Best of 2012

As 2012 comes to a close, it's time to reflect on some of the year's highlights. Though this year wasn't quite as fruitful as its predecessor, I still managed to review 99 unique products from the world of BBQ and beyond. For this year's "best of" series, I've simplified the categories a bit. Please remember that these lists only represent the products that I formally reviewed in 2012. Those products reviewed in previous years are NOT eligible. I realize there are hundreds of other great products out there. I hope to try them all eventually. Without further ado, read on to see who ranks as The "Q" Review's best of 2012. (Click the link on any product to read the full review)

Best BBQ Sauce
1. Grumpy's Bold XX
2. Curt's Medium
3. Nephew's Ghostly Pumpkin
4. Sucklebuster's Original
5. Old Mule Original

Best Non BBQ Sauce
1. Glenn's Gourmet Goodies Wasabi
2. Texas Butter Smoked
3. Texas Butter Mango
4. Glenn's Gourmet Goodies Chipotle
5. Glenn's Gourmet Goodies Road Kill E-Lick-Sir

Best Spice Rub
1. Oakridge BBQ Secret Weapon
2. Pork Barrell BBQ All American Rub
3. Oakridge BBQ Game Bird Rub
4. Jake's BBQ Tri Tip, Steak & Rib Rub
5. Rufus Teague Meat Rub

Best of the Rest (Other Products)
1. American Pride Foods Reindeer Medallions
2. American Pride Foods Jalapeno Cheese Buffalo Sausage
3. Mangrates
4. Timberridge Cattle Beef Sticks
5. Masterbuilt GS40 Propane Smoker

Other fantastic products that are worthy of a mention: Pigchaser Habanero, The Berry Patch Apple Butter BBQ Sauce, Sucklebuster's Texas Heat Original, Bill's Best Spicy BBQ Sauce, Sauced Up Smokers Firehouse Sauce, Butcher BBQ Texas Style Rub, and Uncle Kenny's Rib Rub.

Grumpy's Private Reserve Goodnight Loving

For those of you who can remember that far back (it's been quite some time since my last review), I previously reviewed Grumpy's Private Reserve Bold XX. Not only was the sauce one of the best reviewed products of the year, it immediately became one of my all time favorite BBQ sauces. After enjoying Grumpy's first sauce so much, I was really looking forward to reviewing their other flavors.

Grumpy's Goodnight Loving is labeled as a "Texas Style" BBQ Sauce. Packaged in 16 oz. bottles with their signature label and logo. The burnt orange sauce is much thinner than Grumpy's Bold XX (Kansas City style). From the large mouth of the glass bottle, the sauce pours freely.

True to Texas fashion, Goodnight Loving is a tomato, vinegar blend. Though it contains sugar, it's not nearly as sweet as Midwestern varieties. The sauce accents its base ingredients with liquid smoke, earthy spices and red pepper sauce. It's not super hot, but there is a noticeable peppery finish. The resulting flavor is very similar to other "Texas Style" sauces that I've reviewed.

I used the sauce on multiple occasions for both chicken and pork. The thin, tangy sauce worked well as a dip for both meats. It was especially good on the chicken. The peppery bite was a welcome addition to the mild white meat. Though the texture was perfect for pouring over pulled pork, I wasn't crazy about the way the flavors blended. I didn't get a chance to brush the sauce on grilled meats, but I think the texture would be adequate for that use. It's thin, but not too thin to give the meat a good glaze.

For those who appreciate a tangy, peppery finish, Goodnight Loving is a fine choice. Though it's not quite as sweet as what I typically look for, it's still a quality sauce. Check out all of Grumpy's sauces on their website . Don't forget to see the star rating for Goodnight Loving on our "Product Reviews" page.

Grumpy's Private Reserve Bold XX

After reviewing hundreds of products over the last three years I've become a bit jaded. Though most of the products that I'm fortunate enough to review are quite good, it's rare that any of them actually "Wow" me. On the rare occasion that I find a truly exceptional product, I can't wait to spread the word. It just so happens that one of those "Wow" products came to my doorstep last week.

