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Entries in BBQ (162)


Review: Gary's Sweet for Mama BBQ Rub


I recently had the opportunity to sample the Sweet for Mama BBQ Rub From Gary's Seasonings.  I wasn't familiar with Gary's line of seasonings until now.  So I wasn't really sure what to expect.  However, I was pleasantly surprised with the flavors in the Sweet for Mama Rub.

I have to confess, that I typically try rubs and seasonings first with just a little taste straight from the bottle.  This time was no exception.  When I tasted the rub, I immediately liked it.  In fact, I asked my wife to sample it because there was something familiar about the flavor.  I never did figure out why it seemed familiar, but I liked it.


I also like to sample BBQ rubs and seasonings applied to chicken.  Grilled chicken breasts don't overwhelm the seasonings or sauces that are applied like other meats.  So, I applied Gary's Sweet for Mama rub on some chicken breasts for dinner.  

This is a sweeter rub than I'm used to, with not nearly as much paprika in the blend.  So the rub didn't color the meat as much as a lot of others.  Additionally, the cayenne flavor really comes through.  All in a good way.  My family enjoyed the flavor as did I.  In fact, later that evening I applied some more of Gary's Sweet for Mama to a bowl of popcorn.  Something about the combination of sweet & salty in this rub made me want more and it was awesome as a popcorn seasoning!


Gary's was kind enough to include sample packets of their other seasonings.  I look forward to sampling the other products, including:


  • Gary's Original Blend
  • Hot for Mama
  • Too Hot for Mama


Each of these are available in Salt Free versions as well.  And here's a really cool option for anyone who would like to trial Gary's flavors.  Trial sizes can be had for .39 cents each with free shipping!  I haven't seen anyone else doing this, but I think it's an awesome idea and a great way to market your products.

Check out Gary's Seasonings at or check them out at a variety of west coast locations.  I think you'll like it!




Review: Tasty Licks - Black Bart's Brisket Rub


I have to confess, I've never eaten BBQ in Texas.  So when I read a "Taste of Texas" on the label on Fred Benardo's brisket rub I sort of have to take his word for it.  Now I have had other brisket rubs from Texas and I have to say that this one stacks up pretty well.

I've develped a taste for a peppery rub on brisket and beef in general.  I found Black Bart's Brisket Rub to suit my taste buds nicely.  It's a nice blend of salt, pepper, and paprika, with just a hint of cayenne.  When I'm not trying a new rub, I keep it pretty simple with just garlic salt and black pepepr for my beef.  So the simplicity of this rub really hit the mark as far as I'm concerned.  I've used it a couple of times and really enjoyed it.

If you'd like to give Tasty Licks rubs a try, head over to Tasty Licks BBQ Supply for their line of rubs and seasonings as wella s a variety of other BBQ related products.

If you happen to live in greater Shillington, PA area, tell The Smokin' Guitar Player that I sent you.



Now That's a Knife!


Whether you're just getting started or you've been BBQ'ing for awhile, there comes a time when you need to evaluate the knives you're using.  After all, they're a pretty important tool for the BBQ chef.  I spent the first few years just using whatever fell to hand in the kitchen.  But a few years ago, my wife presented me with a nice set of knives for Christmas.  The difference has been night and day.

So here are a few things to consider if you're in the market for knives.

  • Consider the type of blade and the maintenance.  Some blades are harder to sharpen and some require professional sharpening, like serrated blades.
  • Like buying shoes, you need to try it on.  Pick it up and feel how it fits your hand.
  • Buy individual knives rather than a set and buy the best knife you can afford.  Buying a set is certainly acceptable, but you may find that there are knives in the set that you don't use much.

And here are the knives that I'd recommend you start with.

The Chef's Knife - This is a good all purpose knife that can be used for dicing, mincing, and slicing.  Just be sure to buy one that's comfortable in your hand and not too long.


A utility knife.  This knife is longer than a pairing knife and used for miscellaneous cutting.  Typicaly these knives have blades in the 4-6" range.

The pairing knife.  A short knife typically used for peeling or coring vegetables and smaller food items.  These knives typically are 3-5" long with a straight, sharp edge.

The only other knife that I'd add to get started is a serrated knife for slicing.  Unfortunatley mine is MIA, but that's a whole other blog post.

