Tag Archive for ‘food’

My Advice for Making The Best Smash Burgers Ever

Blackstone Griddles and smash burgers are synonymous with each other, and it’s no surprise as to why: a smoking hot griddle and a sizzling ball of ground beef being smashed into a burger patty, influencing the maximum amount of surface contact for the Maillard reaction to occur, when the amino acids in the meat come into contact with the heat of the griddle, creating the beautiful brown crust and the delicious flavor we all enjoy out of a burger.

I’ve taken better burger photos in my time, so I apologize for how lackluster it is, but take a look at how thin the patty is, with the caramelized crust. I topped this one with cheddar cheese, bacon and caramelized onions & jalapenos.

Big ol’ fat burgers are nice (and I say that because I have a genuine penchant for burgers in general), but in my humble opinion, smash burgers are the best way to prepare a hamburger. When you smash the meatball, you flatten out the created-by-action patty to allow more surface area for the Maillard reaction to build a crust. The outside is given its color and flavor, and the inside stays juicy if not cooked for too long.

While making smash burgers on my Blackstone griddle is my favorite method for preparation, you can make them in a cast iron skillet as well. When I cook them on the griddle, I use high heat during the entire cook, but if I’m making them in a cast iron skillet, while I may preheat on high I will modify the heat to being between medium high to medium. The griddle, to me, is more forgiving than the cast iron on my indoor glass top stove, and maybe it is because the glass top stove, and perhaps that can be attributed to electric glass top stoves not being optimal for the very best cooking methods (debatable, but that is my limited anecdotal $.02 cents for you), so your mileage may vary pending on the equipment used.

When selecting your ground beef for smash burgers, choose a higher fat beef. An 80/20 protein to fat ground beef is the most commonly agreed on superior ratio for burgers, because there is enough fat to deliver premiere flavor in a burger, but not too fatty that a great deal of fat will render out during the cooking process. I go a little extreme, oftentimes, I suppose, because my local grocery store features amazingly cheap prices for 73/27 protein to fat ground beef, as I can usually buy 5 lbs. for $10 — there was even a special one day where it was $.99 cents a lb. and I scored 5 lbs. for $5. Even if you think 73/27 ground beef is too fatty, that was an amazing bargain. With this high fat content, I typically make larger meatballs to account for the rendered fat loss during cooking. However, 3 to 4 ounces of ground beef for smashburgers is typically recommended for 80/20 or 85/20 ground beef, though I must now admit my laziness when it comes to bothering with weighing out the meat when I prepare them. I just measure it by feel and by the judgment of my eyes.

When you have preheated your stovetop or griddle and the meatballs have been placed onto the skillet or griddle, use a heavy duty cast iron press to smash the meatball flat. I use the Blackstone stainless steel press-and-sear burger press. One tip that I recommend for this: use parchment paper under the press to smash the meatball flat in order to prevent sticking. You don’t have to, but it saves a moment of aggravation if some of the cold meat from the top of the beef sticks to the press. You may be wondering if you can use your spatula to smash the meatballs into burgers. Well, you can, I suppose, if you have a spatula that can handle the task, but most spatulas don’t have the weight to properly smash the meatballs, and in my one experience using a flimsy kitchen spatula, it created an absolute mess. Just buy yourself a press and thank me later.

Here’s a better look of the same burger from the first photo. Just admire the crust that was formed on this smash burger.

As for when to season the burgers, I’m typically known for being a guy who loves bold flavors with seasoning on both sides of the meat, but my method involves a bare meatball to begin, and after I smash it into a patty I will liberally season the upfaced side with my choice of seasoning (salt/pepper/garlic sometimes, Caribeque Big & Bold Beef, Reload Rub Fully Loaded, Blackstone All Purpose — just my four favorite methods that I switch up from time to time), and that is the only side I season. I feel that there is no need to season the other side once flipped, because by making the burger patty thin and by generously seasoning the one side, you give it enough flavor that you can taste throughout the patty versus overpowering it.

You may be wondering, “What about adding seasoning into the ground beef and mixing it up before forming the meatballs?” Salt has the potential to dry out meat by drawing out moisture. You want the inside of the patty to be juicy while the outside is properly browned. I will make a loosely packed meatball, because according to the food scientists, that is the way to go, and to my unscientifically inclined taste buds, they agree with said food scientists.

Typically, with my smash burgers, I will flip them after four to five minutes once I see the top of the burgers becoming wet from the rendered fat, as well as observing the edges browning nicely. Three to five minutes once flipped, and you are ready to go.

Brown/toast your buns for even more flavor, and add your favorite toppings. You are good to go from there. Create it however you want it. Plain? With cheese? Loaded with toppings? It is your burger — do how you please.

For my burgers, I like: American cheese or cheddar cheese, bacon, sauteed mushrooms & onions & jalapenos (or habaneros if I can easily find them here). Sometimes I like mixing up mayonnaise with a little ketchup, mustard and dill relish. Occasionally I add hot sauce.

“Troy, you just spent a thousand words writing about how to make a burger, which is one of the most simple things a person can concoct.” Hey, smash burgers are a delicacy in my book and should be considered to be their own food group due to how delicious they are. Homemade smash burgers are way better than any burger you will buy from a restaurant. Methods and techniques are important. Utilizing the right amount of heat is the most crucial variable of the cooking process in churning out the best burger you can potentially make. I’m just adding my personal method, because I want you — the readers — to give it a go and let me know what you think, because I think it will become your favorite burger concocting method.

Perfecting a Smoked Thanksgiving Turkey

Yesterday’s smoked turkey

I hardly consider myself a poultry pro.

