Friday, May 22, 2009

Review: Richard's Barbecue Sauce (mild)

BBQ Sauce of the Month Club

www.amazingclubs.com/bbq.html

1-800-507-4660

Sauce 2 of 2


Richard's Barbecue Sauce (mild)





Manufacturer Richard’s Sauces
Website http://www.vtmadebbqu.com/


Quality *** (3.5 out of 5)
Viscosity *** (3 out of 5) This is a measure of thickness, not quality
Aroma *** (3 out of 5)

Appearance **** (4 out of 5)

Packaging *** (3.5 out of 5)



Let’s start with the ingredient list as we did with our last review. The first ingredient is tomato concentrate. The sweeteners come next with corn syrup leading the way. Not a good sign. Thankfully, the next ingredient is brown sugar, followed up by molasses. A mixed bag here, making it hard to draw any conclusions from just the ingredients.


The sauce comes in a tapered, 19oz bottle. Pouring easily, the sauce is of about medium thickness, pretty close the KC style standard. The bottle has a white label with a folksy caricature of a pig, cow and chicken (the BBQ triumvirate). The ‘cartoony’ lettering and the images help the bottle to stand out.


The aroma of the sauce is similar to ketchup, but a bit sweeter with a little kick to it. The aroma is pleasant and fairly strong. A dark red, the sauce has small ‘bumps’ in it that I believe are made from minced onions.


This is a sweet sauce and it is, indeed, mild. Not always equating to subtle, mild sauces can often be versatile and go well with the stronger meats. This is the case with Richard’s Barbecue Sauce. There is a very slight lingering heat, but other than that the flavors blend together well. I would have enjoyed a little separation of flavor that would allow the tamarind or garlic to ‘pop’ but the sauce works fine as it is.


The anchovies and molasses add a strong, earthy base essence that rounds out the other flavors.


This is a good sauce that I would be happy to find on the table at my next BBQ. I probably wouldn’t go out of my way to purchase it when this bottle was empty, but I would certainly want to check out there hot and hottest varieties.


Repeated from 1st BBQ Sauce of the Month review:


The BBQ Sauce of the Month Club sends its constituents 2 sauces every month. The cost for a one year membership comes out to roughly $9.00 a bottle and that includes shipping. It’s hard for me to evaluate the overall value as we are in the first month that I have been participating. For quality sauces that are difficult to find elsewhere, it seems like a bargain.


Along with the sauce there is a brief newsletter that talks about the current months selections. The sauces arrive well packed in a cardboard box. Their site (see above for link) claims that they test dozens of sauces a month (at a minimum). This volume would seem to allow them room for selectivity.


Aside from delivery to your door and the screening by their tasters, you also have the benefit of receiving a discount on purchases of sauces that you particularly like and would enjoy more of. It seems that the discount varies, but the courteous salesperson I spoke with when enquiring said that they would be happy to let a member know what the discount would be if they gave them a call (see above for phone number).


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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Review: Burning Asphalt Honey Smoked

BBQ Sauce of the Month Club

www.amazingclubs.com/bbq.html

1-800-507-4660


The BBQ Sauce of the Month Club sends its constituents 2 sauces every month. The cost for a one year membership comes out to roughly $9.00 a bottle and that includes shipping. It’s hard for me to evaluate the overall value as we are in the first month that I have been participating. For quality sauces that are difficult to find elsewhere, it seems like a bargain.


Along with the sauce there is a brief newsletter that talks about the current months selections. The sauces arrive well packed in a cardboard box. Their site (see above for link) claims that they test dozens of sauces a month (at a minimum). This volume would seem to allow them room for selectivity.


Aside from delivery to your door and the screening by their tasters, you also have the benefit of receiving a discount on purchases of sauces that you particularly like and would enjoy more of. It seems that the discount varies, but the courteous salesperson I spoke with when enquiring said that they would be happy to let a member know what the discount would be if they gave them a call (see above for phone number).