Sharpening Steel - Sharp knives are the most useful, so make sure you have a sharpening steel or some other tool to keep a good edge on whatever knife you use.

Remember, even when the world is at peace, a gentleman still keeps a blade by his side.



Review: Sonny's BBQ Restaurant

I recently visited my folks in Southwest Florida.  They know that I'd rather eat BBQ than just about anything else, and they also like to share their discoveries with me.  So, when it came time to grab lunch they steered us towards the Sonny's BBQ in Cape Coral.  

Sonny's is a BBQ franchise with locations in 9 states.  A quick look at their website find ~125 locations listed.  With that kind of succes, you'd think they must do something right.  Turns out, they do.

The place was pretty nice and business was a bit slow given that we were late for lunch and early for dinner.  Nonetheless, we ordered up some sweet tea and took a look at the menu.  It was extensive.  I opted for a trip to the salad bar and the brisket plate with a couple of sides.  Turns out, I should have skipped the salad bar.  The brisket portion was generous, and the side dishes were large as well.

The brisket was sliced thin and had a good flavor.  I had a little more fat on my plate than I'd prefer, but it was tastey.  There was a variety of sauces on the table, all original Sonny's flavors.  They were all pretty good, but I opted to enjoy my brisket without sauce.  My folks went for the sweet sauce and enjoyed it as well.

They had a decent selection of side dishes.  I opted for cole slaw and green beans since I've been trying to watch my diet a little.  They were both very good, but I was sure wishing for that I'd ordered some of the BBQ beans or baked sweet potato that my folks enjoyed.  They looked great.

Here's how I'd rate my trip to Sonny's:

  • BBQ - B

  • Side Dishes - B

  • Atmosphere - B

  • Value - B

  • Overall - B

Overall, a solid joint that I'd enjoy eating at again.  And, given their growing footprint that's highly likely.




Review: Tommy Bahama Blackberry Brandy BBQ Sauce

It's Christmas time, and as usual there were a couple of BBQ and foodie items under the tree this year.  One of them, was a bottle of Tommy Bahama Blackberry Brandy BBQ Sauce.  The label states is great for pork, so I fired up the grill and grilled up some boneless pork loin chops to give it a try.

The sauce was thinner than I expected it to be.  It was nearly as thin as Worcestershire sauce.  And frankly, it wasn't as flavorful as I'd hoped.  It didn't get sticky and create the glaze I was hoping for.  I did enjoy the flavor, althought I can't say it was necessarily blackberry or brandy flavored.  It turns out, that the sauce was better as a dipping sauce than as a cooking sauce.  

I definitely enoyed it enough to finish the bottle, but I don't think I'll be buying any more of this novelty sauce.




Mini - Pigapalooza

For the past few years, I've manned the BBQ pit in support of Jacob's Ladder and their annual BBQ & music event called Pig-a-Palooza.  The event has a lot of momentum and this year was the best yet.

For the second straight year, we've donated BBQ for a private party as part of a silent auction item.  This year, it was part of an auction package that included a miniature version of the entire Pig-a-Palooza event including side dishes, wine & beer, pulled pork and ribs, and live entertainment.  The lucky winner of this year's auction item selected October 6th for the date of their shindig, and we put the wheels in motion.


So Saturday morning, I was up early stoking the smoker for the BBQ.  Getting pulled pork ready for a couple of dozen people is pretty easy.  Heck, getting ribs ready for a couple of dozen folks is pretty easy.  But, my bride also chose this day as one of her customer appreciation days where we cook ribs for friends, clients, and colleagues of The Bradshaw Property Group.  That means 24+ racks of babyback ribs.  Now that's a lot of work.

 Pork butts went on the cooker by 6:00am and at 10:30am I began the prep of the ribs.  Prepping that many ribs single handedly takes some time.  Did I mention that it's a lot of work?  But I had ribs on the Backwoods by 11:30am.  


My timing was spot on!  I had the butts wrapped by 4:30pm and resting in the Cambro, and I began the process of glazing and finishing the ribs around 4:00pm.  Friends, clients, and colleagues began pickingup thier customer appreciation gifts around 5:00pm, and I headed out to Mini Pig-a-Palooza at 6:00pm with a second Cambro full of BBQ goodness.


We gloved up and served the party goers to rave reviews while a friend of mine, Steve Reeb, entertained the good folks.  My co-pitmaster, Dave Dey, and I took up the guitar for a miniature set of our own while Steve was on break (thanks for being so gracious Steve!).

