kansas city

Review: KC Masterpiece Southern-Style BBQ Sauce

So recently I got an e-mail that I had been selected to receive a free sample of KC Masterpiece’s newest BBQ sauce, Southern-Style.  I don’t know what the selection process was but I am satisfied with the result, free stuff.

KC Masterpiece Southern-Style BBQ SauceSo I know what you may be asking, “Isn’t all barbecue sauce Southern?”  The answer, of course, is yes.  All barbecue is, at its heart, Southern but other areas have put their unique regional spin on it led of course by the folks in Kansas City.  In fact, the Kansas City style of sauce – tomato-based, sweet, smokey with a touch of spice – is what most people think of when they think of BBQ sauce.

There are literally hundreds of brands of BBQ sauce in the US however more than half of what is sold in stores carries the KC Masterpiece label.  The newest addition to the KC Masterpiece line is the Southern-Style which is essentially an homage to Memphis BBQ.

This sauce is still, at its roots, a Kansas City sauce but in Memphis the sauce is a little thinner, contains less sugar and more cider vinegar than its Midwestern cousin.  From a personal standpoint I have grown to prefer the Memphis version over the years.  I like a more acidic, less sweet sauce.

I have to admit that the KC Masterpiece Southern-Style is pretty darned good.  It has the tangy notes and bit of fire that I appreciate from the Memphis sauce when eating it on pork ribs or chicken.  For beef I still go for the standard KC style as I like the smokey sweetness better with beef.

I do have one complaint with KC Masterpiece Southern-Style BBQ Sauce but it’s the same complaint I have with most commercial sauces – High Fructose Corn Syrup.  I know it’s cheaper than sugar but it’s also much worse for you, too.  It’s the main reason I tend to make my sauce from scratch.  I would gladly pay a little extra for sauce made with cane sugar but I’m sure it is not a big deal to most people.  If HFCS isn’t an issue for you then you should have no reservations about trying this tasty new sauce.  In fact, even if it is an issue you should try a bottle; sometimes you have to dance with the devil.

7 Questions with “Dr. BBQ” Ray Lampe

7 Questions is a series of interviews with the culinary movers and shakers you want or ought to know better.

Spring is just around the corner so it’ll soon be time to fire up the grill.  Barbecue is one of those uniquely American dishes that vary from region to region. In the Carolinas BBQ means slow smoking a whole hog and sauce of made of vinegar and little else. In Memphis it’s about spare ribs with a dry rub – sauce is optional. Kansas City is famous for all cuts of meat and a sauce that is thick, sweet and sassy. Texas BBQ revolves around beef brisket and sauce of any kind is frowned upon. Most of the rest of the country enjoys some combination of these with the occasional local spin like the white BBQ sauce of Alabama, San Francisco’s SFQ Sauce with dark chocolate and coffee or New Orleans’ BBQ shrimp which are actually sautéed in butter having virtually nothing in common with what most folks call BBQ.

With so much diversity it would be nice if there was one “go to” resource for all things barbecue. Someone to whom the masses could rely on to help, enter Ray Lampe aka Dr. BBQ.  A native of Chicago, Lampe now makes his home in the Mecca of barbecue, the Deep South, specifically Lakeland, FL.

Dr. BBQ’s trademark snow colored goatee and flame covered bowling shirts have made him an icon of the nation’s barbecue aficionadi. After securing a reputation as a talented BBQ cook-off contestant, Ray has now established himself as well seasoned judge both on the national circuits and on televised spectacles for the Food Network.

Recently I spoke with Dr. BBQ and he was courteous enough to answer 7 Questions:

Where did the name “Dr. BBQ” originate?

Ray LampeI was living in Chicago and started cooking in BBQ contests.  It was starting to become an obsessive hobby and I’d bought a new van to carry my stuff around.  Illinois had started allowing us to have vanity plates about the time I got the new van so I figured I’d better get some kind of BBQ plate.  I listed three options to choose from and I honestly don’t even remember what they were.  They sent me the Dr. BBQ plate and I put it on my van.  I really didn’t know I was creating a brand.

