Barbecue Bros AV Club: “BBQ Brawl“ S3 E7 – “Social Media Connection”

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!

After Sunny went home last week, Bobby and Jet are both down to their last contestant and have already used their steal card. So if either lose this week, they are officially out before the finale. That would be huge for Bobby, who has won each of the first two seasons of “BBQ Brawl.” Even in light of that, Bobby and Jet make a pact to team up against Anne, who still has two contestants left (aka “Team Beefcake”). What they could actually do to put Anne at a disadvantage remains to be seen.

Advantage Challenge

With that, Jet goes for a “BBQ Goes Viral” challenge under the guise of “everyone needs social media” (or something), with each chef creating a meal in 30 minutes that is “most likely to go viral.” The contestant who wins will of course get an advantage in the Team Brawl.

Tina and Winnie are both not as social media savvy and Anne is worried about Rashad because while he has good plating he needs some focus. Don grew up with the internet and is generally comfortable using Instagram to advertise his pop-ups. However in general, the 30 minute time limit of the challenge gets to the contestants so no one quite knocks it out of the park.

Of the four imperfect dishes, Winnie wins with her shrimp head taco dish and even though Jet was worried about her time management on this challenge.

Team Brawl

The Team Brawl is to create the “ultimate Instagram-worthy feast” which means anything goes as long as the meal gets likes and comments while still tasting good (i.e. “foodogenic).

The photos of each meal will be put to a vote on the Food Network Instagram account and this will factor into the judges decision. Because Winnie won the Advantage Challenge she will get ten minutes with Food Network food stylist Munah Gomes during the Team Brawl. This will surely help her get to the finale. The captains will team up with the contestants on the meal.

Team Jet goes with a Hawaiian luau theme while Team Anne goes with a mish-mash of foods under the umbrella theme of “comfort food BBQ.” Team Bobby is going to lean into Tina’s southern roots to go with a “south by southwest BBQ” with the showpiece of a pork crown roast that Bobby gets a good char on before putting into the smoker.

In terms of cooks, the judges express some concerns with the cohesiveness of Team Anne’s menu when they see Don’s pho and Rashad’s grilled cheese. Bobby’s crown roast has some issues getting up to temp. Winnie and Jet are in a good spot except Winnie doesn’t like the size of Jet’s pineapple chunks for her fried rice.

Results

Team Jet dominates the voting with 55% of the overall vote, so they win the challenge and Winnie is on to the finale. It seems as if the advantage challenge really helped out this week. And the judges are impressed with the Cornish game hen, smoked crab sushi, and Winnie’s chiffon cake.

Team Bobby is the losing team with an unevenly cooked crown roast, some lackluster collards and only the green beans a highlight. That means Bobby has officially lost as no one on his team is left to compete in the finale.

Team Anne (aka Team Beefcake) gets two contestants into the finale, which appears to be a whole hog challenge. While its too late to salvage this uneven season, perhaps it will lead to some great drama in addition to being a legit barbecue challenge.

Is Winnie going to keep her momentum in the finale? Will Anne’s two-to-one advantage get her the crown after dominating most of the season? Will Bobby actually be a complete bystander in the finale? Check back here next week and find out.

REPOST: Ten Lessons Learned from Smoking Our First Whole Hog

Monk: In honor of Father’s Day, we are reposting our blog from three years ago recapping the first (and thus far only) whole hog I smoked for Father’s Day 2019. Hopefully, I will get to do one again later this year but in the meantime enjoy this trip down memory lane.

Monk: Back on Father’s Day weekend, Speedy and I set out to do something I’ve been wanting to do for years. And you know what? We rocked it. But even using both the Sam Jones: Whole Hog BBQ book and the Buxton Hall Book of Smoke as references, there were still a few speed bumps that we can learn from the next time we smoke another hog (and yes, there will definitely be another time).