Grumpy's Private Reserve Bold XX BBQ sauce is as good as (or perhaps better than) any Kansas City style sauce I've used. One of four natural, small batch sauces from the Colorado based company, Bold XX elevates the convential sweet, smokey genre with a smooth, complex and slightly spicy flavor that had me swooning almost immediately. Earning both Scovie and Golden Chile awards, as well as high honors at the American Royal, Grumpy's Bold XX is impressing BBQ aficianados all over the country.

Grumpy's sauces are packaged in 16 oz glass bottles. Each sauce is labeled with a unique solid color as well as Grumpy's animated sketch pig logo. In the bottle, the sauce is a dark mahogany that is typical of Kansas City style sauces. Though relatively thick, the sauce still pours a bit faster than common national brand KC sauces.

It has become a bit of a ritual to cook BBQ every Saturday during the college football season. There is no better way to spend a Saturday afternoon than eating great food while enjoying a Michigan Wolverine victory. Babyback ribs were on the menu last weekend and Grumpy's Bold XX was my sauce of choice.

I brushed Grumpy's Bold XX on the ribs as they finished on the grill. The sauce proved to be a perfect selection for ribs. It brushed on easily and stuck to the meat well. The color was fantastic and the sugary sauce gave the bones a great sticky finish. As the sauce heated, the sweet, smokey, tangy and spicy elements came together for surprisingly rich, complex taste with just enough heat to leave your lips tingling.

Though perfect for ribs, Grumpy's Bold XX would be equally tasty on smoked or grilled chicken. I recommend heating the sauce to get the complete picture of its flavor. Out of the bottle (cold), the individual flavor elements are bolder and more distinct. That being said, I love the sauce on just about everything. I used it (cold) on a smoked meatloaf and enjoyed every bite.

Every time I think I've found sauce perfection something new comes along and changes my perspective. I'm sure many more great sauce experiences lie ahead, but for now, Grumpy's Bold XX is one of my most memorable. With three other flavors from Grumpy's to sample, I can hardly wait to get cooking.

If you're a KC BBQ stylist, you've got to try Grumpy's Bold XX. Also, be sure to check them out online for information about Bold XX and their other flavors. . If you haven't figured it out already, you see Grumpy's Bold XX star rating on our "Product Reviews" page.

Mrs. Renfro's Barbecue Sauce

Mrs. Renfro's is primarily known for their line of gourmet salsas that can be found in supermarkets all over the United States. The company, however, doesn't just make salsa. They have an enormous line of condiments, sauces, and jellies including barbecue sauce.

Like their salsas, Mrs. Renfro's Barbecue Sauce is packaged in 16 oz. glass jars. The sauce is dark red with visible specks of spices. It's a medium/thick sauce, but pours quickly thanks to the wide open mouth of the glass jar.

This sauce is ketchup based and falls neatly in line with the traditions of Kansas City BBQ. Despite being based in Ft. Worth, TX, Renfro Foods created a sauce to satisfy the masses with a sweet, familiar flavor profile that is accented slightly by liquid smoke and black pepper. Their is also a mild vinegar tang in the finish. Though the bite is muted almost completely when the sauce is heated.

I used Mrs. Renfro's on separate occasions with two different cuts of pork. First, I served Mrs. Renfro's Barbecue Sauce on baby back ribs that I prepared for my parents. Rather than smoke the ribs, I lightly seasoned them and baked them in the oven. Finished with Mrs. Renfro's, the ribs were a carbon copy of what you would get from a typical bar and grill. The sauce has a good texture for ribs. It brushes on nicely and leaves a sticky coating on the bones with cooked into the meat for a bit.

This week I pulled a recently smoked pork shoulder out of the freezer for dinner. I used the remainder of the Mrs. Renfro's jar for pulled pork. I heated the sauce to thin it a bit and poured it over the smokey pork. The flavors were a natural fit for the meat. Everyone enjoyed the pork, in part, because of the sauce.

