Sweet Baby Ray’s is Really Bad.

I’m going to make a statement that is going to be unpopular to the majority of people who are reading this.  Don’t worry, It’s OK if you disagree because I’m going to spend the next five minutes of your life convincing you that you’ve been absolutely destroying your meat with a disgusting sugar sauce that shouldn’t be allowed allowed to have the word “Barbecue” on the label.  So here we go.

Sweet Baby Ray’s is bad.  It’s really bad.

But why you might ask?  Most of you have probably been using Sweet Baby Ray’s your entire life.  These $2 bottles of “barbecue sauce” sit on end caps in your local grocery store every summer screaming for you to buy it.  That nice vintage looking bottle with “This Sauce is Boss!” written on the neck of every bottle.  That sweet tasting brown sauce that seems to enhance the flavor of your family’s boiled ribs, chicken cooked on the gas grill and even overcooked pork chops.  Sweet Baby Ray’s seems to make everything great!

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No.  Just no.  Sweet Baby Ray’s is not barbecue sauce.  Barbecue is beautiful.  Barbecue is flavored by wood or charcoal and gives the meat a naturally smoky flavor.  Not sauce with smoky flavoring.  Barbecue sauce can be a lot of fun and is often crucial to give piece of meat a nice caramelization on the outside — And before I go on, yes I know caramelization requires sugar.

But what if I told you that for every two tablespoons of Sweet Baby Ray’s you slather on your overcooked ribs, it’s the equivalent of eating the same amount of sugar as three Oreos?

Would you ever add 4 sugar cubes to your coffee?  I wouldn’t either.  Just a heads up, when you dump two tablespoons of Sweet Baby Ray’s on your chicken wings you’re eating just that.  Four cubes of sugar.

Did you know that every time you destroy a perfectly good piece of brisket with two tablespoons of Sweet Baby Ray’s you’re eating 34% of your daily recommended sugar intake?

Here’s where things get really creepy.  There is no actual sugar in Sweet Baby Ray’s. Through advances in sweetener technologies over the years, Ray is able to lower the cost of his sauce by using both High Fructose Corn syrup AND corn syrup which has satisfied Wal-Mart customers across the country.

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Now let me wrap this up for you and clear up a few things. I’ve never claimed to be a health conscious eater.  I rarely read nutritional labels and have frequented many all you can eat buffets.  My point in all this is that you are essentially pouring corn syrup with smoke flavoring over a beautiful piece of meat.  Think about that for a second.  A living thing lost its life and you are pouring a substance on it whose creator won’t even go the extra mile to use real sugar.  Not trying to go all hard hitting on you with that statement, but seriously.  Use a quality sauce or no sauce at all.  The purpose of barbecue sauce is to add that tang to your meat, not to completely overtake the flavor with massive amounts of sugar.

So do yourself a favor and sample a different sauce the the next time you fire up the grill at home.  You can do better than Sweet Baby Ray’s.  There are hundreds of options out there who actually use sugar to sweeten their sauce and whose purpose isn’t to be the focal point in your food.  Barbecue sauce should be the Jamal Crawford of your barbecue, a crucial role player who comes through when you need him and has been there for you throughout the years.

If you really want to get crazy, here is a recipe for something that tastes just like Sweet Baby Ray’s but is actually good.

  • 1 bottle bottle organic ketchup (Real sugar, plus you shouldn’t be using ketchup for anything else anyways)
  • 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1.5 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 1 Tablespoon dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 teaspoon liquid smoke (you could add more if you prefer a smokier BBQ sauce)
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper

Directions: Combine all ingredients.  Cook for five minutes  Enjoy not eating Sweet Baby Ray’s.

I hope this information has allowed you to move past this kindergarten barbecue sauce and graduate to treating your meat to something better.  You’re not a four year old dipping chicken nuggets in barbecue sauce.

You’re better than Sweet Baby Ray’s.

 

Why Does McDonalds Coke Taste So Good?

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There are very few things people can agree on anymore.  Some people think Donald Trump is the perfect person to make this country great again.  Some people think that he’s a lunatic and we are headed toward the apocalypse.  North Korea believes that they need nuclear weapons to defend themselves from the United States.  There doesn’t seem to be any sort of common ground for anyone to stand on to start to build a general understanding of each other anymore.