When did you start doing the BBQ thing on a professional level?

Mike Royko, the old (Chicago) Tribune columnist for many years, decided to have this rib cook-off at Grant Park right there where the ball fields are.  We had a rib cook-off there in 1982.  It actually continued on through to 1990.  I knew I cooked pretty well but I wasn’t a BBQ cook really but a friend of mine signed us up for it just to go down there and party.  I decided if we were going to go I might as well learn how to cook some ribs.  That was the start of it all.

When did you hit the national circuit?

In 1991 I was looking around for something to replace it (Grant Park cook-off) and I saw a thing in the newspaper they were going to have the first Illinois State BBQ Championship in West Chicago.   It was going to be sanctioned by the KCBS – that was the first Kansas City Barbecue cook-off in Illinois.

If it weren’t for cooking what other career could you see yourself in?

Actually I had a successful family trucking business.  When my father passed away I took over.  By the year 2000 after 25 years trucking had changed and the whole climate had changed.  Things were changing and things weren’t going to be the same anymore.

What lead to the transition from the BBQ circuit to media?

In probably ’04 barbecue was becoming popular and I was one of the guys that had been around the cook-off circuit for a long time and I had the silly beard and the silly haircut and I could speak in public.  Frankly I was really the only guy trying to become a BBQ spokes model so it was kind of an open field.  AndI pushed my way into that and ended up with Big Green Egg.  I started writing an article for Fiery Foods Magazine, Dr. BBQ column.  Dave (DeWitt – Fiery Foods editor) connected me with a publisher and I wrote my first cookbook.  It’s really a story of breaks and doors that opened for me and I just walked right in.  These days I still work for Big Green Egg and I’m starting to write my sixth cookbook.

Of the various regional styles of barbecue do you prefer one over the others?

I wrote a book called Dr. BBQ’s Big-Time Barbecue Road Trip! and I spent a lot of time eating in what are the big four regions of BBQ along with every place in between and what I found was it’s not quite like people think it is.  In Memphis I found that a lot of places serve ribs wet or dry because that’s what’s always written about.  But I did find in Memphis was that almost every BBQ restaurant in Memphis serves with BBQ spaghetti as a side and almost all of them serve smoked bologna topped with Cole slaw as a sandwich.  Now I thought Cole slaw on a sandwich was just a Carolina thing.  I found a lot of that stuff and I thought it was interesting.  Memphis BBQ, I like Memphis BBQ a lot.  I think they ar ahead of the curve using dry rubs.

What’s next for Dr. BBQ?

You know, I don’t try to plan it.  I just try to react and see what’s happening.  You know I really enjoyed doing Tailgate Warriors so maybe there’s a TV show in my future.

7 Questions with Chef Celina Tio

7 Questions is a series of interviews with the culinary movers and shakers you want or ought to know better.

This interview was done when Chef Tio was on Food Network’s The Next Iron Chef.  Recently she competed on Bravo’s Top Chef Masters.  You may continue.

This October, The Next Iron Chef returns with its fieriest season-to-date. Ten of the country’s most accomplished chefs bet on their skills and put their reputations on the line for the chance to join the industry’s most elite culinary society: the Iron Chefs.  Hosted by Alton Brown and filmed in Los Angeles, Las Vegas and New York City, season three premieres Sunday, October 3rd at 9pm ET/PT on Food Network and challenges the chefs’ culinary skills and mental toughness as they enter a clash of culinary titans.

For all the info on the new season of The Next Iron Chef, check out this link (has press release, episode descriptions, bios, video, etc).

The great thing about NIC is that all of the combatants are serious, award winning chefs.  Celina Tio is a classic example.  The Coatesville, PA native is a James Beard Award winner for her work at Kansas City’s The American where she earned a reputation for making everything from scratch.  This past summer, Tio made the move to her own restaurant, Julian and to stake her claim as The Nest Iron Chef.

