Sauced Up Smokers Ninja Dust

The Sauced Up Smokers (Carbondale, IL) have a hand in nearly every aspect of the BBQ business. The competition team has expanded to offer vending, catering, smoker rentals and their own line of retail BBQ products. Co-workers, Ben Mesiti and Leon Kaufmann, entered their first BBQ competition in 2007. While they didn't fare too well, they were undeterred. Ben and Leon decided to commit themselves to developing  their own competition quality sauce and rub.

The first product Ben and Leon developed was their dry rub, Ninja Dust. Their all purpose rub is packaged in 6 oz. shakers. The newly designed black labels look great. They make the rub very appealing.

Ninja Dust is a sweet and salty blend that can be used as a BBQ rub or an all purpose table seasoning. The rub is relatively high in sugar, containing both the white and brown varieties. This is something to keep in mind when cooking at high heats. The sugar will burn if overexposed to high temps. The salt content is moderate making the rub quite versatile. This also allows cooks to apply the rub liberally to most cuts of meat without the worry about them becoming too salty.

The Sauced Up Smokers' Ninja Dust is a tasty, traditional Midwestern spice rub. The flavors are mild, but diverse. As a rub, it pairs very well with chicken and pork. It's also the type of all purpose blend that I like to keep around the kitchen. Rather than using regular table salt, I prefer to add a dash of a quality all purpose BBQ rub to salads, vegetables and casseroles.

Click here to learn more about The Sauced Up Smokers. See how Ninja Dust rates on our "Product Reviews" page.

Southern Soul BBQ Low Country Soul

Learning about joints like Southern Soul BBQ is one of my favorite aspects of The "Q" Review. Southern Soul was started by a couple of BBQ lovin buddies on St. Simon Island, Georgia in 2006. With $700 and a smoker, Griffin Bufkin and Harrison Sapp opened a joint that became an instant favorite with the locals and gained national acclaim with appearances on The Food Network and TLC.

Harrison runs the outdoor pits at Southern Soul, slow smoking everything with select hardwood. He uses the techniques he perfected in his own backyard to produce sweet and smokey pulled pork, ribs, brisket and poultry. In addition to the restaurant, Southern Soul also developed their own line of sauces.

The guys from Southern Soul sent me all four of their signature small batch sauces. The first product I tested out was their Low Country Soul Tangy Mustard BBQ Sauce. Low Country Soul is a rich, bright yellow and speckled with coarsely ground black pepper. All Southern Soul sauces are packaged in 12 oz. glass bottles and slapped with their stylish labels. The sauces all have a great look, but Low Country Soul really stands out because of it's bold color.

Using a "family recipe," Southern Soul jacks up yellow mustard with a brown sugar sweetness and a citrus / vinegar tang. They also added the previously mentioned black pepper for some savory spice. The result is tangy, Low Country sauce that can used as a burger condiment, BBQ sauce or dip. Anything that typically calls for mustard will benefit from the enhanced flavor of Low Country Soul.

I used the sauce to finish a grilled pork loin. The texture is similar to other yellow mustards. It brushed on the pork easily. The sugars charred nicely creating a delicious crust. Later, I slice the loin and served a little extra Low Country Soul on the side for dipping.

After watching the Triple D feature on their website and sampling Low Country Soul, Southern Soul has definitely hit my list of "must visit" BBQ joints. I can't wait to get down to Georgia for some wood smoked "Q". To learn more about Southern Soul, click here to visit their website. See how Low Country Soul rates on our "Product Reviews" page.

Butcher BBQ Sauce and Premium BBQ Rub

Butcher BBQ products were designed with the competition circuit in mind. Their rubs, injections and sauce were each formulated to meat the high standards of competition cooks and judges. As a competition team themselves, Butcher BBQ knows what it takes to compete and win against the best in the country.

Butcher BBQ's Sweet BBQ Sauce is packaged in 18 oz. plastic bottles. The sauce is dark red/brown and speckled with spices. It has what I would consider a medium thickness. It pours smooth and quickly.

Butcher BBQ's Sweet BBQ Sauce is much more than a one note sweet sauce. In addition to a rich, brown sugar sweetness, the sauce has a complimentary note of spice that balances the flavor. The finish is slightly tangy with a hint of pepper spice.

I used the sauce in conjunction with Butcher BBQ Premium BBQ Rub on grilled chicken and a whole pork loin. The sweet and smokey flavors from the rub paired well with the sauce. The Premium BBQ Rub is a sugar and salt blend that is highlighted by common rub spices like paprika and garlic.

Both products are great for chicken and pork. They also work well in conjunction with one another. The flavor for each product was obviously formulated with other one in mind.

Butcher's Premium BBQ Rub is a solid option for seasoning pork or chicken BBQ. However, the sauce is what really stands out. The flavors are rich and complex with an added kick that most sweet sauces don't have.

For additional information about Butcher BBQ products, click here to see their website. See how their products compare to others on our "Product Reviews" page.

Obie-Cue's Sw'ell Humongous Hot BBQ Rub

Obie-Cue's Texas Spice is the maker of world championship BBQ rubs and spices. Obie-Cue makes more than a dozen spice blends that range from sweet and mild to fiery hot. Their spice rubs are tailor made for things like BBQ, fajitas, chili and jerky.

Obie sent a 4.3 oz shaker of their hot Sw'ell (Sweet + Hell) BBQ rub. This rub has six times the chile spice as their award winning Sweet N' Heat. Like the rubs from this Texas based company, Sw'ell is all natural and MSG free. Sw'ell has a brown sugar base and is accented with salt, garlic, onion and (of course) hot cayenne peppers.

For those who like spice, Sw'ell is versatile enough to use on just about everything. It's excellent on grilled chicken and burgers. It can be used as a rub for nearly any type of BBQ or even as a table seasoning for vegetables. Additionally, Obie recommends using the rub with mustard and cola to create a spicy marinade.

I love the blend of sweet and spicy flavors provided by Sw'ell. Another great thing about this product is that it's relatively low in sodium. Some spice rubs with high salt contents can overpower the food that they're used on. Sw'ell is low enough in sodium that it can be used liberally (if you can take the heat) without the fear of oversalting.