When I was growing up, I was a picky child. Every time I would go out to eat with my family, when the question of, “Where does everybody want to go eat?” arised, my suggestion was always, “Somewhere with good chicken wings.” When we would go on vacation, it surprised nobody in the family that I was going to order wings everywhere we’d go.

When I grew up, I wanted to learn how to master chicken breast. Not how to consistently produce moist chicken breasts, but how to flavor them in different ways so they wouldn’t become boring. The grocery stores where I live often feature family packs of chicken breasts on sale for $1.99/lb. or under quite often, so it is an easy source of protein to come about. (My favorite method: hot-smoked on the Barrel House Cooker for 20-25 minutes, using lump charcoal, with Caribeque Signature Series Chicken Rub on the breasts — my all-time favorite seasoning for chicken if we aren’t going into the topic of spicy grub).

Turkey is a different beast, though.

I like turkey, but it isn’t something that I crave often. I became so conditioned to having standard, oven roasted turkey for Thanksgiving all my life. Deep-fried turkey is fantastic, but once you get past the skin, turkey still tastes just like regular ol’ turkey.

Fast-forward to last year: my first time smoking a turkey for Thanksgiving. My first time ever hosting a Thanksgiving in my life, at age 27. My mother had a stroke two weeks before Thanksgiving, and it was an emotionally charged time for my family because she was still in the hospital during Thanksgiving. I had my heart set on one ultimate goal for turkey day: I was going to smoke that bird. My method? Hanging the turkey with the EZ-Load Turkey Plus Kit from Barrel House Cooker Co. For the sake of shortening this particular Thanksgiving day story, this method of smoking a bird produced the most flavorful turkey I can recall ever having.

This year, I wanted to outdo myself from last year. This was my preparation for the 15-lb. turkey I smoked for Thanksgiving dinner:

(One caveat: I did not brine this bird, because it was already pre-brined. Keep this in mind if you are planning on cooking a turkey that hasn’t already been pre-brined.)

The day before Thanksgiving, with the turkey being thawed out in the refrigerator for around three days, I sat it out in a pan, removed the giblet package and the neck, and patted it dry with multiple paper towels.

Afterwards, I used duck fat spray (I originally found duck fat spray at Cabela’s, but now many Wal-Mart locations are carrying it for a couple of bucks cheaper) to spray the skin of the turkey. Not only does this spray act as a binder for your rub, but you add an extra layer of fat, yielding more flavor.

Last year, I used the ‘Everything Rub’ by The Killer Cook, which is fantastic, but this year I went a different route: Slap Ya Mama. I wanted to throw down a Cajun smoked turkey. I seasoned the bird liberally with Slap Ya Mama. While it is quite a salty seasoning, I wanted to give the skin enough flavor to where enough would penetrate into the meat by the end of the cook. With the turkey ready to go, I let it sit in the fridge overnight to absorb the seasoning.

I started up my Barrel House Cooker 14D with about half of the charcoal basket with coals while filing a small charcoal chimney up before lighting. After letting the coals burn for 15 minutes, I added them on top of the charcoal basket, placed two chunks of applewood (I used cherrywood last year) onto two separate sides of the coals and placed the base of the Barrel House Cooker onto the bottom charcoal station and closed the lid.

At around 8 in the morning, I added the turkey, hanging it in the cooker using the EZ-Load Turkey Plus Kit. This was about ten minutes after I added the charcoal to the basket.

I let it roll until around 11:45, when the thigh and legs were reading 175-180 and the breasts were reading about 163-164. I removed it from the cooker and allowed it to rest in a foil pan for 20-25 minutes before tenting it with foil. The temperature gauge read 250-255 for the majority of the cook, so I imagine the turkey was cooking at around 300-325.

This was, hands down, the best turkey I’ve ever eaten, and not one complaint was uttered by the guests (maybe they were just being nice). I have no shame in calling this, ‘perfecting’ a smoked turkey. It was incredibly juicy and absolutely tender.

Some may describe the skin as being too dark, preferring more of a brown skin for their bird, but that also has much to do with what kind of rub you use. Again, I used a liberal amount of Slap Ya Mama Cajun seasoning, and I’m sure that is the reason for the darker skin, as it certainly was not burnt in the slightest.

Drum smokers like the Barrel House Cooker are perfect for poultry. I did not use a water pan. One of the reasons drum smokers are so formidable at producing flavorful grub is that the juices from the meat will hit the hot coals and the vapors resulting from that action will rise and baste the meat during the cooking process. I owe the juiciness of the turkey to that mechanism of the cooker.

I highly recommend giving this method a shot if you have a drum smoker. Your family, unless opposed to smoked grub, will thank you for it, especially on a day to be thankful.

Something to Consider Before Purchasing a Pit Barrel Cooker

When I make a decision on an investment in a product, the first thing I consider is the value of the product versus the price being asked for it. Secondly, and this coincides with ‘value’, I look into the quality of said product: is the brand reputable? Is it durable enough to last? With the time I’ll invest in using it, through enjoyment will I basically receive my return of investment through years of use?

My most viewed post is this one: Is Barrel House Cooker Going Out of Business?

When it comes to already-constructed, available-to-buy drum smokers, the two most talked about options are these two: number one, the most popular, is the Pit Barrel Cooker. Second, it is the Barrel House Cooker.

If you have been following my site, you will notice how often I have posted about Barrel House Cooker. I own both of their models, the 14D and the 18C. I have not held back from posting criticism when I’ve written about the cookers either, so while I’m an advocate, I’m no stranger to avoiding pulling punches in that side of things.

