Caribeque is the rub that started it all when it comes to my barbecue fetish. It is only natural that I continue to return the love and pay it forward all the same as I continue my barbecue journey. Kurt Halls, the man behind the company, released the new rub — the first one in a series of three — last week: Caribeque Signature Series Chicken Rub. Sure, the name isn’t flashy, but who needs flash when you have substance? The name tells you what it is, and that’s good enough for me. This is a full-fledged chicken seasoning and a half. If you were expecting anything else, go home, you are drunk.
Waiting for this rub was like being a child and waiting for Christmas day to arrive but it only being the 23rd of December. As in, a couple of days felt like forever. I only tout products I believe in, and I’m a huge supporter of Caribeque, so I couldn’t wait to greet my tastebuds with this creation.
The story is simple: I was firing up my Barrel House Cooker 18C with a little bit of wood in order to clean off the outside of the unit (the heat makes it easier). I received a notification that my Caribeque shipment had arrived at the post office. Immediately, I left my house, bought some chicken breasts from the grocery store, picked up the package from the post office and as soon as I made it home, I added some cherrywood in my Barrel House Cooker that was still stoked, cut the chicken breasts thin, rubbed ’em with the almighty Caribeque Signature Series Chicken Rub, added them to the BHC, cracked the lid and cooked these babies at about 350 (according to the lid temps; actual temps were probably closer to 400) degrees for around 20 minutes. No charcoal. Straight cherrywood.
The sandwich construction is simple:
Brioche bun (toasted optional)
Thinly sliced chicken breast
As many pickles as you can stand it
If you have a Barrel House Cooker, trust the process:
I’m a firm believer in Caribeque because every rub or seasoning I have had from Kurt Halls has been top notch, and I’m not spewing this in order to receive anything or something like that. It’s just that the flavor concoctions he has created have amplified my food and encouraged me to up my game in the culinary side of things. The best thing about Kurt is that he will take the time to engage in a conversation with you. I could reach out to him right now and hear back, and it doesn’t matter if you have thousands of followers or 700 like I do or less. I’m not sure why other rub companies don’t do this. I definitely understand being busy, but as someone who engages in both marketing and advertising on virtually a daily basis, having a social presence and engaging the people who have not only spent their money on your products but are also posting about it? That is crucial and should be a goal for everyone who ‘configures’ a business. Sheepishly, I’d like to believe that business is in my blood, as I watched my father build an extremely successful business, once upon a time, selling coal mining parts in southwest Virginia. I saw first hand how the personality of an owner and how he engages customers can make or break a business. It seems like a lot of these companies in the barbecue world fail to do this, for whatever reason. (Apathy?) Kurt does it right, and I see the man as an incredible asset to the world of ‘Q.
Kurt personally told me over the phone that his ultimate goal with his new Signature Series line with Caribeque is to go back to the basics. He expressed concern over how too many of these seasoning/rub companies are coming out with bizarre flavors that are kinda mucking up (my words here; paraphrasing) the cabinets of kitchens, and how he wants to go back to the basics. For example, if you want to season up your chicken with something, it’s a no-brainer to go with the new chicken rub, because it is tailor made for chicken.
One more tip about the chicken rub: I added it to freshly fried potatoes last week and I ended up making several batches among five people. Ten pounds of potatoes were gone faster than you can believe. This rub is not just for chicken, folks. This adds a tremendous amount of flavor to crispy potatoes.
Yes, I am biased: when it comes to rubs, I have what I call the ‘Mystical Six’ that I consistently go back to: Caribeque, Reload Rub, The Killer Cook, Grill Your Ass Off, Meat Church and Code 3 Spices. However, Caribeque is my favorite, because those rubs are the ones that truly started it all for me in my journey of barbecue. Not when I first began to throw down some grilling and barbecue goodness but when I started to delve deeper into Instagram. That is why I can’t help but to constantly return to those rubs over and over again. Can you blame me?
So much has changed since I began this site.
It all started with a STOK drum grill, and then a Weber Smokey Mountain. Now? I’m using a Weber kettle and still rocking out with my Weber Smokey Mountain, but the Blackstone griddle has joined in on the fun and I’ve added two Barrel House Cookers to my outdoor cooking arsenal. I can’t wait to see what’s in store for the future for this site and the culinary side of things.
I thought I would write a brief update here before making some much needed changes to the site.
