Friday, October 31, 2008

Review: Bacon Salt and Chipotle Salt

Popcorn Battle

Mrs. Dogs Chipotle Salt

Peppered Bacon Salt

I wanted to revisit two products that we had reviewed in the past, so I decided to pit them against each other, head to head.

Mrs. Dogs produces a chipotle salt that is out of this world. The balance between the chipotle and the salt is fantastic, with neither overwhelming the other. The chipotle is strong enough to offer smokey, piquant flavor without being overwhelming. I was initially concerned that I would have to use too much salt for the palette in order to be able to have a proper taste of the chipotle. That fear was absolutely unwarranted.

Bacon Salt is produced by J&D’s. This mana from the porcine heavens offers a bacon flavor to everything that you would put salt on. Where is the bacon? I have no idea, but it’s not in the bottle. Vegetarians could happily eat food seasoned with Bacon Salt. All the flavor, none of the pork. Pigs everywhere are singing the praises of Bacon Salt.

I made a couple of quarts of popcorn and put the snack into three bowls. I would normally use an olive oil to cook the popcorn, but I wanted to keep the flavors as neutral as possible, so I used a commercial vegetable oil. I used no flavorings aside from the Chipotle Salt and the Bacon Salt. There was no melted butter.

On bowl one I sprinkled the Chipotle Salt. I used about a teaspoon on about 2 quarts of popcorn. I tossed the popcorn thoroughly and dug in. Wow, was this good. The smokey flavor from the chipotle mixed into the natural flavor of the popcorn and really pulled every possible nuance out of the snack. It practically danced along the taste buds. The salt gave us the baseline flavor that we are all used to in popcorn and the chipotle kicked it in the butt. Fantastic. There was about 25% of the salt left on the bottom of the bowl when the popcorn was gone.

The second bowl had pepper flavored Bacon Salt sprinkled on it. The same amount of popcorn had about ¾ of a teaspoon of the Bacon Salt. This proved to be too little. I find it a bit difficult to judge how much Bacon Salt I should be using. I need to spend more time experimenting with this condiment/ingredient, and that is a burden I’m willing to shoulder. If I have to put Bacon Salt on nearly everything I eat, I’m willing to make that sacrifice.

The bacon mixed with the pepper and salt flavoring was amazing when tasted, but unfortunately it needed to be mixed very thoroughly too fully distribute the Bacon Salt. It seems as though the powder adheres to what it touches first and sticks a bit. That would normally be a plus, but in this situation it was a detriment. In general, it gave the flavor of having popped the corn in bacon grease instead of oil, which is almost too good to describe.

The third bowl of popcorn had a mixture of the Bacon Salt and the Chipotle Salt. This was an unqualified winner. Simply delicious. A bit spicy, but that’s how I prefer my food.

There were no casualties in this battle and no losers. The next time I do this I’ll be adding the Bacon Salt to melted butter, whisking it thoroughly and then applying it to the popcorn.

If you don’t have these two products on your shelf, you need to change that immediately.


Thursday, October 30, 2008

Review: Charley Biggs' Sweet Bourbon

Sweet Bourbon Sauce

Manufacturer Charley Biggs’

Quality **** (4 out of 5)
Viscosity **** (4 out of 5)
Aroma *** (3.5 out of 5)

Appearance *** (3.5 out of 5)

Packaging ** (2.5 out of 5)

Well, it’s nice to be back in the saddle as it were. After a brief spate of subpar sauces, I have a follow up to our earlier review of Charley Biggs’ apple based sauce. Like that earlier review, I’m happy to report that this bourbon flavored sauce exceeds expectations. Oddly, it follows a review of a disappointing Traeger bourbon sauce. Strange timing.

The sauce comes in a strong, 12 .oz bottle. The sauce pours easily and the mouth of the bottle is fairly wide. The labeling is a little too dark for my taste. It’s a dark purple that fades into a dark red. The sauce is a very solid red, which lends the bottle and labeling a darker aspect in and of itself.

The aroma is fairly strong and certainly pleasant, but by no means unique. As time goes by, I’m slowly learning that it is harder to find a unique aroma then a unique flavor. There is little hint of the bourbon flavor that the sauce is named for.

Keeping its basic form even on uneven and hot meat, the sauce has a remarkable viscosity for a liquid that pours so easily. I’m not entirely sure if this is a function of the sauce or the bottle, but it’s probably a combination of both.