For a company whose primary focus is salsa, Mrs. Renfro's makes a pretty solid BBQ sauce. It's the type of sauce that has wide appeal. It's safe to serve to just about anyone. The flavors are pleasant, but mild. The medium thickness also makes it versatile enough for just about any application. It's hard to find anything objectionable about it. It probably won't WOW you, but you won't be disappointed.

Check out Mrs. Renfo's Barbecue Sauce (and other products) on their website.

Mexi Mac & Cheese

I get my recipe ideas from a variety of sources. I scour the web, watch cooking shows and daydream about BBQ daily. This recipe, however, came about completely by accident. Two unexpected events led to the creation of what I think is my tastiest dish yet. 1) On a quick trip to the grocery store for diapers, I made a pass through the meat section (as is my custom) and stumbled upon a great deal on bulk spicy chorizo. The deal was too good pass up. I didn't have any plans for how to use the sausage, but I bought a couple pounds anyway. 2) A casual dinner, for which I was supposed to make mac and cheese, was canceled.

My disappointment about no longer making mac and cheese, combined with my need to find a good use for the chorizo in my refrigerator, led to Mexi Mac & Cheese. This dish is the perfect balance of creamy decadence and invigorating spice. Adding chorizo to the mac and cheese makes the dish so hearty it has to be a main course.

3 cups of elbow macaroni or mini farfalle pasta
1/4 Cup butter
1/4 Cup flour
2 cups milk
1/2 lb Velveeta (cubed)
8 oz shredded chedder
8 oz shredded monterary jack (or pepper jack)
1.5 lbs ground spicy Mexican chorizo
1/2 cup finely diced pickled jalapenos

Servings: 6-8

Brown the chorizo over medium heat in a large skillet. Drain the excess fat and set the chorizo aside. Cook the pasta as directed on the package. Drain and set the pasta aside as well.

In the same large skillet used for the chorizo, melt the butter over medium heat. Stir in the flour.

Gradually add the milk. Stir until the mixture begins to thicken.

When the sauce begins to thicken, add the velveeta and half of the shredded cheese. Continue stirring until the cheese has melted.

Add the chorizo, pasta and jalapenos to a large, oven safe casserole dish.

Pour the cheese sauce over the pasta, meat and peppers. Mix everything together and top with the remainder of the shredded cheese. Bake in the oven @ 350 for 25-30 minutes.

When the cheese on top is melted and browned, you know it's ready to eat. Serve with a salad or steamed vegetables for a complete meal.

This mac and cheese is truly one of the best things I've ever made. Two simple addtions (chorizo and jalapenos) to my traditional mac and cheese recipe make all the difference. If you're a mac and cheese lover and can tolerate a fair amount of spice, this is a must for you.

Meyer's Elgin Smokehouse Texas Hot Pepper Sauce

Hot pepper sauce can be found on nearly every table in just about every Texas BBQ joint. Meyer's Elgin Smokehouse is no exception. While some joints rely on familiar national brands, Meyer's serves their own take on the traditional vinegar and pepper blend. Their sauce, however, isn't just a spicy condiment to drop on your favorite sides, it also doubles as a wing sauce.

Meyer's Texas Hot Pepper and Wing Sauce is a thin red pepper sauce with a bold, spicy flavor. It's a simple blend consisting of just vinegar, peppers and a couple incidentals. Despite the standard recipe, the flavor manages to stand out from the national brand pepper sauces that I typically use.

I've used the sauce on multiple occasions with positive results each time. I first used the sauce for grilled chicken wings. It was too thin to brush on the chicken, so I essentially dipped the wings once they finished grilling. The tangy, spicy sauce was excellent on the grilled chicken, but would have been even better had it clung to the bird better. Perhaps it would be better suited for fried (breaded) chicken which would hold more of the sauce.

Like Frank's or Texas Pete, Meyer's pepper sauce is an all purpose flavor enhancer. It adds a new dimension to everything from eggs to potatoes and tacos. I primarily used the sauce on Mexican dishes like tacos and nachos.