For additional information about Obie-Cue's extensive line of spices, click here to visit their website. See how Sw'ell compares to other spice rubs on our "Product Reviews" page.

Best Restaurant & BBQ Vendors of 2011

This the final installment of a three part, "Best of 2011" feature. When The "Q" Review started in June of 2010, my focus was on reviewing BBQ joints and competition teams from North Carolina and beyond. Since last summer, The "Q" Review's content range has expanded a great deal, but restaurant reviews are still at the heart of what The "Q" Review is all about.

I sampled and reviewed "Q" from 16 different joints during the 2011 calender year. Some were brick and mortar restaurants while others were travelling competition vendors. A majority of the joints are located in North Carolina but I also hit up pit masters from Michigan, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and West Virginia.

Best Overall Joint
1. BBQ Joes (High Point, NC)
2. Bib's Downtown (Winston-Salem, NC)
3. Cook's BBQ (Lexington, NC)
4. Mac's Speedshop (Charlotte, NC)
5. Rockstore BBQ (Stallings, NC)

Best Ribs
1. Rockstore BBQ (Stallings, NC)
2. Bib's Downtown (Winston-Salem, NC)
3. Pigfoot BBQ (West Salem, OH)

Best Pulled / Chopped Pork
1. Mac's Speedshop (Charlotte, NC)
2. BBQ Joe's (High Point, NC)
3. Cook's BBQ (Lexington, NC)

Best Brisket
1. BBQ Joe's (High Point, NC)
2. Bib's Downtown (Winston-Salem, NC)
3. Saucy Dog's BBQ (Jonesville, MI)

Best Chicken
1. BBQ Joe's (High Point, NC)
2. Saucy Dog's BBQ (Jonesville, MI)
3. Bib's Downtown (Winston-Salem, NC)

Best Signature Sauce
1. BBQ Joes "Joe's Sauce" (High Point, NC)
2. Mac's Speed Shop "Red Sauce" (Charlotte, NC)
3. BBQ Joes "South Carolina" (High Point, NC)

Best Side Item
1. BBQ Joe's Hush Puppies
2. Bib's Downtown Baked Beans
3. Bib's Downtown Hush Puppies

Best Products of 2011 (Rubs, Meat and Gadgets)

In addition to sampling and reviewing dozens of great sauces, I also reviewed tons of rubs, meats, BBQ snacks, gadgets and utensils. In this review, I've chosen the best from each category. As with the sauces, each product had to have been officially reviewed by The "Q" Review during the 2011 calender year to be eligible for this list. If you've sent a product that has yet to be reviewed, it will be eligible for our 2012 list.

I initially intended only to review BBQ sauces, but I'm so glad to have had the opportunity to sample and review these products. Many of these incredible items have become fixtures in my kitchen or around my grill.

As with the sauces, several great products just missed the cut. Man Law Grilling Tools, All Natural Charcoal, Fatwood Firestarters, The Texas Brush, Pan Grill It, Papa Jack's Sweet Heat Rub and additional product from Knox Spice and Dizzy Pig  were all outstanding and deserve special mention.

Best Overall Product

Best Overall Seasoning

Best BBQ Rub
Best Gadget, Fuel or Accessory

Best Meat or BBQ Snack

Best Sauces of 2011

This is the first of a three part "Best of 2011" feature. I've been fortunate enough to sample dozens of sauces from so many great companies this year. As the year comes to a close, it's time to look back and highlight the best sauces of 2011. I've ranked the sauces in a variety of categories. I've also chosen a few select sauces as the best of the best. Only sauces that were officially reviewed on The "Q" Review during the 2011 calender year are eligible. If you sent your sauce and it has NOT yet been reviewed, it will be eligible for our 2012 countdown.

Some of the categories were incredibly difficult to rank. Mustard Sauce, for example was virtually a three way tie. The Mild Tomato category was loaded with great options. Stage Coach Sauces Bonafide BBQ, Demon Pig Original and Squealer's Sweet & Smokey didn't quite make the top three, but are awesome sauces that I wouldn't hesitate to recommend. Additionally, several other great products like Momma G's Cooking Sauce, Kozlowski Farm's Chipotle Grilling Sauces and Bill's Best deserve special mention.

Without further adieu, here are the best sauces of 2011. Be sure to check The "Q" Review for other "Best of 2011" features coming up shortly.
Best of the Best Overall

Best Medium Tomato Sauce
3. Bubba's Finger Lickin' Throat Ticklin'

Best Hot Tomato Sauce

Best Vinegar Sauce

Alisha's Kitchen Signature BBQ Sauce

Alisha's Signature BBQ Sauce came about by accident. While working in her kitchen several years ago, Alisha realized that she was out of BBQ sauce. Rather than rush to the store, Alisha got creative and crafted her own sauce. Her Signature BBQ Sauce turned out to be the first of many products that Alisha would eventually bottle and sell.

Alisha's Signature BBQ Sauce is a medium thick tomato sauce that balances sweet, tangy and spicy flavors. The sauce is dark red and speckled with spice. Alisha's sauce pours smoothly and works well as a dip or finishing glaze.

I used Alisha's Signature BBQ Sauce on some homemade meatballs that I made for a Christmas party. Alisha's well balanced sauce was a great choice for serving to a crowd. Notes of tang, spice and smoke were all evident, but not overwhelming. The flavors were bold and sophisticated enough to satisfy the adults, but not too strong to scare off the children.

While the sauce was very good on meatballs, Alisha recommends her Signature BBQ Sauce for everything from pork to seafood and french fries. Based on the consistency and flavor, ribs and chicken seem like the best meats for pairing with this sauce. It's thick enough to be brushed on as a finishing glaze. It would also make a fine dip for chicken strips.

Alisha and her Signature BBQ Sauce has been touring the Georgia competition circuit. Using her own products, Alisha and her husband have done quite well in the early stages of their competition experience. She and her husband continue to refine their recipes and techniques as they gain experience.

For more information about Alisha's products or competition team, click the title of this review. See how Alisha's Signature BBQ Sauce rates on our "Product Reviews" page.