The sauce is sweet, but without any artificial taste. It seems that you find this most in sauces that are fruit or honey based, but there is neither found here. It may be the prominence of the molasses (second ingredient listed) combined with the bourbon. The tomato base remains prominent enough to avoid shocking the palettes of KC sauce adherents while offering a significant variation on the standard taste.

The differences seem to lay mostly in the flavors found as the sauce lingers. There is an odd, but pleasant spice that hits about the same time as the bourbon flavor. It has a minimal but lingering heat that adds nice undertones to the sweetness.

This sauce is all natural and surprisingly versatile. In addition to the normal testing, I used it on grilled chicken and it was excellent.

As of this review, Charley Biggs is two for two.


Monday, October 27, 2008

Ramblings: Battle of the BBQ Brethren

2008 Battle of the BBQ Brethren

I hope that it has become apparent that the Home of BBQ doesn't do geographic specific coverage. We don't cover local contests and we don't do restaurant reviews. If we make an exception and cover something that is local it needs to have national impact. We are stretching our rules here a bit by providing a video overview of the first day of the Battle of the BBQ Brethren, a NY State Championships.

We are breaking our self imposed rules because:

1) I was one of the organizers

2) My wonderful and talented niece made the video

Without further ado:


Thursday, October 23, 2008

Review: Honey Bourbon BBQ Sauce

Honey Bourbon BBQ Sauce

Manufacturer Traeger (Rocky Mountain Products)

Quality ** (2.5 out of 5)
Viscosity *** (3 out 5)
Aroma ** (2 out of 5)

Appearance *** (3 out of 5)

Packaging ** (2 out of 5)

This sauce is part of the Traeger Signature line of spices and sauces. It seems to have the imprimatur of Terry Bradshaw.

The labeling here is a bit of a mess. Half of Bradshaw’s face is shown (the rest is truncated by the end of the label. That image is in full color. The background for the label is plain white. The lettering for the Traeger logo is in black and the sauce description is in red. Terry Bradshaw’s signature is on the label, but it’s not the clearest signature and there is no other mention of his name.

I purchased the sauce for $7.95 and it came in a solid glass bottle. The sauce poured easily out of the 13oz. bottle. Clearly the bottle was the best part of the presentation.

The aroma was fairly mild. The tell-tale tomato, sugar and vinegar were all present, but nothing was particularly prominent. The aroma didn’t match the taste (which can be fine, sometimes that’s a nice surprise) and it didn’t do anything to stick out or give the person using the sauce something to latch onto. It was rather ‘blah’.

The sauce was fairly thick. On the ‘drip test’ it held to the meat well if you suspended a piece of pork with sauce on it over your plate. Very little succumbed to the efforts of gravity. The sauce itself was a darkish red with little variation. This seems to be the standard of late. The consistency was a bit grainier than normal, which I actually enjoyed.

The taste was way too mild for me. It lacked any distinction from bourbon and the honey was overwhelmed by the tomato. I appreciate the fact that the sauce was less sweet than most commercial sauces, but it didn’t offer anything else to separate itself.

I like Traeger the company and I also like their products. Unfortunately, I can’t recommend this one.


Monday, October 20, 2008

Review: holy smoke

holy smoke: The Big Book of North Carolina Barbeque

Author: John Shelton Reed & Dale Volberg Reed with William McKinney

Photographs: Varied

Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press

Page Count: 304

This is a fascinating book presented in an interesting fashion. It’s not wide, but man is it deep. The focus is fairly narrow. holy smoke covers the history, pedigree, development of recipes, and current state of BBQ in North Carolina.

This is a hardcover book with a very clean and attractive dust jacket. The book is divided into three main sections. The first seventy-seven pages are devoted to the cultural and culinary history of the food. The second section is devoted to recipes (current and from the earliest days of North Carolina ‘Q), techniques and BBQ pits. This section clocks in at one hundred and seventeen pages. The rest of the book is dedicated to the people of North Carolina BBQ. This is often their story in their own words.

There is a true pride and dedication that resonates throughout this book. BBQ is part of the North Carolina heritage that is passed on from one generation to the next and holy smoke chronicles and honors that tradition. The amount of research that the authors put into this book is evidenced by the quality of the writing and the assured manner in which they guide the reader through the history of our native cuisine.