Lesson #1 – If your barrel doesn’t have a bottom, don’t set it up on cinder blocks

Monk: The barrel I got, while free, already had both the bottom and top cut off. The top wasn’t needed, but I would have preferred the bottom attached so as to keep the coals in. I did get a tip that an aluminum water heater pan would fit perfectly, and it did. However, after just a couple of hours that pan started to disintegrate so Speedy and I had to figure out a way to get the burn barrel off the cinder blocks mid-burn. We managed to get it done, losing just a few coals in the process. Once we got it on the ground, it was smooth sailing…for at least a little bit.

Speedy: Monk may be underselling this a bit. Taking a hot burn barrel with an active fire off of cinder blocks could’ve ended badly, but the pig was the most important thing. To add to this, I’d say that if placing the barrel on the ground, put a solid sheet of metal that won’t burn through underneath, as it can be difficult shoveling the coals off the ground.

Lesson #2 – Be sure to allow enough time to let a solid bed of coals build up before you start to shovel into the pit

Speedy: What we found was that the cinder block pit we made was losing about 1 degree of temperature a minute, so we ended up dropping coals in every half hour. This shot the temperature back up 30 degrees quickly, but we had trouble keeping enough coals to shovel in (refer to lesson #5).

Monk: We were probably a little bit anxious in adding coals to the pit and should have let the fire go for at least an hour before we started shoveling them in.

Lesson #3 – Get fire proof gloves

Speedy: We were very, very fortunate that Monk’s neighbor had some fireproof grilling gloves that he brought over. These came in VERY handy (refer to Lesson 1), and I wouldn’t try this again without some.

Monk: Yes, these were definitely lifesavers.

Lesson #4 – Get at least a half cord of wood

Monk: In Sam Jones’ book, he says you might be able to get away with a quarter cord of wood, but he recommended at least a half cord because having leftover is far more preferable than running out. In our experience with a half cord, we burned through every last bit of firewood. Next time, I won’t consider ordering anything other than a half cord.

Lesson #5 – And definitely have a few bags of charcoal handy in case its needed (it will be needed)

Speedy: This was something Monk and I didn’t have handy, and we were struggling keeping temperature and weren’t making coals fast enough. Luckily, there was a 24 hour Walmart 10 minutes away, so I went to pick up a couple bags of charcoal while Monk manned the fire. This definitely did the trick, but it would have been nice to have them on-hand.

Lesson #6 – Be sure to have the right thermometer measuring your pit temperature

Monk: I initially used the wrong type of thermometer to measure pit temp (one used for measuring oil used for frying turkeys), and it wasn’t until a couple hours in that we realized we were probably 50 degrees below what we thought we were. Once I plugged in my Maverick Redi-chek thermometer, we were able to adjust our coals accordingly and get the pit temp up to where we needed it to be.

Lesson #7 – Working in shifts is definitely a good idea so that you can get some rest

Monk: We started at midnight to ensure enough time to get the hog done ahead of a 6pm party, and Speedy and I each ended up getting about 4 hours of sleep each. While some late night drinking and BS-ing by the burn barrel is fun and all, make sure you get enough sleep so that you aren’t a zombie the next day at your whole hog party.

Lesson #8 – You will be surprised how quickly the hog gets done

Speedy: Monk had told me the hog would be done in about 12 hours, and I thought no way that could be true. At the end of the day, I think we were cooking around 14 hours, but it definitely could have been done in 12 if we didn’t have temperature issues at the beginning. Lesson learned – never doubt Monk.

Monk: I have nothing else to add here other than to emphasize Speedy’s last point about never doubting me.

Lesson #9 – More is more when it comes to rebar, or consider using a grate

Speedy: To chop the hog, we first split it down the middle and then in quarters at the ribs. Unfortunately, when doing so, one quarter of the hog dropped through the rebar onto the ground. Some of the meat was salvageable, but we probably lost a good 8-10 pounds of meat. The good news is there was still plenty of our 126 pound hog to go around.