Alisha's Kitchen Lip Lick'N Lemon Pepper

Though Alisha's Kitchen products are primarily designed for BBQ, she's also branched out with a steak seasoning and her Lip Lick'N Lemon Pepper. Whether you season the dish at the table, or use the lemon pepper in a marinade, Lip Lick'N Lemon Pepper provides a citrus kick to chicken and seafood.

In addition to black pepper and lemon seasoning, Alisha's blend is also quite salty. This seasoning is a nice alternative to traditional salt and pepper. I used the product on baked salmon and steamed vegetables. Both dishes benefited from the extra flavor provided by Alisha's seasoning. I would recommend the seasoning as a flavor boost for relatively neutral meats like chicken breasts and white fish. Another possibility would be mixing it with flour and/or cornmeal for a tasty fish or chicken breader.

For more info about Alisha's Kitchen products, click the title of this review. See our "Product Reviews" page for Alisha's Lip Lick'N Lemon Pepper rating.

Fiery Ron's Home Team BBQ

Few BBQ pitmasters have the culinary credentials to match Aaron Siegel of Fiery Ron's Home Team BBQ. After graduating from the University of Georgia, he attended the Culinary Institute of America. Later, the Georgia native worked as a sous chef and finally as an executive chef in fine dining restaurants in Aspen, CO and Charleston, SC.

Aaron became interested in combining the fine dining skills he'd gained with the Southern comfort food he'd been raised on. In 2006, Aaron opened Home Team BBQ in Charleston. He styled the restaurant after a Mississippi juke joint and created a menu that blended BBQ traditions from all across the country.

Over the last five years, Home Team BBQ has earned the reputation as one of the best BBQ joints in the Charleston area. Many of Aaron's menu items have earned acclaim from various publications. The restaurant itself, has also gained notice as a bar and blues club. The Charleston location was so successful, that Aaron opened his second restaurant on Sullivan's Island in 2009.

Several of Home Team's smoked meats as well as their rub and sauce can be ordered by mail. A simple phone call or email to either Home Team location is all it takes to have their products sent directly to your door. After an email inquiry from The "Q" Review, Aaron was kind enough to send me a large jug of Ron's Dry Rub.

I used Ron's Dry Rub on whole smoked chickens. The earthy rub is a mix of regional influences. Paprika and chili powder highlight the aroma. BBQ traditions from the American Southeast and Southwest are blended nicely in this savory rub. The rub was excellent on smoked chicken and would also be superb on beef brisket
Though I typically enjoy sweet rubs, Ron's Dry Rub's diverse flavors were a welcome alternative.

For more information about Fiery Ron's Home Team BBQ, click the title of this review. If you ever find yourself on the South Carolina coast in search of BBQ, blues or cold beer, look up one of the Home Team BBQ locations. See how Ron's Dry Rub compares to other spice rubs on our "Product Reviews" page.

BBQ Joe's (High Point, NC)

Despite making weekly lunch visits and picking up the occasional dinner take-out order, I recently realized that I have yet to give one of my favorite local joints a proper review. BBQ Joe's opened in South High Point in late 2007. They opened for business in a building that seemed snake bitten. Restaurants seemed to open and close with the changing of the seasons at this location. Joe not only managed to stay in business during a recession, he's also turned a once desolate building into the best lunch spot in the entire city.  

BBQ Joe's operates on simple principles. They cook and serve delicious, homemade food quickly, and with a smile. Better still, they make it affordable. BBQ Joe's is a traditional Western (or Lexington) North Carolina BBQ joint. Hickory smoked chopped pork is their specialty, but they also serve up burgers, ribs, roasted chicken and some of the best sliced brisket East of Texas.

One thing that sets Joe's apart from other joints in the area is their array of homemade sauces. Joe has dared to break from tradition by offering up a Chipotle, Southern Carolina Mustard and sweet and tangy "Joe's" sauce. I haven't tried every sauce, but the ones I have sampled have been excellent. There's no doubt, however, that the signature sauce is the one named for the owner and pitmaster. Joe's sauce is a sweet red glaze that is great on just about anything. I love it on the brisket and chopped pork. I always make a point to order an extra side of the sauce to dip my hushpuppies in.

Joe's offers about a dozen choices for side items that range from cole slaw to fried okra. Their ring style hushpuppies are served with every plate and tray as well. Hushpuppies are among my favorite treats and nobody does them better than BBQ Joe's.

In addition to the restaurant, Joe's offers full service catering. With his giant new smoker, Joe and his catering team can handle large events. Joe's recently catered the Christmas lunch for my employer, serving 500+ hungry guests.

If you ever find yourself in High Point and hungry for BBQ, there is only one place I can recommend. Stop by BBQ Joe's for lunch, dinner or anytime you need your BBQ fix. If you're fixin to visit Joe for lunch, expect a crowd. High Point residents in the know will be lined up waiting for a table.

For more info about BBQ Joe's, check out their Facebook Page. See how BBQ Joe's compares to other great BBQ joints on our "BBQ Ratings" page.

Sweet & Spicy Alaskan Umami Sauce

The Sweet & Spicy sauce company was founded on the talents of Pamela Turner (Girdwood, AK). Though she's been making her Umami sauce and vinaigrette dressing for years, she's relatively new to the retail and distribution business. Her Sweet & Spicy company officially opened in April 2010.

Pamela's signature product is her Alaskan Umami sauce. Her one of a kind sweet and savory sauce comes in mild, hot and extra hot varieties. The Umami sauce is dark, rich and ultra thick. It's so thick that the word "sauce" hardly seems the appropriate descriptor.

Pamela's Alaskan Umami sauce is incredibly unique. If you are unfamiliar with the term "umami," check out Wikipedia for a quick crash course. Pamela's sauce blends sweet, savory and spicy flavors for a product that can't be easily be categorized. She originally developed the recipe for chicken wings, but has since found dozens of uses for this versatile product.

Alaskan Umami sauce is made from simple, all natural ingredients and qualifies as vegan. The sweet aroma is highlighted by garlic and sesame. Given its sweet smell, the flavor was a bit more savory than I had expected. The garlic, brown sugar and sesame elements give the sauce somewhat of an Asian profile.