It is clear that the authors have a respect for the subject matter. Their points of reference are often evident as they quote notable authors and other experts. The book is often a mix of authoritative discussions that avoid being pedantic and small snippets or anecdotes about celebrities such as Orson Scott Card, Dom DeLuise and Oliver Stone.

Although I enjoyed the middle section with the recipes both modern and old, I most enjoyed the part of the book that allowed the pitmasters, restaurant owners and others who carry on the traditions of their parents and grandparents to talk about their experiences in their own words. There is an authenticity here that speaks to the soul of any BBQ enthusiast. The nomenclature and colloquialisms of the people that spend their lives providing BBQ to others help to draw in those that are on the periphery of the hobby.

With the holiday season upon us, I would heartily recommend picking up holy smoke for any BBQ enthusiast. If you decide to buy two and put one in your own stocking your Christmas will be the better for it.


Friday, October 17, 2008

Interviews: Rick Sutton - Kitchen Nightmares & Gordon Ramsay

J Willy's BBQ on Kitchen Nightmares

Gordon Ramsay is a Scottish born chef and restaurateur who has been the recipient of 12 Michelin Stars. Ramsay rose to fame in England with his shows Hell’s Kitchen, The F-Word and Kitchen Nightmares on the BBC. Chef Ramsay has found similar fame in the United States with reality shows on Fox that are based on his BBC hits.

Ramsay’s restaurants are popular with the critics and public alike, which encouraged him to expand his empire to include restaurants in Dubai, Tokyo, Manhattan, Boca Raton and Los Angeles. Hell’s Kitchen is filmed in Los Angeles while Kitchen Nightmares is not based in a single geographic area. Most of the episodes to date have been filmed in the metro New York area, but the episode of particular interest for our readers was filmed in a BBQ joint in South Bend, Indiana.

Chef Ramsay and the Kitchen Nightmares crew set up camp in what was then called J Willy’s Bar and Grille. Over the course of a week, Chef Ramsay worked with the restaurant owners and employees to improve the long term viability of J Willy’s. We recently had a chance to ask a few questions of Rick Sutton, one of the owners. Although we probably took up too much of Rick’s time, he was kind enough to answer questions about his background as well as working with Chef Ramsay.

The episode is scheduled to air on Thursday, Oct. 30th (9:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on Fox.

Where did your interest in the culinary world come from?

I started in the restaurant business in 1975 as a dishwasher. After a couple months doing dishes I was promoted to bus boy, and I ran all the way home and burst into the house screaming "I am a bus boy now, I am a bus boy now". After working as a busboy I was hooked on the restaurant business, and I have been doing it ever since I started in 1975.

Were you influenced by one person in particular?

I have had many influences and some great mentors in my life time. I have worked with many trained chefs when I was a manager of country clubs. My biggest influences were the owners I worked for at Jake and Charlie’s in Winchester, Virginia (Rick Reynolds, Doug Tone, Charles Gaynor), The Rusty Rudder in Dewey Beach De( Jay Prettyman) and Stephen Jones who trained me as Maitre De Hotel in Bradenton Florida. I was also influenced by Chef John Folse, who is an awesome chef out of Louisiana.

What is it about BBQ that speaks to you?

We like to say we bleed BBQ. We test each and every batch of ribs we cook. After a period of time you develop a palate that can identify subtle flavors and nuances just as a wine connoisseur can tell about wine. A perfect rack of ribs is a work of love and passion. The best part is when the guest tells you it is the best ribs they have ever had in their life. Good BBQ is no accident so it is rewarding when you get some great feedback. After Chef Ramsay helped us develop our sauce I knew we had a competition level BBQ sauce with the potential for branding world wide.

How did J. Willys Barbeque House come about?

We named it after the operating partner John William Ittenbach and it was his childhood nick name. John’s sister, Linda suggested it. Before Chef Ramsay arrived it was just J Willy’s Bar and Grill; he was the one who branded us as a barbecue house, although we did serve ribs and bbq pork. We then decided to come up with a menu that was similar to every casual theme concept we could think of in an attempt to copy a mix of Chilis, Applebees, Ruby Tuesday etc. Obviously that did not work out for us, so we asked Chef Ramsay for help.

What do you serve at the restaurant? Do you have a specialty?