Maybe I have a smoker fetish. It started when the little lady’s family gave me their old stick burner — a vertical offset Brinkmann Trailmaster. Her dad switched over to a horizontal offset and the one they gave me had been sitting out and not being used. Rather than allowing it to just sit there, they fixed it up and gave it to me! I will always be grateful and appreciative of that act of generosity. I loved using it, but the effects of weathering produced rust and eventually holes and cracks that rendered it unusable for long smokes. Sometimes I feel like I let them down by not being able to take better care of it. I digress.
In June 2017 I bought a Weber Smokey Mountain cooker. It is the holy grail in terms of set it’n’forget it smoking that involves charcoal and wood (I specifically mention that last part because pellet grills might be the ultimate cooker for those in the game for set it’n’forget it cooking). My appetite for collecting different types is insatiable, however.
The rise of barrel cookers seem to be on the up and up, but the UDS (“Ugly Drum Smoker”) design has been around for seemingly eons, with people creating a smoker from the ground up. However, there are two UDS style smokers on the market right now that are more popular than the others. There is the Pit Barrel Cooker, which is the most popular if you count the amount of people touting it on social media (namely Instagram, which is my favorite), and then there is the Barrel House Cooker. There is some kind of legal bullshit going on between the two companies. I won’t get into it because I’m not a lawyer and feel no obligation to talk about the nitty gritty, but apparently whoever was working on the Pit Barrel Cooker, originally, decided to go and assist in the creation of the Barrel House Cooker — that caused shit to hit the fan, and that’s all I know. I don’t really care, and most of the people you see on the web proclaiming they do are drama lovers who enjoy spinning their wheels from what I can discern.
The main attraction to the barrel style of cooking, for me, was the prospect of hanging meats, faster cooker time and less charcoal (compared to the 22.5″ Weber Smokey Mountain cooker that I have; I love my WSM, but it is a charcoal hog and a half). Basically, you hang meats above the charcoal and, in the closed cooking environment, the drippings (read: grease!) from the meats fall onto the charcoal and the smoke from the vapors give the meat a flavor to die for.
For me, it came down to either the PBC (Pit Barrel Cooker) and the BHC (Barrel House Cooker). As you can see by the title of this post, you already know which one I purchased. It basically came down to the ease of adding charcoal during a cook or getting it started more efficiently (the removable middle section from the charcoal base makes it extremely easy) as opposed to the PBC. Furthermore, you can take the grate that the cooker comes with and use it as a hibachi insert by removing the middle section and sitting the grate directly over the coals. For my very first cook, I hung a 3.8-lb. beef Tri-Tip that I purchased from Appalachian Meats in Lebanon, Virginia (hi, Brandon and Victoria! Great people! If you are in the area, check out their shop), cooked it until about 120-125 degrees and then seared it over the grate, hibachi style.
Before purchasing, I watched a good bit of videos of the BHC on YouTube. Something I found to be a common theme was that a few of the folks mentioned that Barrel House Cooker Company sent them their cookers for free because they wanted feedback on the cooker. Objective feedback. Well, opposite of the users on YouTube, I purchased mine at the regular price point ($249 plus tax) and feel even more obligated than those users to deliver a full-fledged objective review given that I pumped cash into it. There is no sunken cost fallacy going on here. Just a dude giving his thoughts on the cooker he bought. By the way, there are two models currently available: the 14D (14″) and the 18C (18″). I like cooking a good bit of food most of the time, so I went with the 18, but the 14 sure is tempting in the future.
The first thing I noticed when I was putting my BHC together was there was a weird lookin’ spot on the charcoal base that looked like a spot of rust. Not a huge deal, but it isn’t something you want to see out of your brand new cooker that you spent good money on either. I contacted them over this and
Jeremy Cunha (who I believe is the head honcho of the BHC Co.)* responded by basically saying to use it for a while and, if I run into any problems, contact ’em. I wasn’t so much complaining when I emailed them as much as I was making them aware of a quality control issue. The YouTube user Meathead, who also received a free cooker from the company, told me in a comment that Barrel House is coming out with some stainless steel charcoal baskets and that they would send me one for free if I asked them. I asked Jeremy about this, but he did not address it in the replied email. Hmm… hopefully the stainless steel charcoal baskets aren’t only sent free to the YouTubers who were already sent free cookers… again, I emphasize, hopefully that isn’t the case as that would be pretty disappointing for BHC loyalists who splurged and spent a great deal of moolah, but I digress… the customer service is solid. You can expect responses in a timely manner. I’ve dealt with them via email and phone.
