Our Favorite Posts from 2022

Monk: 2022 marked the ten year anniversary of the blog and its gone by in a flash. We’re going to take the rest of the year off in order to come out strong in 2023, but before we do we want to 1) wish you all a happy holidays and 2) spotlight one last time some of our favorite original content from 2022.

Without further ado…

Original Content

My summer kicked off with a weekly recap of all 8 episodes of the third season of “BBQ Brawl.” While I was happy to get through those two months mostly unscathed, I also checked out a few other barbecue streaming shows throughout the year featuring notable barbecue personalities like Michael Symon’s “BBQ USA,” “World of Flavor with Big Moe Cason,” and the third season of “BBQuest” which added Hardcore Carnivore’s Jess Pryles as a co-host.

We’ve done some updating of our Lexington rankings sadly due to closures but I already know I need to get back to Lexington to try Cafe 71 Smoke House BBQ, which opened this fall in the old Rick’s Smokehouse space.

I also am trying a new post format with the “best barbecue within an hour of [insert major city here].” I’ve started with Charlotte but will work on posts for both Raleigh as well as the eastern part of the state.

We also went to a few festivals this year! May was a busy month in Charlotte with both the Smoke & Grapes event at the Charlotte Wine & Food Festival as well as the successful first annual Carolina BBQ Festival hosted by Lewis Donald of Sweet Lew’s BBQ.

In November, I went to Charleston for the second annual Holy Smokes Barbecue Festival and had a grand time in the lowcountry.

I can’t wait to see what festivals I’ll make it to in 2023.

Reviews

We’re up to 327 reviews on the site now, and in 2022 we added 23 more. Not quite our most productive year, but still an average of nearly 2 per month.

Rudy got to finally try Noble Smoke in Charlotte in February, and left pretty impressed with a 4.5 hog review.

Speedy loved pretty much everything about the relatively new Bringle’s Smoking Oasis in Nashville, from the space to the bar to of course the food (in particular the beef rib and the brisket). Another 4.5 hog meal.

But from the looks of it, Speedy’s favorite meal of the year was at Prime Barbecue in Knightdale when he was back in North Carolina this summer. He gave it our prestigious 5 hog rating, the first since our most recent Jon G’s Barbecue review from 2021.

I got in on the 4.5 hog action with a couple of joints in the Carolinas: Lawrence Barbecue in Durham and Palmira BBQ in Charleston. At Lawrence, in addition to the fun atmosphere at Boxyard RTP and the Lawrence Barbecue-inspired beer from Trophy Brewing, the pork and brisket were highlights of the meal. At Palmira, I got to chat with owner and pitmaster Hector Garate and both the whole hog barbecue and hash and rice shone through.

And last but not least, I can’t forget my mini whole hog barbecue tour in eastern North Carolina in the spring, where I visited B’s Barbecue, Skylight Inn, and the original location of Sam Jones BBQ.

I did a brief writeup for The Smoke Sheet, which a version of showed up on the site as well.

With that, the 2022 posts are done for the year. But we’ll be back in January with all new content.

Happy Holidays and see you all in 2023!

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.

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.