We have the best Ribs in the world. The special thing about J Willys is how we make the food. We make all of our food from fresh ingredients from scratch like home made. We make our food in small batches just prior to each meal period, and we do not hold anything over to the next day. It is an amazingly simple concept but it took Chef Ramsay to create a passion in all of us for great fresh homemade food.

Is your BBQ region specific (Texas, North Carolina, Kansas City, etc.) or an amalgamation of styles?

I would call it Kansas City style.

What equipment do you use for smoking?

We have our own smoker we use, it is nothing fancy. Our sauce and rub are the true keys. We make our sauce fresh from scratch and we make sure we only use the freshest and highest quality ingredients we can find. The sauce is the key and only J Willys himself has the recipe.

If you were allowed to arrange the details of your last meal, what would you like prepared and who would you like to cook it?

I want my last meal prepared by my wife. She prepares the best food of anyone I know. Her etoufee is to die for and her corn and crab chowder is out of this world. We grow a huge garden, and we raise our own chickens and eat our own eggs. So in answer to the question : Tricia Sutton preparing me corn and clam chowder made with fresh Jumbo lump crabmeat from Smith Island Delaware, corn from our garden and then one of our nice organic chickens slow roasted with some fresh herbs from the garden as an entree.

When someone decides to take the family out for a meal at J. Willy’s what can they expect?

Fresh home made food made from scratch with fresh ingredients.

When you applied to be on Kitchen Nightmares, what was the single largest concern that you were hoping that Chef Ramsay would be able to help you with?

I do not want to be the one who causes 35 people to lose their jobs, and lose my house in the process.

Why do you think that you were chosen to be on Kitchen Nightmares?

I have been blessed all my life, and this was God helping me out one more time despite the fact that I do not deserve it.

To the best of my knowledge, this is the first time that a style of cuisine that is native to the United States has been featured on Kitchen Nightmares. Did that seem to be an impediment for Chef Ramsay? Did he have a reasonable working knowledge of BBQ?

Chef Ramsay knows what great food is and what is crap. No matter what style, bad food is bad food and good food is good food. Chef knows great food

BBQ is not considered haute cuisine. Outsiders often feel that there is a lack of artistry with low and slow cooking and that it is a food for and by the proletariat. Were you concerned that Chef Ramsay would display a lack of respect for the cuisine?

Great food is made with passion and love no matter how it is cooked or what style it is. Chef Ramsay is not pretentious at all he gave us a fantastic recipe for a gourmet Mac and Cheese, and I know that is not haute cuisine. Chef looked at what he had to work with, our backgrounds and what the market needed. His personal preferences did not keep him from guiding us in a direction that would make us successful. Chef Ramsay respects great food no matter what the label.

How much time, beginning to end, was the staff of Kitchen Nightmares on site at J. Willy’s?

Approx. a week. All day and night.

Due to the nature of the situation (enforcing change), it seems that a recurring theme on Kitchen Nightmares is a fractious relationship between Chef Ramsay and at least one member of the staff. What we don’t see are the other relationships. Did you enjoy working with the crew? Did your staff and the Kitchen Nightmares staff get along?

Without the support of Chef Ramsay and FOX we would never have survived. The Chef and crew shared an emotional experience with us so there was bound to be some bonding. It is hard to let someone know the depth of debt and the heartache that you feel when you are close to losing everything. There is no choice but to bond when you share an experience like that. Chef Gordon Ramsay was very sincere about our success. Chef is all business, but we still bonded with him. When you look in to his eyes you know he wants nothing more than for you to succeed.

What was the most valuable lesson that you learned from your involvement with Kitchen Nightmares?


Where does J. Willy’s stand now? Are the recommendations and changes presented by Chef Ramsay helping you to become a more successful business?

Chef gave us a start and now it is up to us to execute. If we give each and every guest perfect food and perfect service we will never have to worry about our business again.

Is there anything that you think that the public should know about Chef Ramsay and the show that they can’t get in the one hour that encapsulates a much greater period of time?

The sincerity is something you do not grasp until you work with him. Despite all the cussing, yelling, drama, and blustering the truth is that chef is here to help first and film a television show second. Chef cares and I do not think he gets enough credit for how much he invests emotionally in turning around a restaurant

What is the future of J. Willys?

