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.
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.
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…