I used the "hot" Alaskan Umami sauce on baked salmon. The sauce seemed like a natural fit for the salmon. The Umami sauce took the salmon's flavor to a whole new level. Pamela literally has dozens of suggested uses for her Umami Sauce. She loves it as a dip, finishing glaze or even a BBQ sauce. My recommendation would be as a cooking sauce or additive. Use it to jazz up meatloaf, burgers or casseroles. Try it in stir fry. Whether you like it extra hot or mild, there are a lot of options for this sauce.

Learn more about Alaskan Umami Sauce and the Sweet & Spicy company by clicking on the title of this review. See how Alaskan Umami Sauce rates on our "Product Reviews" page.

Louisiana Jalapeno Hot Sauce

Louisiana Hot Pepper Sauce has the unique distinction of being Louisiana's first commercially produced Cajun pepper sauce. A branch of Bruce Foods, Louisiana Hot Sauce has been cranking out their quality Cajun sauce for more than eighty years. They started with their original cayenne pepper sauce and have now branched out to produce several different flavors of hot sauce.

Their Jalapeno Hot Sauce is probably the most mild offering in the Louisiana Hot Sauce lineup. The ingredients for this sauce couldn't be more simple: jalapeno peppers, vinegar and salt. This simple combination is the same recipe used for most of Louisiana Hot Sauce's products. Louisiana Hot Sauce proves that simple, quality ingredients are the best way to create wholesome, tasty products.

Louisiana Jalapeno Hot Sauce is great on virtually any savory dish. I love it on eggs, pizza, burgers and any type of Mexican food. It adds just a touch of heat and vinegar tang that won't overwhelm you.

You can't go wrong with any of the Louisiana Hot Sauce products. Whether you like blazing heat or just a touch of spice, you can find what you're looking for in Louisiana.  For more information about Louisiana Jalapeno Hot Sauce and other products from Bruce Foods, click the title of this review. See how the sauce rates on our "Product Reviews" page.

Dickey's Barbecue Pit (High Point, NC)

Dickey's Barbecue Pit originated in Dallas, TX in 1941. The original Dickey's restaurant has become a Dallas landmark and is still open for business. In 1994, Dickey's began franchising, opening up stores in and around Texas. Since the 90s, Dickey's has expanded to over 200 stores from coast to coast.

Dickey's is one of the few quick serve chain restaurants to offer slow smoked Texas BBQ. Dickey's recently opened one of their newest franchises in a nearby strip mall in North High Point, NC. I'm a little leery of both chain restaurants and suburban strip mall BBQ, but I'm always willing to give a new joint a chance.

We stopped by Dickey's on a Sunday for lunch. Dickey's casual, family friendly atmosphere looked to be a big hit with church goers. We arrived around 11:30 and joined the steady stream of families. Walking through the door, I was immediately hit with the unmistakable aroma of hickory wood. This surprised me a bit because I hadn't seen any sign of smoke coming from the building. The source of the tantalizing smell was a giant Southern Pride smoker set just behind the ordering counter.

Katie and I ordered at the counter and watched our meat cut and our sides scooped on to plates, cafeteria style. I ordered the two meat plate with sliced brisket and pulled pork. Dickey's plates come with a choice of two sides and either hushpuppies or a dinner roll. Katie ordered a Lil Hoagie pulled pork sandwich and added baked beans and potato salad.

The brisket was hand sliced at just the right thickness. It was very tender, but still held together pretty well. The flavor was good, but could have benefited with a bit more hickory smoke. The pork was incredibly tender, but a little dry without sauce. It, too, could have used a bit more smoke. Both meats had decent smoke rings, but the hardwood flavor was very subtle.
The sides (okra and cole slaw) were both pretty good. The added hush puppies were exceptional as well. Portion sizes at Dickey's are pretty generous. My two meat plate ($11.50) was plenty of food for me...especially for lunch.

Overall, I was satisfied with my trip to Dickey's. Both the brisket and pulled pork were good enough to order again. While I wouldn't normally expect to see authentic smoked meats produced in a strip mall, Dickey's is the real deal. That Southern Pride smoker is legit. I think I'll give the ribs and smoked sausage a try on my next visit.

To learn more about Dickey's Barbecue Pit, click the title of this review. See how Dickey's compares to other joints on the "BBQ Ratings" page.

The Board Smith Butcher Blocks

Anyone in the food business can tell you the importance of a quality cutting board. If you cook regularly, think about the time you spend chopping and slicing. A good cutting surface is every bit as important as a good knife. Cutting boards can be made from plastic, bamboo, hardwood and even glass. Boards can be found at numerous price points and quality levels. If you desire the best of the best, your search should start and "end" with an end grain board from The Board Smith.

David Smith (The Board Smith) grew up shadowing his father as he ran a furniture factory in High Point, NC (The Furniture Capitol of the World). Naturally, woodworking became a hobby that David enjoyed through the years. Though he pursued a career in sales, David never stopped working on his craft. Unexpected changes at work left David with a difficult decision: continue his current work with added time requirements and responsibilities, but no additional compensation OR begin a new path.

David officially started The Board Smith in 2005. He set up shop in Thomasville, NC and began selling his boards locally and online. During the last six years, The Board Smith's reputation for quality has steadily grown. His boards are now being used by restaurants, home cooks and BBQ competitors all over the United States and far beyond.

My introduction to The Board Smith came quite by chance. While browsing online photos from a Texas BBQ competition, I stopped for a closer look at a rack of ribs. The ribs looked great, but what really caught my eye was the beautifully made butcher block they were sitting on. I emailed the BBQ competitor using the block and he directed me to The Board Smith's website.

Since the photo was taken at a Texas competition, I assumed The Board Smith was stationed in the Lone Star State. Imagine my surprise when I learned that The Board Smith was actually located in my current city of residence (High Point). After a brief email exchange, David invited me to his new Archdale, NC shop for a formal introduction.

I couldn't have been more impressed with David and his business. The craftsmanship that goes into every board is phenomenal. David personally crafts each and every board from the highest quality maple, walnut and cherry wood available. In addition to being a fine craftsman, David was incredibly friendly and accommodating. I really enjoyed my visit.