I don’t know what is going to happen with Barrel House Cooker. I am not knowledgeable enough about the legal side of things to comment abou what happened between them and Pit Barrel Cooker. All I know is that the legal conclusion to such matters resulted in portions of the proceeds of the sales of all Barrel House Cookers will fall into the pocket of Noah Glanville, creator of the Pit Barrel Cooker. Using Google, you can find more information about this that can expound on it better than I can.

For the majority of this year, I have noticed that Barrel House Cooker has not had their smokers on sale.

When I considered purchasing either the PBC or BHC, I went with the BHC because I felt it was a bigger bang for my buck. I have found it to be a superior piece of equipment for getting the job done as a drum smoker in comparison to the BHC. I listed my reasons why here.

I have stated in multiple occasions that, if my Barrel House Cookers ever fall apart, that I will likely go ahead and buy a Pit Barrel Cooker, because.. well.. I’m not sure if Barrel House will ever come back. Until they fall apart, I’m happier than a Texan surrounded by smoked beef brisket with using my two BHCs.

Pit Barrel Cooker has a much larger following than Barrel House Cooker. Asides from being available for a longer amount of time than BHC, one of the PBC’s main selling points is that it is a veteran owned operation.

As an American, I’ve been glad to support veteran owned businesses, but I can’t help but feel irked whenever certain companies try to over-emphasize that point when they are trying to gain business. It feels cheap to me. If your veteran-owned company is making a product that I feel is subpar compared to a competitor that isn’t veteran owned, I’m rolling with the the superior competitor. See the first paragraph of this post to consider why I say that. I am not interested in debating the moral compass guidelines behind these two companies, and neither should anybody else asides from those involved in the legal matters, yet if you Google the comparisons between the two cookers, you will find a horde of people stating their opinions while it is all hearsay.

Speaking of hearsay… onto the matters of the title of this post: Something to Consider Before Purchasing a Pit Barrel Cooker

If you take a look at the PBC website, while you will see the big, bold text in the site’s headlines, A VETERAN OWNED BUSINESS, this may mislead you to believe that the PBC is made in America while apparently the cookers and accessories themselves are made in China!

YIKES.


This information is allegedly only reported on tiny print on the packaging according to David H. from this site.

Others have confirmed. Consider what jfmorris from the Amazing Ribs forum said:


Interesting.

It is sheepish of consumers to lambaste Barrel House Cooker in one breath and place Pit Barrel Cooker on a pedestal in another. Two wrongs don’t make a right, but if you are a consumer who looks at a brand and pretends they can do no wrong, you are the problem. I am culpable, too, in a way, because I will choose the design of the BHC over the PBC any day of the week, but we should all aim to hold companies to higher standards and not give them a free pass just because its creator touts his military service history.

Back to the Stick Burner for BBQ: Humble Beginnings and a Labor of Love

As I’ve referenced a few times on this site, the first smoker I ever used — the one I learned how to barbecue with — was an vertical Brinkmann Trailmaster offset smoker. It was adopted by myself, as the folks who were kind enough to give it to me had moved on to a horizontal style offset pit while this one was sitting out, experiencing the effects of weathering and the lack of use. It was a tough one to use, because anyone who has ever cooked grub in an offset smoker understands that you must tend to the fire virtually at all times, making sure that your pit isn’t oversmoking with billowing white smoke, chasing the thin, blue smoke perfection of proper cooking that won’t result in your food tasting like bitter, creosote-laden meats.

Nowadays, so many people have switched over to electric smokers or pellet grills, which are as close to set it’n’forget it as one can be, and I can understand why: less hassle. With an electric smoker, you use a smoker tube filled with wood chips to achieve a light smoke flavor. With a pellet grill, you use.. well.. pellets. I’m embarrassed to say this, but I’ve never tasted any food that has been cooked on a pellet grill, despite my curiosity, but I’ve read countless posts on both Instagram and BBQ-dedicated forums where users express a lack of smoke in their grub as it pertains to food made on pellet grills. I can’t speak to that, though, due to my tastebud’s devastating void when it comes to tasting meat smoked on a pellet grill. However, pellet grills must be doing something right, given the popularity of brands like Traeger (which has a huge social following, as the brand appears to pump a ton of money into its marketing endeavors by anointing a myriad of Traeger users as ‘brand ambassadors’), REC TEC, Green Mountain Grills, Pit Boss, etc. I have spent a great deal of time debating on whether or not to save my money for a future pellet grill purchase, but if the rumors are true in regards to the food from them only featuring a light smoke flavor, I’m conflicted as I am a man who enjoys the taste of heavy smoke-infused meats when barbecue is on the brain.

You would think that with the popularity of pellet grills, stick burners would fall to the wayside, but stick burners will never exit the spotlight when it comes to barbecue, because it is tried and true barbecue. It is a labor of love tha hardcore barbecue fanatics delve into, not in an elitist way that denounces the efficacy of other smokers, but because it is a classic, proven method to — when done right — produce incredible barbecue. While there are detractors of pellet grills out there who call ’em ‘pellet poopers’ or ‘outdoor easy bake ovens with a weak hint of wood smoke,’ stick burner faithfuls are in the game due to their love of traditional barbecue, and I don’t fault anybody for that.

The only reason I stopped using my Brinkmann Trailmaster is because it rusted so badly that holes were formed. I’m not a welder, and I might as well be the least craftiest man on the planet, so that ended my run with it. I subsequently bought a 22.5″ Weber Smokey Mountain and eventually purchased my Barrel House Cookers, all the while occasionally barbecuing with my Weber kettle, but I never spent a day without missing my stick burner.

