“We had to find a way to fund our hobby.”
That’s the response Brian Cox — jokingly — gives when asked about the line of barbecue sauce and dry rubs he launched with two of his Memphis-based M/W Smokers competition barbecue team members Brian Wynn and Brandon Massey.
Meat Whiskey Memphis Original Barbecue Sauce, Hog Toss Memphis Original Barbecue Championship BBQ Rub and Stack House “All Day Every Day” Rub are the building blocks M/W Smokers uses in competition, and now others can use them on their own home grill.
“Friends, family and cooking are the base of our good times,” Cox said. “These sauces and rubs are the base of our grill … and we want to share this.”
Memphis-style sauces and rubs
Meat Whiskey is a barbecue sauce that Wynn describes as “a unique mixture of Memphis, Kansas City and Texas flavors.”
“It’s sweet and tangy with a kick on the back end,” Wynn said. “It’s an all-around sauce you can literally put on anything.”
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Cox said the secret ingredient is their Hog Toss dry rub. “There is a substantial amount of our Hog Toss rub in there. It makes it unique. There is no other sauce like it.”
The Hog Toss dry rub is their play on the famous Memphis-style dry rub that they grew up on. “It’s a sweet rub with a hint of spice and rich color,” reads the description on the team’s website.
The Stack House seasoning blend is an all-purpose seasoning that Wynn said he puts on just about everything he cooks. Garlic, onion, pepper, salt and a few other secret ingredients make up this spice that can be bought in either the original version or spicy.
The sauces and rubs are the trio’s way of differentiating themselves on the barbecue circuit.
“We wanted to be different than everyone else,” said Wynn, who explained many people use similar base ingredients. “We wanted our own flavor profile.”
The team uses all the products when cooking at competitions and at home. “Stack House is great on everything from eggs to vegetables to pork,” said Wynn, adding he seasons his pork chops with Stack House and Hog Toss before finishing them on the grill with Meat Whiskey sauce.
“I probably shouldn’t say this, but Meat Whiskey is a great dipping sauce for chicken nuggets,” Cox said. “Kids love it.”
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From hobby to business
Wynn, Cox and Massey have been cooking together for about five years.
The pitmasters met close to a decade ago, but were on different teams. The competition was friendly and the pitmasters became friends as they cooked at competitions over the years. “About five years ago, (Cox’s) team was disbanding and he was reforming a new team. He asked if I wanted to join,” Wynn said.
The new team led to multiple awards in the barbecue circuit. Braces include several top three placements in ancillary divisions like chicken and turkey smoke. In April they placed first in Pulled Pork at the Memphis Barbecue Network 42nd Annual Southaven Springfest.
At the World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest, they compete in the ribs division.
“We keep inching up every year at Memphis in May,” Wynn said. “Last year we placed 14th in ribs.”
This year, they have upped their presence and will have a double booth. “That’s close to 4,000 square feet of scaffolding,” Wynn said. “We are going big this year. It’s all to market Meat Whiskey.”
The dry rubs launched in 2019, but the sauce is new for this barbecue season.
“We started working on the sauce last summer and launched it in November,” said Massey, adding it will be their first time to compete with it at Memphis in May.
The trio hope one day Meat Whiskey will be a household name, until then sales of the sauce and rubs help fund their competition barbecue team.
“The end goal is to be able to quit our day jobs,” Massey said.
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That said, Wynn is quick to add that they haven’t forgotten their roots. “It was barbecue that brought us together. It’s about making friends who turn into family.”
The trio say this is the year to accelerate their business and their competition game, especially in the Tomato Sauce division of the World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest. “We will pour it in a cup for judging and cannot wait to see what happens,” Cox said.
The sauces and rubs are available at stores across Memphis, including places like Charlie’s Meat Market, Buster’s Liquors and Wines, Oxbeau and The Peabody hotel, as well as online at hogtoss.com.
Jennifer Chandler is the Food & Dining reporter at The Commercial Appeal. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and you can follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @cookwjennifer.
M/W Smokers Double Bone-In Pork Chops
This recipe originated on the grill of M/W Smokers pitmaster Brian Wynn. He said bone-in pork chops are one of his favorite meats to cook.
2 bone-in pork chops
M/W Smokers Stack House (or Stack House Hot) Rub
M/W Smokers Hog Toss Memphis Original Barbecue Championship BBQ Rub
Meat Whiskey Barbecue Sauce
Rinse the pork chops and then pat them dry. To season it up, start off with a base layer of M/W Smokers’ all-purpose rub Stack House (if you like a little more spice you can use the Stack House Hot) followed up by a nice coating of barbecue rub Hog Toss . Let the chops sit for 15 minutes before putting on the grill.
Set up your grill for a two-zone cooking method, one side being direct heat and the other being indirect. Once the direct side is hot, add a piece of pecan wood and cherry wood to give it a nice kiss of smoke flavor.
Place your pork chops on the indirect side of your grill. Cook the pork chops until they reach an internal temperature of around 130 degrees. (Tip: A good thermometer is key to cooking. We like to use a Thermoworks Thermapen or Dot to monitor our temperatures.) Once your chop has reached that internal temperature, pull it off and set it on the direct side right over the fire.
Brush the top with Meat Whiskey (or your favorite barbecue sauce). Let it go for about a minute and a half, and then give it a nice half turn. This will get those grill marks you are looking for. After another minute in half, flip and baste the chops again with the sauce and do the same rotation after a minute and a half.
Once your chops have reached an internal temperature of 145 degrees, they are ready to pull off the grill. You can wrap it in aluminum foil or set it in an uncovered dish and just let it sit. Give it about 5 minutes and then you are ready to eat.
Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest
When: May 11-14
Hours: 5-10 pm May 11, 11 am-midnight May 12-13, 10 am-10 pm May 14
Where: Fairgrounds in Liberty Park
Tickets: Single-day general admission tickets are $14 and four-day passes are $48. Tickets can be purchased in advance at memphisinmay.org.