Meyer's Elgin Smokehouse is known for BBQ, but their Texas Hot Pepper Sauce deserves some notoriety as well. It's every bit the equal of any national brand sauce. Versatile enough to cover wings or drip over nachos. For any occasion, it's a solid choice.

For more information about Meyer's Elgin Smokehouse, check out Cuetopia online.

Recipe: Buffalo Chicken Wontons

Buffalo chicken dip is an uber popular party food that everyone seems to enjoy. It's creamy, meaty, spicy and declicious. It's one of my favorites as well, but it seems like it's being served at EVERY get together I attend. To change things up a bit, I made the dip portable by stuffing it into crispy fried wontons, ala crab rangoon. The recipe is simple and fun, but most of all, TASTY!

1 to 1.5 cups of finely diced cooked chicken (grilled or smoked)
8 oz package of cream cheese
1/3 cup of Buffalo style hot wing sauce
24 wonton wrappers
Oil for frying

Makes 24 wontons

Mix the chicken, cream cheese and hot sauce in a bowl. (Tip: let the cream cheese soften by setting at room temp for several minutes before mixing).

Spoon a small amount of the mixture into the center of a wonton wrapper. Dip your finger in water and run it along the edge of the wonton to help seal the edges.

Fold the wonton into a triangle and seal the edges. Pinch the exterior with your fingers.

In a large pot, heat your choice of oil to 325-350 degrees. Fry the wontons in batches for about 2 minutes. Flip after one minute.

Serve them immediately, but exercise some caution. The filling gets incredibly hot. They're great little snacks that will disappear in a hurry.

Jake's Tri-Tip, Steak and Rib Rub

I'd been holding on to a shaker of Jake's Tri-Tip, Steak and Rib Rub for over a year, but it wasn't because I didn't want to use it. Knowing how good Jake's other products have been, I was just saving it for the right occasion. By the beginning of September I had pretty much exhausted my supply of rubs. Thus, it became "the right occasion."

Jake's rub is described on the label as a "Premium blend of Central California Ranch style seasonings." Oddly enough, the base ingredients (paprika and brown sugar) are the standard beginnings for any BBQ rub from the Southeastern US. I also found this interesting because most beef/steak rubs start with the standard salt, pepper and garlic base. All three ingredients are featured in Jake's rub, but not as prominently as one would have guessed. Coarsely ground herbs like parsley and oregano are fairly noticeable as well.

I put Jake's rub to the test thoroughly. I used it on steaks, pork shoulder, armadillo eggs and pork ribs. Though each meat was quite different and cooked using varying techniques, Jake's performed well every time. The herbs and pepper were excellent on the grilled steaks while the brown sugar melted nicely into the pork.

It seems unusual to have a product work equally well on steaks and ribs, but Jake's rub managed to find that balance. After enjoying the rub on two giant porterhouse steaks, I worried about the salt content on pork ribs. To my surprise, the salt was not overwhelming and the herbs added something a little extra that most rib rubs don't have.

I would file Jake's Tri-Tip, Steak and Rib Rub under the "All Purpose" category. It's the type of rub that back yard cooks should always have on hand. It's a versatile, high quality product that works as a flavor enhancer for just about anything.

Bib's Downtown (Winston-Salem, NC)

Since starting this blog, I've made a list of local BBQ establishments to visit and reveiw. After hearing so much positive feedback from the patrons of Twin City Ribfest, Bib's Downtown instantly went to the top of the list. The hometown establishment took home the People's Choice award, beating out several other outstanding BBQ teams.

Bib's is located in the downtown area of Winston-Salem, just a long foul ball (a couple blocks) away from the newly opened BB&T Ballpark. The building was formerly a Firestone Auto Care and still maintains the same structure and character of the vintage tire dealership. Bib's has a spacious dining area with both table and booth seating. The entire menu is scrawled on a giant chalkboard situated behind the ordering counter.