Yesterday, I added a new member of my grill/smoker family. A long-time family friend upgraded to an electric smoker long ago, and he had placed his old horizontal offset stick burner in his garage. It was wasting away, as it was being unused, and for him (as he stated) it was in the way, and he offered it to me. I could only utter an emphatic, “YES.”

After impatiently waiting, he delivered it. It had rust on it, and the grates were filthy, but I fired it up with some cheap Kingsford match light charcoal and some wood I had lying around, to see how it would run, with the intake and damper vents wide open, and it reached 700 degrees. I tossed the grates into the scorching hot fire that I built in my fire pit before scrubbing them down and ensuingly rubbing them with cooking oil. The additional reason I fired the pit up to 700 degrees, asides from seeing how it would run, was to sanitize the inside of the cooker. It leaked smoke from the lid, but that’s alright. I’ll roll with it that way for a while, but eventually I will invest in a gasket kit to line the lid to prevent smoke from leaking so heavily. After the fire cooled and I removed some ash, I used a can of Rustoleum to rid the smoker of the rust that had been built up.

It’s all ready for its first Grizzly BBQ smoke session, which I plan on throwing down some ribs soon enough. As for bigger cuts like pork butts and brisket, I’ll stick with my WSM and Barrel House Cookers for the time being, but I can’t wait to finally get back to tasting the amazing flavor that a stick burner provides, starting with the ribs, and then I’ll move onto other favorites like chicken wings and thighs, as well as bacon-wrapped cheese stuffed jalapenos (or, er, poppers).

Are you a stick burner fan, or do you find that tending to the fire is tedious and aggravating, preferring the set it’n’forget it route? Let me know in the comments!

The Secret to Making the Best Hot Dogs You Will Have Ever Had in Your Life


I grew up eating hot dogs and hamburgers like crazy during the summer. My dad was quite the chef, but he was always working as the owner of his mining parts company and never grilled. My aunt, who lived down the road from us, was always doing the grilling for the family, whether it was done so on a little charcoal grill or on her gas grill.

These hot dogs, on the Blackstone Griddle, changed my entire worldview of hot dogs. Give them a try and you’ll see. Quoting a line from the movie ‘Limitless’, “I was blind, but now I see.”

Laugh all you want, but you are getting a recipe + instruction guide for these hot dogs, whether or not you already see them as a simple cook for an otherwise throwaway dinner.

Recipe
Nathan’s skinless beef franks (you can use the cheapest hot dogs out there, and they’ll still be serviceable, but use quality ‘dogs for a mindblowing flavorgasm for your tastebuds).
— Olive oil
— Granulated garlic
— Black pepper
— Buns
— Your favorite toppings

Instructions
I used my 17″ Tabletop Blackstone Griddle for this cook, setting the heat to medium/medium-low.
— Once the flat top griddle surface was hot with a thin coating of olive oil, I added the hot dogs
— Using a little squirt bottle full of olive oil, I coated the top of the hot dogs with olive oil and sprinkled the granulated garlic and black pepper on top of them
— Moments later, I rolled the hot dogs over and added another layer of granulated garlic and black pepper to them
— Keep turning your hot dogs every 35-40 seconds
— Finish them to the doneness of your liking. I like for my hot dogs to be browned up, but some people like them lightly cooked or even burned. Cook them how you like them.
— Remove and enjoy in a bun with your favorite toppings

Toasted buns are a must

Please give this a try. It’s simple: olive oil, granulated garlic and black pepper. Just a couple of changes transforms a hot dog from being an ordinary ‘dog to being the best damn hot dog you will have ever eaten in your entire life.

The first time I made hot dogs like this, I made my personal homemade chili recipe, which I will share in the near future. It blew my mind as to how good they were. I had never eaten such a delicious hot dog before in my entire life. Before, they were just hot dogs; now, they are “hot damn!” dogs.

If you give hot dogs a shot this way, let me know what you think. I guess you could do the same on a charcoal, gas or pellet grill, but remember: olive oil, granulated garlic and black pepper. Shout out to America’s Griddler, Todd Toven, for this exceptional idea. I doubt I will ever make hot dogs any other way for the rest of my life, but then again, I’m always down to try new things when it comes to going on a flavor journey.

How to Make Thin and Crispy Pizza on the Blackstone Griddle

This was after I finished all the pizzas I made. Yeah, the photo is a little messy, but I will be making these again in the near future and I’ll recapture some better shots.

This, much like anything you can think of (asides from candy bars), can be made on any model of the Blackstone Griddle. It’s easy, simple and delicious. I love pizza any way I can get it. While my all-time favorite is an ultra-cheesy, Chicago deep dish pizza, thin’n’crispy is always a hit, too.

Recipe
— A pack of flour tortillas (8-10 inch ones)
— Pizza sauce (I use Classico pizza sauce, but you can use whatever you want; if using marinara sauce, I recommend adding a pinch of sugar to it for a little sweetness.)
— Cheese (I used shredded mozzarella, but you can use virtually any blend of cheese)
— Toppings (much like cheese, you can use virtually anything you want; I made a barrage of different pizzas, from pepperoni only to pepperoni and sliced’n’sauteed white button mushrooms to cooked’n’crumbled Jimmy Dean hot pork sausage.
— Basting cover (I used the 12″ basting cover from Blackstone Products, but you can use any kind of basting cover… even a cheap aluminum pan!)
Optional: Italian seasoning (I love the McCormick Organic Italian seasoning, which features a blend of marjoran, oregano, thyme, rosemary and basil). Adding this adds an extra punch of flavor to pizza. I like to add a little garlic powder to this mix as well.
— Optional: Fresh, chopped basil