Sauce 1 of 2


Burning Asphalt Honey Smoked BBQ Sauce

Manufacturer Burning Asphalt Sauces llc.
Website www.burningasphalt.com


Quality **** (4 out of 5)
Viscosity ***** (5 out of 5) This is a measure of thickness, not quality
Aroma *** (3 out of 5)

Appearance **** (4 out of 5)

Packaging ** (2 out of 5)


The manufacturer considers this a very mild, KC style sauce. The ingredient list offers hope and indications that this is going to be an excellent sauce. Honey is the second ingredient, following only tomatoes. There is no corn syrup in site, but orange marmalade is prominent. I’m getting a good feeling about this sauce.


This sauce pours -v e r y s l o w l y- from a thick, 12 oz. bottle. The bottle labeling is fairly plain with a white background a corporate image of a car burning its wheels. The lettering is shades of brown. If the taste lives up to the ingredient list, the labeling doesn’t do the flavor justice. It would be very easy to pass by this sauce on the shelf.


As you might infer from the pouring comment, this is a very thick sauce. Clearly one of the thickest sauces we have reviewed, the sauce avoids pooling and needs to be brushed carefully to ensure that it spreads evenly. Aside from food starch and the thickening agents that may be in the marmalade, I found nothing else that would enhance the viscosity.


The aroma is a heady blend of the honey, tomato and marmalade. It isn’t as bold as most KC (ketchup based) style sauces, but it is much more enjoyable. The strength of the aroma is a close match to the strength of the flavor.


The bits and pieces found in the sauce make for a great variation in the mouth feel. I can’t tell if it is the marmalade or the onions, but there is a pliant crunch that accompanies the smoothness of the rest of the sauce. Again, this is a very nice distinction from the majority of sauces on the market.


Mild but with a distinct back heat, the sauces main flavor components are the fruity sweetness and the tomatoes. Although I enjoyed it with the pork I used for the review, this sauce would be best on poultry. This is an excellent, sweet sauce that I would be happy to use again and again. The fruit flavor offers a different profile than most fruit based sauces. I’m not sure where the separation is, but it tastes more natural for some reason.


This is a great sauce for poultry, and if the manufacturer amped up the flavors and heat level it would be excellent for stronger meats, such as brisket. Let’s hope that this is being worked on.


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Monday, May 18, 2009

Review: Easy BBQ Sauces



Easy BBQ Sauces


By: Joe Hartmann*


Publisher: Golden West Publishers


www.goldenwestpublishers.com


Pages: 93


A soft cover, fully bound book; Easy BBQ Sauces by Golden West Publishers is already a step ahead of its stablemates in the Golden West collection. Where the other books we have reviewed were loosely spiral bound, this book has an attractive, vibrant cover that invites the reader in. With the same price point ($9.95), we are immediately headed in the right direction.


You don’t hit the first recipe until you are 19 pages into this 93 page book, but once they get rolling there is quality recipe following quality recipe. Covered in this book are recipes for sauces, rubs, mops and marinades. Some of the first 18 pages are dedicated to their proper use and what the cook can hope to achieve. What to use and when are touched on (albeit briefly) as well as some very basic primers on barbeque.


Diversity is key here, as recipes include low calorie BBQ sauce, Peanut Butter BBQ Sauce and the Wine and Garlic Marinade. Most recipes tell you in their title what they are meant to be paired with while others include a recommendation in the text.


Although the book often has the feel of a compilation of recipes from other sources, it is a great deal for the price. There is a certain lack of unity in writing style and recipe sophistication, but the highs certainly outweigh the lows. The best thing about this book is that it sparks the imagination. As I read through the recipes I had a constant stream of inspiration. This is going to get dog-eared quickly, with notes in the margins throughout.


I’d like to recommend purchasing this for a friend, but I know that once you flip through it you won’t be gifting it to others. Heck, at $9.95 buy two.


* The author was not directly specified by the publisher. The name was inferred by the text of the introduction.


Here is a recipe from the publisher:


Golden Grill Barbecue Sauce


1/4 cup Sugar
2 Tbsp. Cornstarch
1/2 tsp. Allspice
1/2 tsp. Cloves, ground
1 cup fresh Orange Juice
2 Tbsp. Vinegar
4 Tbsp. Butter or Margarine

Combine sugar, cornstarch, allspice and cloves in a small saucepan. Slowly stir in orange juice and vinegar. Stir constantly over medium heat until sauce thickens. Boil for 3 minutes. Stir in butter. Makes 1 cup sauce.


