Royal will have over 500 competition teams (yes, you read that right) fighting it out for bragging rights and prizes. There are two categories, the ‘invitational’ and the ‘open’. Wining anything at the American Royal is an accomplishment you can brag on for years, but the winner of the invitational becomes an object of fear and envy on the circuit.

The event is held in Kansas City, Missouri in October. Aside from the straight up BBQ, there are also some serious bragging rights for the teams that host the best party. More than almost any other event, the American Royal is a celebration of BBQ and competition. The party atmosphere is intense and is spread over the majority of the area. You can easily wander from party to party and wind up at back at your space having traversed the entirety of the lot.

The Memphis in May contest is as much about showmanship as it is about BBQ. Like many other large BBQ contests, Memphis in May offers things aside from low and slow meat. The entire city of Memphis is rocking during the event and the lineup of bands is amazing.

The contest offers over $90,000.00 in prizes and offers a unique ‘on-site’ judging program. They have a number of ancillary contests that emphasize the fun and less serious aspects of BBQ, such as best site, a tee shirt contest and more. The Memphis in May offers a people’s choice award where attendees can vote on their favorite ‘Q. The park holding the contest is over a mile long and they still have difficulties fitting in all the teams that would like to participate.

‘The Jack’ is the Jack Daniel’s Invitational World Championship BBQ contest. This is where the elite of the elite come and compete (that sounds like a bad rhyming scheme). Less than 70 teams will be competing and they only get in the door with an invitation.

If you are lucky and good enough to win certain events throughout the year you are put into a lottery system. The winners of the lottery system join past winners of The Jack and the winners of other major competitions (such as the ones listed here) who are given automatic entry.

With the competition being so fierce to get into the event and the number of competitors being so small, this may be the most prestigious event in the BBQ world.

If you’re lucky enough to attend one of these events, take the time to pick up as many tips as possible. You are amongst masters. Just don’t bother the teams near turn in times.


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Friday, July 18, 2008

Review: Charcoal Companion Chimney Starter

Some reviews are by design. I’ll go to a store and purposefully pick up some sauce to review. Some reviews are instigated. A manufacturer will send me some sauce that they would like reviewed. Some reviews are the result of serendipity. I will stumble across something that I think you should be aware of. Here is a review that is serendipitous for you and not so much fun for me.

The week prior to the 4th of July I had decided that I needed another chimney starter. I have two smokers and two Weber kettles, so it wasn’t a completely senseless idea. I was in a store called Le Gourmet Chef and they were selling one made by Charcoal Companion for about ten dollars. Great deal. I couldn’t pass up that impulse purchase and left with the starter and a bunch of other items.

I used the new starter on the 4th of July. It was used to start the coals going on the larger of the kettles and then I was using it for the 18”. When I lifted the starter to flip the coals over, the top of the handle separated from the metal it was connected to. My hand came into contact with the extremely hot metal. Yes, it was more than a bit painful.

Ok, problem on the first day of use. Not good. I sent out an email to Charcoal Companion’s customer service the next day. I received a prompt reply asking if I was ok and assuring me that they would be sending me a replacement. I replied asking if they would like me to send back the old one, how it should be packed up and who to send it to. I received no response and to date I have received no replacement.

So, on the product: thumbs down. On the customer service: thumbs down.

Charcoal Companion is a pretty big outfit and their products are in stores nation wide. I’ll be avoiding their products and I encourage you to do the same. If I hear back from them, I’ll post an update.


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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

REVIEW: Smiling Ed's Hickory Cajun

Smiling Ed’s Hickory Cajun Sauce


Quality ***** (5 out of 5)
Appearance **** (4 out of 5)
Packaging *** (3.5 out of 5)
Aroma *** ( 3.5 out of 5)

In an odd way, Smiling Ed’s products are why this site exists. It’s not a big deal and it’s certainly not a large amount, but I actually lose money running the Home of BBQ. There are no money making aspects at all. The site is a labor of love and the work put in on the updates and outreach is done in the interest in promoting something I’m fond of. One of the many highlights (‘cause let’s be honest, I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t enjoy it) is being able to bring attention to products that you would enjoy that you don’t find in your local grocery.