Instructions
I used my 17″ Tabletop Blackstone Griddle for this cook, but you can use any model, including the 22″, the 28″ or the 36″.
— Fire up the griddle to medium/medium-low heat
— Once hot, add a tortilla onto the flat top cooking surface
— Using a spoon, add your sauce all around the pizza — have the freedom of using how much sauce you want… a little or a lot!
— Optional: sprinkle the Italian seasoning all around the surface as it will sit into pockets of sauce
— Top with cheese
— Add your toppings onto the cheese; this is where I added the fresh, chopped basil.
— Cover with the basting cover for a minute or so; when I watched Todd Toven make pizzas on the griddle at the Blackstone Griddle More Tour demos, he added a couple of ice cubes to the surface when he covered the pizzas with the basting cover in order to promote steam and quicker melting, but I didn’t use any.
— Remove the basting cover; once the bottom side of the tortilla is browned the way you like it, carefully remove it from the flat top cooking surface (I used a couple of Blackstone spatulas).

It’s a really easy, simple recipe that makes for a delicious meal, and it’s fun to cook, because you can do virtually anything you want with these pizzas.

Note: I cooked up both the mushrooms and the Jimmy Dean hot pork sausage prior to cooking. As for why I cooked the mushrooms first, it is due to how how water they lose when they are cooked (nobody wants a watered down, soggy pizza), not to mention mushrooms are much more digestible when cooked.

Poorly Chosen Brand Ambassadors in the Instagram BBQ Community

I should learn to keep my mouth shut before I become somewhat of a pariah in the Instagram barbecue community, a community that I dearly love due to the amazing amount of people I have met on there during my time posting since 2017. That lesson of learning to keep my trap shut will have to happen another time, because I have another bone to pick with the outdoor cookin’ community on Instagram (here’s the first post). At this risk of sounding like an entitled brat (and I will sound that way; don’t worry — I’ll admit it because I’m aware of exactly what it is), I’m going to drone on for a few minutes. Bear with ol’ Grizz for a few minutes.

There are companies I have shown clear biases in favor of when it comes to the barbecue/outdoor cookin’ community on Instagram. Chief among them is Caribeque. When I first delved into barbecue, the first business with rubs/seasonings — outside of the Weber seasonings you can pick up at virtually every grocery store in the United States — I ever used were ones by Caribeque. First, it was Honey Heat, and then the All Purpose rub that Kurt Halls (the creator of Caribeque) dropped in July 2017, and later that year I gave the Big & Bold Beef rub a shot. They are all incredible rubs that I use regularly. I support Kurt and his vision for Caribeque, because not only are the rubs amazing (and so is the Caribeque Honey Heat Smack Sauce), Kurt is an awesome, down to earth guy who is all about throwing down delicious grub and sharing that grub-concocting work with others around the world on Instagram.

But this post has nothing to do with Kurt or Caribeque. I only mention Caribeque as a precursor to say this: I only will ever use products I truly believe in and actually use. I will never use a product in my cooking that I think sucks, because why else would I? I don’t want to eat something featuring a rub that sucks, and neither does anybody else. I only endorse what I truly believe to be high quality as confirmed by my tastebuds.

In July 2017, a new start-up small business joined the barbecue world: Reload Rub & Seasoning. I remember the very first time I ever even heard of that name; one of my favorite members of the barbecue Instagram family, @bigjohns_bbq AKA John, posted a video using the rub in a pre-release video. I can only surmise that the creators of the rub sent out the product to various folks on Instagram to test it out. “Sweet,” I thought. I was curious, so I did some digging for some background as to what the hell this new rub was about. Fully Loaded, Reload’s first seasoning, is an all purpose rub purported to be delicious on everything, especially eggs (it is). In my quick research, I noticed that the company is based out of Knoxville, Tennessee. “Wow,” I thought. “I’m from southwest Virginia, which is only a couple of hours away from Knoxville, and not only that, I was born in Johnson City, Tennessee, which is only a little over an hour and a half away from where Reload Rub & Seasoning is based out of!”

I think the company officially launched on July 7, 2017. Based on such reasons of location, the desire to support a brand new company as a method of giving a new product a shot and derived from Big John’s praise of the new rub, I woke up that morning and placed an order for a bottle of it (I still have my order confirmation from when I ordered my first bottle at 9:55 a.m. on that day). I would bet an inordinate amount of cash that I was one of the first twenty people to place an order… to place an order of a rub that I had never tried before, from a brand new company whose product could either be hit or miss!

And so the order arrived a couple of days later (hey, the luck and privilege of living close by) and I posted about it immediately. Again, keep in mind, I bought it only going by the reasons mentioned. There were no official reviews other than ones dished out by those who received free pre-release bottles.

Reload Fully Loaded

Reload Rub & Seasoning Fully Loaded

Reload Rub & Seasoning Fully Loaded with kielbasa, peppers and onions.The first thing I tried Reload Rub’s Fully Loaded on was, as you can see, kielbasa with peppers and onions! It was delicious.

A few days later, I hit up some burgers with it. Amazing. The first time I ever used my 36″ Blackstone griddle a month later, when I screwed up and forgot to properly season it first due to my extreme excitement to test out the flat top cookin’ station, I made burgers with Fully Loaded!

I was hooked. Reload Rub’s Fully Loaded is a delicious, mouthwatering blend that is dominant in sea salt, garlic, onion and paprika among other spices. I became a proud fan overnight, or immediately upon the use of it as my tastebuds were met with a dose of deliciousness in every bite with any food I used it with.