We would love to sell our sauce all over the world. If we could find someone to help us get our sauce in every retail outlet across the country we could sure use the expertise and help. At this point we know we have a great product but we need to take it to the next level. We have no idea how to get beyond where we are now as far as selling our sauce and branding it and retailing it all over.

Are you involved in the BBQ community outside of the restaurant? Do you participate in competitions or festivals? Do you do mail order?

We won South Bend rib fest and we plan on hitting the road to some of the major competitions next year. PLEASE order our sauce on line at it is the best sauce out there and we could sure use the money.

Official Episode Description:

The owners of J Willy’s Bar & Grille in South Bend, IN, are $1.2 million in debt and have called in Chef Gordon Ramsay in hopes that he can help give them a fresh start. With no one running the kitchen, most of the fare is straight from the freezer or out of a can. To start fresh, Gordon challenges the staff to spend the night cleaning out the kitchen and throwing away all the rotten food lurking in the coolers.

The next morning, Gordon brings in fresh ingredients and teaches the cooks how to make various dishes that will be featured at that night’s dinner service. However, when the inexperienced cooks get flustered, the kitchen spirals out of control and brings one customer to tears. Find out if Gordon will be able to bring the restaurant up to his standards or if J Willy’s will be forced to close their doors forever on KITCHEN NIGHTMARES airing Thursday, Oct. 30 (9:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX.


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Review: Stubbs Smokey Mesquite

Stubbs Smokey Mesquite Sauce

Manufacturer Stubbs Bar-B-Q

Quality ** (2 out of 5)
Viscosity *** (3.5 out of 5
Aroma ** (2 out of 5)

Appearance ** (2.5 out of 5)

Packaging *** (3 out of 5)

The majority of the sauces reviewed on the Home of BBQ website are tasted alone and on pulled pork or brisket. On occasion the sauce will be tried with ribs or chicken. If a sauce is labeled as multipurpose it will often be tried with a burger or fries. We always attempt to match the sauce with what it is recommended for on the label. Sadly, I will never try a sauce on steak. It wouldn’t be fair to me or the steak. It would be a degradation to us both.

We were on such a nice streak. Two very good BBQ sauces in a row, preceded by a nice all purpose sauce. Oh well, all good things must come to an end.

The sauce comes in a thick glass bottle that holds 18oz of sauce. The sauce pours fairly easily in spite of its substantial viscosity.

A sweetly artificial odor wafts off this sauce practically screaming ‘chemicals’. The corn sweeteners that are used in most commercial sauces often detract from the aroma and taste, but not to this degree.

The sauce has an excellent viscosity if you are going for a KC style as opposed to a Memphis style. If the rest of the sauce measured up to the viscosity this sauce would be a winner.

The dark red coloring has no variation and is pretty opaque. There isn’t much to see here and on a sauce that is opaque and thick, that’s not good.

There is a slightly smokey flavor to the sauce but I couldn’t detect any mesquite. The sauce is overly sweet and the sweetness is annoying in intensity and quality. I hate to go back to the overly used ‘cloying’, but it works.

This was my second variety of Stubbs sauce and it will be my last.


Sunday, October 12, 2008

Review: Sa-Mokin BBQ Sauce

Sa-Mokin Barbeque Sauce

Manufacturer Elliott Diversified Industries, LLC
Website (under construction)

Quality **** (4 out of 5)
Viscosity **** (4 out of 5)
Aroma ** (2.5 out of 5)

Appearance *** (3 out of 5)

Packaging *** (2.5 out of 5)

The majority of the sauces reviewed on the Home of BBQ website are tasted alone and on pulled pork or brisket. On occasion the sauce will be tried with ribs or chicken. If a sauce is labeled as multipurpose it will often be tried with a burger or fries. We always attempt to match the sauce with what it is recommended for on the label. Sadly, I will never try a sauce on steak. It wouldn’t be fair to me or the steak. It would be a degradation to us both.

Sa-Mokin Barbeque Sauce is one of those ‘inside secrets’ for serious BBQ fans. This guy mentions it at a competition. Another cook talks about it in a judges meeting. Someone’s discussed it on one BBQ forum and then you find it another thread on a different forum. Pretty soon you start wondering, is it just hype? How good is this stuff?