(*Quick retraction here: an embarrassing one, actually, but I’ll leave it since it is hilarious and I can poke fun at myself. I genuinely thought Jeremy Cunha was the man behind the Barrel House Cooker. Alright, alright, I’ve learned from the man himself that he is not. Jeremy is a brand ambassador for Barrel House Co.! So, he is a brand ambassador. Still, a cool dude and you can tell he loves the cooker or else he wouldn’t be doing what he is doing. I bet the BHC team had a laugh about that one. Looking back, I will, as well! Apparently the owner/president behind the product is a low-key guy. Dude must be like Charlie (i.e Charlie’s Angels). Either way, he is the braintrust behind the company and is the man with ideas. I’m probably on his shitlist for getting the ‘head honcho of BHC Co.’ wrong. Ha.)
Assembly was extremely easy and hassle-free. The only thing I hate about putting things together is keeping up with screws, washers, nuts and bolts. I have a phobia about losing small parts when putting things together. Maybe it is just my cooker, but the first thing I noticed is that the middle section does not snugly sit on the charcoal base. Maybe that was the intended design, but I can kinda rock it back and forth on the charcoal base by barely moving it. If it is intended to be that way, fair game, but I thought that would be a point worth noting.
I had to wait four days before I could actually use my BHC, but by cracky, I finally had my chance. First cook: that beef Tri-Tip from Appalachian Meats that I was talking about.
Everything went better than expected. I rubbed the tri-tip with Hardcore Carnivore Black and hung it in the Barrel House Cooker with some hickory wood and Kingsford charcoal (good ol’ KBB — Kingsford blue bag). At 125-130 degrees or so (as monitored by my Thermoworks Smoke thermometer), I removed the tri-tip from the H-frame and removed the hook from the tri-tip, added the grate to the charcoal base and used it as a hibachi to sear my tri-tip on both sides, about a minute and a half per each side. I let it rest, and well, as you can see by the above pictures, it was cooked to a perfect medium rare and it was delicious!
The next day, I hung a whole chicken and a semi-boneless leg of lamb. Again, I used KBB as my fuel source. I can’t, for the life of me, remember what the hell I rubbed the chicken with, but I was in luck with the semi-boneless leg of lamb. I had never consumed lamb before prior to this experience. I was seeking opinions on what rub I should use, when luck would have it that I received my recently ordered package from The Killer Cook and they, by chance, sent me a sample of their Mediterranean Spice blend. I consulted with TKC on Instagram about this choice of rub for lamb, and whattya know, it pairs perfectly with it (Mediterranean and lamb goes hand in hand anyhow, but I wanted to confirm). The chicken was awesome, but the lamb was fantastic. It was super tender; I cooked it until about 140 degrees, if I recall correctly.
The third day, I hung four racks of spare ribs. On two, I rubbed ’em with Caribeque Honey Heat and on the other two I used Meat Church Holy Gospel. No much to say about these ribs except that they were phenomenal. The smokey flavor was tremendous. I’m used to ribs on my Weber Smokey Moutain. They come out virtually perfect on the WSM, but the smokey flavor that comes from the Barrel House Cooker, with the juices hitting the hot coals and creating a distinct flavor profile, you just can’t beat that.
Since then, I’ve even tried a trial of grilling on the BHC… sat the charcoal ring on the H-frame and grilled some all-natural beef dogs a few days after my first few cooks. It passed the test, but for grilling, I love my Weber kettle.
I used both my Weber Smokey Mountain as well as my Barrel House Cooker for Mother’s Day. Ribs in the BHC and pork belly burnt ends, a pork butt and mac and cheese in the WSM. My family, and some of my family’s friends loved all the food, which is the most important thing to me.
A few cooks in, I noticed some chipping/flaking around the handles on the sides of my BHC… a little disconcerting, but as long as no rust produces from it, I don’t care. Seems to be a bit of a quality control issue, but again, if it is only a superficial mark, I couldn’t care less. This is an outdoor cooker/grill/smoker… it’s going to get filthy even with a cover. I just want the cooker to last several years without any hiccups, because I know I’m going to use the hell out of it.
