Bubba's Sauce, NC

The origins of Bubba's Finger Lickin' Throat Ticklin' Barbeque Sauce stem from an old family recipe from Clint Sarvis, co-founder of S&S Sauces, LLC (Youngsville, NC). Clint credits his mother with the original recipe. His family used the sauce on brisket and pork throughout his childhood. As an adult, Clint assumed the sauce duties for family cookouts and grilling sessions. After using the sauce for a family cookout on Fathers Day (2011), Clint's family finally talked him into bottling and selling Bubba's Sauce.

The first commercially produced batch of Bubba's Finger Lickin' Throat Ticiklin' Barbeque Sauce was just recently completed. The "Q" Review was lucky enough to sample a jar from the first run thanks to Clint's wife, Jenny, who happens to be a co-worker of mine. Bubba's sauce is sold in 18.4 oz mason jars with an animated logo dreamed up by Clint and created by a local artist.

I cracked the seal on the new jar this weekend. The sauce has a glossy red color and is speckled with spices. It's quite thin compare to most commerically produced sauces. Though I tend to prefer a thinner sauce, this does limit Bubba's uses to marinating and dipping.

Ingredients like apple cider, brown sugar and honey blend nicely for a deep initial sweetness. The sauce finishes with a bold vinegar tang and just a slight note of spice. The sweet and tangy blend truly lives up to the moniker "Finger Lickin' Throat Ticklin'."

This sauce is rooted in the rich Carolina tradition of tangy vinegar sauces. However, it takes the concept to another level by combining sweet, tomato based elements. Much like Dimples and Nickamillion, I call these regional blends, "transitional sauces." Bubba's stays a bit more true to the Carolina style than the others that I mentioned.

After trying the sauce out of the bottle, I knew it was meant to poured over pork. As luck would have it, I still had a couple pounds of pulled pork in freezer. The sweetness and tang of Bubba's sauce was very good on the smokey pork.

If you enjoy sweet and tangy flavors in your BBQ, Bubba's Finger Lickin' Throat Ticklin' Barbeque Sauce is an excellent option. The vinegar tang may be a bit too much for individuals unfamiliar with Carolina style BBQ, but I have a feeling that people in this region will love it.

Bubbas can now be found at Harris Teeter stores throughout the Triad. You can also purchase Bubba's sauce directly from the source. Email Clint & Jenny - bubbassauceNC@yahoo.com to place an order. You can also find them on Facebook.

Game Day Recipes: Week 9 - Wisconsin Beer Brats

Bratwurst are a tailgating staple in the Midwest, particularly in Wisconsin. These brats are simmered with onions in a Midwestern brewed beer before being finished on the grill and dressed with a spicy mustard sauce.

You only need a few basic ingredients for this recipe (see above). The choice of beer and mustard is yours.

Pour three bottles of beer in a heavy duty aluminum pan or sauce pot. Add two sliced onions and bring to a boil.

Reduce heat to medium/low and add the brats to the beer. Simmer the brats for 15 minutes. Make sure that the water is not hot enough to boil while the brats are simmering. The natural casings will split if the water is too hot.
Finish the brats on the grill for 10-12 minutes on medium heat. At this point, the brats are fully cooked. They can be served immediately or returned to the beer bath to be kept warm.

There are plenty of options for topping these brats, but I like to keep it basic. I topped my brat with the beer soaked onions and spicy brown mustard.

Hack's BBQ Sauce

Hack's BBQ Sauce was created by Stephen Dodd in 1999. With his wife's health in mind (story here), he set out to create a sauce that contained no onions or peppers, but still provided plenty of flavor. Stephen's background in chemical engineering translated well to the kitchen. After much experimentation, he formulated an ultra thick, sweet and tangy sauce that his friends and family raved over. Eventually, Stephen decided to bottle and sell his sauce commercially. Thus, Hack's was born.

I had the opportunity to sample Hack's signature sauce this week. The sauce comes in a stout 20 oz. bottle with great looking label. The overall packaging of Hack's was very nice. In the bottle, the sauce has a beautiful dark red color.

Hack's has a bold, smokey aroma. I poured (or at least tried to pour) the sauce into a bowl to examine the texture. It's probably the thickest sauce that I've encountered. Hack's also has a slightly grainy texture compared to the typical smooth, glossy consistancy that most BBQ sauces exhibit.

The absence of peppers and onions doesn't hurt this sauce one bit. The sauce is still a bold blend of sweet, smokey and tangy flavors. Hack's was very good brushed on BBQ chicken. The thickness does limit its uses a bit, but it makes a fine finishing baste for chicken and ribs.

