Monk: After an extremely successful stint recapping season 2 (ha), I’m back to recap the third season of BBQ Brawl, which airs on Monday nights at 9pm ET on Food Network. Let’s brawl!
Last week I started to feel a little weary of some of the challenges this season, which have been more reliant on gimmicks versus just giving us smoking or live fire cooking. This week, we are 1 for 2 but the episode begins with Jet (whose team came in last previously) picking a challenge for just the captains that is right in his wheelhouse.
That challenge is…bison fried rice? I’m sorry, but I’m not going to waste too many words on this particular challenge. Jet wins the challenge and similar to last week’s advantage, his team gets their pick as well as dictating what the other teams get in the Team Brawl.
The theme this week is “Throwback BBQ” and in the Team Brawl “throwback” refers to “historic heat sources” – campfire “from the early days of barbecue,” barrel smokers “from the dawn of the pitmaster,” and offset or kettle cookers from “the dawn of modern era” – as well as the use of whole duck, which is one of the oldest proteins that has been cooked. Bit of a contrived setup to get to “BBQ Duck Through the Ages” but at least the challenge is more what I think it should be.
Team Jet goes with the offset and kettle smokers while giving Team Anne the barrel cooker, and of course stick Team Bobby with the campfire method, the least predictable and least consistent method of the three.
Matt is on fire and duck duty for Team Bobby and after some false starts, he is able to eventually get the fire roaring by restacking the logs in a Lincoln log stack. Tina pushes the team in a Cuban direction, and Bobby gets to work on a sour orange glaze and a beans and rice dish. Tina opts to cook a “Cuban cole slaw” with blood orange as well as rum and brown sugar-glazed plantains.
Rashad is the fire and duck man for Team Anne and while he is not familiar with the barrel smoker but he is going to embrace the challenge and dedicates himself to the cooking of the ducks after rubbing it down with salt, pepper, and Chinese five spice. Sunny goes with a diced sweet potato dish and bread rolls that Anne will top with fuck cracklins while Don will make bao buns to eat the duck on and a thai basil spring slaw.
Team Jet immediately picks “honey” and “citrus” as their flavor profile for the duck, and Michelle decides to do a bread pudding while Winnie opts to cook a quiche and a parmesan and lemon broccolini. Jet poaches the duck in broth to tighten the skin before putting them in the offset. However, between the duck and Winnie’s quiches, Michelle has no space for her bread pudding in the offset so pivots to an ancient grain salad, which she is not so thrilled about.
During the cook, Matt is concerned with the fire hitting the ducks while Bobby says to leave them, but he still rotates them once Bobby turns his head. A bit risky going against the advice of Bobby Flay but Matt seems comfortable with campfire cooking.
Rashad is constantly making adjustments on each of the 3 barrels, including working with Sunny to restart her rolls on a hotter temp. After not being happy with how hot the barrel was getting, he and the rest of the team improvise to create a human rotisserie to get the skin nice and crispy.
Even though Jet and team have the advantage of “modern smokers,” Jet accidentally dumps duck fat into the coals of his kettle cooker, creating a grease fire. Between the fire and running out of grill space, they have by far the most difficult cook of the three teams.
Team Jet is unable to crisp their duck skin enough, the bacon in Winnie’s quiche is not crisped up enough, and Michelle’s grains are undercooked. Jet’s squash and Winnie’s broccolini seems to have been executed well enough.
Team Anne’s duck is cooked nice and crispy and works well on the bao bun. Sunny & Anne’s mashed sweet potatoes with duck cracklins is a hit. But Sunny’s rolls/biscuits lack some flavor and Don’s thai basil spring slaw could have used a little more oomph.
Team Bobby’s Cuban-inspired duck was cooked well over the temperamental fire but lacked a little salt. Tina’s Cuban slaw and plantains both have orange and are well received by the judges. Not mentioned was Bobby’s beans and rice.
For week 4, Team Anne is – stop me if you’ve heard this one before – once again named the first safe team and although she didn’t win the Captains Challenge, Team Anne has won the last five team challenges (including the last 3 Team Brawls) by my count and is looking formidable.
Team Jet is – stop me if you’ve heard this one before as well – on the bottom again this week. Michelle goes home for her “severely undercooked grains” and will perhaps be upset that she wasn’t able to cook her original dish and pays the price as a result. Jet is upset for her that he didn’t execute the duck but of course he isn’t going anywhere.
Next week looks to be beef-focused, and I hope that both challenges continue on the same trajectory as the Team Brawl this week. Let’s get this season back on track.
Who will Team Jet draft onto their team next week? Will they get off the schneid as a result? Who from Team Anne sticks out or are they overly reliant on Anne’s leadership? Check back here next week.