Towards the end of 2017, Reload Rub & Seasoning announced their second rub. Double Action. It is sweet and smoky. I ordered it on release day. Another hit by the small business. In May 2018, out comes their third rub: Packin’ Heat! Another release day buy by yours truly. It might be my favorite from the line given that I’m a lite chilihead and love spicy food. It is amazing on everything, especially fries! Their most recent release dropped in late 2018: High Caliber — it is a chipotle garlic rub. I bet you can’t guess that I also ordered it on its release day! It is fantastic on wings and burgers, but I’m also sure that it’s spectacular on everything.

Everything Joel and Stacy — the creators behind Reload — create under the Reload Rub & Seasoning label is money.

Reload Rub & Seasoning Hat
When they dropped the first Reload Rub apparel — the Army green t-shirt — I bought it. The hat? Well, take a look above! I bought it!

Reload Rub’s seasonings, to this day, is only second to Caribeque’s rubs/seasonings when it comes to what I’m tossing on my food. If it ain’t Caribeque, then you would have the odds in your favor if you are betting on my use of Reload.

Last summer, Reload Rub & Seasoning began advertising for their ‘Reload Squad’, basically looking to find brand ambassadors for their rub. All one needed to do was email them with an explanation as to why they should be part of the Reload Squad. I think one of the perks included with being part of the Reload Squad involves a big get-together in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, which is a place I’ve been to at least a hundred times in my life, given that I used to get up early in the mornings with my family, go down there for the day and come back home in one day’s time. I emailed them my application on August 30, 2018.

Hey guys,

This is grizzly_troy from Instagram. My case for being partnered up with you guys goes way back to July of last year, when you released the first Reload rub: Fully Loaded. Prior to its launch, 'Big' John Anselmo, one of my favorite people from the Instagram food family, posted using your rub while using his outdoor flattop griddle. I was intrigued. I trust the people I highly respect from the 'Q-munity, so the very first day you guys launched your product (at the time a singular one), I bought it, no questions asked. This rub became love at first taste for me.

If you have noticed, I usually am using only a few rubs (in rotation) most of the time when I make a post, and 99.9% of the time it comes down to Caribeque and Reload. I also snagged both Double Action and Packin' Heat on the days they were launched, because my affinity for the rubs was evident from the get-go. I knew that they, too, would be excellent, and they are.

You guys know me by my username handle, but I think you also know that I am very close by you guys. I'm in Richlands, Virginia which is only a couple of hours away from Knoxville. I was actually born in Tennessee (Johnson City) and I'm frequently through those parts (a big reason is because this area here in southwest Virginia is weak in things to do, honestly). The Grizzly Troy handle is for two reasons: I'm a fairly big, hairy dude (Greek/Italian genetics?) and, well, the gray hair. In addition to my Instagram page, I have a work-in-progress site over at http://grizzlytroy.com

That's what you do know, as well as the fact that your rubs have flavored the hell out of my food tenfold. I'm 27-years-old (yeah, the salt'n'pepper hair can fool people) and I'm just about to get my bachelor's degree in business administration in December from King University. I'm always on the go. I have a fair amount of personal marketing experience on the web, mainly in writing, from all the blogs I've delved into over the years.

The biggest thing that I feel I bring to the table is that I am a genuine, keep-it-real kind of 'feller'. I only use products that I truly believe in. I don't spew nonsense to my followers or have I ever tried to promote or sell anything that is not an extension of my beliefs. I'm passionate about food, flavor and community. I believe in building and sustaining relationships, and I'd like to believe that I am capable of representing Reload Rub with gusto. The close proximity to where the magic is made over in Knoxville, my place here in the mountains of southwest Virginia and that same passion for food and flavor that I just described above is my strongest case for this. I am also not afraid to get in front of the camera and talk, which you can see on my page. I would like to eventually set up a YouTube channel if I can get into a groove.

No, I don't have several thousands of followers, but I only hopped into the cookin' community on Instagram last summer, shortly before Reload launched. At the time, I barely had any followers and now I'm just a couple hundred away from a thousand. These are all genuine followers who I believe in connecting and engaging with. I will never, ever buy followers like so many on social media do. What reloads me? I'm an active, caffeine junkie of a man who enjoys being outdoors, often no matter the time of the year. Being a part of the Reload Squad, for me, seems about as natural of a fit as there can be, like wings and beer or even burgers and Fully Loaded.

I think it was in late September or early October when Reload announced their Reload Squad. I’m going to sound like the most entitled idiot in the world, so forgive me dearly here, but I thought that I was a shoe-in. I was one of the very first people to buy it on its launch day (without even trying), tirelessly supporting the brand with posts and purchases of each subsequent rub on its launch day, buying seasonings to pass out to friends and family, bragging about how excellent it is, conversing with Reload regularly, featuring the rubs in various videos, etc. Furthermore, the Reload brand is rooted in outdoor activities, especially hunting (hence the name ‘Reload’); I’m not a hunter but I’ve expressed explicit support for hunting, because 1.) venison and elk is delicious (to name two things), and 2.) there are too many deer roaming around here, causing vehicular accidents. If that’s not enough, I’m closer to Knoxville than the Reload Squad members that were chosen (except for maybe one or two), and southwest Virginia is a rural, agricultural haven for hunting.

Needless to say, Reload Rub & Seasoning goofed up by passing me by. I was not selected as part of the Reload Squad. Initially, I was deeply hurt by being picked over, because I felt like yours truly and Reload was (is) a match made in heaven for all the exceptionally valid reasons I’ve mentioned throughout this entire post. I expressed this discontent with a close friend who said, “They flubbed up. You will have better, more prosperous opportunities in the future.” (In trying to keep this site a bit clean, they used a different F-word other than ‘flubbed’).