If you have digestive issues with onions or peppers, don't let that stop you from enjoying BBQ. Hack's is a quality sauce option that packs plenty of flavor despite its missing ingredients. You don't need to have an aversion to onions or peppers to enjoy Hack's. If you enjoy a thick, sticky sauce on your chicken or ribs, Hack's is a nice option for just about anybody.

View Hack's website by clicking the title of this review. Hack's can be purchased online or in several specialty stores in Illinois. See how Hack's compares to other sauces on the "Product Reviews" page.

Dimples BBQ Sauce

Dimples BBQ sauce is a sweet, tangy tomato based sauce produced in Raleigh, NC. Dimples is the creation of BBQ competitor, Rich Campana. Rich originally concocted the recipe to for use by his competition team, Kings of Q. After the team decided to go a different route, Rich and his wife decided to bottle and sell their sauce in January of 2011. They named their sauce Dimples after a family trait shared by Campana men, the dimpled chin.

The medium-thin sauce is bright red and brushes beautifully on meat. I used Dimples on BBQ chicken thighs. The sauce gave the chicken a beautiful glossy red shine. The sauce also works great as a dip for just about any kind of BBQ.

Originally from Chicago, Rich combined his Midwestern sweet tomato based roots with the tangy vinegar BBQ culture of the Carolinas. The result is a unique sauce that doesn't quite fit into any particular category. I love these types of transitional sauces. In an area like North Carolina, it takes inventiveness and a little bit of courage to step outside a very narrow traditional view of BBQ sauce. By successfully balancing sweet tomatoes and tangy vinegar, Dimples is a sauce that most everyone can enjoy.

Many newcomers to the Carolinas find the vinegar sauces overwhelming in comparison to the sweet, mild sauces that they're used to. For anyone looking to introduce a newbie to Carolina Q, Dimples would be the perfect starting point. Rather than throwing them into the deep end with a spicy Eastern style sauce, it may be best to let them dip their toes (so to speak) into the world of vinegar sauces first. Dimples is the best blended style sauce that I've tried yet.

Dimples has only been around for a year, but their popularity is spreading (300+ likes already on Facebook). With a sauce this good it's easy to understand. I highly recommend Dimples BBQ sauce for chicken, brisket or pulled pork. In fact, the sauce's texture and flavor are versatile enough for nearly anything you want to throw on the grill. Dimples BBQ sauce is currently available in several retail stores in the Raleigh area. It can also be purchased online.

Click the title of this review to view the Dimples website. Check the "Product Reviews" page to see how Dimples compares to other BBQ sauce.

Rockstore Bar-B-Q (Stallings, NC)

One of the cool things about BBQ is the unique locations and settings in which great "Q" can be found. In my travels, I have yet to find a cooler place for "Q" than Rockstore Bar-B-Q just outside Charlotte, NC. The small stone structure was originally erected as the first and only gas station in the area in 1936. It later became a convenience store until two Stallings natives purchased the building and converted it to a Southern BBQ joint.

Today, Rockstore Bar-B-Q serves authentic smoked favorites like pulled pork, brisket, pulled chicken and the house specialty, baby back ribs. The menu is small and simple. Customers have the choice of getting their pork, chicken or brisket on a sandwich or a plate with homemade sides. Ribs can be purchased in half racks, full racks or as a half rack plate (including two sides and a drink).

Though, I'd already spent the better part of the day in Lexington, NC at the Barbecue Festival, I jumped at the chance to check out Rockstore Bar-B-Q when a close friend, whom I was visiting, suggested it  Saturday evening. We arrived around 7 p.m. shortly before closing. There were just handful of lingering patrons finishing up their dinners and picking up orders to take home.

When I visit a joint for the first time, I try to get a sampling of as many different meats as possible, but Rockstore Bar-B-Q doesn't offer any type of combination platter. After speaking with the attendant at the counter, he suggested that the ribs were Rockstore's signature item. I didn't need a lot of convincing. Ribs are always my first choice anyway. I ordered the rib dinner (half rack w/ 2 sides - beans & slaw). Knowing that I would undoubtedly have to share with Katie when I returned home, I picked up another 1/2 rack just to be safe.

The ribs come with or without sauce. I ordered mine with Rockstore's Western style (ketchup based) sauce on the side. The ribs definitely passed the two initial tests, smell and sight. They filled the car with an intoxicating smokey aroma as we drove home. Thankfully it was a short drive. The baby backs were meaty and had a beautiful pink smoke ring.