Before I get to the actual food, I have to mention the exceptional service we received. The entire staff working Saturday evening (July 10th) was friendly, prompt, and attentive. Being newbies to Bib's, we had plenty of questions about the menu. The counter attendant was very patient and helpful. The servers brought the food quickly and repeatedly checked in to refill our drinks and make sure that we were satisfied. I was thoroughly impressed with the overall service experience. Were I in the business of rating customer service, I would give the staff at Bib's a well earned 5 stars.

It had been a couple of weeks since I'd had BBQ so I was counting on Bib's for a much needed fix. I decided on the Rib Triple to get a sampling of the what Bib's had to offer. I chose beef brisket and 1/4 chicken to accompany my ribs. The plates at Bib's come with hush puppies, red or white slaw, texas toast, and one additional side.

Bib's scored big points with me as soon as the food was delivered. The portions were incredibly generous, especially considering the modest prices. My three meat tray looked like a BBQ feast should. The masses of meat were matched by hefty portions of beans and slaw.

It's hard to classify the BBQ style of Bib's. Though, not a traditional Carolina joint, there are certainly Carolina influences. The red and white slaw offered at Bib's are Carolina staples. Their original sauce, though thin and vinegar based, is much sweeter than you'll find in most joints in Piedmont region of the state. They also offer a spicy and mustard sauce options that I did not try.

All the meats were freshly basted with sauce before being served. The brisket was incredibly flavorful. The fat had nearly melted off completely. The meat featured a nice dark crust and the hickory smoke created a deep, red smoke ring. The hickory flavor was also quite evident in the chicken. The vinegar sauce was perfect compliment to the light meat. The ribs were thick, meaty spare ribs with rich hickory aroma and flavor. All of the meat was mouth watering and the sauce really accented it well.

The one gripe I had about the BBQ at Bib's was that it was actually a bit too tender. The ribs and chicken nearly fell apart when picked up. I'm guessing this is the result of sitting for hours in a warming oven before being served. This is really the only thing keeping me from giving the meat very high marks. I would love to have tried the meat right off the smoker. I have a feeling it would have been perfect.

Bib's Downtown definitely satisfied my BBQ craving. I can always get down with a place that serves up large helpings of real deal BBQ with a smile. I look forward to many return visits. There are dozens more menu items to sample and intriguing weekly specials. Recent specials include BBQ meatloaf, lamb chops, and BBQ eggrolls.

Recipe: Huli Huli Wings

Huli Huli chicken is a classic Polynesian dish cooked rotisserie style over an open flame. Literally translated, "huli huli" means "turn turn" in reference to the traditional cooking method. This recipe adapts the Hawaiin favorite to grilled wings for an awesome sweet and salty treat. Additionally, our wings are given an added dimension of spice with crushed pepper flakes.

4 lbs chicken wings (30-35 wings)
2 tablespoons olive oil

Huli Huli Sauce:
2 Cups Pineapple Juice
1/2 Cup Ketchup
1/4 Cup Soy Sauce
1/4 Cup Brown Sugar
1/4 Cup White Vinegar
1/4 Cup Asian Chii Sauce
1 teaspoon dried ginger
1 teaspoon minced garlic
Red Pepper Flakes (optional)

Drizzle the wings with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Toss the wings in a bowl to ensure that they are seasoned evently.

Grill the wings over medium heat for about 30 minutes. Be sure to "huli" them after 15 minutes. When grilling with charcoal, keep a close eye on the wings. They will char quickly.

While the chicken cooks, it's time to work on the sauce. Combine all the ingredients in a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for several minutes (stirring occasionally) until the sauce thickens.

When the wings are done and the sauce has thickened, place both in a large bowl and toss together.

These wings are sweet, salty, sticky and delicious. The flavor is akin to General Tso's sauces I've had at Chinese takeout joints.

This recipe was inpsired by an episode of America's Test Kitchen.

Recipe: Armadillo Eggs

Looking for the perfect manly finger food to serve at your next football party? Armadillo eggs are a cousin to the ABT and are a favorite on the BBQ trail. These spicy, creamy and meaty treats are more than a mouthful.