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Sunday, May 17, 2009

Ramblings: Premium - Gourmet Burger Blends




Premium Burger Blends


There has been a trend of late for restaurants and meat purveyors to construct gourmet burger blends. These burgers cost more, but they come with a pedigree. No expense is spared in the creation of these blends, but is the result worth the expense and extra work?


Until recently there have been two types of upscale burgers. The first is a publicity stunt, pure and simple. These include the Richard Nouveau Burger found at the Wall Street Burger Shoppe that amongst its accoutrements counts gold leaf and the $186.00 The Burger produced at a London location of Burger King (yep, Burger King). The second was a ‘steak burger’, where the chef substituted prime steak for the standard 80/20 chuck. As you can imagine, there was a pretty wide disparity between the two styles of premium burgers.


Recently some middle ground has been found. Meat wholesalers, such as Main Street Meats (www.mainstreetmeats.com) have been experimenting with creating a premium blend of high end meats to create the perfect burger. Main Street Meats, who have a mail order business for those outside their immediate area, includes kobe brisket, prime aged rib cap and short rib meat to achieve what they consider the best possible burger.


Although these blends are intended for restaurants, they are becoming available to the public with increasing frequency. The cost of the meat is about 80% more than that for standard, good quality ground beef. Not too drastic an increase for a luxury.


I purchased a few pounds of the 1946 Blend Premium Ground Beef and a pound of the standard ground beef from Main Street Meats. Side by side, I formed a patty of each. Trying to obtain an unadulterated flavor, I just added salt and pepper to the top and bottom of each patty. I cooked the patties side by side with the same heat for the same length of time.


The precooked weight of the standard burger was 7.9 oz. After cooking to medium rare, the weight was 7.1 ounces. The precooked weight of the premium burger was 8.1 ounces. The weight after cooking to medium rare, the weight was 7.6 oz. The premium burger with the presumably higher fat content actually lost less weight (by volume) than the standard burger. I’m not sure, but I believe that the melting fat caused flare ups that seared the premium burger quickly, sealing in the rest of the moisture.


To be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I assumed that either the difference would be dramatic, with the premium burger being vastly superior to the standard burger, or there would be no discernible taste difference. I was wrong on both counts.


The premium burger was clearly different in flavor and texture. It was also clearly a better, lusher burger. The difference was (in my opinion) certainly worth the price increase. Oddly, the difference wasn’t just that the flavor was amped up. The premium burger had a denser, more ‘meaty’ taste. As you can see from the pictures, prior to cooking the standard burger had a richer red coloring (possibly due to the fat content) and post cooking the premium burger had a darker, more intense sear (although they were roughly the same size and cooked under the same conditions).


The standard burger was lighter in taste and texture than the premium burger. As most burgers come with an assortment of toppings, the premium burger seems better designed to host other flavors. The more ‘meaty’ flavor can stand up to the onions, ketchup and other additions.


I’m not someone that adds a lot to my burgers. I’ll possibly slap on some cheese and maybe mustard, but aside from ketchup on a rare occasion, that’s it. I do, however, add to the meat itself. I have been accused of making meatloaf burgers as I add worcestershire sauce, pepper and other flavors to the meat before grilling. Although I’m usually happy with the results, this experiment has helped me to realize that it’s not really necessary. The flavor of the meat itself should shine through.


I believe that I will be cutting back on adding to the meat and I will certainly be using the premium blend again.


Interested in burgers? Check out PigTrips interview with Nick Solares of A Hamburger Today.


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Friday, May 15, 2009

Review: Easy BBQ Recipes



Easy BBQ Recipes


By: Uncredited


Publisher: Golden West Publishers


www.goldenwestpublishers.com


Pages: 94


Identical in physical design to Texas Cook Book that we reviewed earlier, this book has a loose spiral binding. The book has a full color cover, but the interiors are black and white. There are occasional line drawings, but there are no photos in the book. This is clearly a book designed for those on a budget. Thankfully, the price point is low enough to overlook the lack of aesthetic amenities. Is Easy BBQ Recipes worth the $9.95 msrp? Keep reading.