Getting the sauce on the side really allows you to get a better sense of the actual flavor of the rib. Rockstore Bar-B-Q's ribs are lightly seasoned. They rely heavily on the hardwood smoke flavor and the natural deliciousness of the pork. While most ribs come slathered in a sticky sauce, Rockstore's baby backs were a refreshing change of pace.

The ribs were moist and very tender. I was able to pull the bones apart pretty easily. However, the meat was still firm enough to cling to the bones as they were pulled apart (like it should). It's rare to find smoked pork ribs so perfectly cooked in a restaurant.

The smokey, lightly seasoned ribs were excellent on their own, but I wanted to test out their sauce as well. Rockstore Bar-B-Q's Western style (one of four varieties) sauce is thin and tangy with a hint of spice in the finish. It's not the style of sauce that I would typically use for ribs, but I was very impressed with how well it complimented the pork. Drizzling the sauce over half the rack worked well. It also made a fine dip.

The beans and slaw were suitable side dishes. Both were above average in quality if slightly below in quantity. They were, however, an afterthought as I devoured the ribs. Sure enough, I ended up having to share a pretty good portion of them with Katie. They got a strong "thumbs up" from her as well.

Rockstore Bar-B-Q turned out to be as tasty as it is unique. The small rock building is definitely the coolest looking joint that I've come across and the ribs were the best that I've had this year (2011). If I had a complaint it would be the inability to order different meats in combination for one price. However, the ribs were good enough that I probably won't get around to ordering anything else anyway.

Click the title of this review to see Rockstore Bar-B-Q's website. See how their ribs compare to other joints from across the country on the "BBQ Ratings" page.

2011 Lexington BBQ Festival (Lexington, NC)

100,000+ patrons descended onto Lexington, North Carolina's Main Street Saturday for the 28th Annual Barbecue Festival. It was a beautiful 65 degree day under sunny, Carolina blue skies. The air was filled with eclectic live music and the smell of carnival food.

The Barbecue Festival is a celebration of Lexington's rich barbecue tradition. On this day, several of the town's famous joints pool their resources and serve Lexington style "Q" to the masses. Unlike may BBQ gatherings, there is no competition at Lexington's Barbecue Festival.

Katie and I arrived, with Kenni in tow, a little after 11:00 a.m. The streets of Lexington were already crowded. Since we'd both skipped breakfast we immediately headed for the closest BBQ tent. Each BBQ tent had several volunteers assembling sandwiches and serving BBQ. I ordered a couple of sandwiches (with slaw) for Katie and myself.

Mysteriously, chopped pork sandwiches always seem to taste better at the Barbecue Festival. This year was no exception. I'm not typically a huge fan of Lexington style chopped sandwiches, but these were good enough that I went back for seconds.

We spent the next couple of hours browsing through hundreds of craft stands and sampling festival delicacies such as curly fries, bloomin onion and fresh squeezed lemonade. I also made use of the time by passing out The "Q" Review's newly designed business cards.

We exited the festival early in the afternoon with tired legs and full stomachs. The Barbecue Festival seems to grow by the year. The streets of Lexington were jam packed by the time we left. It's already one of the biggest food festivals in the country. It's a must see event for BBQ enthusiast in the South and one of the best days on my yearly BBQ calender.

Game Day Recipes: Week 8 - Grilled BBQ Shrimp

This week's recipe may be the easiest yet, but your guests don't have to know that. Grilled shrimp is an awesome way to class up your BBQ or tailgate party. The key to great grilled shrimp is the brine. Our shrimp take a bath overnight in a simple salt / sugar brine that enhances their flavor and prevents them from drying out on the grill.
Place 2 lbs of large fresh or thawed shrimp in a large bowl. Make sure the shrimp are deveined. Shells are optional, but I prefer to leave them on. Add enough water to cover the shrimp. To the water, add 1/4 cup brown sugar, 1/4 cup salt, 1 tablespoon of minced garlic and a teaspoon of crab boil seasoning.
Let the shrimp brine for at least two hours. I usually let them soak overnight.

Drain the brine and place the shrimp in a large grill pan. If you don't have a grill pan, you can skewer the shrimp or grill them directly on the grill grate.
Season the shrimp with an all purpose BBQ rub. I used Everglades Seasoning's Cactus Dust. Drizzle 1/4 cup of your favorite BBQ sauce over the shrimp. I used Squealer's BBQ Smokey Sweet.
Grill the shrimp on high heat for about 15 minutes (much less if you're not using a grill pan) stirring often.

