Friday Find: WRAL’s Out and About Visits Prime Barbecue

Monk: WRAL’s Out and About has been visiting barbecue joints this summer, and in this video they sit down with Christopher Prieto of Prime Barbecue in Knightdale, who runs through his menu and approach to barbecue.

Description: Christopher Prieto has been studying barbecue all his life. The Texas native opened his first restaurant, Prime BBQ, in Knightdale Station in 2020. Full story here.

Barbecue Bros AV Club: “BBQ Brawl“ S3 E8 – “Impress Us”

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!

It’s the super-sized season finale of this mixed bag of a season 3, and the final 3 contestants – Winnie, Don, and Rashad – walk into a setup of cinder block pits where Team Bobby’s station used to be. Anne and Jet do a walk of their own, gloating how they have already beaten Bobby Flay. The judges introduce the challenge for the finale, which is they contestants have 6 hours to cook a whole suckling pig (roughly 30-40 pounds) and create a barbecue feast for the judges. However, there will surely be a couple of advantage challenges along the way.

Each contestant gives a brief overview of their vision for the finale meal: Don with an “East Meets West” including the use of the durian fruit, Rashad doing on ode to SC whole hog (and Rodney) while mixing in some Florida tweaks, Winnie goes “International Food Feast,” a catch-all we’ve seen a few times this season.

Breakfast Sandwich Challenge

An hour in, the judges announce a mini-challenge to give the contestants 20 minutes to create a barbecue breakfast challenge. The winner gets to consult with Rodney Scott for 10 minutes, surely a big advantage for each of the contestants who have never smoked a whole pig on a cinder block pit.

Don and Winnie don’t seem to initially focus on the sandwich challenge before kicking it into gear at the very end of the 20 minutes. Rashad, on the other hand, focuses immediately and his classic sausage egg and cheese sandwich wins him the advantage of working with Rodney Scott for 10 minutes, a big plus since he actually is doing a SC-inspired whole hog.

Rodney immediately puts on his backward Rodney Scott’s BBQ hat and gets to work, diagnosing a few improvements to Rashad’s pit and sets him on his way. He does not share any tips with his teammate-turned-competitor Don, but the bromance is by no means on the rocks.

Three hours in, the teams start flipping the hogs. Don and Winnie started face down so flip it so that the skin is down for the rest of the cook. Don is going for a “Hong Kong crispy skin” for his hog, so douses it in salt to help crisp the skin in a matter not unlike eastern NC whole hog. Rashad actually opts not to flip his hog which he started face up in order to maintain the juices he’s got going.

Chicken Wings Challenge

The judges interrupt for one final challenge that will allow the winner to choose the order of tasting in the finale. Winnie opts to rub the wings and immediately fry them first before making her beer-based “drunken sauce.” Don is going back to his “fish sauce caramel” wings from early in the season (but with more spice) and immediately throws them onto the smoker before going fryer. Rashad is going for a citrusy wing and starts them on the grill before he moves to the fryer. His fryer is down but Winnie gives him use of hers with just enough time to finish. You love to see it.

Although she may regret being so gracious when Rashad wins yet again (Carson says its the best wing he’s ever eaten) and chooses for him to go first, Don second, and her last.

From there, the contestants pull the hogs off their smokers and let them rest. They then begin final preparations in the final hour and start bringing it all together for their feast. While Don has a cohesive theme and Rashad also seems focused, Winnie’s got a little bit of everything between her hog three ways, a beef tenderloin, and a lamb ragu with homemade pappardelle. Seems like she might have overextended herself but if each dish hits it may pay off. She’s even finishing up her macarons right up until the very end but manages to get them on the plate.

Results

The contestants, captains (including Bobby), and judges sit down for the final meal. Rashad goes first and in general knocks it out of the park. The pig is smoked as if he’s been doing this awhile according to Bobby, and there are no major dings in any of his sides.

Don’s pig is smoked immaculately and in particular the crispy skin. Less successful are his rice pots which burned the rice and his durian banana pudding. It does not appear that his gamble quite paid off.

Rashad is the winner of the finale and named “Master of ‘Cue!” He is gracious in his win, thanking each and every one at the table. Particularly his captain Anne, who officially dethrones Bobby as the winning captain.

Final Thoughts

Rashad is a super-likable guy and a worthy winner, but Winnie and Don would have equally been as deserving. While I have been down on this season, it was not because of the contestants or talent or setting or production. Keep all of that but lets get back to true live-fire cooking challenges. I’ll still be watching but my level of interest may be slightly less if things continue in the “Instagram viral” or “Chopped”-style mystery box challenges.

Until next summer…

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.