Sauce of the Month
Rod Gray is one of the nicest, most normal guys, you’ll ever meet. In fact, he says he’s boring. His words, not ours. But, in the sport of competition barbecue — which is overpopulated by larger-than-life personalities and out-sized egos — nice and normal might indeed come across as boring. That said, there’s nothing boring about Rod Gray’s success as a barbecue cook. His team, Pellet Envy, has been one of the sport’s most formidable and consistently successful competitors over the last nine years. Pellet Envy has won forty-six Grand Championships, thirty Reserve Grand Champion trophies and more than eighty contest category wins. The team won Kansas City Barbeque Society Team of the Year in 2009, and since its first full competition season in 2002, has never been ranked lower than 13th in the country. And just this month, Rod and his lovely wife, Sheri, won TV’s DESTINATION AMERICA: PITMASTERS Kansas City episode.
Rod is a great friend of The Kansas City BBQ Store. And we couldn't be prouder to feature his new line of EAT Barbecue sauces and rubs. We talked with him recently about his barbecue career and his new product line.
BBQ Store: How long have you been competing in barbecue contests, and what got you started?
Rod Gray: It was a contest organized by Oklahoma Joe’s owner Jeff Stehney that got me started in barbecue. It was the first Kansas Speedway barbecue contest in July 2001. It was something like 103 degrees that day. But there were more than 200 barbecue teams there, and every one of them was having a ball, despite the sweltering heat. I saw so much camaraderie and good will, I decided right then and there that competition barbecue was something that I just had to be a part of.
BBQ Store: What’s the secret of your success?
RG: Because we teach classes that show exactly how we compete, we simply don’t have any secrets left. I’d like to think that we cook very consistently with an eye for detail. I’d also think that we’ve succeeded by cooking for the contest judges, instead to our personal preference.
BBQ Store: What was it like winning the Kansas City edition of BBQ Pitmasters?
RG: BBQ Pitmasters and I have had an on again, off again type of relationship over the years. When I heard they were planning to shoot an episode in Kansas City about KC's best barbecue, I knew I had to be part of it. Funny thing about television, all those feelings of competing in my first ever contest came flooding back and I worried about whether I would hit my marks in tenderness, appearance, and taste while cooking my two favorite Kansas City Barbecue Society categories. In the end, it was just our day. Our ribs looked perfect and had the moisture I had hoped, while the burnt ends were tender and looked like a million bucks. Despite some really big wins in my twelve year competition barbecue career, winning BBQ Pitmasters with my wife and teammate, was definitely one of the biggest wins ever for Pellet Envy.
BBQ Store: What advice do you have for folks who might be considering competing in barbecue contests?
RG: It’s always better to under smoke and overcook your meat. Too much smoke is never pleasant and overcooked beats undercooked every time. But mostly, have fun and don’t take it too seriously.
BBQ Store: So, tell us about your new line of EAT Barbecue sauces and rubs.
RG: Gladly! My Kansas City style sauceis called The Next Big Thing. It's a thicker, sweet, tomato based sauce with just the right about of spice and a great rich flavor. Fabulous on pork and chicken, this sauce won the Jack Daniel's World Invitational and made me a national champion.
IPO is an apple cider vinegar based sauce. It’s a bit on the thinner side. You'll first notice the slight sweetness, then a little punch from the vinegar, followed by the slightest bit of heat on the back of your throat. It's perfect as a finishing glaze and awesome on chicken, pork and especially ribs.
Our Zero to Hero rub is on the sweeter side, with hints of garlic and onion and just the right amount of heat. Combine this with my IPO sauce, and you pretty much have the recipe that made me a national rib champion. Oh, and did I mention it's great on chicken, pork, and even popcorn.
Finally, we’ve got a rub we call The Most Powerful Stuff. Watch out, this rub really is the most powerful stuff! If you were stranded on a desert island and could only bring one rub, this is the one. With a base of salt and pepper, this rub has just the right amount of garlic and chile powder to make the perfect blend for beef brisket and other large cuts.