These shrimp are sweet and delicious. They work great as an appetizer for any type of occasion. They're good enough to serve as a main course as well. Count on grilling up several pounds of these shellfish. They will disappear quickly.

Herr's Barbecue Baked Potato Crisps

Herr's doesn't limit their snack production to typical fried potato chips. They also produce a line of baked potato crisps. Like their regular potato chips, the crisps come in a variety of flavors. Of course, I'm hear to review the Barbecue flavored crisps.

The baked crisps definitely have lighter texture. There is considerably less oil present. They are very thin and have an excellent crunch. The crisps are heavily seasoned with a salty, savory blend. Though the calorie count may be reduced by baking the snacks, these crisps actually have a higher sodium content than Herr's fried potato chips.

The chips have a decent BBQ flavor and should satisfy your salty snack cravings. Many people (like my wife) actually prefer the lighter texture and flavor of baked chips (crisps). My preference is still a greasy kettle cooked chip, but it doesn't hurt to back off the grease every now and then and reach for a lighter alternative.

See how Herr's Barbecue Baked Potato Crisps compare with other snacks on the "Product Reviews" page.

Herr's Hot Sauce Potato Chips

The innovative Herr's snack company has yet another unique flavored potato chip. Herr's has teamed up with Texas Pete to create a hot sauce flavored potato chip. Each wavy slice of potato is fried and liberally seasoned with a spicy pepper blend inspired by Texas Pete.

The combination of salty and spicy are a fine marriage in this chip. Texas Pete is a medium - hot Hot Sauce similar to Frank's Red Hot. Produced in Winston-Salem, NC, the sauce is a staple in homes all over the South East. I've used Texas Pete on just about everything during my time in North Carolina. It adds just the right amount of heat to savory dishes. In powder form, the distinctive flavor and spice of Texas Pete are still detectable on Herr's chips.

I've had hot and spicy chips from a few different companies, but I believe Herr's is the best. You can't go wrong teaming up with an excellent product like Texas Pete. These are the perfect chip for anyone that likes just a little (not a lot) heat.

Applegate Farms Smoked Kielbasa

Applegate produces several varieties of organic sausages. Some are made with chicken and turkey, while others use ground organic pork. The Smoked Pork Kielbasa, like Applegate's other sausages, come pre-cooked and vacuum packed. There are four organic pork sausages per pack.

The ingredients are simple and familiar. Humanely raised pork is blended with fresh garlic, salt and additional spice. The sausages are then lightly smoked.

The garlic and salt flavors really stand out in this sausage. As is the case with any smoked meat, the salt content is very high (600mg per serving). The sausage has a natural casing that causes a noticeable snap when bitten into. This seemed to bother some people who had previously reviewed the product, but I didn't find it off putting.

While the calorie count (190 per sausage) is pretty low, it's hard to call any smoked pork product "healthy". The sodium content of one sausage equals 25% of the recommend daily intake for an adult. Like all meat product, eat these in moderation.

Again, I was impressed with the overall flavor of Applegate's kielbasa. I typically don't care much for pre-cooked sausages, but all of the Applegate products that I've sampled thus far have been very good.

Learn more about Applegate Farms by clicking the title of this review. You can also see how their smoked kielbasa compares to other products on the "Product Reviews" page.

Bandana's Southern Style Original

Southern Style Original is one of six sauces offered at Bandana's Bar-B-Q restaurants. Though this particular recipe originated in Florida, Southern Style Original's mustard flavors are more characteristic of the sauces found in South Carolina.

Like the other Bandana's sauces, Southern Style Original is very thick. The thickness limits its uses a bit. It's definitely too thick to pour over pulled pork. However, it can be brushed on grilled or smoked chicken. It can also be used as a dip or sausage condiment.

Mustard is most definitely the dominant flavor in this sauce. It's very similar to a typical supermarket brown mustard. There is nothing exceptional about the sauce that sets it apart from other mustard sauces. As seems to be the case with all Bandana's sauces, Southern Style Original is safe, familiar and mediocre.

Applegate Farms Organic Turkey Burgers

I'm not typically a turkey burger eater. I don't have any particular aversion to ground turkey. However, like most Midwesterners, I was simply raised on beef. We occasionally used ground turkey in chilis and tacos, but I don't think we ever made burgers. It wasn't until I reached adulthood that I began to consider the health benefits of occasionally substituting lean ground turkey in dishes that typically called for beef.