In the future, I’m going to use lump charcoal in my BHC, for the most part, because it doesn’t handle the ash fallout from KBB as well as my WSM does. The insane amount of ash produced from the Kingsford seems to smother the fire worse than what it does in my WSM. Strange, but it happens. I’m going to try different things. All in all, you have to learn your cooker and its kinks… they (by ‘they’, I mean different types of grills and smokers) all ‘behave’ differently’.
I hung another whole bird in my BHC today, using the brand new Reload Rub seasoning, “Packin’ Heat”. I have come to the conclusion that you can’t have chicken from anything better than this Barrel House Cooker. It was tender, juicy and full of flavor (and delicious spiciness, thanks to the Packin’ Heat from Reload)!
If I haven’t made it clear, I’m going to unabashedly state it now: I’m in absolute love with my Barrel House Cooker. It is everything I have wanted it to be. I’ve been asked by people, “Well, can’t you do the same type of cooking in your WSM by removing the water pan?” Sure, but I like that the BHC is a little bit smaller, and if I was going to consistently do the same thing with the WSM I would have to create some modifications as well as find something, or create something, that mirrors the H-frame or something like it from the BHC, and quite frankly I’m too damn lazy to do that. Also, going back to the BHC being smaller than the WSM, the WSM is a proverbial charcoal hog, while the BHC definitely is not. I love both of my cookers for their own purposes, but I think hanging meat in the BHC is badass and puts it over the top.
I’m sure the other barrel cooker is pretty awesome, but I love my BHC. If you are in the market for a smoker, I absolutely recommend the Barrel House Cooker. The customer service will take care of you if you have any problems, and you’ll have a full-fledged smoker that is about as fail-safe as a smoker can get. I can’t wait to eventually smoke a pork butt and a beef brisket in mine. It’s just too bad that a beef brisket costs 1/4th of a car payment where I live.
Barrel House Cooker: Buy or pass?
BUY. BUY. BUY. Then BUY some meats and HANG IT! (And then buy some beer and invite your friends over.)
No excuses. I’ve neglected this blog and not on purpose. Call it laziness, call it whatever. I should have been posting at least once a week or once every ten days minimum, but it’s been over four months since I’ve posted anything while I still lavish my Instagram with content.
A little over a week after my last post, I bought a 36″ Blackstone griddle on sale at Wal-Mart. The hype reverberated throughout the social media walls on Instagram and curiosity got the best of me. Overall thoughts: It’s a badass cooking gadget. My mother, who is a burgers-cooked-over-charcoal fanatic, thinks smashburgers is the greatest thing ever (she might not be wrong). Being able to cook a horde of food in one fell swoop is fantastic. Using the Blackstone was my first experience bothering with using propane for cooking. If you catch it on sale, snag it!
I received the brand new limited edition red Weber kettle grill a few weeks ago, and I’m loving it. There are a couple of minor blemishes in the finish, but it’s no big deal. It’s a grill, it’s outside, it’s going to get cooked on and it’s going to get dirty. With that said, a lot of customers are receiving damaged grills. I believe they are the vocal minority, as I think most people who received grills in good shape are quiet and/or busy cooking on ’em, but it is a bit disconcerting that so many people are receiving these damaged grills which are purportedly limited edition.
It’s my first Weber kettle, so I’m just enjoying it and having a good time. Removing the ash catcher is a little strenuous, but the more I do it I guess I’ll be developing bodybuilder-esque grip strength soon enough.
All in all, since receiving it a couple weeks ago, I’ve cooked on the kettle about five times now, most recently cooking up a couple of flat iron steaks with some peppers and onions yesterday.
I love Caribeque. I’ve tried three of the seasonings/rubs so far, and none of them have let me down.
And damn, that STOK drum grill has churned out some delicious food for my family and I so far. I can’t be more satisfied with it. My only problems are, 1.) the bottom damper vents get easy stuck, and 2.) the ash pan has ash that is pretty much stuck to it! No idea what to do about that.
I’ve played around with the brand new Caribeque AP (All Purpose) rub here and there, but they were fantastic on these wings. Even more so the next day, when I mixed some cheap Louisiana hot sauce and butter and tossed it on ’em.
Like I’ve said, Kurt Halls has something special going on with Caribeque, and I’m glad to be alive in this day and time with the opportunity to try the seasonings and rubs out. They are all terrific.