Chef Celina is a 1992 graduate of Drexel University where she obtained a B.S. in hotel and restaurant management.  She is also a certified sommelier.  Prior to her heading the kitchen at The American she was the executive chef of at a Disney seafood restaurant, Narcoossee’s, which capped a rich career with the Disney corporation.

With all of the things going on for her right now, Chef Celina Tio was still kind enough to answer 7 Questions:

1. How old were you when you first started to cook?

Celine Tio of Next Iron Chef 3I was eight years old.  I asked my dad for a Holly Hobby oven.  He pointed to our oven and said, “There’s a real one, use that.”  So I learned to use the oven and range at an early age.

2. When did you decide that you could make food your career?

I wanted to go to culinary school out of high school, but it wasn’t quite as common then, so I compromised and got a B.S. in Hospitality Management with minors in Business and Psychology from Drexel University.  I’m jealous because they now have a four year culinary program!

3. Which chefs have influenced you the most?

Julia Child because I saw her on TV.  It never dawned on me that it wasn’t common for women to cook professionally.  I was watching one on TV, how much more socially acceptable is that?  Also, my father, Cesario Tio and grandfather, Julian Rodriguez – the men in my family did all the cooking.

4. If you hadn’t followed this career path, what other career could you see yourself in?

Hard to say, I’ve been doing it for so long and have always loved it!  When I was younger, I was always into math and art, so maybe something in either field.  After having filmed NIC, I love the entertainment industry – the production side, anyway. What a learning curve!  I have a much greater appreciation for everything I see that is filmed now!

5. How would you describe your cooking style?

“Feel Good Food” is the tag line for JULIAN, but mostly straight forward, simple food.

6. What motivated you to enter The Next Iron Chef competition?

I was called on a Friday night and was asked if I’d be interested in being on the show.  I said sure and we set a few more interviews then I was flown out for an on camera interview.  After they saw that, I guessed they still liked me.

7. What’s next for Chef Celina Tio?

Maintaining and always working on improving JULIAN, hopefully have my book concept that I’ve had ready for three years come to fruition and perhaps work on a new concept.  Basically stay busy!

Be sure you check back each Sunday for the NIC Recap.  If you haven’t yet, be sure to check out my recent interview with the newest Iron Chef, Marc Forgione HERE.

BBQ Styles – A Primer

Food anthropologists (yes, that is a thing) say there are certain foods where people tend to be very territorial. The style one first tries of a certain dish soon becomes the only acceptable recipe. No food demonstrates this more than barbecue. Once one learns to move beyond local prejudice, a new world of flavors emerges. To reach this heightened awareness one need only stop comparing the foreign recipe to the familiar. Only then can we learn to accept the beauty of that which is unfamiliar; it could be said that barbecue is a metaphor for culture.

Alabama plays host to three styles of BBQ. The style that most of us grew up with here along the Gulf Coast is actually an example of Kansas City barbecue – various smoked meats glazed with a tomato-based, sweet and smokey sauce. About 90% of the commercial barbecue sauces sold in grocers are variations of Kansas City sauce and it is because of this that KC style is the nation’s favorite. KC Masterpiece is the most popular sauce controlling more than half of the US market.

North Alabama is heavily influenced by the approach made famous in Memphis. This Memphis style is made up mainly of smoked pork butt or spare ribs and is distinguishable by the use of a dry rub (recipe below) rather than a wet sauce. At the same time there is a distinctive Memphis sauce that is less sweet and more acidic than KC style but is still tomato-based. The Memphis style sauce is very common at North Alabama BBQ joints like Tuscaloosa’s legendary Dreamland.

East Alabama border communities like Opelika, Auburn, and their Georgia neighbors enjoy a sauce that uses mustard as it’s base and a very specific cut Cackalacky on BBQ Chickenof pork called a CT butt. The style is often called Smokey Pig because of the Columbus, GA shack that originated it. The mustard sauce (recipe below) most likely migrated from South Carolina and tends to be quite acidic and a touch on the spicy side. Moving from South to North Carolina the mustard disappears and the sauce is primarily vinegar and hot spices. In both Carolinas the primary meat is whole hog.