Since my meeting with The Board Smith, I've learned a lot about cutting boards and the importance of end grain boards. All of The Board Smith's boards are made using the wood's end grain as the cutting surface. This method is more time consuming and expensive to produce, but it absolutely yields the best product. End grain boards are much easier on your knives. With an end grain board, the sharp blade slides between the fibers leaving virtually no wear on the board's cutting surface or the knife's edge.More importantly, end grain boards are more sturdy and durable than traditional flat wood boards. The best endorsement for this product's durability comes from David, himself. He made his very first end grain board in 1993. Eighteen years later, that board was still being used in his home kitchen.

As I mentioned, The Board Smith creates maple, walnut and cherry boards. He cuts a number of standard sizes from 12 x 18 to 24 x 36. His boards come standard with rubber tipped feet for added stability and to allow air circulation beneath the board. Moisture is a wood board's enemy. The feet allow the underside of the board to stay dry.

If you or someone you know loves to cook, I highly recommend browsing The Board Smith's online catalog. If you don't see exactly what you're looking for, The Board Smith can meet nearly any custom request. You'll be amazed at the quality of David's products. I couldn't be happier with my new 14 x 18 maple board. The stout block is more like a finely crafted piece of furniture than a kitchen accessory.

For more information about The Board Smith, click the title of this review. The Board Smith's website features a great deal of valuable information about everything from care and use to wood density and thickness. Check out his FAQ. When it comes time place your order, tell David you saw his boards on The "Q" Review.

Amy's Mild Salsa

Amy's Kitchen is a family owned and operated business committed to producing natural, wholesome foods. The business was started in 1987 by Rachel and Andy Berliner right around the time their daughter, Amy, was born. Both Rachel and Andy have backgrounds in the production and distribution of organic foods. They took their love of food and family and developed Amy's into a major player in the natural foods industry.

Amy's produces an extensive line of products including Mexican, Indian and Asian inspired entrees as well as desserts. All of Amy's products are crafted from organic ingredients with quality, taste and nutrition in mind. Amy's products are all vegetarian (and many vegan) friendly and many are gluten free.

While many of Amy's products had me interested, I focused on their salsa for The "Q" Review. They were kind enough to send jars of all the three salsas they produce: Mild, Medium and Black Bean & Corn. Each salsa is made from organic tomatoes and packaged in 14.7 oz jars. The labels are colorful and festive, evoking the spirit of Mexican culture and food.

In need of an evening snack, I popped open the jar of Mild Salsa last evening. The salsa is bright red with a relatively smooth, consistent texture. It's not a chunky salsa like most of the grocery store brands. Amy's Salsa is a very simple recipe. Onions, jalapenos, cilantro, lime juice and additional organic spices are added to the pureed tomatoes. There are no preservatives or ingredients that you can't pronounce. Like all of Amy's products, this Mild Salsa is just good, wholesome food.

Personally, I like a LOT more heat in my salsa, but Amy's Mild Salsa is great option for families. With it's mild flavors and quality ingredients, you can feel good about your children eating Amy's salsa. Amy's salsa can be used as a dip or topping sauce for all of your Mexican inspired favorites.

Amy's products can be found at grocery and health food stores all over the country (and beyond). To learn more about Amy's products, click the title of this review. See how their Mild Salsa rates on our "Product Reviews" page.

Cattle Boyz Gourmet Seasoning

Cattle Boyz was developed by beef ranchers in Alberta, Canada. As people who appreciated quality meat, the Ternes family wanted to create a sauce that would compliment the beef that they raised. They started with their original BBQ sauce and eventually expanded into a full line of sauces and rubs. In 1998, Cattle Boyz officially hit the Canadian marketplace. They've since expanded throughout North America.

Cattle Boyz sent an assortment of products to be reviewed. The first product I had a chance to use was their Gourmet Seasoning. Cattle Boyz Gourmet Seasoning is an all purpose seasoning. It's a mild salt, sugar and garlic blend that can be used for a variety of meats and vegetables.

The Gourmet seasoning comes packaged in a large, 14 oz shaker. The seasoning is a mix of fine and coarsely ground spices. One Issue that I had with the shaker was that some of the spices were too large to fit through the holes. It really limited how quickly the seasoning could be poured onto the meat.

I used the seasoning on grilled chicken, smoked chicken and potatoes. It worked well with all three dishes. It's versatile enough to use with just about anything. The flavors are salty and mild. It makes an excellent alternative to regular table salt. The best use that I found for the Gourmet Seasoning was on whole smoked chicken. The seasoning made the crisp chicken skin ridiculously good.

Any occasion that typically calls for salt and pepper can use the extra boost provided by Cattle Boyz Gourmet Seasoning. For more information about Cattle Boyz products click the title of this review. See how their Gourmet Seasoning compares to other products on the "Product Reviews" page.

Kilimanjaro Foods Jerk Sauce

The "Q" Review has sampled and reviewed a wide range of products over the past several months. It's been my pleasure to step outside the familiar world of traditional American BBQ to sample diverse, ethnic inspired products. The products that I received from Kilimanjaro Foods are the most exotic to date.

Kilimanjaro Foods produces African sauces and spices inspired by the Cafe Kilimanjaro (Louisville, KY)restaurant. Three associates (The Chef, The Entrepreneur and the Restaurant Owner) combined their experience, their resources and their passion for food to create Kilimanjaro Foods. The endeavor started with their signature Jerk Sauce and has expanded into a line of seven unique products.

The first Kilimanjaro product that I sampled was their signature Jerk Sauce. I'm a huge fan of Caribbean style jerk sauces. I was interested to see how the African inspired sauce compared to the jerks I had previously encountered. Kilimanjaro's Jerk Sauce is dark brown and speckled with black spices. It's fairly thick, but pours smoothly.

The aroma is rich, sweet and full of spice. The flavor is very unique and difficult to describe. There is a deep sweetness, but it's contrasted sharply by earthy spices. I found some slight similarities with the Caribbean jerk sauces that I'm used to, but this African sauce definitely stands on its own.

Kilimanjaro's Jerk Sauce doesn't have the spicy heat we typically associate with jerk sauces. Caribbean style sauces feature fiery ingredients like scotch bonnet and habanero peppers. There is no discernible amount of heat in this African sauce. That's not to say it's not spicy. The sauce is loaded with diverse earthy spices. I can't quite place all of them. What I can say is that the combination of spices gives sauce a multi layered flavor profile that I don't find in a lot of sauces.