3-4 large jalapenos (or sweet banana peppers)
2 lbs of breakfast sausage
1/2 cup of shredded cheese
4 oz cream cheese

Yields 18-24 Eggs
Cook / Prep Time: 75 minutes

Quarter the peppers and remove the seeds. For the larger peppers, you may need to cut them into several chunks.

Mix the cream cheese and shredded cheese together in a bowl. This will be your filling for the peppers.

Cram each section of pepper with the cheese mixture. Fill each cavity completely.

Take a portion of the sausage and press it into a thin patty. Center the cheese filled pepper in the patty and wrap the sausage evenly around the pepper. Press and seal the edges.

If you spread your sausage thin, 2 lbs should yield 24 eggs. Mine were on the thick side so I only got 18. Season the eggs with your favorite BBQ rub and cook them @ 325 for 30-45 (depending on thickness). These absolutely work best on the smoker (with mesquite wood), but can be done in the oven as well. You'll miss out on that added smokey flavor element, but they'll still be tasty.

Don't be alarmed if some of that molten hot cream cheese squirts out of the eggs. It's bound to happen. Some people sauce these, but they have enormous flavor on their own. I didn't find sauce necessary.

Armadillo Eggs are great served whole and hot off the smoker, but they're also excellent chilled and sliced. Slices also make delicious toppings for homemade pizza.

There are numerous recipes for Armadillo Eggs on the web, but the inspiration for this particular recipe was drawn from

Smoked Meatloaf with Brown BBQ Gravy

We're going with old fashioned comfort food this week. Using a smoker, rather than a convection oven, our beef and pork meatloaf has a beautiful smoke ring that adds a whole new dimension of flavor. Additionally, BBQ sauce is added to homestyle brown gravy for a unique, savory topping that's awesome on both meat and potatoes.

1.5 lbs ground beef (80/20)
1 lb breakfast sausage
1 small onion (diced)
2 eggs
2 tablespoons of breadcrumbs

3 cups beef broth
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flower
2 teaspoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons water
Salt and pepper

Makes 6 servings
Prep / Cook time: 2 Hours

Mix the meat, onions, eggs and breadcrumbs thoroughlly with your hands. You can use all beef, but I love the added fat and flavor that breakfast sausage brings to the table.

Form the mixture into a loaf. For even cooking try to make the loaf equally thick throughout. Season the outside liberally with your favorite BBQ rub. This will give the outside a nice dark crust. Place the loaf in an aluminum pan.

Set up your grill or smoker for indirect cooking. We're shooting for a temp of 325 degrees. Cook time should be about an hour and forty-five minutes. I used hickory wood for it's smooth, but bold smoke flavor. Mesquite would also be a good option.

When the meatloaf is nearly done, it's time to start on the gravy. Melt the butter in a sauce pan over medium heat. Add the flour and wisk thoroughly for a couple minutes.

Add 3 cups of beef broth. Dissolve the corn starch in 2 tablespoons of water and add to the broth. Bring to a boil and continue to wisk until the gravy thickens. Season with salt and pepper.

Check the meatloaf with an instant read thermometer. We're looking for an internal temp of 160 degrees. When the meatloaf is done, remove from the pan and let rest for 10-15 minutes before slicing.

Serve with mashed potatoes and your favorite vegetable. This meatloaf is comfort food at its absolute best. You'll be amazed how much the smoke adds to the meat's flavor.

Old Mule Original BBQ-Marinade-Dipping Sauce

As most of you know, I moved from North Carolina to Michigan this summer. Fearing I wouldn't have quite the same access to great BBQ products in the Wolverine state as I did in the Carolinas, I spent our last week in North Carolina scouring supermarkets for local sauces. On my final trip to Harris Teeter (High Point, NC), I picked up a jar of Old Mule Original BBQ-Marinade-Dipping Sauce.

Old Mule Inc. is a small, family run operation that cooks their sauces on a farm in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The sauce originated as a homemade treat given as Christmas presents to friends and family. As with many small businesses, it took several years and a lot of support (and prodding) from family to turn Old Mule into an actual business venture.