I think there is one thing that we can agree on:

McDonald’s Coca-Cola is on another level.

I’m sure the majority of us have found ourselves, one time in our lives, taking a drink of a large Coca-Cola at McDonalds and wondering “How the hell do they make this so good?”. After all, it’s the same recipe everywhere right?  How has McDonalds figured out how to make something that tastes the same every other place taste so much better?  Has McDonalds and the Coca-Cola company come to some kind of secret agreement where they get a better version of their product?  Turns out, the secrets are out there and I’m here to give you the answer you have been looking for your entire life.  The mystery ends now.

In 1955, Ray Kroc came to an agreement with the Coca-Cola company to make them their official beverage supplier and McDonalds has been their biggest customer for years. Coke sales teams are prohibited from selling syrup to other restaurants for less than what McDonald’s pays, even if that means losing business to Pepsi-Cola.  Coca-Cola even has a separate McDonalds division.  The two companies have helped each other’s growth would neither would be as huge as they are today without the other.

With that partnership, McDonalds takes their Coca-Cola seriously.  Very seriously.  Every aspect of their Coke end game is looked at carefully — from how it gets delivered to their restaurants, to how it is delivered to customer’s mouths.  They have guidelines for each of their restaurants to follow to ensure that customers are getting the best Coca-Cola possible and damnit, it seems to be working.

The Delivery

First, McDonalds has their Cola-Cola delivered in large stainless steel containers.  Anyone who has worked in the food industry knows that soda is usually delivered in large plastic bags within cardboard boxes.  The stainless steel containers maintain freshness and preserve the ingredients inside.   This also allows the syrup to stay cooler during delivery.

The Filtration

Second, McDonalds invests more money in their water filtration process than other fast food establishments.  Specifically, their water goes through a double filtration process before it goes in your cup.  They call this the “gold standard”.  If you ever want to taste the purest water you’ve ever had go and try the tap water at a McDonalds.

The Temperature

Third, McDonalds takes the temperature of their soda very seriously.  The tube that runs from the refrigerator unit in the back of their restaurants all the way to their drive through window is properly insulated and continuously has water running through it to achieve a temperature just above freezing.  This cold temperature is essential for peak C02 levels which ensures the crispy, bubbly taste of Coca-Cola and stays carbonated for longer than other restaurants.  The syrup is also pre-chilled before it goes into your cup. The addition of ice into your cup and ice melting is also taken into account with the syrup-soda ratio.  If you ever get a Coke at McDonalds with no ice, expect a much sweeter drink than you’re used to.

The Straw

Finally, ever notice the size of the straw at McDonalds?  That’s not an accident.  The bigger straw apparently allows the Coca-Cola to reach more of your taste buds.  Taken a step further, McDonalds straws seem to be popular among a different community of Coke consumers.  Just ask this subreddit.

 

YouTube Food

Before I start this, I must admit that I have a very small attention span.  YouTube has probably overtaken normal television for me simply because I don’t have to commit to thirty minutes to an hour of viewing the same show.  It’s sad, I know. I can skip around and watch clips of different things and a different video is automatically selected for you after your chosen video finishes. It not careful, you can enter a wormhole and before you know it hours have gone by. One thing YouTube is especially great for is food programming. Anything you could want — techniques, recipes, visits to restaurants – they’re all on YouTube.

I wanted to share with you some of my favorite current programming. I’ll make this a regular thing where I share what I’m currently watching in a given week. If you have one that I haven’t listed, give me a shout. I’ll check it out.

Hot Ones is a very simple idea — Interviews with different celebrities and personalities while eating really hot wings. The host will typically ask questions right after they have eaten the wing.  In this episode, Eddie Huang attempts to eat the hottest wings first and almost dies.

Matty Matheson is a large tatted chef from Canada who has several shows on YouTube. His best is called Dead Set on Life and airs on Viceland.  Basically the premise of this is he visits different areas of the world, usually in North America, and goes through different food related experiences while yelling and swearing.  The intros are the best.  He also has his own channel where he does different food instructional which are surprisingly educational.

