30 September 2015


If the name "Pork Barrel" makes you think of politics, that's no coincidence. Heath Hall and Brett Thompson got the idea to get into the barbecue business while working in Washington, D.C. for former Missouri Senator Jim Talent. When Talent lost his reelection bid in 2006, Hall and Thompson went whole hog into the barbecue business, developing a sauce and eventually a barbecue restaurant in the D.C. area.

The Original version of the sauce is a dark amber color, specked with spices, and is of medium thickness. The taste is immediately more tangy than sweet, with notes of smoke, chili powder, and celery complementing the vinegary tang. As expected, the sweetness takes the lead in the Sweet version, with the tanginess taking a back seat. The sweetness is complex, with tones of molasses and tamarind, and a little bit more heat. The Mustard version is slightly thicker, with plenty of flavorful bits in the mix. Yes, there's mustard, but it's also got plenty of sweetness, a bit of tomato flavor and still more heat.

Original: B
Sweet: A
Mustard: A-

22 September 2015


As I continue to review barbecue sauces, I'm seeing more and more sauce companies with product lines that are larger and larger. Many are not satisfied anymore with just a couple sauces and a couple varieties of rub. Now barbecuers are expanding into marinades, hot sauces, salsas, and even jams, jellies and preserves. There are some impressive offerings out there. And then there's Lynch.

At Lynch BBQ, not only can you get the sauces, the seasonings and the rubs...you can also get the pig! That's right - the Lynch family is first and foremost in the livestock business. A family operation in Iowa since 1916, Lynch Livestock is involved in nearly every aspect of the pork business, from manufacturing and selling feed to offering livestock marketing expertise. The Lynch BBQ Company, a subsidiary, offers a wide variety of sauces and seasonings, as well as Lynch's brand of bacon, sausage, bologna and barbecued meats. And yes, they also offer whole roasting pigs, from 20 to 200 pounds.

Lynch's BBQ sauces come in heavy duty glass bottles. The sauce inside is relatively thick, with that familiar reddish brown color. The mouthfeel is relatively smooth, with some fine bits detectable. The Original version is sweet and just a little tangy, with a nice pronounced onion flavor on the back end. It's a nice sauce, but I found the Spicy version to be even better. The Spicy version, however, is not necessarily any spicier, or at least hotter. It does feature a more complex blend of spices, including a noticeable hint of cumin that I really liked. It's also a bit smokier. All in all, a nice pair of sauces that do indeed do Iowa proud.

Original: B+
Spicy: A

15 September 2015


Ubon's is another competition team that has been in the game a long time and seen a lot of success and accolades. But in this case, the sauce came long before the Grand Championships and the restaurant. Garry Roark created the sauce in 1986, based on his father Ubon Roark's recipe, which dates back several generations even before him. So this is definitely a sauce with some history. And yet it totally translates to the 21st century.

I like the bold look of the label. I like that it's got Mr. Roark's smiling face right there on the label, opposite a QR code - old school and new school. And I like that it tells you how to pronounce the name right there on the side of the bottle - "YOU-BAHNS".

The sauce itself is a pleasantly tangy one, developed in an age before everything had to be so darn sweet. It's a bright burst of vinegar flavor on the front end, balanced by just enough sweetness. The finish is more savory, with the faintest trace of heat. It's a sauce that would likely be a great complement to pork. And Ubon's makes what's reputed to be a killer Bloody Mary mix, too - for your refreshment while you're cooking that pork.

Grade: A-

09 September 2015

BBQ SAUCE OF THE WEEK: Memphis Barbecue Co

Melissa Cookston actually hails from Mississippi, but Memphis is where she's made her name. She's won Grand at Memphis in May twice and has won the Whole Hog category four of the last five years (!). She's appeared on BBQ Pitmasters as both a competitor and a judge, and is now a best-selling cookbook author as well. As of late, she has also been a restaurateur. After a previous career in chain restaurant regional management, Cookston opened Memphis Barbecue Company in the North Mississippi suburbs of Memphis in 2011. They have since opened locations in the Atlanta suburbs and in Fayetteville, North Carolina. And if you've got a chain of barbecue restaurants, you've gotta have a sauce!

The sauce is typical of West Tennessee sauces in that it's ketchup-based, but has plenty of vinegar too, so it's not too thick. It's got that amber color and a texture that's smooth, but with some tiny bits visible. It's definitely sweet, but immediately also offers a rich, robust savoriness that sets it apart. It's an extra dose of Worcestershire, I think, and it's nice. It's followed by notes of garlic and onion that round out the flavor, and finally, a little bit of heat. Very well balanced, and overall, very enjoyable.

Grade: A

03 September 2015


Who says they don't use barbecue sauce in Texas? SuckleBusters call themselves "The Best in Texas" and they've got the accolades to back up that claim - Scovies, NBBQA awards, American Royal wins and more. The brand, created by Dan and Cheryl Arnold, has really blown up in recent years and is now available at over 350 retail locations across the country. They've now got a massive product line that includes rubs, sauces, salsas, chili kits and even jellies and preserves. If variety is the spice of life, SuckleBusters is truly bustin' with flavor.