Applegate Farms understands the importance of quality, healthy meat products about as well as anyone. Their Organic Turkey Burgers are a perfect example. Applegate grounds lean organic turkey into 1/4 lb patties and packages four per box. I wouldn't say that I was apprehensive about eating the turkey burgers, but there was certainly a level of unfamiliarity. I read several comments and reviews of the burgers on Applegate's website. Most were very positive, but some were quite scathing.

Since receiving the product samples from Applegate Farm's, I've grilled and served these turkey burgers twice. I was more than satisfied with the product both times. The 1/4 lb. patties are just the right size. Though I'd read several complaints about the texture of the burgers and the fact that they fall apart easily, I didn't find this to be a problem. The burgers seared nicely on the hot grill and flipped easily without breaking apart.
The burgers have a very mild flavor, typical of ground turkey. I recommend adding your favorite low sodium seasoning blend to spice them up a bit. We topped some of the burgers with cheese, lettle, tomato and pickles in addition to ketchup and mustard.

Let's face it. There's no real substitute for a juicy beef burger. However, properly seasoned and adorned, Applegate Farms Organic Turkey Burgers are an enjoyable and healthy alternative. At only 140 calories per patty, you can feel good about eating them.

Learn more about Applegate Farms by clicking the title of this review. See how I rate their Organic Turkey Burgers on the "Product Reviews" page.

Herr's Honey BBQ Potato Chips

Herr's produces a seemingly endless variety of BBQ potato chips. They offer several unique variations on the typical BBQ chip. In addition to BBQ Chicken and Baby Back Ribs flavored chips, Herr's also makes a Honey BBQ chip. Honey BBQ is a wavy, crispy chip that blends additional sweetness to their original BBQ recipe.

Of the Herr's products that I've sampled so far, Honey BBQ is my favorite. I prefer a wavy chip. Also, I really enjoyed the sweet and salty flavor combination. The chips are quite sweet. I wouldn't say that the sweet and salty are completely balanced. The initial sweet honey flavor is the dominant element in the chip. However, the salty, savory finish was just enough contrast to keep me reaching for more.

I enjoy most variations of the BBQ potato chip, but the Herr's Honey BBQ's sweetness an unexpected bonus. They may be a bit too sweet for traditional salty chip mavens, but I liked the change-up.

Click the title of this blog to learn more about Herr's. You can also see how their Honey BBQ chips rate on the "Product Reviews" page.

Game Day Recipes: Week 7 - BBQ Pork Quesadillas

If you're a regular reader of The "Q" Review, you know that last week's recipe was Real Deal Pulled Pork. You also know that I smoked nearly 17 lbs of pork shoulder last week. While I ate more than my share, we still had quite a bit left over. I packed a few pounds of pork in freezer bags for later dates. This week's recipe puts some of those tasty leftovers to good use. Grilled quesadillas are great for any occasion. Our version mixes traditional South Western flavors with sweet, smokey BBQ.
Everything that I used can be seen in the above picture. The great thing about quesadillas is that they're completely customizable. You can substitute nearly any type of meat and add a variety of vegetables or beans.

Start by sauteing your the vegetables in a little bit of oil. I seasoned the veggies with a little bit of soy sauce and BBQ rub from Nickamillion.
After the vegetables have softened, add the pork to heat it up. The pork is already fully cooked so it will only need a couple minutes to warm.

While the pork warms, begin assembling your quesadilla. Add a layer of shredded cheese. I also added black beans and fresh diced cilantro.
Make sure your grill grate is clean an lubricated. Dip a paper towel in oil and brush it on the grate.
Add the meat and vegetables and place the tortilla on the hot, oiled grate. Drizzle the quesadilla with a thin, smokey BBQ sauce. I used Squealer's Smokey Sweet.

Add more cheese and top with a second tortilla. Grill for a couple minutes on each side until the cheese is melted and the tortilla crisps.  
Cut into quarters and serve with sour cream and fresh salsa. The "Q" Review's Roasted Tomato Salsa pairs well with these quesadillas.

Sucklebusters Chipotle BBQ Sauce

Sucklebusters BBQ sauces are renowned for their flavor and all natural ingredients. Sucklebusters' earned a tremendous honor recently when their Original sauce won first prize at the American Royal BBQ competition in Kansas City, MO. In addition to that top prize, Sucklebusters' various sauces have garnered several awards on the competition circuit since 2009.

This week, I cracked the seal on a bottle of their Chipotle BBQ Sauce. SuckleBusters Chipotle BBQ Sauce spices up their Original recipe with smoke chipotle spice. According SuckleBusters' website, the heat is "just hot enough to keep'em coming back for more."