All in all, we had a great time and look forward to next year's Pig-a-Palooza.





2012 Kentucky State BBQ Festival 


My good friends in Danville, KY are hosting the 2nd Annual Kentucky State BBQ Festival in a couple of weeks.  Last year, we pitched in helped Pegleg Porkers serve their Memphis style pork shoulder sandwiches to an incredible turnout. 

The BBQ at this event is top shelf from some of the most notable pitmasters in the business.  You can sample the work of Carey Bringle & the Pegleg Porkers,  Moe Cason & Ponderosa BBQ, Melissa Cookson & Yazoo Delta Q, Shelly Hunt & Desperado BBQ, and Craig Kimmel with Firehouse BBQ.  It's definitely worth the trip to taste competition quality BBQ.

While we won't be able to make it this year, you should plan to atttend.  It's a great time.  

Here is the schedule of events for this year's event.  

Saturday, September 8 | Sunday, September 9

Saturday: 11AM-10PM

11:00 AM 11:15 AM Opening Ceremony Main Stage
11:15 AM 12:15 PM Big Poppa Stampley Main Stage
12:30 PM 1:00 PM Competition Chicken Demo Demo Stage
1:00 PM 4:00 PM People’s Choice People’s Choice
1:15 PM 2:15 PM Alien Blue Main Stage
2:30 PM 3:00 PM Make Great Ribs Demo Demo Stage
3:30 PM 4:30 PM Oh My Me Main Stage
4:00 PM People’s Choice Closes People’s Choice
4:45 PM 5:15 PM Make Great Pork BBQ Demo Demo Stage
5:30 PM 6:00 PM Make Great Brisket Demo Demo Stage
Saturday Night Blues Party
6:15 PM 7:15 PM Little T&A Main Stage
7:30 PM 8:30 PM Sonny Yingst Band Main Stage
8:45 PM 8:55 PM Door Prize Drawings Main Stage
9:00 PM 10:00 PM The Stella Vees Main Stage

Sunday: 11AM-6PM

11:00 AM Festival Opens  
11:15 AM 12:00 PM Tailgating on the Pit Demo Stage
12:00 PM 12:30 PM Holiday on the Pit Demo Stage
01:00 PM 2:00 PM Custom Made Bluegrass Main Stage
2:15 PM 2:30 PM Bean Eating Contest Main Stage
2:30 PM 2:45 PM Hog Calling Contest Main Stage
3:00 PM 4:00 PM The Mojos Main Stage
4:15 PM 4:45 PM Award Announcements,
Big Green Egg Raffle Drawing
and Door Prize Drawings
Main Stage
5:00 PM 6:00 PM Long Tall Deb Main Stage
6:00 PM

Festival Closes
See You Next Year!




How to Light a Backwoods Smoker

Wow, I thought I had documented this but realized that I hadn't.  I've been asked this question a few times, and it's one of the most common questions asked over on the Backwoods Forum.  Nonetheless, it's worth covering for the pursposed of the readers here on  

Here are the steps that I follow:

  • Load 'er up!  I won't get into the benefits of briquettes vs. lump in this post, but suffice to say that I burn briquettes only in my Backwoods smoker(s).  That's right, just the plain 'ol blue bag from the good folks at Kingsford.  I find I get a much more consistent and longer burn (in this cooker) with briquettes.
  • Open both sliding vents and the top vent completely.  Top door shoudl be copletely closed.
  • I light the charcoal with a MAPP Gas Torch in the right front corner of the charcoal pan.  There are lots of ways to light the charcoal, but I find that a torch held in one spot for 60 seconds or so is enough to get it going.
  • I then shut the firebox door, but I do not latch it.  This leaves it slightly ajar and allows for more air flow. 
  • I leave it like this until the temperature reaches 200 degrees.  This can take 30-45 minutes.
  • Then I add water to the water pan, shut the left rear vent completely, close the firebox door, and close the right front vent 1/2 way. 
  • If you're adding wood chips or chunks, do it now.
  • In this configuration, the smoker will be completely up to temp in 60-75 minutes. 

