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Review: Beast Craft BBQ

BBQ joints seem to be opening every other week in my area.  Recently, Beast Craft BBQ opened up in the location of a former diner.  I've been anxious to try it out, and today I finally had a chance.  

A friend and I agreed to meet for lunch at 11:30.  The parking lot was pretty full when we arrived and when we went inside, the line was 20+ people long and there were no empty tables.  I figured this was a good sign.  However, nearly every table in one of the dining areas were waiting for their food and the line hardly moved.  In fact, more than a few potential customers in line behind and ahead of us chose to go elsewhere based on the slow service.

All that aside, how was the BBQ?  Pretty darned good.  I had the brisket sandwich and hand cut fries, while my lunch mate had the pulled pork sandwich and corn on the cob.  All the items were very tasty.  The brisket sandwich was served with grilled onions and a house mustard.  The pulled pork was served with slaw on the sandwich (as it should be).

Brisket Sandwich with Hand-cut Fries

Pulled Pork Sandwich w/Slaw & Grilled Corn

Beast Craft is bucking one of the most common trends in BBQ joints these days.  There was "1", count 'em, "1" bottle of BBQ sauce on the table.  And, it was very good.  In fact, it might be my favorite part of the meal.  I saw no evidence that they're bottling and selling this sauce, but they should.

I also like that they are selling soft drinks from a local bottler and not the big guys.  However, no self-respecting BBQ joint should ever sell sweet tea that is mango flavored.  That's just wrong.

If they can address their customer flow and service issues (and lose the mango flavored tea), I believe that they'll do just fine.  Here's my report card for my visit to Beast Craft BBQ:

  • BBQ - B+

  • Side Dishes - B

  • Atmosphere - B

  • Value - B

  • Service - C
  • Overall - B-

And, here's their location & contact info:

Beast Craft BBQ

20 S Belt W Belleville, IL 

Give 'em a shot, I think you'll like it,





Recipe - Bacon Wrapped Chicken Bites

It's playoff time in the NFL and that means I have a lot of chances to get together with friends for football on the weekends. I don't do this all that much during the regular season, but after the holidays it seems like folks aren't as busy and we enjoy getting together.

But I digress. I get tired of the same old snacks that I've done for gatherings like this. So, I was looking for something different when I came upon a reference to bacon-wrapped chicken bites. Sounded good to me, so I gave it a shot on Sunday.

I cubed 2 large chicken breasts and wrapped each cube in a half a strip of bacon. I then rolled them in brown sugar and hit them with a little bit of spicey rub. That's all there was to it.

I fired up the Big Green Egg and set it up for indirect cooking. However, I ran the temp up to about 350 degrees. The chicken cooked for 45 minutes to an hour. The only problem I had was judging the doneness of the chicken, as I couldn't really see the chicken through the bacon.


There are a couple of things I'll do differently next time.  First, I won't panic and switch to direct cooking half-way through.  That was a mistake (and why there are no "after" photos).  Second, I think a little more brown sugar and a little more heat would be good.  I will try to punch up the flavor next time for sure.

Conference championships are coming up this weekend so you've got time to perfect your game time grub before the Superbowl.   Leave a comment and let me know what you're going to cook for the big game.



2014 - "Operation Hickory Smoke"

I'm a little late in getting this post written.  But if you've read Grill & Barrel before, you know that each year we cook for some of our service men & women at Scott Air Force Base during an annual exercise.

This year was no different.  Well, maybe it was a little different.  This event seems to get just a little bit bigger every eyar.  The first year, we only cooked 2 pork butts.  This year, we cooked a whole case.   See what I mean?

Not that I'm complaining.  I consider it an honor to cook for these folks and I'm glad that they enjoy the food (by all accounts).


Here's looking forward to the 2015 version of Operation Hickory Smoke.



My BBQ Space

For the past few years, I've cooked on a variety of pits at home. Each time, I've moved the pit from the garage to the edge of the driveway or onto the lawn. The benefit is that my BBQ Pits (I have more than one, doesn't everybody?) are stored indoors. The downside, my cars are not.

So, I've decided that I'd like to get my cars in the garage. But, I didn't really have a great place to keep the BBQ gear and I wasn't sure about storing my gear outdoors. Recently, I took the first step in solving this problem and laid pavers behind the garage. So far, I couldn't be happier with the result.  I've got 2 of 3 cars in the gargage and a dedicated space for cooking.  I've ordered a cover for my Big Green Egg and table and I'm about to order one for my Backwoods cooker.


Some time in the future, I could see a cover on this space.  But that's a blog post for another day and at a time when the finances could support something more.



4th Annual Kentucky State BBQ Festival

If you find yourself within a reasonable drive of Danville, KY this weekend, you definitely need to stop by the Kentucky State BBQ Festival.  If you've ever attended a BBQ competition, you know that it's a little disappointing not to be able to sample the best BBQ at the event.  Well this festival changes that.  Here, some of the top pitmasters in the country will be selling their BBQ.  

