Middle of 2015, during the chilli event at Darts Farm, my chef husband, Steve, and I came across 2 jars of sauce; these weren’t just any sauces, they were Eat the Smoke sauces. The brand didn’t mean much at the time, but we were impressed by the complexity of what we tasted, so bought some to take home and try. We have been addicted ever since.
Over the next few months, we had seen Eat the Smoke at a couple of food festivals including the Beer and Bacon Festival, Topsham and Powderham Food Festival; these have been a meeting of mixed emotions, as they served delicious bbq foods to hungry punters including us, but didn’t always have stock of the sauces to sell in their own right.
Recently the direction of the company has changed slightly with more focus on selling the products rather than as a food outlet and we can now easily buy our fix from one of the local farm shops and even the man himself with the HQ only being down the road from us in Clyst St Mary – you can’t get more local than that!
With this change, new products have emerged with the addition of 5 different rubs and 2 types of nuts to add to the existing 2 jars of sauce. Steve caught up with Eat the Smoke at The Source Trade Show in February and we were lucky enough to get some samples of the new range.
The range includes:
Sauces: Original BBQ sauce, Helluva Hot BBQ Sauce
Rubs: Cajun Blackened Fish Rub, Creole Rub, Helluva Hot BBQ Rub, BBQ Hot Rub, Buffalo Hot Wing and Poultry Rub
BBQ Rub Nuts: Smoked Almonds, Smoked Cashews
We tested all the rubs with a variety of meats and seafood in an Eat the Smoke extravaganza one Saturday evening. Cajun Blackened Fish Rub on some juicy prawns proved vibrant, earthy and zingy without overpowering the sweetness of the prawns. Creole was used on a fillet of fish as well as ribs and hit all the right notes with a great hit of rosemary that delivers but never overpowers and is balanced enough to rub on to a meaty fish like tuna or monkfish.
We scored chicken drumsticks, rubbing the Buffalo Hot Wing and Poultry Rub in and left it to marinade during the day. Soaked them in full fat milk for a few more hours before coating them in flour seasoned with more rub; a quick deep fry to seal them up and in the oven they went. These had a delicious warmth to them, with a hint of Mexico according to my taste buds.
We marinated ribs in both rubs and sauce, with the Helluva rub giving an impressive deep smoky flavour and very well balanced spicing and heat. The blend of herbs are not overpowering and you never lose the taste of the meat which is really important.
These rubs and sauces do what they say on the tub/jar and the sizes are very generous, not a one-meal-a-tub and the uses are endless with flavours for all palettes. The bottled sauces can be used as marinades as well as being used to add to chilli con carne, make a spicy coleslaw or with pasta and if you are a bit of a chilli head, I can’t recommend the Helluva BBQ sauce enough – especially the bottom of the bottle – it’ll knock your socks off! The good news is you don’t have to have a BBQ; as we tested the products at home, we know you can easily create some delicious meals in the oven, fryer or on the stove. If you do have a BBQ, then these products will withstand the heat and cook beautifully.
So who is behind the smoke? His name is Christian. We have been on polite conversational terms when meeting each other here and there and so we cheekily invited ourselves round to his HQ to see what he has been up to and how he uses his products. Eat the Smoke has been going for 3 years; Christian has been an avid BBQ’er for 20 years, smoking for 6 and left his stressful 9-5 job to pursue his passion, making use of the momentum that this way cooking is gaining. Lately BBQ’ing and smoking are becoming more popular, making its way out of the ‘underground’ scene and finding itself in the mainstream, with great exposure thanks to recent TV cookery shows, as well as demos at food festivals with audiences embracing it.
On arrival at his site, he showed us his Pro Q smoker already on the go with chicken for the evening’s pop-up event at The Oddfellows in Exeter. Along with this he had a large normal bbq ripe and ready for some tasters for us and showed us his large smoking cabinet which can also do a cold smoke. With the coals alight, Christian told us how he was using oak shavings which are a by-product of a local timber yard – a great use of a by-product.
He had beer soaked minute steak coated in Creole rub on the go, giving the meat a great flavour. He also had ribs coated in Helluva Hot Rub, initially cooked on the fire to seal the meat, then coated in glossy Original BBQ sauce and thrown back on the fire for further cooking, resulting in a pile of sticky, saucy, spicy morsels.
As Christian himself said to us with slight embarrassment and apology in advance “there’s no polite way to eat ribs with a beard” – I would agree that there isn’t a polite way to eat ribs, even without a beard, and that’s the way it should be – food that is fun. What Eat the Smoke does is help you achieve BBQ food with ease and excellent flavours, without too much effort.
I’m pleased to say he is succeeding in getting the rubs and his delicious smoked nuts into local outlets alongside his bottles of sauces, with even some bars having the nuts for sale with their beer offering. I haven’t written much about the nuts as, in all honesty, they didn’t last longer than a few minutes once opened; I guess we’ll have to buy some more and try to savour them a bit longer. I recall them being delicious, smoky and unlike anything else currently available we believe.
I urge you to support a local guy producing flavours of the deep south of America but right here in the deep South West – give one or more a try, there’s something for everyone.
Quick Q & A with Christian of Eat the Smoke
How long have you been smoking/bbq’ing for?
Been excessively bbqing for about 20 years, smoking for about 6.
What county were you born in?
Born in Devon, so lots of beach BBQs probably in places I shouldn’t have been bbqing!
When did you start the business?
ETS started 3 years ago
What’s your favourite meat?
Favourite meat at the moment is probably my ribs. After about 3 years I feel I’ve perfected them.
Favourite way to cook it?
I go for a 48 hour dry rub, 4 hour smoke preferably over cherry or apple and then wet baste and direct heat, and once done a quick caramelise in sauce
Best type of bbq or smoker for someone to start on at home?
As a start up or home BBQ I think there’s two options. For someone who is really interested, wants to try different smoke and who doesn’t mind investing time and effort I’d go for an upright smoker like a Pro Q or Webber Smokey Mountain. They’re not very well insulated so they do need a careful eye, and do need to be watched to be checked if you’re smoking overnight.
If you’re happy straight off investing money and wanting an easy life it’s a Kamado Joe or Big Green Egg. Big investment though, and not very practical in the sense that you can’t throw it in a back of a car and take it to a party or off camping.
Plenty of people are making their own though and I just love this. Important thing is to be able to get both direct and indirect heat, and a smoking area.