And Texas is a hole other matter. For these BBQ aficionados it is all about the smoke. The wood or combination of woods used in the smoking process is where the Texan expresses his individuality. Pork is rarely seen in the Lone Star State as Texans love their beef. The most popular cut in Texas is beef brisket because it captures the taste of smoke so well. Seldom will you ever find a bottle of sauce at an archetypal Texas smokehouse and those who dare bring their own should prepare for looks of disdain and the whispered murmurs of Yankee or city folk.

In the resorts of the Rocky Mountains classically trained chefs combine their refined European techniques with the wild flavors of the region. The result is a bold barbecue that uses grilled game like duck or venison and exotic sauces made with everything from raspberries to root beer. In Louisiana you might find a KC style sauce kicked-up with spices that add Cajun sizzle and in the Mississippi Delta they are fond of a sauce called Mississippi Blues that has blue berries as its main flavor ingredient.

Chicken seems to be universal in all regions of the country and can be augmented with a dry rub or any of the aforementioned wet sauces. Which brings us back to Alabama where we have a sauce formulated specifically for chicken. Alabama White BBQ Sauce hails from the northern half of the state and has been popularized at celebrated restaurants like Big Bob Gibson’s in Decatur. This sauce is mayonnaise-based with acidity coming from apple cider vinegar and sweetness from brown sugar; black pepper adds a little nutty heat to the finish.

Mustard Barbecue Sauce & Memphis Rub
Recipe Type: BBQ
Author: Stuart Reb Donald
Prep time: 5 mins
Cook time: 15 mins
Total time: 20 mins
Serves: Plenty
South Carolina mustard barbecue sauce can be traced to German settlers in the 18th century.
Ingredients
  • MUSTARD BARBECUE SAUCE:
  • 4 cups yellow mustard (two 20-ounce bottles of French’s mustard should do the trick)
  • 8 ounces of beer (less for thicker sauce, more for thinner sauce)
  • cup apple cider vinegar
  • 8 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup tomato puree
  • 2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon cayenne
  • 1 tablespoon fresh cracked black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • MEMPHIS RUB
  • 2 tablespoons paprika
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons celery salt
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Instructions
  1. SAUCE: Heat all ingredients in a sauce pan over medium heat and mix well. Cook until sauce just begins to thicken. Serve cool or warm. The sauce will last in the refrigerator for a long time. Quantity: 6 cups.
  2. RUB: Mix together and store in airtight container until ready to use.

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Stuart in 80 Words or Less

Stuart is a celebrity chef, food activist and award-winning food writer. He penned the cookbooks Third Coast Cuisine: Recipes of the Gulf of Mexico, No Sides Needed: 34 Recipes To Simplify Life and Amigeauxs - Mexican/Creole Fusion Cuisine. He hosts two Internet cooking shows "Everyday Gourmet" and "Little Grill Big Flavor." His recipes have been featured in Current, Lagniappe, Southern Tailgater, The Kitchen Hotline and on the Cooking Channel.

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Stuart’s Honors & Awards

2015 1st Place Luck of the Irish Cook-off
2015 4th Place Downtown Cajun Cook-off
2015 2nd Place Fins' Wings & Chili Cook-off
2014 2015 4th Place LA Gumbo Cook-off
2012 Taste Award nominee for best chef (web)
2012 Finalist in the Safeway Next Chef Contest
2011 Taste Award Nominee for Little Grill Big Flavor
2011, 12 Member: Council of Media Tastemakers
2011 Judge: 29th Chef's of the Coast Cook-off
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Wing Cook-off
2011 Cooking Channel Perfect 3 Recipe Finalist
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Gumbo Cook-off
2011 Culinary Hall of Fame Member
2010 Tasty Awards Judge
2010 Judge: Bayou La Batre Gumbo Cook-off
2010 Gourmand World Cookbook Award Nominee
2010 Chef2Chef Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2010 Denay's Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2009 2nd Place Bay Area Food Bank Chef Challenge
2008 Tava: Discovery Contest Runner-up

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