Take their barbecue sauces, for example - they've got six...six!...different sauces. It all starts with the Original. It's refreshingly thin (first ingredient: vinegar), with a glossy amber color and a nice smooth texture. And although the aroma is pretty pedestrian, the flavor packs a lot of punch. It's tangier and spicier than most barbecue sauces in this style, resulting in a taste that's bright and crisp at first and warm on the finish.

From there, you can go in several different directions with SuckleBusters' other offerings. The Honey version tilts the balance away from tanginess and toward sweetness, bordering on too sweet. The Spicy Peach is tangier AND sweeter than the original, unmistakably peachy and more heat forward. It's a little thicker too. Hot and Spicy is very similar to the original, although somehow actually less spicy. The Chipotle and Gold flavors seem cut from a different cloth. Chipotle is darker, thicker and noticeably chunkier than the others. It's hotter and smokier, with a mellower sweetness, and it is probably my favorite. The Gold is much thicker and stickier. The mustard flavor is strong, but there are also notes of apple and a strong jolt of jalapeno - in fact, this is probably the spiciest of all the sauces. It is tasty, but it's not hard to imagine it overpowering many things you'd put it on.

Report Card
Original: A
Honey: B
Spicy Peach: A-
Hot and Spicy: B+
Chipotle: A
Gold: B+

23 August 2015


Mic check one two...is this thing on? OK, so it's been awhile since I've darkened the doorway here at the Ulika Food Blog. Like, a long while. I wish I had a good excuse for why I've been away so long, but I don't. I still love barbecue as much as ever; I guess I've just been selfishly keeping the good stuff to myself (or retreating further and further into my own isolation...take your pick).

Anyway, I got my hands on some new barbecue sauces and thought, "Why not? If nothing else, just for old time's sake." So without further ado, here we go.

Dimples comes from North Carolina, but this ain't no vinegar-based mop sauce. In fact, if I had to guess at its origin, I would have thought Kansas City. It's dark in color, thick, sweet and smoky. There is some vinegar tang and some Worcestershire savoriness that plays nicely with the sweet and the smoke. No matter where it come from, it's tasty - a great middle of the road barbecue sauce that is sure to be a crowd-pleaser.

Grade: B+

10 March 2014


This week’s BBQ Sauce comes to us from the ATL Georgia made by the fine folks at Firebud Brands. While cooking a whole hog at an SEC tailgate party Michael McCord was tasked with coming up with a sauce to compliment the succulent pig that had been cooking all night. What he came up with was a cider vinegar mustard sauce that would later be known as Slap Sauce.

Slap Sauce is the signature sauce of Firebud Brands, and it is easy to see why. The sweet tangy sauce is a little sweeter than what most people think of when they think of a mustard sauces. Therefore, this sauce is much more inviting to those outside the mustard region. You get a little black and red pepper on the backend for a nice balanced finish. Overall, I think this sauce would be a great introduction to mustard sauces for most people, and I can see people who have never tried a mustard sauce really enjoying this one.

Grade: B+

30 November 2013


Steve Ownby never imagined he'd wind up in the barbecue business. After retiring from a career in the insurance business, Ownby wasn't sure what to do with himself. He didn't hunt, fish or play golf, but he was a KCBS Certified Barbecue Judge and enjoyed cooking in his spare time. And other people enjoyed what he was cooking. One catering call led to another and before he knew it, he had a full-fledged catering business on his hands based out of his home in East Tennessee - Holy Smoke BBQ. And after months of using commercially available barbecue sauces and rubs for his catering business, Ownby eventually decided he needed his own line of products. He developed the products under the tutelage of one of the best - Bill Arnold, of Blues Hog Barbecue fame.

Long time readers of this blog know that Blues Hog is one of favorite barbecue sauces of all time. I have said before that I would eat shoe leather if I could dip it in Blues Hog. And I'm happy to report that Holy Smoke BBQ is a delicious apple that did not fall far from the tree. The sauce has a similar favor profile to Blues Hog - sweet, with a very mild burn on the back end, with some very interesting spice notes lingering in the mix. The consistency is thinner, though, which I like. Overall, this is simply one of the best sauces I have tasted. Do yourself a favor and give it a try!

Grade: A+

02 November 2013


Who doesn't love a good family recipe? Using a recipe from your ancestors creates a connection through generations and lets those loved ones live on each time someone enjoys that special family concoction. I treasure those recipes that have been handed down from my grandparents and great grandparents. That's why I think Millie's Barbecue Sauce is so special. Craig Brown and his wife Toni have taken his mother's secret recipe for barbecue sauce and shared it with the world in these great barbecue sauces. The Browns began by selling their sauces at St. Louis area farmers markets, and their popularity is growing.

The sauce comes in two variations - Sweet & Tasty and Sweet & Spicy. The Sweet & Tasty is a relatively straightforward Kansas City style sauce - thick and dark, sweet and sultry. Besides sweetness, there is a nice citrus-y brightness and a bit of vinegary tanginess. It's not quite as smoky as most KC-style sauces, but does have darker notes of molasses and raisins that are a nice touch. The Sweet & Spicy offers slightly more heat, though it is still quite mild.

