Barbecue Bros AV Club: “BBQ Brawl“ S3 E4 – “Throwback BBQ”

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.

Advantage Challenge

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.

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.

Barbecue Bros AV Club: “BBQ Brawl“ S3 E3 – “Backyard BBQ”

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!

Team Anne went from the bottom to the top in last week’s episode, while Bobby flipped the other way. That means he gets to pick the Advantage Challenge, and this week’s theme is “Backyard BBQ.” Bobby picks “Backyard BBQ Pizza” and I’m with Rashad who doesn’t think pizza when I hear “Backyard BBQ.” Regardless, the contestants are off and running.

Advantage Challenge

The contestants are thankful they get pre-made dough for their crust and are able to just focus on the toppings for the 30 minute challenge. The contestants struggle with the challenge as a whole and especially cooking their dough on the grill. The ones who opt to use cast iron pans for their dough are the most successful. Tony, Sunny, and Matt are named as the best on their respective teams, and Sunny pulls off the win for Team Anne with her pear, prosciutto, and arugula pizza with gorgonzola cheese. That’s three wins in a row and counting.

Team Brawl

The “Backyard BBQ” theme continues with a “Last Minute BBQ” challenge which has “Chopped”-style mystery coolers that are themed “Suburban,” “Bachelor,” and “Vegetarian.” The pantry is closed for this challenge. Anne not only gets first choice of her box but gets to dole out the boxes to the other teams. As I would have expected, she gives Bobby the “Vegetarian” box as punishment while she takes the “Bachelor” box. Team Jet is pumped because the “Suburban” box was their first choice.

Let me just say, I am not a fan of this challenge and am a little frustrated with the selection of challenges thus far this season. With most Team Brawls having a 2 hour time-limit, I can understand the limitations, but they just aren’t clicking with me so far. Let’s lose the gimmicks and focus on true barbecue and live-fire cooking.

That said, the Suburban cooler isn’t as much of a prize as Team Jet would have expected and they struggle to come up with a menu based on the odd assortment of items. It seems like Team Bobby enjoys the limitations the vegetarian cooler gives them. Team Anne hums right along with Anne leading the way as usual.


Team Anne is once again named the first safe team and they find themselves on a bit of a roll now after winning four challenges in a row. The judges don’t pick out any individual dish but note that all were solid albeit unspectacular. Those dishes were:

  • Don’s dry ramen with tri-tip and fried rice
  • Rashad’s tri-tip and pancetta burgers
  • Sunny’s beans, cheese, and rice dip with flour tortilla chips made from frozen burritos
  • Sunny and Anne’s scallops
  • Anne’s dessert of grilled pineapple with blueberry compote and whipped cream.

Team Jet is on the bottom this week with Tony’s chicken wings and Winnie’s lomo saltado being the main culprits why. In the end, Tony’s lackluster wings that had no flavor under the skin sends him packing. Winnie’s pre-marinated steak with her lomo saltado was tough but her “ounce cake” saves her. Tough result for Tony after success in the pizza challenge.

Was it harsh for Tony to go home after performing well in the pizza challenge? Should Anne continue to micromanage her team even though they keep winning? Who do you think is the frontrunning contestant after 3 episodes? Check back here next week.

Barbecue Bros AV Club: “BBQ Brawl“ S3 E2 – “BBQ Games”

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 a week one where no one went home (but the bottom two teams switched captains), we’re back to the usual elimination format in episode 2. After some trash talk from Bobby, whose team won week 1, they jump right into the Advantage Challenge.

Advantage Challenge

The captains will join their teams in a culinary relay challenge to perform the following four tasks: shuck and de-kernel 8 corns, cut a pork shoulder and grind into five sausage links, break down a whole chicken, and chop 3 quarts of coleslaw. The teams have 5 minutes to gameplan.

Team Anne jumps out to a big lead but eventually everyone gets to the coleslaw challenge, and Jet starts making up time with his serious chopping skills. Tony on Team Bobby has a unique “chop everything” technique and starts to make up time but ultimately Team Anne’s lead is too much to overcome and they win. A chintzy new “Pigasus” trophy is introduced and they proudly display at the front of their station. Not sure if this will come into play other than bragging rights.

Team Brawl

For the Team Brawl, the BBQ Games continue in the form of “BBQ Tag Team”: each team has to create a cohesive theme in at least 4 dishes, whatever each team wants. Two hours cooking time, 15 minutes to prep and cook as a team, but after that that initial period only one contender can cook at a time in 15 minute increments and everyone has to cook twice. Team Anne’s advantage is that they get to tag Anne in once to help outside of the beginning and ending 15 minute periods.

In order of judging:

Team Anne goes with a “BBQ Melting Pot” theme which means each person basically does what they want (similar to Team Jet’s concept from last week when he was captain of these same contestants). The cook goes fairly smoothly and Anne comes in for the last 30 minutes total as part of their advantage. Their menu:

  • Don’s Vietnamese chicken with ginger garlic rice
  • Sunny’s garlic herb tri-tip
  • Rashad’s roasted garlic and cheese mashed potatoes and sweet and sticky brussel sprouts;
  • Anne’s Mexican street corn

While the judges agree that the menu was all over the place, they seem to like just about every dish but note that the brussels could have used some char.

Team Bobby’s them is “Southwestern BBQ” and by far the most cohesive concept amongst the teams. Their cook also goes well for the most part until James knocks over a grill with his meat and vegies right as they get to the last 15 minutes but he thinks he can salvage the steak.