I began rationalizing their ultimate lackluster choice, however, by considering one big factor: I had under a thousand followers on Instagram. Perhaps if I had a couple of thousand followers, they would have chose me. It is a no-brainer that any company on Instagram who chooses brand ambassadors wants to bring on members with a decent amount of followers due to the desire for such members to post about and bring attention to the brand, but I’ve also witnessed Instagrammers with less followers than me become brand ambassadors for other companies. I have no interest in playing some sketchy ‘game’ on Instagram. I’m in it for the long haul by accruing followers the old fashioned way; I refuse to ever pay for followers or engage in fishy tactics to increase my follower account other than by building genuine relationships and honest networking.

Still yet, I parted with all the salty feelings I felt because I felt ridiculous to feel so entitled despite what I feel to be valid reasons, foolish or not on my behalf.

Let me not forget to mention that perhaps it was a positive thing I was not chosen, because my life became exceedingly difficult in November of 2018, when my mother had a stroke. A minor stroke in a major region of her brain, something that she is still dealing with the side effects from over seven months later as she slowly, but surely, heals. This naturally coincided with me posting less and, shortly after, I spent half a year away from the ‘gram. I would have made a terrible brand ambassador during that time, to be frank, because of my absence, even though I was still using Reload in my cooking multiple times a week. I want to express deep appreciation for Kurt from Caribeque, Chuck (@c_train707), Ron (@cptnron302), Wes (@sunnysidebeachesbbq) and Jimmy (@borderbangerbbq) for reaching out to me over my time away to check in with me to see how things are doing.

This has nothing to do with wanting anything for free. I can buy my own Reload Rub products just fine, as I have. This is more-so about wanting to be part of the Reload family as I find myself to be a natural fit (hence my use of the saying, ‘a match made in heaven’ a few paragraphs back) for the business as a natural brand ambassador due to my outdoors loving background, the location to where I live in close proximity to Knoxville as well as my legitimate love for the rubs/seasonings and what the company stands for. I’m as natural of a fit to that family as salt & pepper is to a smoked beef brisket.

Anyhow, when I saw the final Reload Squad roster that was announced, I had an audible laugh that escaped out loud.

You see, again, Reload is rich with patriotic pride and outdoor hobbies (once again — hunting included) in its brand. When I saw the roster, most of the members chosen to be their brand ambassadors fit that mold, which is excellent — something I have no qualms with — and the same choices I would have made if I were Joel and Stacy, because if you look at their Squad roster, you will see it littered with hunters and/or outdoorsmen/outdoorswomen. Perfect choices.

However, my chief complaint lies in the fact that one of their members is… is… is from New Jersey. Who, wait, what, huh? Exsqueeze me? I took a look at this person’s Instagram; there’s no mention of Reload Rub in their Instagram bio, and I took three minutes to quickly peruse their last 60 (!!!) posts and saw that Reload is only mentioned three times. Obviously it would be shortsighted to only ever use one rub in each dish (one of my favorite combinations when making smashburgers on my Blackstone griddle is to use Caribeque Big & Bold on the burgers and Reload Rub Fully Loaded on the caramelized onions and mushrooms), but this is a supposed brand ambassador — a city slicker who seemingly is bereft of outdoor hobby-related activities — who hardly ever posts about the brand.

But I get it. I’m no dummy. I understand how things operate. This person has ever 17 times the followers I do, so obviously they were chosen due to being a big name in the community, but my annoyance over this selection is rooted in the fact that everything about them, asides from being involved in culinary ventures, is the antithesis of everything the Reload brand allegedly stands for. It is like Jess Pryles from Hardcore Carnivore asking a vegan to be a brand ambassador. I’ve struggled to make sense of this selection other than summing it up by the company wanting to use a random popular big name to pump out the fine name of Reload Rub & Seasoning. Despite that New Jersey native’s massive following, I would bet every penny from my checking account that I have influenced and sold more people on Reload’s products than them by virtue of my own genuine passion and excitement for the brand’s culinary friendly goodness.

I’m not attacking that person’s character by any means; I’m only stating the glaringly obvious from my perspective, biased or not. That person has a wonderful page with photos of delicious food and homemade recipes featuring products that are easily accessible rather than obscure items. They are a fantastic asset to the Instagram cooking community as a whole because of their contributions. However, from what I can tell, they have nothing in common with anything the Reload Rub & Seasoning brand stands for other than a desire to cook (which everybody in the community inherently has), and their fit in the family is very much like a beef brisket in a crockpot. I also have a sneaking suspicion that they did not even send an application to be a part of the Reload Squad but rather Reload contacted them due to their big following, but I definitely could be wrong and I’m willing to admit it as soon as I find out if that is the case, if I ever do.

Signing up a city slicker as part of a rural, outdoors-heavy brand is like me — little ol’ small town, rural southwest Virginia livin’ Troy — being a brand ambassador for a BBQ company from New York City whose brand’s personality is rooted in living up in the expensive streets of NYC. Fits like a round peg in a square hole.

Yes, I’m being unabashedly judgmental, but I find every bit of this to be valid. I find that ‘Squad’ member choice to be disingenuous.

I learned the majority of what I know about business from my late father. He owned a business selling coal mining parts in Oakwood, Virginia. He believed in genuine honesty and creating long-lasting relationships with customers. He conducted a great deal of his business at mining sites in Kentucky who ordered a horde of parts from him; he would often thank them by buying them bourbon and tickets to Kentucky Wildcats college basketball games. He believed in expressing unfettered appreciation via such means. Maybe I’m old fashioned and look at the bigger picture of things rather than quick solutions or short-term goals that are temporary and tantamount to a fart in the wind in the end.