I was a bit concerned that I was setting this sauce up to fail. Positive opinions were being fostered by people that I respect. Was the bar being set to high? Thankfully not. Here is the odd thing about the cook-off circuit; serious BBQ competitors don’t like anything that stretches the boundaries. Competitors prefer to use equipment and ingredients that fall within a specific profile but excel at what they do.

Sa-Mokin Barbeque Sauce fits that description. It is a standard style of sauce that is made exceedingly well.

The bottle is glass and holds 18oz of sauce. It’s a nice thick bottle that should ship well. The packaging is pretty plain, with the exception of the caricature of the pig in the zoot suit. The packaging doesn’t stand out amongst a shelf of other sauces and that’s a shame. It would be a mistake to pass it by.

The aroma is standard for a KC style sauce. Nothing really sticks out about it. It has the sweet mix of tomato, vinegar and sugar that is so common in these sauces and none of the ingredients particularly stand out.

The sauce pours easily out of the fairly wide mouthed bottle. It sticks to the meat without a problem and is fairly thick. The dark red color is uniform and opaque.

There is both a front and back heat that acts as a nice counter balance to the sweetness. The heat isn’t strong by any stretch of the imagination and is judiciously applied. There is a lack of peak and valleys in the flavor, but that doesn’t mean that the sauce has no flavor variation. It means that the flavor is consistently excellent. The intensity of the flavor remains the same but has different nuances the longer it remains on the tongue.

The sweetness is pronounced, but it lacks that artificial ‘tang’ and harshness that often accompanies commercial sauces.

If an excellent KC style sauce is what you are looking for, stop your search. One of your best bets is right here. Yes, it’s not offering anything revolutionary or out of left field, but that’s like saying that the Godfather is just a gangster movie. This is a sauce that is at the top of its game. Give it a shot.


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Thursday, October 9, 2008

Review: Charley Biggs Maine Apple

Charley Bigg’s Maine Apple Sauce

Manufacturer Charley Biggs

Quality **** (4 out of 5)
Viscosity *** (3.5 out of 5)
Aroma **** (4 out of 5)

Appearance *** (3.5 out of 5)

Packaging **** (4 out of 5)

The majority of the sauces reviewed on the Home of BBQ website are tasted alone and on pulled pork or brisket. On occasion the sauce will be tried with ribs or chicken. If a sauce is labeled as multipurpose it will often be tried with a burger or fries. We always attempt to match the sauce with what it is recommended for on the label. Sadly, I will never try a sauce on steak. It wouldn’t be fair to me or the steak. It would be a degradation to us both.

I recently wrote a guest review of a BBQ joint that has a gluten free angle on, so it’s nice timing to present this review of a gluten free sauce.

This sauce presents a welcome, if brief respite from the non-stop invasion of the BBQ world by the KC style sauces. Like many of the other fruit influenced sauces we have reviewed, this sauce has a clean, natural aroma and taste.

The sauce comes in a 12 oz. glass bottle with a standard wide opening. The label has a violet base that shades down to a light orange as it gets toward the bottom. The packaging is simple yet elegant.

As you pour the sauce you notice two things immediately. The sauce has a ‘chunky’ consistency and the aroma immediately tells you what to expect from the flavor. The tomato is overpowered (in a good way) by the apple, molasses and sugar in the aroma. The combination of the vinegar and apple provides a spicy autumnal aromatic that is very appealing.

The sauce is fairly thick with a nice variation in its consistency. It sticks to the meat without a problem and is fine applied to the meat or acting as a dipping sauce.

The apple flavor really shines through, making this sauce a great companion for ribs or poultry. I’m not sure how well it would go with brisket, which arguably shouldn’t be served with sauce anyway. Applied to pork ribs 20 minutes prior to pulling them from the smoker should infuse the apple and the sweetness and shake up your normal flavor expectations.

If you prefer sauces that are lacking in sweetness, this might not be for you. If you do enjoy sweet sauces with natural flavors, give Mr. Biggs a try.


Monday, October 6, 2008

Review: Country Bob's All Purpose Sauce

Country Bob’s All Purpose Sauce

Manufacturer Country Bob Inc

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

Appearance *** (3 out of 5)

Packaging ** (2.5 out of 5)

The majority of the sauces reviewed on the Home of BBQ website are tasted alone and on pulled pork or brisket. On occasion the sauce will be tried with ribs or chicken. If a sauce is labeled as multipurpose it will often be tried with a burger or fries. We always attempt to match the sauce with what it is recommended for on the label. Sadly, I will never try a sauce on steak. It wouldn’t be fair to me or the steak. It would be a degradation to us both.