Smiling Ed’s exemplifies the excitement in finding a ‘hidden BBQ gem’. I hope that in five years they will be in stores from Maine to Texas, but for now I suggest that you hop on over to their site and place an order.

I had corresponded with the owner a few times and we frequent some of the same BBQ related forums, but I had no idea what a huge role serendipity played in the development of Smiling Ed’s Sauces. The story behind the sauce is as interesting as the sauce is delicious, and that is quite a claim.

The sauce comes in a 14 oz. glass bottle. As has been mentioned before, sauce will typically come in one of three different types of bottles. Plastic bottles will have minor variations, but are mostly of solid construction and do their job well. Glass bottles on the other hand typically come in two different styles, thin and flimsy or solid and well made. The hierarchy of sauce bottles should be thin glass on the bottom, plastic in the middle and solid glass on the top. Smiling Ed’s uses quality glass bottles for their sauce.

The labeling is idiosyncratic enough to stand out on a shelf, but it’s not overly busy. The photo on the label is supposed to, I assume, be of Smiling Ed. He has the look of a chow cook or a prospector and the image fits the medium well.

The sauce coloring is a light red, which promising. There are certain tell-tale signs of mass produced, sub par sauces. The thick viscosity, dark red coloring without variation and the overly sweet aroma is indicative of an overly processed sauce that utilizes high fructose corn syrup and artificial colorings.
The sauce is not spicy, but it’s not mild either. It offers a very enticing lingering taste. The flavor of the sauce doesn’t overwhelm the meat, but it doesn’t exactly blend into or enhance the meats flavor. It adds a second, distinct flavor that doesn’t detract. The sauce is sweet without being cloying and the hickory flavor provides just enough distinction to separate Smiling Ed’s from other excellent sauces.

The aroma is sweet, but not overly so. It doesn’t offer much in the way of the hickory flavoring, so the aroma is not fully representative of the flavor profile.

I have tons of BBQ sauce in my home at all times. I purchase lots of sauce, friends give me their favorites to try and manufacturers mail me sauces to review. This results in me having more sauce than I can consume in a lifetime. I try to give away as much as possible to people that I believe will enjoy it. On the other hand, I’m not entirely altruistic. Some sauces are kept in my ‘private stash’. Smiling Ed’s Hickory Cajun sauce is in there. It should be in yours too.

Let me be even more forceful in my recommendation. If you try this sauce and you don’t like it, send me an email. If I have any sauce on hand (and I almost always do) you can send me the unused portions of Smiling Ed’s and I’ll mail you some of what I have here. That’s a pretty crazy offer and I make it because I believe that I won’t have to go through with it.


Saturday, July 12, 2008

Peoples Choice BBQ Winners

People’s Choice BBQ Awards – Sausage

Overall Winners

The overall winners were determined by taking the aggregate scores for each manufacturer and in the case of ties giving priority to those manufacturers that provided samples for more than one category. By emphasizing manufacturers that had superior quality across the board we are attempting to recognize overall consistency as well as specialization.

Grand Champion: Meyer’s Elgin Sausage

First Place: Southside Market

Second Place: Poche’s Sausage

Third Place: Uli’s Famous Sausage

There were literally dozens of varieties of sausage that were tasted and pound after pound of sausage consumed by the judges. The entries were excellent across the board and in general I concur with the opinions of the judges.

We congratulate all of the winners and look forward to the 2009 People’s Choice BBQ Awards.


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Friday, July 11, 2008

RAMBLINGS: Site Updates

You may have noticed that there has been a dearth of postings lately. I have been a bit ‘under the gun’ with a writing deadline that kept growing in volume as the due date loomed larger on the horizon. The end is in sight and everything should be wrapped up by this Wednesday.

Coming up:

Wrap-up of the People’s Choice BBQ Awards
More tools for event organizers
Prerelease review of Dr. BBQ’s The NFL Gameday Cookbook
7 Sauce reviews

Thank you for your patience!

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