I brushed the sauce on marinated chicken breasts as they grilled. The sauce worked nicely as a finishing glaze. The sugars charred leaving beautiful grill marks. The flavors of the sauce were also enhanced by the heat of the flame.

In addition to chicken, I could see this sauce being very good on grilled or baked fish. The Kilimanjaro Foods website has several great recipes using their Jerk Sauce. They suggest their sauce for everything from corn muffins to pasta salads.

To learn more about Kilimanjaro Foods products, click the title of this review. See how I rate their Jerk Sauce on the "Product Reviews" page.

Rufus Teague Meat Sauce

On the strength of their BBQ sauces, meat sauces and rub, Rufus Teague has developed a reputation for excellence. Everything from the packaging to the ingredient list reflects their commitment to quality. Ever since giving their Touch o' Heat BBQ sauce the highest possible rating, I've been looking forward to reviewing their other products.

I finally had the occasion to open a bottle of Rufus Teague's Meat Sauce. Designed with steak in mind, Rufus Teague also recommends using his Meat Sauce on pretty much any meat you've got in your freezer. Whether you brush it on grilled chicken and chops or use it as a dip for your favorite cut of beef or wild game, Rufus Teague's Meat Sauce provides a bold, lip smacking finish.

The Meat Sauce, like other Rufus Teague products, is packaged in a stylish flask. It's also slapped with their signature black label featuring a portrait of Rufus. As I've said before, Rufus Teague's packaging ranks among the best I've seen.

The sauce is lighter in color than most steak sauces. It's a thin sauce, but the texture isn't entirely smooth. There are small chunks here and there. Being a thin sauce, it pours quickly from the flask.

Rufus Teague's Meat Sauce comes in original and spicy recipes. Both are unique blends of bold flavors. They start with a vinegar base and add raisin paste, mustard, tomato paste and a heap of other great, natural flavors. The spicy version boasts chipotle and habanero peppers.

I first used Rufus Teague's meat sauce on a cheese steak sub. I was so impressed with the sauce's bold, tangy flavor. It's exactly how a good steak sauce should be. With or without the added heat, Rufus Teague's Meat Sauce gives beef a great kick. I don't tend to use steak sauce on high end cuts, but this sauce would be excellent on burgers and wild game.

To learn more about Rufus Teague's products, click the title of this review. See how their Meat Sauce rates on the "Product Reviews" page.

Pork Barrel BBQ Peanuts

The origin story of Pork Barrel BBQ is probably the most remarkable of any company I've worked with thus far. Founders, Brett Thompson and Heath Hall worked on Capitol Hill together as senate staffers. Their shared love of BBQ was the focus of many chats as the pair burned the midnight oil during Senate sessions.

For nearly two years, Pork Barrel BBQ was just an abstract concept that the two Missouri natives dreamed about. Despite a severe economic downturn in late 2008, Heath and Brett took a shot and officially found Pork Barrel BBQ in December. Given the economic climate, the business started quite strong. It didn't take long before Pork Barrel landed multiple regional retail accounts.

Their big break came in the form of a phone call from the producers of ABC's Shark Tank. Out of the blue, Brett and Heath were invited to pitch their company to prospective investors in front of millions of TV viewers. Almost overnight, Pork Barrel BBQ had hit the big time.

Pork Barrel BBQ products can now be purchased at major retailers all over the country. In addition to their array of products, they also formed a championship level competition team and opened up their first restaurant in Alexandria, VA. Though they've grown from a small partnership to a nationally recognized company, Brett and Heath are still fully involved in the operation with no future plans of returning to the Hill.

The guys were cool enough to send me samples of their three sauces (Sweet, Original and Mustard), spice rub and BBQ peanuts. The peanuts barely made it through our front door before I cracked their seal. Pork Barrel partnered with Ferdies, a family operated producer of gourmet peanuts and foods to distribute their BBQ Peanuts.

These jumbo peanuts are slow roasted in peanut oil and lightly seasoned with Pork Barrel's BBQ rub. The roasted nuts made for a delicious salty, savory snack. They weren't over seasoned and the salt content was just enough to keep me reaching for. They disappeared by the handful.

If the peanuts are any indication of the quality of product that Pork Barrel produces, their sauces and rub should be a real treat. I'm looking forward to sampling and reviewing them all. For more information about Pork Barrel BBQ, click the title of this review. You can also see how I rated the BBQ Peanuts on the "Product Reviews" page.

The Texas Brush

A quality grill brush is a necessity for anyone cooking on gas grills or charcoal smokers. Keeping the grill grate clean is an important component to producing great tasting BBQ. Whether you're a backyard grill master or a BBQ competitor, you need not look any further than Texas to keep your grilling surface clean. The makers of The Texas Grill Brush can meet your needs, great or small. 

The Texas Grill Brush was created in Beaumont, TX in 1996. Two retirees began hand crafting quality brushes for the passionate BBQ enthusiasts in the area. The operation quickly took off and developed into a company that now supplies grill brushes to cooks, competitors and restaurants all over the country.

The Texas Brush is handle and block is made from dried, unblemished wood providing a sturdy, attractive design. The brush head uses tempered carbon steel that holds up well to the extreme heat of the grill's surface. The original Texas Brush comes with a dual angled head featuring standard and coarse sides.

The Texas Brush is produced in 3 standard models. The original features a 4ft long wood handle. This monster is perfect for commercial and competitive cooking. The brush allows you to scrape the far reaches of nearly any surface without having to lean over the hot grill. For smaller grills and home use, the 2ft. long Texas Jr. Brush is ideal. It features the same dual sided head as the original with a shorter, easier to manage handle. Lastly, there's the Texas Horseshoe brush. This brush sports a powder coated steel handle and single sided brush head.

All three Texas Brushes are great for various uses, but if you've got something else in mind, The Texas Brush company can customize a brush to your specific standards. Choose from a variety of shapes, sizes and materials to make exactly what you're looking for.

The Texas Brush can be purchased online or at several retail stores. For more information about The Texas Brush, click the title of this review. See how The Texas Brush rates compared to other fine products on the "Product Reviews" page.