The spartan design of the book has the unexpected benefit of allowing the publisher to get almost a recipe per page (with the exception of the index and the introductory section). This is a book of dichotomies. For every positive there is an accompanying negative. The question that we have to answer is, does the positive outweigh the negative by enough to make this book worth the minimal investment.


For a small book, Easy BBQ Recipes is chock full of recipes. Unfortunately the quality varies wildly. Some recipes are creative and well worth the time to read thoroughly and try out. Others are extremely basic in nature. Some (maybe most) of the recipes are well developed and written. Sadly, these often sit right next to a recipe that is lacking in pertinent details found in other recipes. There is a recipe on page 18 for Grilled Sirloin with Orange Marinade that has instructions for preheating your grill and cooking temperatures. The following recipe (Marinated London Broil) has neither.


Much like Texas Cook Book, this book is strangely anachronistic. There is a recipe for BBQ Chicken Fajitas that has a preamble that mentions how fajitas (a south west staple, as they mention) have recently been discovered in trendy restaurants. This book is being reviewed about as far east as possible in the US and we have enjoyed fajitas without difficulty for decades.


As you may infer, this book is not solely a compilation of BBQ recipes. There are plenty of grilling recipes as well as side dishes such as soups, potatoes, fruits and cornbread. At the end of the book there are 6 recipes for sauces and marinades. These final recipes are very solid, which bodes well for the next Golden West Publishers book to be reviewed, BBQ Sauces.


After due consideration, this book falls into the ‘recommended’ category, but it barely makes it. The diversity, density and price point all speak favorably for purchase, but not favorably enough for the numerous faults to be overlooked.


Here is a sample recipe from the book and the publishers website:


Yabba Dabba Do Ribs


6 pounds Pork Ribs
1/2 cup Water
1/4 cup minced Green Bell Pepper
1/4 cup minced Onion
2 tbsp. ground Black Pepper
1 tbsp. Olive Oil
1 tsp. Cayenne Pepper
1 tsp. Coarse Salt

Mix marinade ingredients in a bowl and pour over ribs which have been sliced into single ribs. Marinate in refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Preheat gas grill for 10 minutes with burners on high.

Turn burners to medium and place ribs on grill reserving marinade. Close grill lid. Cook 10 minutes per side for well done. Remember, do not eat pink pork. Be sure to baste ribs with remaining marinade after turning.



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Thursday, May 7, 2009

Review: 25 Essentials: Techniques for Smoking




25 Essentials: Techniques for Smoking


By: Ardie A. Davis

Publisher: The Harvard Common Press

127 pages


This is a crafty book, written by a legendary figure in competition BBQ. Although 25 Essentials isn’t designed to appear as a tutorial and a comprehensive introduction to the art of smoking, that is exactly what it is. The first seven pages are dedicated to introducing basic concepts, but that is standard for most books on BBQ. What follows are recipes that are designed to allow the reader to master new skills and techniques one at a time as they work their way through the book.


The book is hard-cover but spiral (tight) bound. Aside the recipes are lush, beautiful photos. It’s become a bit of a cliché, but don’t read this book on an empty stomach. Each recipe is comprised of four pages. There is an introduction and description on the first page, a photo on the next page, an ingredient list follows and then the cooking technique wraps everything up.


By the time you make your way through this book you will have had a solid and thorough introduction to pairing wood with meat, using equipment that you already have (such as a kettle or propane grill), using charcoal chimneys, creating and using wood chips, beer can smoking and how to trim and prepare meat. All of the standards are covered here, including vegetables, meats, poultry, fish and side dishes.


There have been a number of books that we have reviewed that we have designated as an excellent primer for someone new to the hobby of smoking. 25 Essentials: Techniques for Smoking tops them all. If I had a friend who was starting out and I wanted to get him started this would be the perfect gift.


The book is sparse, but it achieves its goal with room to spare. Retailing for $12.95, the cost is less than that of some bags of charcoal and is infinitely more useful.


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