The sauce has a medium thickness and a smooth, glossy texture. I used the Chipotle BBQ Sauce on smoked pork ribs. The sauce made an excellent finishing glaze. Paired with SuckleBusters' mild Competition BBQ Rub, the sauce's spice brought a welcome lip tingling finish.

I've professed my affinity for sweet and spicy sauces numerous times on The "Q" Review. SuckleBusters Chipotle BBQ Sauce is definitely one of the best. Much like Demon Pig's Blaze Orange and Big Dave's Honey Chipotle sauces (Two of my absolute favorites), SuckleBusters Chipotle BBQ blends the sweet seemlessly with the spicy.

The sauce is sweeter than I expected from a Texas product, but flavor is outstanding. If you like a little bit of spice in your "Q", SuckleBusters Chipotle BBQ Sauce is a great option for glazing ribs or chicken. Using the sauce in tandem with SuckleBusters rubs is a smart move as well.

Everglades All Purpose Seasoning

Everglades Seasoning's All Purpose seasoning is an aromatic blend that is suitable for a variety of uses. The original blend is quite salty. While containing many other ingredients, I've found this seasoning's best use is as a salt alternative. Just use it in any situation that you would normally use salt and pepper.

Because of the salt content, I shy away from using too much of it on meat. I prefer Everglades Seasoning's All Purpose Seasoning on vegetables. It's particularly good on potatoes. Add a dash to homemade french fries or a baked potato.

If you find the salt content to be too high, Everglades Seasoning also offers an All Purpose Seasoning blend with 1/3 less sodium (MSG free as well). As someone who doesn't typically salt my food, I found this seasoning to be a very nice addition to steamed and grilled vegetables. It's a useful blend that combines many of the most used spices in pantry into one bottle. 

If you're looking for a convienent product that will save you from buying individual bottles of various seasonings, Everglades Seasoning's All Purpose Seasoning is a good option. You can find Everglades Seasoning in grocery stores throughout the South East and beyond. You can also order online using their website.

Sucklebusters Competition BBQ Rub

Sucklebuster's Inc. was officially born in 2006, but it's origins date back much further. Dan Arnold (owner and operator) started blending spices at a young age. As a young adult, he cooked for friends and family and even began catering events. As Dan progressed in the world of food and BBQ, he began noticing a need for quality, healthy products. In response to all the MSG and hydrogenated oil stuffed products filling the market, Dan launched Sucklebusters.

The Sucklebusters' line currently features 3 different spice rubs and 4 varieties of BBQ sauce. Each is used by competition teams and home cooks all over the country. Sucklebusters' products have received numerous awards from the top contests in the country. In fact, their original BBQ sauce recently won 1st prize at the prestigious American Royale competition.

The first Sucklebusters' product that I sampled was their Competition BBQ Rub. I used the rub on a couple racks of spare ribs from Tender Grass Farm. Sucklebusters' Competition BBQ Rub is a mild, versatile rub that works great for most types of BBQ. Sucklebusters' recommends customizing their rub with your own creative touches, but I wanted to get a sense of the product "as is." I seasoned the ribs heavily with the rub about 30 minutes before they hit the smoker. Normally, I rub down ribs the night before, but I'm always cautious about using a new rub for the first time if it contains salt. High salt rubs should not be applied until just before smoking the meat. Otherwise, you'll end up with ribs that taste something like cured ham.

It turns out that Sucklebusters' Competition BBQ Rub had just the right amount of salt. The flavors were relatively mild, but they accented the pork very well. Each ingredient in the Competition BBQ Rub worked in balance with one another. This balance is the key to any good rub. The sugars from the rub caramelized nicely giving the ribs turning the ribs a gorgeous deep red color.

This rub was really versatile. It had enough flavor to be used as the lone seasoning element on smoked meat, but also allowed for customization. By design, the flavors also paired well with the Sucklebusters' Chipotle BBQ sauce that I glazed some of the ribs with.

Sucklebusters' Competition BBQ Rub is an excellent option for pork or chicken. I'm not sure the flavors would hold up on beef, but it's definitely a product that I will continue to experiment with. To learn more about Sucklebusters' products, click the title of this review. See how their Competition BBQ Rub compares with other spice blends on the "Product Reviews" page.

Squeler's Smokey Sweet BBQ Sauce

Squealers originated in 1999 as a competition cooking team. They travelled the country competing and selling their BBQ. During their days on the competition circuit, the Squealer's team honed their techniques and recipes until they settled on the award winning formulas used today.