  • Matt’s smoked salmon and scallop ceviche with tortilla chips
  • Tina’s chile relleno casserole and charro beans
  • James and Bobby flank steak with salsa roja
  • James flatiron steak fajitas

Immediately there are issues noted by the judges. They question the use of salmon with scallops together in Matt’s ceviche. It turns out maybe James shouldn’t have served the steak fajitas after all as Brooke and Carson both taste a gritty and sandy texture in their meals. On the other hand, Tina’s chile relleno and charro beans are a hit and the flank steak and salsa roja works once the ingredients are combined.

Team Jet‘s theme is “International Soul Food BBQ” (again Jet with an international theme).

  • Tony’s cast iron chicken with Armenian spices and pomegranate drizzle
  • Winnie’s char siu pork
  • Michelle’s cajun shrimp and andouille over cheesy grits
  • Jet’s roasted cauliflower with agrodulce

Tony’s chicken isn’t getting color on the smoker so at one point he pivots to cast iron to give it a sear before putting it back on the smoker. In the end this leads to a successful dish. Winnie’s Chinese char siu pork has good flavor but is slightly overdone. Both Michelle and Jet’s dishes needed more char on the shrimp as well as more evenly on the cauliflower.


Team Anne is named the first safe team, which makes sense based on the feedback from the judges. Team Jet is named second and happily makes the walk off the set.

That leads to Team Bobby predictably being named as the bottom team. Between James and Matt, they seemingly had the two weakest dishes of the Team Brawl. In the end, James takes the bullet for dropping his meat on the ground and then serving it but Matt should feel lucky with his muddled ceviche.

Will Team Anne start a winning streak? How will Bobby react to losing the first contestant of the season? Check back here next week.

Barbecue Bros AV Club: “BBQ Brawl“ S3 E1 – “‘Cue the Introductions”

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!

We’re back at Starr Hill Ranch for season 3 of Food Network’s “BBQ Brawl.” But there are some new faces around mainstay Bobby Flay. Joining him as captains this year are Chefs Anne Burrell and Jet Tila. While they may not have a ton of barbecue or live fire experience, they are capable chefs who are going to be gunning for Bobby this season. Will it pay off? We’ll see.

We join the contestants in media res of the Individual Challenge, where they are cooking a skewer for the judges to choose them, schoolyard pick-up style.

Individual Challenge

Of course, we’ve got a whole new slate of contestants this year but a few are familiar. Tina Cannon of course was the winner of Netflix’s “American Barbecue Showdown.” Michelle Wallace is the executive chef of the highly regarded Gatlin’s Barbecue in Houston. A few are recognizable from my Instagram feed: Don Nguyen is part of the up and coming Khoi Barbecue in Houston, Rashad Jones runs Big Lee’s BBQ in Ocala, FL, and Winnie Yee-Lakhani started Smoke Queen Barbecue somewhat recently.

The full cast list, in order of introduction:

  • Tony Froyan – Fire & Feast Catering, Maplewood, NJ
  • Michelle Wallace – Gatlin’s Barbecue, Houston, TX
  • Don Nguyen – Khoi Barbecue, Houston, TX
  • Sunny Moody – Moodswing BBQ, Nashville, TN
  • James Cruse – Central City BBQ, New Orleans, LA
  • Rashad Jones – Big Lee’s BBQ, Ocala, FL
  • Matt Roth – Smokin Beauty, Austin, TX
  • Winnie Yee-Lakhani – Smoke Queen BBQ, Fullerton, CA
  • Tina Cannon – Atlanta, GA

After the judges try each of the contestant’s skewers, they begin picking with Jet who won the tiebreaker over Anne. Bobby naturally goes third because he has won the previous 2 seasons.

Team JetTeam AnneTeam Bobby

Team Brawl

That leads right into the team brawl, but first the judges. All three return from last season: Rodney Scott, Brooke Williamson, and Carson Kressley. I thought the judging was one of he stronger elements of last season so I’m glad it remains unchanged.

The team challenge is a “BBQ Restaurant Battle:” each team will create a restaurant menu concept and have multiple entrees, multiple sides, and even a dessert. And surprise surprise, no one’s going home for losing this challenge but the two bottom teams will have to switch team captains. Plot twist!

Team Bobby – American Chop House

Team Bobby goes for a classic steakhouse concept, but “with a twist.” That twist? Not just traditional steak but also lamb and boar. James cooks a filet with roasted garlic mashed potatoes; Matt gives the wild boar chops a go with a side of creamed spinach; Tina’s lamb chops are middle eastern with grilled asparagus. Bobby takes dessert and goes with the iron skillet cobbler on smoker.

Team Jet – International Smokehouse

Aka you “can do whatever you want,” according to Bobby. Rashad goes with kalbi beef short ribs; Jet serves a flank steak salad; Don draws on his heritage with double fried Vietnamese chicken wings and Vietnamese street corn; Sunny does a simple bruschetta and her much-touted bourbon maple bacon pecan pie that she cooks on the smoker.

Team Anne – The Hen House

Team Anne focuses on poultry for their concept. Tony and Michelle team up for chicken fried steak with gravy from Michelle; Anne handles the smashed potatoes; the five spice quail is an entire team effort; Michelle smokes chicken thighs and makes homemade biscuits; Winnie goes dessert with a peach and mango pudding with meringue on top.

As a reminder: no one’s going home but bottom two teams will be switching team captains.

The judges announce that Team Bobby is the top team and will be staying in tact. That means Jet and Anne switch teams going forward. We’ll see how their approaches mesh with their new teams, but Tony may be a little relieved to go from Team Anne and Team Jet.

Will Bobby retain his crown for the three peat? Will Anne and Jet get along with their new teams? Who will win the competition and be named “Master of Cue?” Follow along with me as I recap this season of “BBQ Brawl.”