The lineup this year includes:
  • Carey Bringle of  Peg Leg Porkers BBQ Team
  • Moe Cason of Ponderosa BBQ and contestant on the TV show BBQ Pitmasters
  • Mike "The Legend" Mills of 17th Street BBQ and 4-time World Champion at Memphis in May
  • Craig Kimmel of Firehouse BBQ, a regular champion on the BBQ competition circuit
  • Shelly Frisch of Desperados Barbecue & Catering, an award winning pitmaster and a regular at Danville
  • Shane Draper of Draper’s BBQ, creator of Draper's Rubs & Sauces and a Memphis in May competitor

This year, the event starts on Friday.  Here is the schedule for the weekend.

Friday: 5PM-10PM

5:00 PM 5:30 PM KY State BBQ Festival Official Opening Ceremony Main Stage
5:00 PM 10:00 PM Festival Open  
6:00 PM 10:00 PM


8:00 PM

VIP Benefit Auction Event
Tri County Bluegrass Band
Auction Starts
VIP Area
10:00 PM Festival Closes for the Day
See You Tomorrow!

Saturday: 11AM-10PM

9:00 AM Baron/Baroness of Backyard Competition Begins BOBB Area
9:00 AM Smokin’ Butt Bike RideBegins Danville Bike
11:00 AM Festival Open  
12:00 PM 12:30 PM Tim Mikeska – Demo Subject TBA Demo Stage
1:00 PM 2:00 PM Diana Chittester Main Stage
2:15 PM 2:45 PM Tim Mikeska – Demo Subject TBA Demo Stage
2:50 PM 3:00 PM Backyard BBQ CompetitionTurn-in BOBB Area
3:00 PM 4:00 PM The Mojos Main Stage
4:15 PM 4:45 PM Tim Mikeska – Demo Subject TBA Demo Stage
5:00 PM 5:15 PM Door Prize Drawings Main Stage
5:15 PM 5:30 PM Baron of Backyard BBQAwards Ceremony Main Stage
Saturday Night Blues Party
6:00 PM 7:00 PM The Sonny Yingst Band Main Stage
7:30 PM 8:30 PM The Kingbees Main Stage
9:00 PM 10:00 PM LaMont Gillespie and 100 Proof Main Stage
10:00 PM Festival Closes for the Day
See You Tomorrow!

Sunday: 11AM-5PM

11:00 AM Festival Opens  
12:00 PM 12:30 PM Tim Mikeska – Demo Subject TBA Demo Stage
12:45 PM 1:45 PM Tall, Dark and Handsome Main Stage
2:00 PM 2:30 PM Tim Mikeska – Demo Subject TBA Demo Stage
2:45 PM 3:45 PM Toad Strangler Main Stage
4:00 PM 4:45 PM 4th Annual Bean Eating Contest
Hog Calling Contest
Main Stage
5:00 PM 6:00 PM Award Announcements,
Big Green Egg Raffle Drawing
Door Prize Drawings


Kids Helping Kids
Best in Show Award
Grand Champion Award

Main Stage
6:00 PM Festival Closes
See You Next Year!
Get out there and have some fun in Danville!


My mini-BBQ Crawl - Kansas City

I recently had to be in Kansas City for business.  With KC being one of the BBQ hot spots in America, I had to try to get as much BBQ eaten during a 3 night trip as possible.  I was successful in eating BBQ 2 out of 3 nights, and that ain't bad.

On the first night, plotted a course for Arthur Bryants.  Unfortunately, I rolled into their parking lot at 9:05pm, 5 minutes past closing time.  

Undeterred, I reset the GPS and targeted the nearest Gates' BBQ location.  Luckily, they were open until midnight.  At 9:30, there was a line of at least 6 people in front of me.  I figured that was a good sign.  Being in KC, I had to order the burnt ends sandwich and fries.  Gates did not disappoint.

The next night, we worked until nearly 2:00am so I didn't have a chance to even think about BBQ.  But on Wednesday, I managed to get to the nearest BBQ joint to my work site that I could find, a place called the Smokebox Cafe.  I had a brisket and pork plate.  I preferred Gates, but still had a good experience.

Like I said, 2 out of 3 ain't bad.  Look forward to my full review of each of these places coming soon.



Regional BBQ Infographic

While America is a melting pot, local cultures and preferences are varied in almost every area of life.  BBQ is no exception.  Recently, I came across this infographic that does a nice job of describing the different styles of BBQ that you find in different regions of the country. 

Infographic courtesy of

Thanks to the folks at Goedekers in St. Louis for the artwork. Cheers, Braddog

Review: Ro-Man Pork Puller

Awhile ago, I wrote about a prototype pork puller that I created based on a product that I'd seen on the web.  My DIY pork puller worked okay, but the materials weren't all that substation.  I used a rotissiere rod and clamp from a Weber gas grill inserted into a cordless drill.  While that worked fine for light use at home, it just didn't hold up over time.