In 2001, Squealers opened their first restaurant in Mooresville, IN. The BBQ was such a hit that they've since opened a second location in Indianapolis. Both Squealers locations offer "Southern Style" BBQ slow smoked with hickory and cherry wood. Much of their "Q" is covered in their award winning BBQ sauce.

The Squealers team was kind enough to send bottles of their Smokey Sweet and Smokin Hot BBQ sauces to be reviewed. The minute I opened the package from Squealers, I knew I had a rib sauce. Numerous awards received from ribfest competitions were listed right on the bottle. Everything about the color and texture of the sauce screamed, "Brush me on ribs!"

This weekend I finally got the opportunity to use Squealers' Smokey Sweet sauce on spare ribs from Tender Grass Farms. Squealer's sauce is aptly named. The sauce is both smokey and sweet in equal measure. It was slightly thinner than I had expected, but still plenty thick to brush on the ribs.

When I first sampled the sauce out of the bottle, I didn't have a strong reaction. The sauce tasted "good", but not exceptional. I actually thought it lacked a bit of sweetness. However, it's not fair to simply judge a sauce by its initial out of the bottle flavor. Most sauces are formulated to be cooked and paired with meat. Brushing the sauce on the ribs as they finished on the grill brought out the added dimension of rich sweetness. The sauce brushed on beautifully and gave the ribs a beautiful glossy finish. 

Squealers Smokey Sweet is an exceptional rib sauce. While it's good as a dip or poured over meat, the sauce's true calling is as a grilling glaze. Brush the sauce liberally on ribs or chicken as they finish grilling. You won't be disappointed.

Squealers BBQ sauces can be purchased at either the Mooresville or Indianapolis location. If you're ever in the area, it may be worth picking up a bottle. Ordering the sauce online will set you back $9.45 from americanspice.com. Learn more about Squealers by clicking the title of this review. You can also see how Squealers Smokey Sweet sauce compares to other sauces on the "Product Reviews" page.

Tender Grass Farm - Pork Spare Ribs

In addition to the Flat Iron Steak that I reviewed last week, I also ordered a few racks of pork spare ribs. The ribs came in 1/2 racks that were individually vacuum sealed.  All the pork from Tendergrass Farm is "pastured" and chemical free. While many people would call their pork "grass fed," Tendergrass Farm prefers the term "pastured" because their pigs often eat a variety of roughage in their pastures in addition to grass.

I slow smoked half of the ribs this weekend using natural lump charcoal and cherry wood chunks. Spareribs typically take a lot of time to prepare. However, these were lean already well trimmed. The only prep work that was needed was the removal of the membrane on the bone side.

The spare ribs did have considerably less meat (and fat) on the bone than typical commercially sold pork. The bones and racks were slim like a normal rack of baby backs. There was just a sliver of meat covering each bone. Obviously, this can be attributed to the natural diet that the pigs had. Most pork is fattened up using grains. A little extra meat (and fat) wouldn't hurt for slow smoking. Never the less, the ribs cooked up nicely. They were tender and delicious. One benefit to the petite ribs was that the cook time was reduced by about 1/3.

I appreciate the fact that the pigs from Tendergrass Farms are raised the way God intended. You can feel good about consuming all natural meats from Tendergrass Farm. The animals live well and aren't pumped full chemicals. It's healthier for everyone involved.

To have top quality meat sent directly to your doorstep, click the title of this review. Tendergrass Farm's online ordering process is quick and easy. I'm certain you won't be disappointed with the quality of their products or service.

Check them out on the web http://www.grassfedbeef.org/

Applegate Farm's Organic Chicken & Turkey Andouille Sausage

Applegate Farms is a major producer of organic and natural meat products. The Applegate brand features everything from cold cuts to bacon and burgers. Applegate was kind enough to send samples of several of their organic products for The "Q" Review.

The first product to be reviewed is Applegate's organic Andouille. This spicy cajun sausage is made from organic chicken and turkey as well as organic herbs and spices. The sausages come fully cooked in a vacuum pack of four. The first thing I loved about Applegate's sausage was that I could actually read and understand the ingredients list. These organic products are free of the harmful nitrates and nitrites found in most processed meats.

As the Applegate website recommends, I sliced up the andouille sausage for my jambalaya rice casserole. The spicy sausage meshed perfectly with the cajun inspired dish. Since the sausage is pre-cooked, I just added it to casserole as it finished cooking.

