Ever since the EAT Barbecue sauces and rubs made their way into our warehouse last week, I’ve been anxious to give them a test run. Their arrival just happened to coincide with Memorial Day weekend, which also happened to be a rare off-weekend for our competition barbecue team, Burnt Finger BBQ. Since I’m always looking for reasons to fire up the smoker, we decided to use the long weekend to put the EAT Barbecue products to use and see how they perform first-hand.
The EAT Barbecue sauces and rubs are the product of Rod Gray, pitmaster for the Pellet Envy competition barbecue team. The team is comprised of Rod and his wife Sherri. The duo began competing in 2001, and since that time have managed to rack up an astronomical 50+ Grand Championships. Pellet Envy has spent 10 straight years as a nationally ranked barbecue team, was the KCBS national Team of the Year in 2009 and runner-up Team of the Year in 2010, and has been named the best cook in the country for pork ribs and beef brisket. That’s a pretty substantial resume, and the release of their new EAT Barbecue products has only strengthened it. Essentially they have bottled Pellet Envy’s championship recipes, as these are the exact BBQ rubs and BBQ sauces they use on the competition circuit week-in and week-out.
I had a few extra slabs of spare ribs hanging out in the freezer, so we decided to test out Pellet Envy’s championship rib recipe (which is made up of the EAT Barbecue ZERO to HERO barbecue rub and the EAT Barbecue IPO barbecue sauce).
The first thing to do is to get the slabs rubbed down with heavy coat of the ZERO to HERO barbecue rub. When tasting the rub straight out of the shaker its noticeably sweet, packs a strong garlic flavor, and has a bit of heat on the finish.
Gently pat the rub into the meat, and then flip the slabs over and season the other side with a heavy coat as well.
I like to give the rub some time to set on the meat before going into the smoker. This is a process called “sweating”, because the salts in your rub start pulling moisture to the surface of the meat. I let these rest for about an hour after they were seasoned. You can see that this process activated the paprika and chili powder within the rub because the coloring has gone from a bright orange to a deep red.
The ribs then went into a 275 degree smoker with apple and cherry wood. I’m lazy when it comes to doing dishes and cleaning out my smoker, so I put these over a foiled cookie sheet to catch the drippings.
Two hours later I checked on the ribs to see how they were coming along. The smoke had darkened up the slabs nicely and the bark had set, so they were ready to be wrapped.
Each slab was double wrapped in heavy duty aluminum foil with brown sugar and honey. The added sweetness creates a nice braising liquid that will glaze the meat as it continues to cook.
The foil packets were sealed up tight and returned to smoker.
Two hours later I opened up the foil packets to check the tenderness of the meat. In KCBS sanctioned contests the goal is to have the meat be tender enough to cleanly pull away from the bone when bitten, but not so tender that the entire bone falls out of the meat. I can just tell by feeling the slab if it’s cooked the way I want, but a good test to grab the end of one of the bones and twist it. If you can feel it coming loose, then you’re probably in good shape. If you’re unable to twist, then wrap up the ribs again and put them back in the smoker for another 30 minutes (repeating until tender). Of course if you’re just cooking at home, then feel free to roast the meat completely off the bone. That’s the way I prefer to eat ribs when we’re not cooking for competition. These were exactly where I wanted them, so I transferred the slabs to a cutting board and discarded the foil and remaining juices.
Next comes a slathering of EAT Barbecue IPO sauce. Rod describes it as “a Memphis sauce that defected to Kansas City”, and I would say that’s a spot on description. It’s a thin tangy sauce like you’d expect from a Memphis style product, but sports a rich dark flavor more associated with a Kansas City style. It’s easily poured, and has nice deep red coloring.
I like to slice my ribs from the backside so that I can easily see the location of the bones, so the slab was set on the cutting board with the meat side facing down and then basted with the EAT Barbecue IPO sauce.
I ran a knife between each bone, completely cutting through the meat and separating it from the rest of the slab.
I then flipped over each individual rib and basted the top side of the slab with more of the EAT Barbecue IPO barbecue sauce.
Repeat the entire process for the second slab.
And now comes the moment of truth…the tasting! The sweet rub perfectly compliments the natural flavor of the pork, and the vinegar in the sauce provides a subtle tang that adds complexity to the overall flavor of the rib. And if I do say so myself, the ribs were cooked absolutely perfect!
All in all, it’s pretty easy to see (and taste) why Pellet Envy is considered one of the best rib cooks in the country. There’s balance and complexity within the EAT Barbecue sauce and rub, and they create a beautiful coloring that made for a stunning presentation. We shared the remaining of the two slabs at our neighborhood picnic, and the decision was unanimous. The EAT Barbecue line of BBQ sauce and BBQ rub is definitely a keeper!