Aaron Franklin has his own channel where he teaches you literally everything about wood smoked Texas BBQ. Franklin BBQ is considered the mecca of BBQ and there are hours of content here going through everything from how to build your own smoker, to how to smoke any cut of pork you could think of. If you’re interested in getting into the smoking game, this is where you should start.

You Suck at Cooking – I don’t really know how to explain this one. You’re just going to have to trust me and watch it.

Binging with Babish is of my favorite new channels. Andrew Rea recreates recipes and dishes from pop culture, movies and TV shows and walks you through how to make them. It’s not always what you think and actually provides some really good information on technique and ingredients in a humorous way.

Tina’s Burritos

This will be part of an ongoing series called Internet Deep Dives.  Each week I will pick one food item, brand or category and give you more information than you thought you ever wanted to know. The fun part is I do the research as I’m writing the piece, so I learn along with you. This week, we dive into one of my favorite cheap eats, Tina’s Burritos.  The reason I chose this brand is because Tina and I have had a long time affair.  I’ve been eating her Red Hot Beef Burritos since I was ten years old and consider them to be the gold standard in frozen burritos. I was curious who this Tina is and how she is making such great product that is commonly sold for twenty cents a piece.  Here we go.

I suffered a major blow right out of the gate in my research.  There is no Tina.  Throughout my years of eating these burritos filled with textured vegetable protein, I always had a story in my head about this Tina.  A lady from a poor neighborhood cooked small burritos for her friends and family and as they began to move away she would freeze bags of them so they could enjoy her burritos in their new neighborhoods.  They would then share them with their new neighbors who would go on and on about how good these burritos were. One day, a neighbor turned out to be a rep for a frozen food company who demanded to know where these delicious frozen burritos were coming from.  He traveled miles and miles to meet with Tina and convinced her to sell her recipes to his company and become a consultant for a new “Tina’s Frozen Burritos” product line.  After a few months the company swindled Tina, as she didn’t know to sign a proper contract, robbing her of her recipes with only a small percentage in company stock to show for it.  From there, the company figured out a way to take Tina’s original recipe and replace all the good ingredients with things like textured vegetable protein, driving the price down to quarters for a single burrito.  Tina returned home and still makes her famous burritos for friends and family to this day.

OK, so that’s far from the real story of Tina’s burritos but it’s far more interesting, I’m sorry to say.  There isn’t even an attempt to post a picture of a lady rolling a tortilla and saying she is Tina. There just is no Tina. This was an absolutely crushing blow to me but I needed to to go on. Maybe I could find some sense in all of this.

Tina’s Burritos was started in 1980 by a company called Camino Real Foods based out of California.  Based off the financials I found, it’s safe to say that I’m not the only one buying Tina’s Burritos in bulk. Camino Foods does an estimated $127 million in annual revenue and employs 410 people. They only produce one other product so some quick math leads me to believe that they are possibly selling close to half a billion frozen burritos per year.  They are the number one single service frozen burrito producer in the world and currently own 60% market share. They were purchased in 1988 for $7 million by Nissin Foods, the company that brings you Top Ramen and Cup Noodles, but sold off in the early 2000s and now act as a privately owned company.

In the early 2000s, Tina’s decided to change up their recipe and size of the burrito to drive costs even lower. There was such public outcry that Tina’s reverted back to the original recipe and issued multiple press releases letting their customers know that they had gone back to their original spicy goop filled burrito recipe.

That is literally ALL of the information available about this mysterious burrito company.  That’s where the fun comes in on these deep dives.  I figured there would be fake Tina back story or that she was a real burrito making lady.  You would think a company producing that much revenue with that many employees would have more of a story out there, but no.  Tina’s Burritos likes their story just like they like their grocery story freezer placement: hiding on the bottom shelf.

While I was short on information, which completely ruins this first internet deep dive, I DID learn one important bit of information. Tina’s is EXPANDING.  For 22 years I have had no issues with consuming hundreds of Red Hot Beef Burritos every year with out even dreaming of new flavors.  Soon, they will be offering a line of Quesoritos, coming in three different flavors: Fajita and cheese, Chicken fajita and cheese, and finally… Beef, cheese and bacon.  I can not wait.