Palate pleasers

Seasonings, rubs and sauces can spice up the bottom line

Oakridge BBQ’sOakridge BBQ’s Black Ops Brisket Rub was cloaked in secrecy for two years before its release
Bland is boring! With cool weather here in many parts of the country and heartier dishes beginning to appear on dinner tables – including more gamey meats like venison and duck, savory stews and chilies, and those grilled and deep fried turkeys that continue to become popular holiday fare – now is the time for the products that dress up the food to take center stage.

For retailers who want to know more, there is plenty to consider when it comes to rubs, sauces, spices and other food enhancers. Above all, it is an ideal opportunity to roll out ancillary items to increase grill business and give consumers a chance to return multiple times throughout the fall and winter.

Seasonings are not only great flavor boosters but double as tenderizers on foods like wild game. Those turkeys that leave the trussing and the dressing in the kitchen are often flavored with a bold seasoning such as Cajun. A rub crusting on meats helps lock in the juices. Additionally, these products give meat a more visually appealing finishing touch.

“Charcoal grilling tends to ramp up in the fall,” said championship barbecue cook Dan Hathaway, who manages The Kansas City BBQ Store in Olathe, Kan. Featuring hundreds of sauces and seasonings from America’s traditional barbecue regions – the Carolinas, Texas, Memphis, the Deep South and, of course, Kansas City – the store also carries an extensive range of barbecue and cooking accessories like cutlery, cookware, thermometers and grates. Smokers and grills are also on the floor and include those from Big Green Egg, Cookshack, Traeger, Weber, Horizon and American Barbecue Systems.

“There are a lot of grilling competitions in the area so we do quite well in sales,” Hathaway said. “Also, we get a lot of customers coming in early in the season buying turkey brines to practice for the holiday.” He noted the store’s most popular selling brand for that is Fire & Flavor’s Apple Sage Turkey Brine.

Oakridge BBQ’sOakridge BBQ’s full lineup includes a beef and pork rub

“As we head into the fall and winter as well as the holidays, the spices, rubs and seasonings that traditionally do well are those for poultry – especially turkey,” said Greig McCully, owner of Augusta, Ga.-based Fireside Outdoor Kitchens & Grills, which is known as a solid resource for outdoor kitchens and the items that go in them. “Tools and accessories for smokers are also popular this time of year.”

The store stocks a healthy range of items like grill covers, grill grates, Maverick cooking tools and a variety of charcoal and fire starters. There is no shortage of grills either with major brands represented including Alfresco Home, Big Green Egg, Broil King, Kamado Joe, Memphis Wood Fire Grills, Primo, Summerset and Weber.

Along with that, seasonings and sauces include Willie’s Hog Dust, Cimarron Doc’s, Dizzy Pig (all flavors) and Slap Ya Mamma Seasonings.

With such a broad range of interesting items, these cooking accessories and products are a portal to flavor and a path to profits for store owners. It can be tough to achieve a pleased palate without them because certain cuts of meats and veggies lack that burst of flavor, pinch of panache, eye-popping visual appeal or enticing aroma that makes a dish unforgettable.

Here are a few items to consider:

Sassy sauce

Black Swan products, named for the famous vessel that sailed during the great trade days at sea, launched a decade ago out of Dundee, Ill. With a global reach in Canada, Europe and South America, the company reformulated its sauce last year to include a “clean” line which eliminated high fructose corn syrup from its sauces that now include a Sweet Cognac variety.

“We reformulated our products because consumers are very label conscious,” said Suzanne Mui-Good, president of Black Swan, “and are looking for products that are more naturally derived, especially the European markets.” Both the company’s “clean gourmet” and “original” recipes are made from real vegetables.

A sweetA sweet gift is a salt block.

A Good Rub Down

Oakridge BBQ, based in Kearney, Mo., credits its 2014 Rib World Championship last May and the Grand Championship victory at Roc City RibFest in Rochester, N.Y., to the newest secret weapon in its arsenal – the Dominator Sweet Rib Rub (made from raw cane sugar, which allows perfection during both low-and high-temperature grilling). The company’s Black Ops Brisket Rub (a phrase that sounds more Homeland than home cooking), cloaked in secrecy for two years before its release, is also a headliner among the extensive line of seasonings. It is handmade in micro-batches and offers a spicy, peppery finish.

“Rubs provide so much to a cut of meat, adding taste, locking in flavor and tenderizing meat,” said Michael Trump, owner and CEO of Oakridge BBQ, whose products are certified gluten-free by the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness.

Getting Salty

Mark Bitterman owner of The Meadow, a Portland, Ore.-based three-store gourmet boutique specializing in chocolates, bitters and salt blocks believes salt blocks are the essential food enhancing agent for grilled meats. “They create a direct food-to-fire man’s Salt Block Cooking: 70 Recipes for Grilling, Chilling, Searing and Serving on Himalayan Salt Blocks” comes in a set that features the book and salt block.z

www.atthemeadow. com

Game Changer

Who better than a family of hunters to come up with seasonings to enhance the flavor of wild game? Bolner’s Fiesta Extra Fancy Wild Game Rub (a blend of garlic, salt, jalapeno powder and tenderizer) is at the ready. “The spice complements the flavor while enhancing the subtle differences between various meats,” Michael J. Bolnar said. “The jalapeno accents wild game in a mild way.”

Bolner’sBolner’s Wild Game Rub

Brine Time

There’s only one way to infuse moisture into slow-cooked items such as chicken and yes, that holiday bird, and that’s brining, which locks in natural moisture. According to Spice Hunter, brining is a culinary technique that is regaining popularity. It locks in natural moisture while infusing mild flavors as well as reducing cooking time. The company’s Turkey Brine is a blend of fruit, herbs and savory spices.

It’s A Wrap

The grill shouldn’t be left a mess until the next time a cook is ready to fire it up to make a meal. Cookina’s PFOA-free grill cover sheets take the hassle out of the cleanup. The heat-resistant sheets are non-stick and don’t take anything away from the cooking process or taste – not even the grill marks

“Cookina grilling sheets have become the most indispensable tool for my grill,” said Chef George Duran, who has become an ambassador for the product. “I finally have a non-stick surface where I can cook the stickiest foods (veggies, tilapia and pancakes) and still get awesome grill marks. It’s a game changer.”

SpiceSpice Hunter’s Turkey Brine means a moist meat.

Fire Starter

Innovative products like Insta-Fire Charcoal Starter make the task of grilling simple and stress-free – especially on chillier days when no one wants to stand outside fussing with firing up the grill. Here’s how it works: just light the charcoal pack in the bottom of grill, place briquettes on rack above fire and – voila. A single-use pouch can heat up to 75 briquettes in 15 minutes. The product is a safe fast-burning, all natural fire-starting agent that lights quickly and is eco-friendly and odorless. Two bonuses: the pouch is made from corn syrup, which adds a molasses flavor, and the product has a 30-year shelf life.

Chips and Wine

Expect the unexpected from Pottstown, Pa.-based Alfresco Home with its Fornetto European Smoking Chips and Fornetto Premium Hard Lump Coal. Alfresco Home’s products are upscale, organic gourmet offerings. The wood chips, for example, are made in Spain from aged red wine barrels and are then steeped in wine. “It’s all about the flavor,” said Joseph Cilio, CEO of Alfresco Home. “The Cognac red wine soaked chips made from the barrels that housed the wine are organic and give the meat an incredible aromatic essence.” The company also introduced hard lump coal that is made from Quebracho hardwood trees found in Paraguay. “The hard lump coal burns longer and slower than charcoal allowing food to cook more evenly,” Cilio said.

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