Whiskey or Moonshine with that BBQ Sauce?

bbq-sauceFor generations, competition cooks have secretly slipped a little alcohol into their recipes to add another layer of taste sophistication. Now, spirits have come front and center in the latest BBQ marketing strategy.

Down in Culpepper, VA, Chuck Miller makes legal moonshine (he pays taxes on it). His Belmont Farm Distillery uses locally-grown corn that is turned into mash and mixed with yeast. The magic started when Jim Sinden, a retired Marine, came along with an entrepreneurial idea – use Miller’s Kopper Kettle whiskey in his barbeque sauce. The result is Virginia Lightning Moonshine BBQ Sauce.

“It’s selling like crazy,” Sinden told the Freelance Star. “It’s instantly become my No. 1 product.”  They even made the local news in Washington DC. Watch it here.

Linking hillbilly chic with BBQ is not new. As early as 2002, Pappy’s Moonshine Madness BBQ Sauce claimed it was “So hot, you’ll go blind!”  Like its homemade liquor namesake, Pappy’s starts off smooth and the BAM hits you like a load of bricks. Continue reading “Whiskey or Moonshine with that BBQ Sauce?”


Silver Lake Apple & BBQ Cook-Off Festival

Silver Lake Apple & BBQ Cook-Off Festival

Had a wonderful time at Silver Lake this past weekend. The festival and contest, now in its 10th years, draws a veritable who’s who of regional competitive BBQ and the KCBS contest is the highlight of the year for many KCBS judges, me included!

Silver Lake Sand Dunes holds its very popular Apple BBQ Cook-Off Festival in the business district of Mears, MI. highlights include the BBQ Cook-Off Competition, Apple Pie Contest, arts/crafts show and farm fresh apples of Oceana County. Also featured are the Classic Auto and Truck Show and Dune Buggy Show

This year, the ribs category was phenomenal, chicken and pork had some stars and a couple of good tries that didn’t quite catch fire. But it was in Brisket, that only the 4th perfect score in Michigan BBQ history was earned by “Smokin’ In The D” BBQ team. The overall brisket quality was some of the best on the circuit this year. Must be that Lake Michigan air! RESULTS

I always enjoy contests repped by Ron and Dena Milhous. They run a tight contest. Fair, but flexible.  I’ve never heard a bad thing about their work.

I collected pictures of the logos of just a few of the teams. We have some creative cookers out there. If you know the back story on any of these teams, add it to the comments. I really think it is important for the cooks and judges to learn more about the people behind the smokers and the badges.

Hernandez Style BBQ
What a great family BBQ team.
OMG bbq
OMG BBQ – Licensed to Cook
Bivouac BBq
Almost didn’t see these guys! Bivouac BBQ
Holy smokers mi bbq
May He remember all your meal offerings And find your burnt offering acceptable! Psalms 20:3. Holy Smokers MI BBQ
Smokin in the d bbq team
We had an unbelievable day at The Silver Lake Apple BBQ Festival. We scored a perfect 180 score in Brisket, only the 4th in Michigan BBQ History.We also captured Reserve Grand Champion.
Jamberie Smoke BBQ
Jambrie Smoke BBQ –
Mutts & Butts – husband and wife BBQ team. But their mutts, Cleo and Reese, really run the show.

Pork fat slim
Pork Fat Slim’s Backyard BBQ

Meat Rubbers
Meat Rubbers BBQ. Team

Firehouse snoke bbq team
Firehouse Smoke BBQ – team led by Jim Goodrich-Smith

Isweet racks and smoin bxutts
Sweet Racks & Smokin’ Butts BBQ team

Mac Attack BBQ, Fennville, MI = Grand Champions



BBQJudger Quoted on Opening of New Restaurant in Pontiac

The Oakland Press reports that the Detroit landmark Slows Bar-B-Q is expanding into Pontiac.

Owner Phillip Cooley to the Oakland Press, “We chose Pontiac as the site of our first Metro Detroit expansion for the same reasons we chose Corktown. It’s an underserved community with a defined identity and potential for an exciting evolution.”

@BBQJUDGER added his thoughts about the addition of another BBQ emporium in the area.

The restaurant will occupy 6,500 square feet adjoining The Strand Theatre For the Performing Arts, the city’s newest development investment and only performing arts theater located at 12 N. Saginaw Street. Construction on the Slows Bar-B-Q in Pontiac will begin in early 2015 and will open in tandem with The Strand Theatre in late 2015.

Read the article to see the BBQJudger quote:


taxpayerThis is an actual letter from the IRS from 2012. The agency spends millions each year on advertising, a little more of this would do a lot more for the beleaguered IRS.