Keep in mind that I’m writing this post while wearing Reload’s latest t-shirt, comically enough. I love the company and have an overwhelming love for both Joel & Stacy for being good-hearted people who created my second favorite line of rubs/seasonings in the world with Reload, but it’s just another bone I have to pick with the community at large. I still use their products weekly due to my extreme enjoyment of them.

I considered scrapping this post altogether, but this has been stewing in the back of my mind for nine months. If you think I’m over my head and these qualms are ridiculous, feel free to let me know, because I know how outrageously entitled I sound. I’m fully aware of that, but I still feel that way, anyhow. I’d rather be transparent as myself.

In relation to my last post in regards to having a bone to pick with the Instagram barbecue community, I understand that everyone is trying to make a name for themselves in the game. Businesses want to expand, make more money and grow their brand as much as humanly possible.

Give me authenticity all day, every day. There’s so much crap that goes on in the outdoor cooking community on Instagram that turns me sour. I want to once again emphasize that I’m not spiteful. Aggrieved? Absolutely. Jaded? You bet. Envious? Damn straight. Overly entitled? Too much so. Confused? Oh, you know it — over 4500 words of confusion in the word vomit blurted into this post.

I love Reload Rub & Seasoning. Go buy some, because their rubs are amazing and among the best the world has to offer.
————————————————–
Potential retorts to what I’ve written above:

Jeez, Troy, you shouldn’t just expect a brand to make you an ambassador just because you post about them a lot on social media; besides, your follower count doesn’t lend itself towards being a marketing powerhouse or anything.

Those are fair points. However, I have an argument against the first part of that, in regards to the ‘not expecting a brand to make you an ambassador because you post about them often on social media.’ I didn’t make my case to be a brand ambassador just because I post about products a lot. I love Kurt and his Caribeque brand, but I don’t expect him to ever reach out to me and ask to be a brand ambassador, because he is in Tampa, Florida; I’m in southwest Virginia. His seasoning/rub company is called, “Caribeque” and is entrenched in the ideas of promoting ‘authentic flavors from the Caribbean islands’ (from the About page on the Caribeque website). Yeah… Caribeque is number one in my heart as far as the best rubs in the world go, but I’m Grizzly Troy, a rugged a hairy son of a gun from the country in southwest Virginia; while I would emphatically say, “YES!” if Kurt came to me and asked if I were interested in becoming a brand ambassador for Caribeque (because I genuinely believe his rubs are top notch and the best I’ve ever used, hence why I talk about them so often in addition to using them almost every day of the week in my culinary journeys, not to mention my strong belief in Caribeque and its values), I would never think one way or another if he never did, because there is nothing even remotely ‘Caribbean’ about myself other than my love for food, Caribbean dishes included.

Reload, on the other hand, was founded on the ideals of the outdoors, rural retreats, living out in the country and being in the sunshine among friends family while engaging in delicious food via its seasonings/rubs in the act of cookin’ while enjoying the nature-packed activities of the world. Reload is based in Knoxville, Tennessee. East Tennessee. I’m in southwest Virginia. We are neighbors. I genuinely love their products and believe in their vision as a company. I believe I have made a solid case as to why they missed the mark by passing over me.

As for my follower count, I appreciate everyone who follows me. While I am interested in growing the Grizzly BBQ brand, I prefer building authentic, long-lasting relationships and connections with those who follow me and who I follow in return versus having a super high follower count that I would have a hollow bond with. All I’m saying is that it would have been a perfect match for Reload to bring me onto the squad, and I don’t think I’m wrong by saying such a thing given all the aforementioned reasons.

This post reeks of entitlement. You are better than that, Troy.

This is also a fair point, and I’m typically the last person to express entitlement in any way, because I know how you have to earn everything you chase after in life, but I’ve blatantly stated over and over and over again in this post that it would reek of entitlement, so if you have chosen to read this far, to go that deep into my inane rambling, not only do I appreciate it, but I can’t help but emit the words, “Well, you knew what you were getting into.”

I’ve gone back and forth in my head as to whether or not I should post this.

If you post this, be sure to know whether or not you are OK with burning bridges.

What? I told one of my close friends about this post the other day, about how I was thinking of posting it, and that’s what they told me. I’m not burning any bridges. The Reload Squad was chosen almost a year ago and I’ve still been using Reload’s rubs virtually nonstop since that time.

Joel and Stacy, I love you guys. I’m not interested in burning any bridges whatsoever. Your rubs are incredible and I’ll continue to support the both of you and your awesome company, regardless of my transparency in these harshly expressed thoughts. I just wish I were part of the Reload Squad. It would have (it would still) mean a lot to me to be a proud, official member of the Reload brand, but regardless, I will still tirelessly support Reload Rub & Seasoning because it is something I avidly use to flavor up my grub.

What about the person you called a city slicker?! You attacked their character!

The person who mentioned the ‘burning bridges’ thing said this. Hey, I don’t mean ‘city slicker’ to be an insult whatsoever, even if it reads like it has undertones to it. That person is an amazing human being who is kind enough to share homemade recipes from their own personal concoctions, and that is phenomenal. However, much like I stated above about how I, a rugged ol’ hairy dude living out in rural southwest Virginia, am tantamount to ‘Caribbean food’ in nature by the same way the carnivore diet has vegan elements to it, somebody who is living out in a metropolitan area, or in the suburbs, of New Jersey is as related to Reload as Michael Jordan was to baseball. Needless to say, Reload and I could be Jordan and the Bulls. Yeah, I said it. The #23 Michael Jordan, too; not the #45.

Why say anything? Why not just move on and stay quiet?

I’ve done so for the last nine months. I can’t stand when things are left unsaid.