If you haven't been stranded on a desert island you know that BBQ and grilling are SMOKING HOT in America right now! If BBQ were in line to have an IPO on the DOW or NASDAQ it would be met with a buzz similar to that enjoyed by Facebook or Shack Shack as they made their way into our financial lexicon and the portfolios of millions of investors. Simply put, betting on BBQ is a safer bet than doubling down in blackjack when you've been dealt two aces. BBQ is a sure bet, at least as sure of a bet as exists, and there are many gamblers going all in when it comes to BBQ!
If you turned on your TV in 2015, you probably came face to face with the reality that TV producers and networks are among those placing the largest wager on the popularity of BBQ in America. BBQ on TV isn't new, it's just hotter than it has ever been. From Food Network to Destination America and Cooking Channel to PBS and Travel Channel to the networks, BBQ and grilling shows are popping up everywhere. 2015 also became the year when BBQ broke even further into the world of commercials, with BBQ themed commercials from GEICO, Bank of America, Nexium, and Burlington Coat Factory to name a few. We were even lucky enough to break into the world of commercials this year filming BBQ themed commercials for Choice Hotels and Dunn & Brandstreet.
More BBQ on TV is a good thing for the health and growth of BBQ in America. It introduces the cuisine, lifestyle and sport that we all love so much to countless potential new BBQ lovers. That means more people eating at BBQ restaurants, purchasing BBQ sauce and spice rub, buying new grills and smokers, adding BBQ cookbooks to their bookshelves and/or competing in their first BBQ contests. That also means more opportunities for BBQ pitmasters, BBQ businesses, and BBQ restaurants to increase their stature and diversify potential revenue streams.
More BBQ TV = Good For BBQ in general and the BBQ pitmasters/BBQ businesses and BBQ restaurants who make a living from BBQ
Our Top 5 BBQ TV Shows in 2015 are:
#5 - BBQ Pit Wars - As BBQ competitors it is always great to see a show based on the competition world. You get a chance to see your friends on TV, you might even see yourself on TV if you were cooking the right competition at the right time, get a secret or two for the low price of watching the show, confirm if you are doing something right or wrong based on the success or failure of the shows participants and share a little bit of your weekend life with friends and family.
The second season of BBQ Pit Wars was, in our opinion, a stronger season than the first. If it gets a third season it would be great to see a bit more diversity in contest locations and a refresh of the teams who participate on the show. We like the idea of the team who wins the season securing a slot in the next season while the three losing teams are replaced by three new teams. This would raise the stakes of the show and give at least three new teams the chance to participate every year.
#4 - Chopped Grillmasters - After a several year hiatus it was good to see the Food Network bring Chopped Grillmasters back. If there is one downfall in the world of competition BBQ it is that it doesn't reward risk taking and creativity. Like it or not, we all know if we want a chance to hear our name called at awards there is a narrow line the judges are looking for and we must not cross it if we hope to be successful. The reality is BBQ is filled with talented cooks and chefs who, when given the opportunity, can do some pretty remarkable things over a live fire. We loved seeing so many of our friends forced to step outside of their comfort zone of ribs, chicken, brisket and pork and be forced to think outside the box with some odd ball ingredients in very short windows of time. The results were for the most part very impressive!
#3 -BBQ Pitmasters - BBQ Pitmasters set the tone for the influx of BBQ related shows and has changed formats several times over the course of its history. We still don't find the show as satisfying as the first season, but it remains a favorite can't miss show. In its current format, it is a hybrid mix of BBQ Pit Wars and Chopped Grillmasters. It isn't the pure competition format of Pit Wars and it isn't the adrenaline rush format of being told you have 15 minutes to create a world class dish using squash blossoms, beaten biscuits, durian, crickets and lobster over an open fire. It sets somewhere comfortably in between.
Where the show has improved upon itself in recent seasons is its current iteration of judges. The mix of personality, chemistry and acumen is perfect between Myron Mixon, Tuffy Stone & Moe Cason, all very accomplished pitmasters in their own right. Where the show has faltered in our opinion is in two areas: 1) It often tries to get too cute with a quick challenge filled with "Made For TV Drama" that just doesn't work. We want to see the show focus on the main event, seasoned pitmasters doing what they do best, not determining if they can turn rattlesnake into an Amuse Bouche in 15 minutes, and 2) It is as if the same pitmasters are asked to return to the show year after year. While there certainly should be opportunity for pitmasters to return, there should also be opportunity for fresh casting each year, which would help keep the show fresh and provide additional accomplished pitmasters the opportunity to introduce themselves and share their talents with viewers. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of qualified pitmasters cooking from coast-to-coast who we'd like to see on the show. Simply put, let's see some new pitmasters next season!
#2 - BBQ Crawl - BBQ Crawl is Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives on steroids for the BBQ lover. There are so many amazing BBQ joints across the country and most of us aren't lucky enough to travel from coast-to-coast to try them all, but we're able to live vicariously through Diva Q as she does just that. When we're lucky enough to find ourselves traveling around the country we've followed Diva's advice and visited a few of her favorite stops. The thing that really takes this show to the next level are the episodes that find Diva Q competing in a local BBQ contest. We love this aspect of the show for many of the same reasons we listed above under BBQ Pit Wars (You get a chance to see your friends on TV, you might even see yourself on TV if you were cooking the right competition at the right time, get a secret or two for the low price of watching the show, confirm if you are doing something right or wrong based on the success or failure of the shows participants and share a little bit of your weekend life with friends and family.) Additionally, we love that she shares the spotlight with her BBQ friends on each episode, inviting them to visit BBQ joints and cook BBQ competitions with her!
#1 - BBQ with Franklin - BBQ with Franklin is hands down our favorite BBQ show of 2015. What could be bad about one of the greatest minds in BBQ giving us, the viewer, an in depth and often scientific understanding of wood, meat, seasoning, pits and even a failed attempt at competing (again proving that BBQ judges often cause us to scratch our heads as we're sure that the Que Aaron turned in, which was surly outside the box of traditional competition BBQ, was way preferable to many of the entries turned in - we know we'd rather eat Aaron's BBQ than what we turn in on just about every Saturday we compete). We can't wait to see what Aaron has in store for viewers next season!
2015 was indeed a great year for BBQ on TV and we have no doubt the airwaves will be filled with even more great BBQ TV in 2016, which is only good for BBQ!
Come back tomorrow and we'll announce the #9 BBQ Story of 2015.