Lesson #10 – If you can swing it, smoke your first hog with your best friend

Monk: If Speedy wouldn’t have been able to make it, I would have been doing this solo. Besides the pure labor aspect of smoking a hog, there’s a definite sense of satisfaction of smoking your first hog with a good buddy. And remember – its Barbecue Bros, not Barbecue Bro.

Friday Find: Barbecue Editor Daniel Vaughn on the Tales from the Pits Podcast

Monk: Texas Monthly Barbecue Editor Daniel Vaughn joins the Tales from the Pit guys for a wide-ranging conversation from his origin story with Texas barbecue to the early days of his blog to the construction of Top 50 lists and how they may or may not affect relationships with barbecue restaurant owners. A good, frank discussion between barbecue aficionados.

Description: Five years ago we launched Tales from the Pits to help tell the stories behind the people in barbecue. Daniel Vaughn’s writing and documenting of Texas barbecue has been one of our (and everyone else in the state’s) biggest resources in seeking out new places and visiting the classic joints.

We were excited to have Daniel join us on this episode to discuss all things barbecue past, present and future, lists, Texas Monthly, and more. A big thanks to Daniel for sitting down with us and to everyone who’s tuned in over all these years!

Barbecue Bros AV Club: “BBQ Brawl“ S3 E6 – “Not Your Average ‘Cue”

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!

After landing on the bottom last week (with Team Jet winning on the strength of Sunny’s steak cookery), Bobby actually opts not to steal a contestant from another team and instead sticks with just Tina. Nice vote of confidence for her. He then selects rabbit for the Advantage Challenge for the captains.

Advantage Challenge

Anne actually loves rabbit and has cooked it a ton so this may have backfired on Bobby. She grills a leg and loin and puts it over white beans and arugula. The leg gets dinged by the judges for being a little tough.

Jet, on the other hand, is by far the least comfortable. He goes with Korean flavors in a rabbit bulgogi but his rabbit undercooked and tough to chew.

Bobby has a plan for this challenge which he executes well: rabbit tenderloin fried nuggets with a horseradish sauce and a grilled leg with carrot hot sauce. Well played, Bobby.

The judges select Anne and Bobby as the top with Bobby winning the advantage for Tina. Jet is predictably last.

There will be no captains in Team Brawl, which is “Unusual Cue”; the contestants pick from a choice of goat, alligator, offal, cuddle fish, and jackfruit and do their usual thing.

Team Brawl

Tina gets first selection as a result of Bobby’s win and selects venison, which she loves. For Team Anne, Don chooses alligator and Rashad gets goat leg. Neither have cooked either of their proteins. That leaves Sunny to choose offal and Winnie gets cuddlefish for Team Jet.

Anne is somehow even more micromanaging on this challenge, which is no surprise based on the season thus far. Despite having no prior experience with their meats, Don and Rashad seem good with their respective plans.

Tina is also confident with her venison tenderloin with a red wine and blueberry sauce.

Team Jet is scrambling during their cook and Sunny is just taking a shot in the dark with her chicken livers. Winnie has a better idea and goes Malaysian but waits until the last minute and then decides to do jackfruit fritters with 4 minutes to go. She ends up finishing with 30 seconds to go but is happy she got it on the plate because it’s a Malaysian staple.

Results

Team Anne picks up another win. Don’s gator tempura was just ok but Rashad’s goat sausage was the best dish of the day according to the judges. Tina is also safe and in the least shocking part of the episode Team Jet is on bottom having been put behind the eight ball due to last pick in the proteins.

Sunny goes home because even though the judges didn’t like the texture of the cuddlefish, she had no idea what she was doing with the chicken livers and her sides fell short. Tough result for Sunny who was a huge asset last week in the beef challenge. But in the end, she definitely shouldn’t have picked offal.

Next week is the last challenge before the finale, and Team Anne has two contestants remaining while Bobby and Jet have one left.

Will Team Anne continue to roll on to the finale? Is this the season that Bobby loses? When will we get a true barbecue challenge? Check back here next week and find out.