Cajun Injector Fish Fry Mix

The Cajun Injector brand is a division of Bruce foods. Cajun Injector produces a wide range of Cajun inspired products from injections and marinades to seasonings and fry mixes. Since their creation in 1977, Cajun Injector products have become some of the most recognizable and widely sold Cajun products in the United States.

I tried out some of Cajun Injector's Fish Fry Mix on some white fish fillets earlier in the week. Cajun Injector's Fry Mix is a cornmeal and flour blend that is seasoned with salt and a variety of other spices. It's also infused with real lemon flavoring.

The lemon aroma was incredibly strong when I opened the package, but the flavor was surprisingly subdued. In fact, all the ingredients in the Fry Mix blended to make a very mild flavored breading. It wasn't overly salty as some packaged fry mixes tend to be.

The fry mix coated the fish easily and browned up very well. It formed a light crust on the fish that held together well, but flaked nicely when broken up with a fork. The flour / cornmeal ratio was in just the right balance as to not make the fish too crunchy.

Cajun Injector's Fish Fry Mix is a good all purpose fry mix. It worked well for white fish and could be very nice on chicken or vegetables as well. The great thing about a mild fry mix is that you can customize it to your liking by adding the spices of your choice.

To learn more about the Cajun Injector brand, click the title of this review. See how their Fish Fry Mix rates on the "Product Reviews" page.

Alisha's Kitchen "The Rub"

Alisha Wilbert has worked in the restaurant business and spent time judging and competing at BBQ competitions. Over the years, she's accumulated a wealth of knowledge and an appreciation for great BBQ. She has used that passion and experience to create her own signature line of BBQ sauces and seasonings.

This week, I got the opportunity to use Alisha's BBQ rub, appropriately named "The Rub." The Rub is a unique blend of 20 herbs and spices. Alisha uses a sugar / paprika base that is balanced with salt, garlic and a complex variety of herbs. While many of the ingredients are BBQ rub standards, Alisha also includes exotic flavors like curry and tumeric.

I used The Rub on a rack of babyback ribs. The rub turned out to be an excellent choice for the ribs. There is ALOT going on in Alisha's rub. There are so many contrasting flavors. It's remarkable how well she was able to blend all the ingredients. The rub manages to be both sweet, savory and even slightly spicy.

Alisha's Kitchen The Rub is one of the best BBQ rubs that I've reviewed recently. In addition to being incredibly flavorful, it's also very aromatic. I loved it on the ribs, but I could see it being equally good on beef and chicken.

Want to order "The Rub"? Click the title of this review for more info. See how "The Rub" rates on our "Product Review" page.

Sucklebusters Honey BBQ Sauce

SuckleBusters produces a wide variety of all natural "Texas Style" sauces and seasonings. Their products have received wide acclaim from customers, competition cooks and judges. Many of their products have claimed some of the BBQ world's top awards. Their Honey BBQ Sauce, in particular, garnered two Golden Chile awards at the 2011 Fiery Foods Challenge.

SuckleBuster's Honey BBQ Sauce is a thin vinegar sauce that is sweetened with honey and sugar. SuckleBuster's operates under the policy of "No bad stuff." Like their other products, Honey BBQ Sauce contains no preservatives or HFCS.

I used SuckleBuster's Honey BBQ Sauce on pulled pork and on slow smoked babyback ribs. The thin, vinegar sauce was a perfect compliment to the smokey pulled pork. The sweet and tangy flavors are tailor made for any kind of pork. Though the sauce is thin, it still worked great as a finishing glaze for the ribs. I was really impressed with the glossy, red glaze that the sauce left on the ribs. It made them look fantastic. I wish I would have taken pictures.

So far, every SuckleBuster's product that I have reviewed has been outstanding. I highly recommend picking up a bottle of their Honey BBQ Sauce (or any SuckleBuster's product). Using their competition quality sauces and rubs can take your back yard BBQ to the next level.

To learn more about SuckleBuster's, click the title of this review. See how I rated their Honey BBQ Sauce (and other products) on the "Product Reviews" page.

Backhill's Hot Barbecue Sauce

Backhills Barbecue Sauces were created by Troy Gordon in Northern Idaho. Troy's BBQ roots can be traced back to his childhood in Oklahoma. For Troy, BBQ was a family affair. As he grew up, Troy's appreciation for quality BBQ and sauce increased.

Troy spent years buying and sampling sauces from around the country searching for that perfect recipe. After several frustrating years and too many dollars spent on disappointing products, Troy took a stab at creating his own sauce. He kept it simple and focused on quality, all natural ingredients.

Like most small sauce makers, Troy began by using his product at backyard events with friends and family. Demand for the sauce steadily grew until Troy finally decided to take a leap of faith and make Backhills Barbecue Sauce as full time gig. Troy now bottles and hand packages four varieties of sauce.

I opened up a 19 oz. (also available in 14 oz) bottle of Backhills Hot Barbecue Sauce this week. One look at the bottle told me I wasn't dealing with a typical BBQ sauce. The color was a rich, bright red. The sauce is speckled with a very coarse grind of garlic, onion and spices.

The sauce is thick and chunky. It's one of the thicker sauces that I've had the opportunity to review. The flavor provided a pleasant surprise. Though the ingredient list was pretty similar to other all natural sauces that I've tried, the taste was completely unique. There is a freshness to Backhills Barbecue Sauce that I haven't found in any other sauce. There is a homemade quality about it that elevates the sauce above typical bottled sauces. It's very sweet and tangy. The habaneros also provide a fair amount of heat.

I used Backhills Hot Barbecue Sauce on pulled pork, smoked baby back ribs and even tacos. In my opinion, the sauce was at its best as a finishing glaze on the ribs. The sweet sauce complimented the smokey pork nicely. I also enjoyed the heat provided by the habeneros.

Troy's commitment to quality is fully apparent in his Backhills Barbecue Sauces. The thick, sweet sauce is different from anything else that I've reviewed. The unique flavor may catch some tasters off guard. The heat level also limits the sauce's use a bit. However, those that appreciate quality, unique products and a little bit of spice will really enjoy this sauce.