The Internal Revenue Service is not known for compassion in dealing with us, but a couple in California fell off their kitchen stools when they opened this letter from the IRS.

Accepting the pair’s excuse that the adult brain turns to jello those first few months raising a baby,  the IRS wrote a letter to inform the couple they were annulling a $2,522 tax penalty fine.

Rounding off the explanatory letter, the IRS noted, your account is considered full paid at this time.

However the taxman did not go home empty-handed, and the lucky couple still had to hand over a check for $243.28.

Homemade Rubs — The Holiday gift that keeps giving


Great News if you are looking for a new dry rub to try, or if you are looking for an unusual holiday gift for someone.

Multi-award-winning author, journalist, cooking teacher, and TV host, Steven Raichlen is revealing some of his “go to” rub recipes as only Steve can in his latest blog post.

In America, where pit masters use rubs with greater imagination and with a freer hand than anywhere else on Planet Barbecue, rub preferences—just like barbecue itself—follow predictable regional lines.

  • In the South and Midwest, for example, barbecue rubs play a variation on a theme of salt, pepper, paprika, and brown sugar with onion or garlic powder and/or celery or mustard seed for counterpoint.
  • Texas brisket masters use a no-nonsense blend of coarse salt and cracked or coarsely ground black pepper (in roughly equal parts), sometimes igniting the mixture with hot pepper flakes.
  • As you move west, rubs acquire the south-of-the-border accents of chili powder, cumin, and oregano.
  • In my neck of the woods (Miami, Florida), rubs dance to a tropical beat in the form of sazon (a Spanish-Caribbean salt, pepper, garlic, and oregano rub from Puerto Rico) or a scotch bonnet- and allspice-blasted dry jerk rub from Jamaica.
  • Then there are what you might call the “maverick” rubs—rubs flavored with offbeat ingredients you wouldn’t normally associate with barbecue, like cocoa powder or ground coffee.

CLICK HERE to read Steve’s new post on his blog, Steve Raichlen’s Barbecue! Bible

Attention BBQ Pitmasters Season 5 Hopefuls

I just got this notice from Kansas City Barbeque Society.  Get cracking if you want a slot on the show. I will watch and cheer you on. GRIFF

Attention BBQ Pitmasters Season 5 Hopefuls

Please note that due to an unavoidable schedule conflict, the due date for Video Audition Submissions for BBQ Pitmasters Season 5 has changed to December 29th, 2013. We encourage all applicants to get their videos in by that time or well before to ensure that Destination America has the best pool of candidates to choose from for the episodes! We apologize for the shift and look forward to seeing videos soon. Please send any questions to The Casting Team at bbqpitmasterscasting@gmail.com

Pitmasters… start your fires for Season Five of Destination America’s hit series, BBQ Pitmasters!

Once again, Destination America/Original Media is putting out the call to smokers fromAmerica’s legendary BBQ cities! Pitmasters with wild personalities and unbeatable skills at the smoker in the states of Texas, Tennessee, Missouri, North Carolina, and Georgia* are challenged to duke it out for a chance at a $50,000 Grand Prize and bragging rights as the undisputed Season Five BBQ Pitmasters Grand Champion!
*If you’re not from one of the regions listed, never fear! Throw your hat in for the Wild Card Episode- open to Pitmasters from all over the states!


  • Interested Pitmasters and their team should prepare a high energy, entertaining, and impressive video showing off your competitive, zestful, in-it-to-win-it personalities- we want to know why you’re the Pitmaster to beat!
  • We especially want to know why the ‘Que you’re cooking up is the best in YOUR region. For example, if you are in Georgia, tell us what “Georgia BBQ” is supposed to be and how you smoke up the best!
  • Upload your video and send the link to BBQPitmasterscasting@gmail.com with TEAM NAME – LEAD PITMASTER LAST NAME – CITY as the subject line (ex: HOTPANTS SMOKERS – JOHNSON – AUSTIN TX).
  • Be sure to provide a good contact phone number in the email, as well as a picture of you and your teammate.
  • If your video convinces us that you are going to go all the way, we will contact you with the next steps!


Original Media
C/O BBQ Pitmasters
Attn Brian Small
175 Varick St, 7th Floor
New York, NY 10014

Visit Brian Small’s Blog

Judge like the Pros at BBQCRITIC

One of my latest guilty pleasures is to practice my KCBS judging skills between contests with the help of the great folks at BBQCRITIC.

The concept is amazingly simple — look at real boxes and compare your scores with other judges.  It goes a long way to one of the KCBS goals which is to have consistent judging within contests and week after week.

Great content on this site includes:


Certified BBQ Judge Columnists

Cooks sit down with BBQ judges to discuss their turn in scores at this unique BBQ contest. Includes several video interviews and a photo gallery of the event.