Country Bob’s is one of those sauces that is advertised as a ‘catch-all’. Of the five foods listed on the label that this sauce is recommended for, barbecue is listed last. That’s usually not a good sign. Sauces that try to appeal to everyone, for all purposes usually walk down a path of mediocrity. When your goal is to try to not offend any potential market segment you tend to lose focus on producing a great product. Quality is sacrificed for universal appeal.

Does Country Bob’s fall into this trap? Thankfully, no. I would be happy to use Country Bob’s on four of the five foods listed on the label. I wouldn’t use the sauce on chicken, the taste is a bit too intense for poultry.

I’m reviewing this sauce as it is advertised. The words ‘All Purpose Sauce’ is right under the name on the label, so that’s how I’m going to approach it.

The sauce comes in a 13oz. plastic bottle with a narrow aperture. The label is fairly plain with a white background. There are no images or caricatures on the label. If this is counter-programming, it works. It seems like every other sauce on the shelf strives for that ‘down home’ country feel by putting an anthropomorphized cow or pig on the label.

The aroma is intense. A deep and rich experience, it reminds me of A1 sauce.

The details are different, but the intensity is the same.

The sauce has a thick, red coloring. Opaque and dark, the visuals are rich and deep. Unfortunately there is no variation in the coloring and not separate ingredients are visible. It’s aesthetic is attractive, but staid and without excitement.

The taste is not as intense as the aroma, but it is still deep and rich. Strangely, the sauce isn’t as sweet as I had anticipated. The sweetness it did have didn’t offer the tell-tale signs of the corn syrup that are both the second (after tomato paste) and fourth ingredients. This might be due to the molasses, which often helps to round out and deepen flavors.

Country Bob’s sauce does what it advertises very well. It is enjoyable across a range of meats (and yes, with french fries) and generally adds to the flavor. It also changes the flavor and should be used with that in mind. Some sauces (such as many vinegar based products) bring out the flavors and leaves the original profile basically intact. This is different. Country Bob’s layers a new (and often welcome) flavor to the taste that is a great addition to beef (especially burgers) and pork.

Where does Country Bob’s fit in my kitchen? Right were A1 used to be.


Saturday, October 4, 2008

Ramblings: American Royal

American Royal BBQ

The World Series of BBQ is well under way. Turn-ins are over and results should be coming in soon.

The American Royal is one of the four most prestigious BBQ competitions in the United States and may have over 600 competing teams this year. As much a spectacle as cook-off, this event is a low and slow mecca for BBQ enthusiasts. Known for elaborate parties and socializing, the BBQ may be mistakenly considered a secondary consideration. Don’t let the good time atmosphere fool you, when it comes down to crunch time it’s all about the ‘Q.

Here is a link to a quick video of a American Royal volunteer:

Running the Ice


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Thursday, October 2, 2008

Ramblings: Election Season

Election Season

Well, we are approaching that time again. I’m sure that you are starting to think about who you want to vote for. It’s not a decision that should be made lightly. I hope that the voters take their responsibility seriously and make their decisions based on reason and logic as opposed to emotion and blind loyalty.

This is one of the most important elections in recent history and will have serious, long lasting implications for competitive BBQ.


Yeah, BBQ. What did you think I was talking about?

The KCBS elections are coming up and nominations are being accepted now.

If you would be interested in running, explore the possibility and put together a platform. If you know someone else that you think should be running, give them a nudge in that direction and nominate them.

Once the nominations are in place, examine the platforms of the people that are running and see who best matches up with your priorities. Reward those who are running for reelection who you feel have best served the membership and get rid of those who haven’t.

I joined the KCBS last year because I realized that I couldn’t gripe and moan if I didn’t stand up and vote. I would humbly suggest that if you are concerned about BBQ and its culture, join the KCBS and make your voice heard.

Here are my main concerns:

Increasing transparency

Increasing communication by the board to the members

Ensuring that the board is responsive to the membership

Preventing cronyism

Removing any culture of an ‘old boys network’

Increasing geographic disparity in representation

Those are my concerns. If you agree, that’s great. If you have other priorities, respond to this post and let’s discuss it further.