I was pleasantly surprised with the taste of the sausage. The meat was very well seasoned. It also lacked that artificial processed flavor that many pre-cooked meat products have. It was so good, that I think I actually prefer it to the fresh sausage that I typically cook and add to my jambalaya. At just 140 calories each, they are certainly a healthier alternative. If you're health conscious and looking for a quick and tasty protein source for your family, pick up a pack of these sausages.

Applegate Farm's products can be found in grocery stores all over the country. You can also order directly from the Applegate website. Click the title of this review to learn more about the Applegate product line. Check back with The "Q" Review over the next couple weeks for additional Applegate product reviews. See how their Andouille sausage compares to other meat products on the "Product Reviews" page.

Herr's BBQ Potato Chips

The Herr's company has many varieties of BBQ chips and snacks. This week I sampled their original Barbecue flavored potato chip. Herr's Barbecue chips are thin and crispy. Each chip was loaded with their BBQ seasoning.

The chips are quite salty and have a decent BBQ flavor. Herr's Barbecue chips are quite similar to most store brands as well as region brands like Utz and Clancy's. When in need of a salty snack, these chips are a good, savory option. They go great with burgers and sandwiches.

While there's nothing particularly exceptional about Herr's Barbecue chips, they're still a good snacking option. To learn more about Herr's BBQ snacking options, click the title of this review. See how Herr's Barbecue chips rate on the "Product Reviews" page.

Knox's Spice Yummy Chicken Rub

Knox's Spice Company makes the hiqhest quality spice rubs from premium all natural ingredients. Thus far, I've reviewed their Cracked Pepper Rub and Chipotle BBQ Seasoning. Both were excellent, but neither of them can match their Yummy Chicken rub.

Yummy Chicken rub completely captures the essense of roasted chicken. I've never encountered a spice blend quite like it. It's a perfect blend of aromatic herbs and spices. The ingredients are simple and familiar. There is nothing truly exceptional about any of the parts individually. It's not until the coarsely ground spices are mixed in the appropriate proportions, that the blend becomes special.

I first used Yummy Chicken on homemade chicken and noodles. The great thing about this blend is that it completely negates the need for any additional seasoning. It's an all inclusive seasoning for chicken dishes. Though Yummy Chicken was excellent on the chicken and noodles, there is no doubt that it's best used on roasted whole chicken.
Whole fryers were on sale this week so I picked up several for the freezer and reserved one for a weeknight dinner. The prep was simple. I didn't brine the bird. I just stuffed it with onions and a quarter stick of butter. I brushed the exterior with olive oil and seasoned the bird with Yummy Chicken Rub.

Knox's Spice Company Yummy Chicken Rub has most definitely become my favorite seasoning for roasted chicken. The herbs provide a comforting smell and taste that can't be beat. Even if you've got a standard roasted chicken recipe that you already swear by, I suggest you give Yummy Chicken Rub a try. It will very likely become your new standard.

To learn more about Yummy Chicken Rub and other great products from Knox's Spice Co., click the title of this review. See how Yummy Chicken Rub compares to other dry spice blends on the "Product Reviews" page.

Red Bros BBQ Original Sweet Sauce

Red Brother's BBQ sauce was created by John and Chris Layton using an old family recipe. Like most small sauce companies, the brothers began by serving the sauce to friends and family. Two years ago they teamed up and decided to bottle and sell their sauce. They currently feature three varieties: Original Sweet, Premium Spicy and Fiery Habanero. They also plan to introduce a Carolina BBQ sauce shortly. Using their own sauces, the brothers recently tried their luck on the competition circuit. In a relatively short amount of time, they've won multiple awards.

The first sauce I sampled was the Original Sweet. I took the sauce to a get together with friends to get some additional input. We used the sauce (along with 2 others) as a dip for popcorn chicken nuggets. Original Sweet is bright red with a medium thickness. The sauce is definitely sweet, but it also had an odd finish to the flavor that I couldn't place. It was the consensus favorite of the three sauces that we sampled, but the praise was generally moderate.

After tasting the sauce initially, I decided it may be better suited for a different use. I heated the remainder of the sauce slightly and poured it on a smokey pulled pork sandwich. Red Brother's Original Sweet is definitely the type of sauce best served warm. I enjoyed the sauce a great deal more on the pulled pork sandwich. The sweet sauce really complimented the pork well.

Red Brother's Original Sweet is a quality option for sweet sauce lovers. I would recommend using it warm as a glaze for ribs and grilled chicken. It's also quite good poured over pulled pork. Heat is the key with this sauce. I look forward to testing their other flavors.

Click the title of this blog to see the Red Brother's website. To see how Red Brother's Original Sweet sauce compares to other sauces, see the "Product Reviews" page.

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