This is my DIY version

I considered building another one on my own but considering the investment had already made and the cost to do it again, I decided that I'd just spring for the product that my design was based on, the Ro-Man Pork Puller.

To clarify, Santa Claus brought me the Pork Puller and I've used it all spring.  Now that I've had a chance to evaluate it extensively, I thought I'd document my observations.

The significantly more substantial Ro-Man Pork Puller

In short, this thing is WAY better than my DIY model.  The stainless stell tines and the disk that they are welded too are significantly sturdier than my rotissiere based model.  The shaft that is inserted into a cordless drill is also substantial, and it's long enough to easily reach to the bottom of a large stock pot.

Is it worth $68.95?  Well, I'll answer that a couple of ways.  If you cook a lot of pulled pork and have to pull more than 2 at a time, then absolutley.  Secondly, you're talking to a guy that spent $90 on a quick read thermometer.  I've spent this much money on lesser products, that's for sure.  For me, it as well worth the investment and believe that I've gotten my money's worth just using it for the graduation parties that I cooked for this spring.

Check out the videos and links over at and pick one up for yourself.  





Review: Frontier Lump Charcoal

Charcoal is charcoal, right?  Wrong.  Not only do you have the lump vs. briquette debate, but not all lump (or briquettes for that matter) is made equal.  And lump is all I burn in my Big Green Egg & Bubba Keg.

Now I don't believe in buying Big Green Egg brand lump charcoal.  I think it's pricey and no better than Royal Oak.  But over the weekend, I stumbled upon a huge bag of Frontier Lump Charcoal at Sams Club.  I'd only ever seen mesquite lump at Sams before so I was pleased to see that they were carrying something other than briquettes.  So, a bag came home with me.

However when I fired it up for the first time, I was struck by two things.  First, the pieces were huge!  I mean every bag has a few big pieces, but this was loaded with pieces as big as your fist.

Second, when I put the MAPP torch to the lump it sparked terribly.  It's not uncommon for lump to spark when you light it with a torch, but some sparks worse than others.  This was the.absolute.worst I've ever seen.  Sparks were flying like I had lit fireworks.  I'm lucky that I had a t-shirt on that I wasn't worried about.

Overall, I guess this lump is okay.  But I probably won't buy it again due to how badly it sparks at lighting.




Broil King Keg 4000 - First Impression

Recently, a friend asked for my opinion of the Broil King 4000.  Since I'm a H.U.G.E fan of the kamado style bbq pit I get a request like this every few months when one of the big box stores trots out the latest Big Green Egg Killer.  But my initial reaction to this particular cooker was, "Man, this thing just won't die".  

You see, the original incarnation of this grill was called the Bubba Keg.  These folks started with insulated beer/coffee mugs and coolers and added the Bubba Keg Grill to their product line.  When it was introduced, I was asked to evaluate and review it.  I did a couple of head-to-head comparisons with the Big Green Egg.  And there some things to really like about this unit, but it also had a few issues.  One of the biggest issues was the solvency of the company.  They subsequently spun off the grill and it became the Big Steel Keg.  

You can see my early attempts at their user forum at  I'm Braddog over there too.

Now apparently Broil King has acquired the product and rebranded it the Broil King Keg to compliment their line of gassers.  I applaud the move, because as I said, I like the unit.  In fact, I still cook on my Bubba Keg regularly.  I leave it setup for grilling and my Big Green Egg setup for smoking and use them accordingly.

So here's what I like about the Bubba Keg/Big Steel Keg/Broil King Keg:

  • It's portable.  The wheels on the back of the unit allow me to tip it back and move it around like a hand tuck.  My Bubba Keg also came with a mount for a receiver hitch, so I can put the grill on my hitch and haul it.  Waaaay more portable and duable that a ceramic Big Green Egg.
  • It's lighter than the BGE (adding to the portability).
  • It's insulated and can be used in all sorts of weather, as opposed to a thin-walled, non-insulated cooker like a Weber (hey, I like Webers so no hate maile please).
  • It has all the cooking characteristics of a kamado style bbq pit, and that's a good thing.

Here's what I didn't like about the Keg but maybe they have solved some of these with this new incarnation.

  • Try as I might, I never was able to get the Bubba Keg to hold a low temperature.  My unit was drafty and leaked air into the cooking chamber, making temperature control nearly impossible.  That's fine if you want to cook hot and fast, but not so much if you want to cook low & slow.  There were lots of folks re-sealing and modifying their pits to address these issues with some measure of success.  
  • Given the frequency of ownership changes, there's been uncertainty and lack of availability for replacements parts.  Again, the advantage here goes to the incumbent.  The support, stability of ownership, active user community, and availability of 3rd party accessories are all significant advantages for the Big Green Egg.
  • At this price point, I'd buy a Big Green Egg.  This cooker should be ~$500 and I believe that they'd sell like hot cakes. At nearly $900, that's too close to ceramic territory.

I hope that Broil King has a lot of success with the Keg.  It's got some real advantages that make it a good choice for a lot of folks.  I wish them well.