Old Mule Original is packaged for retail sale in either 18 oz glass mason jars or half gallon glass jugs. The vintage brown label is simple, but stylish. According the Old Mule website, they were shooting for a look "reminiscent of the old time general store." The original sauce is a beautiful mahogany color, speckled with black pepper and various spices. It's fairly thick, but still pours quickly thanks to the large opening on the mason jar.

Despite it's deep Carolina roots, Old Mule Original is a tomato based sauce. It is, however, accented heavily with vinegar. More like something out of the Midwest, Old Mule is fairly sweet thanks to brown sugar and corn syrup. The vinegar, along with a bit of pepper spice are clearly noticable in the finish. The overall tone of the sauce is very well balanced. It's a Kansas City sauce with an extra bit of vinegar tang.

I was anxious to sample Old Mule because it just looked so great in the jar. The color and thickness screamed RIBS so I picked up a few slabs of baby backs (got an incredible buy). I used Old Mule as a finishing sauce for the slow smoked ribs and was thrilled with the results. The rich color and smooth texture made the ribs a work of art. I felt like Picasso as I carefully glazed each rack.

As I'd expected, the flavor of the sauce was a perfect compliment to the smokey pork. It especially paired nicely with the sweet and savory BBQ rub (Jake's) I'd used. Like so many other sauces, Old Mule seemed to get better when heated. It thinned slightly, but still maintained a rich, bold flavor with just a hint of tangy spice. It went over well with the Michiganders that I fed.

The previous paragraphs would seem to suggest that I enjoyed my first taste of Old Mule. However, just to make my feelings about the sauce clear, it should be noted that Old Mule Original BBQ-Marinade-Dipping Sauce was my choice to use in my first competition cook. I did test cooks with a few excellent sauces, but ultimately settled on Old Mule for it's bold flavor and beautiful color. It should also be noted, however, that I never actually competed. With the impending due date of our daughter just a few days after the event, I was reluctant to pay the entry fee with the possibility of being unable to compete looming.

Fortunately for me, no competition meant that I got to enjoy more of the sauce for myself. Old Mule was just as tasty on back yard BBQ as it would have been in competition. Who knows, if I'm fortunate enough to score another jar, maybe I'll use it for next year's competition. Re-stocking on sauce may be a good excuse for a return trip to North Carolina.

For more info on Old Mule sauces, check out Don't forget to see how Old Mule Original BBQ-Marinade-Dipping Sauce rates on The "Q" Review's "Product Reviews" page.

Recipe: Grilled Shrimp Roll

This week we step outside the norm for an easy, inexpensive take on a New England classic. Rather than breaking the bank on lobster, this delicious sandwich substitutes sweet grilled shrimp tossed in mayo and loaded on a buttered hot dog bun.

2 lbs large shrimp (peeled, deveined and tails removed)
1 1/4 cup mayo
2 tablespoons chopped dill
1/3 cup diced celery
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/4 butter
4 hot dog buns
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper

Serves 4

Grilling the shrimp is the first step. Since my grill wok is currently in storage, I elected to skewer the shrimp for the grill. Drizzle the shrimp with olive oil and season them with salt and pepper. Set the grill up for direct heat. Grill on medium/high for 2 minutes on each side (until pink).

Chop the shrimp and set aside to cool. Be sure not to over chop them. Big, succulent chunks of shrimp are what makes this sandwich so good.

Mix the mayo, celery, dill and lemon juice thoroughly while the shrimp cools.

Brush each hotdog bun with melted butter and brown them on the grill. The crispy, buttery bun is one of the key elements to pulling this sandwich together.

Toss the chopped shrimp in the mayo mixture. Load up the buns with equal portions of the mixture. They can be served warm or chilled (lettuce and tomato optional). Cape Cod kettle cooked chips are good compliment to the sweet, creamy shrimp.

Despite being ultra easy, this is a dish that is sure to wow guests. Small touches like fresh dill and buttery grilled buns elevate this to a top shelf sandwich. It sure beats hot dogs.

Original recipe from

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