A couple of thins to note.  My Pro Jr takes longer to come up to temp than my Fatboy used to, but that's to be expected given that it's much larger.  Additionally on the Pro Jr, I close the exhaust vent 3/4 of the way to maintain cooking temps at ~250 degrees.  With the Fatboy, I left the exhaust wide open at all times.

 That's how I do it.  But there are debates about adding water before lighting, type of charcoal, source of ignition, etc.  Find what works for you and stick with it.  It's important that you get some kind of routine down that's repeatable, even if it isn't this one.  That way, you'll be able to plan for start times when you cook.

Hope this helps a few Backwoods owners!



Review: Famous Dave's BBQ

I wanted to like it.  Really, I did.  I mean I've seen Famous Dave on TV and really wanted to like my first experience eating at one of his BBQ restaurants.  But unfortunately, I was underwhelmed.  


Okay, I liked a couple of the spicier BBQ sauces on the table, the sweet cornbread muffin, and the complimentary sample of BBQ chips that was served for the purposes of sampling the 5 BBQ sauces on the table.  My wife ordered the smoked salmon spread from the appetizer menu and it was pretty good.

But as for the BBQ, I found it to be medicore.  It wasn't smokey, it didn't seem all that fresh, and unfortunately they served it with a big dose of their house sauce on top.  I had the combo lunch plate with pulled pork and brisket.  I found it to be very bland when I could get a taste around the sauce.

This seems to me like an example of the franchise concept driving the quality of the food to a level less than the founder started with or intended.  At least, I hope so.  

The restaurant itself felt like I'd stepped into an Applebees or a TGI Fridays.  Again, the franchise thing has driven all the originality and uniqueness right out of the place.  If you blindfolded me before I entered and then you handed me a menu from one of the aforementioned franchises, I would've thought that's where I was.  It's kinda sad actually.

Here's my report card:

  • BBQ - C

  • Side Dishes - B

  • Atmosphere - C

  • Value - C

  • Overall - C

Nonetheless, I'd rather eat mediocre, chain-BBQ-restaurant food than a lot of other franchises.  So considering the alternatives in the greater Branson, MO area, I'd probably eat at Famous Dave's again.




Pig-a-Palooza 3 Recap

When I crawled in bed on Saturday night, my wife asked, "Did you have fun at Pig-a-Palooza"?  I informed her that the question wasn't one that should be asked at the end of a 21 hour day.  But, ask me again in a couple of days. 

Well, it's been a couple of days and I can finally say "Yes, it was fun".  I always enjoy cooking BBQ, feeding folks who have never had good BBQ, and seeing their reaction.  This year's event delivered on all three, and we raised money for a good cause at the same time.

My good friend (and fellow pitmaster) Dave and I arrived at the park at 2:30am.  We had the cooker lit, the pork butt seasoned, and the meat on by 4:00am.  I was figuring on an 8 hour cook time based on my most recent cook.  I'd need the butts to start coming off the cooker at noon or shortly thereafter to make room for 24 sides of ribs (that's 72 portions when you serve 4 bones/plate).


As noon approached, I began to get nervous.  I wasn't seeing the butts get to where they should be and we needed to get the ribs on.  We got about 1/4 of the ribs on and I was out of space.  So at 1:30, we decided it was time to start a fire in the grill that was provided for cooking burgers and dogs, wrap the butts that were close in foil, and let them finish there.  Disaster averted.  We were able to get all the meat done by serving time or shortly thereafter.  

We began serving food at 4:00pm and saw a steady line of hungry folks for the next 4 hours.  Now, we'd planned to serve BBQ as long as we could and then sell burgers and dogs when the band began playing somewhere after 7:30.  Boy, did we misjduge the tunout.  

In the first hour, we recognized that we were gonna be short on sides, burgers, dogs, soda, plates, and chips.  We sent someone to the store for more food 4 times during the event.  While I can't make more BBQ  in a couple of hours, we can keep grilling burgers and dogs.  So we did.  But even then, we were completely sold out by 8:00pm and couldn't reasonably get additional product quickly enough to keep cooking.  Hey, that's a good problem to have.  


All this just speaks to the turnout for this year's event.  I'd estimate that we saw at least double (if not triple) the turnout this year.  I've thought some about why that it is, and I figure it like this. We experienced a perfect storm.  The event has momentum.  The band was very notable and entertaining.  And, we had exceptional weather.  All the ingredients to make the event a resounding success.

Or, maybe they just came for the BBQ!