I don’t often recommend products from other companies. Its not that I don’t recommend other products or that I don’t find products that I like. It’s just rare that it occurs to me to do so and when it does I don’t have the forum available to do it adequately. Thanks to our new blog, where members of the DBQ Crew (name for the members of Draper’s BBQ) can post their thoughts, findings and musings, I do in fact have the ability to make those recommendations.
This past weekend Mike Owings and I took a competition BBQ class out in Kansas City. It was a great experience, but I will save the actual details of that for Mike to write about from his perspective before I give too many details away. During the course of this class we tried about 10 different sauces and rubs. We also made a stop by The KC BBQ Store in Kansas City and tried another handful of products. Note that all the links are to The KC BBQ Store….yeah they are our newest store so I got to support those that support us.
During the trip I found some products that I really liked. So what better way to say I like them than to tell you about them so you may add them to your competition or backyard flavor arsenal. I won’t go too in depth on each product, as this is more to alert you to adding them to your list of “really should give a try” products.
Product 1 – The Slabs Birds & Bones “Stephy Style” Rub
I am a rub and sauce snob, so let’s start there. I find few if any rubs / manufacturers are taking the time to develop balanced flavors that are more than salt and sugar. What I mean by that is that many products are developed based on a single flavor or ingredient and then other ingredients are thrown in the mix in a effort to flesh out the rub into something use-able. I think The Slabs have struck a great balance with this rub and it is a great offering. Not too salty, too sweet, too savory or too hot. Just a solid rub that will work in almost any setting. Very solid chemistry going on with it and I can promise you it is winning on the competition circuit.
Product 2 – The Roasterie Coffee Barbecue Rub
Some coffee rubs I have tried are just too heavy on the coffee and it comes off as almost left over or stale coffee. That is not the case here. The coffee is a real, balanced ingredient. In short it was used properly as an ingredient to add an “Earthiness” to the flavor profile. I can see where it would have been so easy to say “hey let’s add some coffee to our rub” and then proceed to have a rub that just tasted like it had coffee added to it. This rub is much more than that. You can tell there was process of testing that netted a formula where the coffee added was just enough to make a difference…but not so much to make it bitter or off putting in anyway. In the flavor profile you first get savory with a hint of coffee, then you get the typical barbecue mix of paprika, chili, garlic and onion and it finishes with a touch of sweet. Very solid and unique rub, give it a try on brisket.
Product 3 – The Salt Lick’s Original Sauce
I have tried literally hundreds of sauces. To the point I am nearly ok with the disappointment that is associated with the process. So few sauces try to add anything more to the game other than just trying to get their brand on a shelf. Most are so down the middle that its disappointing. Those that do try to do more than that typically fumble the ball and end up with something that ends up being flavored molasses. I like sweet as much as the next guy, but never at the sacrifice of balance and other flavors. If you built your sauce to compete with or as a homage to Blues Hog Original I probably don’t like it. I know that is very blunt and not very nice, but its true. In fairness to those sauces and especially to Mr. Arnold of Blues Hog I do like his two other flavors quite a bit more than the Original as they accomplish more than just being sickeningly sweet.
Enter The Salt Lick from Texas. I have read several articles about The Salt Lick and their sauce. I have wanted to try it for such a long time but never ordered any. Finally I had my chance at The KC BBQ Store and I was NOT disappointed. This sauce is fantastic. Its very much a mustard sort of sauce. You can tell this sauce would be AMAZING on some brats. It is different, in a good way. My only criticism is that the first ingredient is Soy Bean oil (I think it was Soy Bean anyway, but I know it was an oil) and while that coats the tongue I can see where it might strike some as odd. Aside from that though, seriously one of the best sauces I’ve ever had and will be a mainstay at my house from here on out.
Product 4 – Oklahoma Joe’s Restaurant
I know its not actually a product, but they deserve some props. I have never been to a restaurant where I thought they were doing literally everything well. I’m not talking competition barbecue, but just plain old good barbecue. Most restaurants fail at this miserably. The good ones manage to have 3 or 4 good things on the menu surrounded by 10 other mediocre offerings. The great ones manage to be good across the board. Well let me tell you Oklahoma Joe’s is one of the great ones. I had the pulled pork, the brisket, the sausage, the ribs and the onion rings. Yeah…I was hungry but hey I was there to see if it was as good as everyone said.
The pulled pork was done KC style. Meaning it was pork tossed in a tomato based sauce. Not my favorite way, but there was nothing wrong with the meat. It was tender, moist and smokey so I have no complaints because most don’t get that much right.
The brisket was great. Very smokey, nice smoke ring, nice flavor, nice texture and still moist. Not dripping-ly so, but plenty moist enough. I’ve turned in competition brisket less moist on a bad day, so it was good. I had this on a sandwich called the Z-Man which combines brisket, provolone cheese and two onion rings on a nice bun. Seriously one of the best sandwiches I’ve ever had. The super crunchy onion rings were just the ticket on the soft bun and brisket. Fantastic combo that I will steal and incorporate into our food truck.
The sausage was a nice offering. Not my overall favorite but nothing wrong with it either. Nice pepper coming through, good savory notes, but it begged for some of The Salt Lick’s sauce lol.
The ribs were well cooked. Slightly overdone, but that is to be expected and ok. They had great smoke which is so rare in restaurant ribs. They were not overly saucy, but sauced. Overall very solid offering. I have had better, but these were in the top 5 of restaurant ribs still.
So if you are ever in KC hit up OK Joe’s. Its a great joint and when I finally get sucked in to opening our joint I can only hope we can consistently do as many things right as they do.
Product 5 – The KC BBQ Store
I know this is going to sound like I am sucking up since I just mentioned that they picked us up as a new brand for their shelves. That said, what a great store and great bunch of guys. Each were knowledgeable about just about every product in the store, and yes Mike and I did test them. If they didn’t know the answer, they found it. If they had not tried a particular sauce they said so, more times than not they had and did a good job of figuring out what we liked flavor profile wise and steering us to some new sauces to try. I can only imagine they do this for everyone that walks through the door as their wall of sauces and rubs is very daunting. The huge glass refrigerator set right by the check out counter was filled with pretty much every brand they carry and they allow much sampling. If you are ever in KC be sure to stop in and say “hi,” pick up a case or three of Draper’s while you’re there, because they are the best in KC period.
Overall it was a great trip and even though I came home with a literal bag full of different sauces, rubs and memories these in my opinion were the best in the bag.