Grade: B+

19 October 2013

BBQ SAUCE OF THE WEEK: Jay's Hole in the Wall

Jay Wilfong is a man of many talents. Based in Mt. Juliet, Tennessee, he's been making music in Middle Tennessee for many years under the name Dr. Fong (listen here). He's been a barbecue restaurateur several times in the last four decades. And now he's got a line of barbecue sauces called Jay's Hole in the Wall.

Jay's products are featured in Kroger stores, and you can see that these bottles will surely stand out among the other barbecue sauces in the condiment aisle. If the colorful motif makes you think of reggae and rasta, that's just fine with Jay - his culinary style is heavily influenced by the flavors and spices of Jamaica and the Caribbean. The wax coating on the top adds more tropical flair (although I found them somewhat hard to remove).

Jay's Hole in the Wall has four primary flavors - Mild, Spicy, Firey Irie and Tennessee Tater Dip'n Sauce. The Mild is a recipe that Jay developed over 40 years ago when he opened his first restaurant. It's a relatively thick, lighter colored sauce. It is tangy and sweet, with a lot of mustard flavor. The Spicy version is essentially the same sauce, but with more heat on the finish. The heat of the Spicy version brings more balance to the sweet and tangy flavors. The Tennessee Tater Dip'n Sauce has the same color and consistency, and lies somewhere between Mild and Spicy on the heat scale. It also seems a bit more on the sweet side, with less tang, less mustard flavor and more exotic spices. The Firey Irie sauce turns the exotic spices and the heat up even higher. This sauce is legitimately hot, with an interesting complement of earthy and exotic flavors swirling above a base that is still fairly sweet.

Overall, this is a fun and tasty line of products with a lot of personality - a great reflection on the man who makes them.

Grade: A

02 September 2013

Pork Pork

This weekend we picked up a 190 lb. hog from the fine folks at Bear Creek Farm.

Here is what we did with it.

36 hour sous vide pork belly that was deep fried to crisp the skin

mortadella di bologna

22 hour slow smoked pork shoulder

smoked rack of loin

slaws and watermelon/heirloom tomato salad

pop tarts made with leaf lard from the pig

new tv setup to watch college football

14 June 2013

Sizzle-Q from Little Griddle

A few months ago, I received a Sizzle-Q from the Little Griddle company in exchange for placing a link to their site on this blog. They didn't ask me to write any kind of product review, but after using the griddle, I knew that I had to let you all know about it.

As a "bbq guy," I've been gifted griddles in the past and, as many other cooks probably agree, I've found them to be pretty useless. The vast majority of the griddles on the market are flat, cast iron griddles made to go on the stovetop or the grill. They are very uneven in cooking and you never use one enough to get it properly seasoned like your trusty cast iron skillet. I won't even mention the ones with the slots that try to resemble grill marks. So, even though the Sizzle-Q had a different design and was made from stainless steel, I was still a little skeptical. But I decided to give it try on my outdoor gas grill.

Over the past several years, I have been cooking my proteins primarily in a cast iron skillet and my twenty-year-old DCS gas grill has been very neglected. The exterior of the grill is still very pristine, but it is time for some new grill grates. It seemed like perfect timing to just remove the grill grates and slap on the Sizzle-Q.

The Sizzle-Q fit perfectly on the grill and I used all three burners to get it going. I used just a little oil to season it up, then the burgers went right on. Just like a nice commercial griddle, it produced immaculate crust on both sides making for a perfect juicy burger (note: to make this perfect burger, use Bear Creek Farms beef). I was even able to use the Sizzle-Q to cook 36 burgers for a party over the weekend and it handled the task with ease as it can cook about twelve full-sized burgers at once. Whether cooking two burgers or twelve, the results were the same.

So what makes the Sizzle-Q so great? In my opinion it is all in the design. The griddle is lifted off the heating source and has a vent for air flow. This creates a much more even heating surface, which is especially important when working in volume, and it allows you to more easily control the overall temperature. Adding the little bit of oil to the surface allowed me to lift and flip the meat without the any of the common sticking issues that can cause problems when cooking in multiple batches and make cleanup difficult later. Overall, I was very impressed.

So, I'd say that if you are tired of trying to fool with your old griddle, or if you want to cook a burger on the grill - you already know you're not supposed to cook your burgers directly on the grill grates, right? - then it is time to get a Sizzle-Q.

You can find the Sizzle-Q and other Little Griddle products at Bass Pro Shops, your local specialty grill shop, or online at littlegriddle.com.

29 May 2013

R.I.P. Mrs Grissom

The legendary Mrs. Grissom of Mrs Grissom's Salads, Sandwich Spreads, and Salsa has died at the age of 94. Say what you will about the product, this lady was as hard of a worker as they come. She still went to work everyday up until just a few weeks ago.

Here's to a Nashville legend. R.I.P. Mrs. G