Learn more about Backhills Barbecue Sauce by clicking the title of this blog. See how this sauce compares to other sauces on the "Product Reviews" page.

Sam's Smoker Pro

Slow smoking meat with charcoal or hardwood is the only way to make authentic BBQ. While die hard purists have no problem shelling out hundreds or even thousands of dollars on a wood/charcoal smokers, most backyard cooks use gas grills. I, too love the simplicity and consistancy of cooking with gas, but often miss that authentic smoked flavor that hardwood provides. Previously, I always had to use my small, makeshift smoker for cooking ribs and other BBQ. With Sam's Smoker Pro, I have another option. Now, I can enjoy the ease of use of gas and still get authentic hardwood smoked BBQ.

Sam's Smoker Pro is a heavy duty metal smoker box that sits below your grills grate, directly on the heat source. This allows you to either grill directly or smoke indirectly. Either way, your food gets infused with real hardwood smoke.

I used Sam's Smoker Pro this weekend to slow smoke babyback ribs. The Smoker Pro didn't quite fit under the grate of my Charbroil Commercial Series gas grill so I just removed the grate entirely. I placed the smoke box directly on flame guards on the right hand side of the grill and set the heat to medium. I set two racks of ribs on the left side grate with no heat directly below them.

I filled Sam's Smoker Pro with about 3 cups of Sam's Cowboy Blend of hardwood chips. I didn't soak the chips as I normally would because I wanted to see how quickly they would produce smoke and how long they would last. I was incredibly impressed with the amount of smoke produced by the chips. Within a couple minutes of closing the lid, fragrant smoke was pouring out of my grill's vent. The unsoaked chips  produced a solid amount of smoke for a little over an hour. I used the tool provided by Sam to open the Smoker Pro and replenish the chips.

Sam's Smoker Pro couldn't have performed any better. The chips burned well and for longer than I expected. The smoke produced an excellent smoke ring on the ribs and the flavor was exceptional. Cleanup on Sam's Smoker Pro was also incredibly easy.

I expect to use Sam's Smoker Pro again and again. On days when I don't feel like messing with my charcoal smoker, Sam's Smoker will still give me the ability to cook quality wood fired meat. If you're a gas grill user that has considered purchasing a charcoal or wood smoker, you may want to look at Sam's Smoker Pro as an inexpensive alternative. You can't beat the ease of use.

To learn how to order Sam's Smoker Pro, click the title of this review. See my star rating for Sam's Smoker Pro on our "Product Reviews" page.

Giveaway Winners: Jake's Famous Ketchup

Congrats to our 3 giveaway winners Abby Grube, Don Anderson, Christopher Sorel. Each of you has won a bottle of Jake's Famous Ketchup. This all natural, European style ketchup is brand new. You won't even find it in stores yet.

Please send the address that you'd like your prize sent to I'll forward the info to Jake so he can ship your ketchup directly to you.

Thank you to everyone that entered. Stay tuned for future giveways.

Special thanks to Jake's for sponsoring this giveaway.

Papa Jack's Sweet Heat Rub

Papa Jack's new BBQ rub is appropriately named "Sweet Heat". Jack developed his Sweet Heat rub for use on every type of grilled or smoked meat. This rub can be used in tandem with his Sweet Heat Marinade or own its own.

Sweet Heat Rub has a paprika and salt base. Its flavor is highlighted by brown sugar, cinnamon and cayenne pepper. The cinnamon provides a great unique flavor and is the standout ingredient in its aroma. Papa Jack's blend of spices is all natural and contains no MSG.

I used Sweet Heat rub on chicken wings and on slow smoked baby back ribs. The rub was excellent on the wings. The cinnamon, brown sugar combination really enhanced the flavor of the wings. The rub was good on the ribs as well, but the salt content was a little high. The long, slow cook time, combined with the relatively high salt content of the rub made the ribs a bit too salty.

Papa Jack's Sweet Heat rub is a high quality, all natural rub. I would advise using it in moderation for BBQ with long cook times because of the relatively high salt content, but don't let that scare you away from using it altogether. It's also excellent on grilled and baked meats and vegetables.

To learn how to order Papa Jack's Sweet Heat products, click the title of this review. See how Sweet Heat Rub rates on our "Product Reviews" page.

Bill's Best Organic BBQ Sauce

Bill Fehon (Pennsylvania) created the recipe for Bill's Best Organic BBQ Sauce in the early 90s. A teacher by day, Bill was an avid fisherman, hunter and cook as well. He combined his love of food and the outdoors to nurture a passion for BBQ. After sharing his recipe with friends and family, he eventually decided to bottle and sell his sauce to the public. Sadly, Bill was diagnosed with Frontotemporal Degeneration in 2009 and is no longer able to make his signature sauce. His family has since carried the mantle and continued producing and distributing Bill's Best. In his honor, the Fehon family donates 10% of the sauce's earnings to support Frontotemporal Degeneration research and awareness.

Bill's Best Original BBQ Sauce is packaged in 18 oz. bottles. Evidence that this sauce is a family affair can be seen all over the bottle. The label features Fehon family photos as well as a letter from the family. Overall, the packaging is really appealing and the sauce looks great in the bottle.

As I smelled the sauce, I could actually pick out several of the individual ingredients. The sweet ketchup scent and vinegar tang were easy to identify. There was also a slight hint of liquid smoke and spice.

Bill's Best is a thick, dark red sauce is the tradition of Kansas City style sauces. However, it's a bit more tangy than your average KC sauce. It's also not quite as smokey. The sauce is nice and sweet with just the faintest hint of cayenne spice in the finish.

Bill's Best is USDA certified organic making it a rare commodity in the BBQ world. The sauce is gluten and HFCS free. Bill and his family are obviously committed to producing a delicious product using only the highest quality ingredients.

I used Bill's Best on pulled pork sandwiches and in the BBQ chicken dip that I made for my daughter's birthday party. The sauce is good for a variety of uses. It's fairly thick making it ideal for brushing on ribs and chicken as they finish on the grill.

If you like a thick, sweet and tangy sauces, Bill's Best may be what you're looking for. The fact that it's organic is an added bonus. To learn more about Bill's Best, click the title of this review. See how Bill's Best rates on our "Product Reviews" page.

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