MasterChef Season 10 episode 11 review: Backyard BBQ heats up


In this review of MasterChef, the losing team from the wedding challenge will have a patio grill-off. Whose dream will go up in smoke tonight?

Before we get into the meat of this MasterChef episode (pun intended), I have to address something. As a Southerner, I need to explain that barbeque is low and slow cooking. You do this with big cuts of meat that you want to absorb smoky flavors and to be fall-apart tender.

Grilling is hot and fast. It’s good for steaks, hamburgers, hot dogs, seafood. What happened on MasterChef was backyard grilling, not barbecue. Now let me put my soapbox away and we can move on.

The former teams enter the MasterChef patio, set with lots of Viking gas grills. Bri’s winning team steps to the side where they can watch the action and drink cocktails.

One of the most amusing things this episode is watching Fred. Every time the camera cuts to those not cooking for reaction shots, Fred is literally gulping cocktails. Our nervous, high-strung guy has found something to calm him down and he is taking full advantage.

Wuta is not so lucky. In selecting his team for the previous challenge, he picked the strongest cooks and now he has to compete against them. Gordon asks Wuta what happened in the team challenge and he admits, “I didn’t believe in myself. I trusted my team and I didn’t trust myself.” He’s going to have to regain his confidence quickly if he wants to survive this.

The judges reveal the challenge. The cooks have one hour to create a complete dish centered around beef. The judges present a large display of beef cuts including tomahawk, NY strip, T-bone, ground beef, short ribs, ribeye, flank steak, hanger steak, and more. They can also select from a large outdoor pantry of summer fruits and vegetables. The winner will have their recipe featured on the “Beef-It’s What’s for Dinner” website.

Immediately, Dorian worries as she has never cooked on a gas grill before. Keturah has never grilled at all. Wuta reminds us he is a vegetarian.

On the other side, Sarah is from Texas and is very comfortable with beef. Noah, self-proclaimed grill master, tells us “I’ve been grilling my whole life. This is like Michael Phelps in a frickin’ lap pool. This is a natural habitat. A silverback gorilla in a rainforest. Ok? This is my jungle and I own it.”

When the clock starts, there is a mad dash to the beef display. It looks like shoppers on Black Friday. At one point, I see Keturah snatch a tomahawk steak right out of Noah’s hand. Sarah walks away holding literal handfuls of meat. Keturah leaves with seven different steaks. When Gordon asks her what she is making, she tells him, “steak of some sort” which makes me laugh out loud.

MASTERCHEF: Contestant Keturah in the “Backyard BBQ” episode of MASTERCHEF airing Thursday, July 18 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. © FOX MEDIA LLC. CR: Greg Gayne/ FOX. © 2019 FOX MEDIA LLC.

For the most part, the grilling is relatively low drama. Sarah has never made a tomahawk before but she plans to try it here. Jamie reveals that he wants to win the prize money to funnel into his non-profit which is focused on helping those affected by hurricanes and floods. Noah continues to tell himself he is doing a great job, which unnerves Dorian. She’s standing next to him and his confidence makes her feel even less sure of herself.

The two cooks I am most concerned about are Wuta and Keturah. Wuta tells Gordon he last ate red meat eight years ago, so he will have to do his usual taste and spit out technique.

Meanwhile, Keturah is exhibiting all the classic signs of MasterChef meltdown. She is spinning in place, moving a lot but accomplishing little, talking to herself, and making little distressed noises.

With thirty minutes left, the judges stop the clock and throw in a twist. On top of their complete beef dish they must also create a grilled dessert. This sends Keturah into a full tailspin. She tells us, “I’m going to make a s’more? I don’t even know what that is but I’ve heard it. I know the ingredients but I have no clue what to do with it.”

She proves this when she threads marshmallows onto a skewer and then puts the skewer on the grill. Gordon stops by and tells her to cook them over flame which she tries, but the already grilled marshmallows fall right off her skewer.

Meanwhile, Wuta is distressed because he doesn’t eat sweets as his dad has diabetes and his mom is a “health nut nurse.” To be fair, a grilled dessert can be incredibly healthy and they always have dessert challenges on MasterChef, so this complaint doesn’t hold much water for me.

MASTERCHEF: Contestant Wuta in the “Backyard BBQ” episode of MASTERCHEF airing Thursday, July 18 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. © FOX MEDIA LLC. CR: Greg Gayne/ FOX. © 2019 FOX MEDIA LLC.

While cooking her dessert, Dorian reveals that she has had to go without food and shelter in her past. She fought through those times and will fight here too. Her past makes her previous behavior in team challenges a little more understandable.

Time is nearly up and Sarah is very late to plate. Not only that, but she keeps scraping off her sweet potato puree and starting over. In the end, everyone plates a full entrée and dessert.

Dorian goes up for judging first. She has made a T-bone steak with sweet potato puree and grilled tomatoes. The judges are impressed by her plating and her bravery in tackling the T-bone. This cut includes the filet and the NY strip, so it is tricky to cook the whole thing to the correct temperature. Despite her nerves, she has cooked the steak perfectly. The only comment is that Gordon thinks her puree has too much spice.

For dessert, she presents a brioche French toast with grilled plum and bourbon compote and sweet cream. The judges love it, commenting on the acidity, creaminess and refinement.

Jamie comes up next with a Flintstone platter featuring a tomahawk steak with anchovy butter, duck fat broccolini and fingerling potatoes, and spicy creamed corn. Joe likes the look of his platter and likens it to a food magazine cover. The steak is cooked perfectly and they love the corn. Gordon does feel like the whole dish has too much fat. For dessert, he presents smoked peaches which he flambéed with rum and crème fraiche. This is also well-received.

MASTERCHEF: Contestant Jamie in the “Backyard BBQ” episode of MASTERCHEF airing Thursday, July 18 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. CR: Greg Gayne/ FOX. © 2019 FOX MEDIA LLC.

Wuta brings up his NY strip steak with red pepper chimichurri, potato salad, and grilled corn with rosemary butter. It sounds delicious but Aaron does not like the look of the plate. He tells Wuta that the dark, muted colors are not appealing. His corn has a dark char, his steak is dark, and on top of the steak is a grayish-green sauce.

Wuta is hoping for medium rare but the judges find it to be medium. Worse yet, the meat presented is not a NY strip steak. It is a hanger steak!

Hanger steak needs to be cooked in a totally different way as it can get very tough very quickly. Because his steak is cooked to medium, the judges all find it overcooked.

Aaron also faults him on his chimichurri. He tells him it should be a “loose vinaigrette with chopped herbs” but Wuta’s is a puree.

Wuta then presents his dessert- a grilled shortbread s’more with bananas. Gordon finds the chocolate-banana concoction grainy. Aaron tells him the dessert is bizarre. Joe likes that he actually grilled the cookie and enjoys the dessert.

MASTERCHEF: L-R: Host/judge Gordon Ramsay with judges Aar—n S‡nchez and Joe Bastianich in the “Backyard BBQ” episode of MASTERCHEF airing Thursday, July 18 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. © FOX MEDIA LLC. CR: Greg Gayne/ FOX. © 2019 FOX MEDIA LLC.

Sarah is up next with her tomahawk steak with brussels sprouts, bacon and green apple, plus a sweet potato puree. Despite the massive chunk of meat on her plate, bone and all, her plate is really elegant.

Gordon tells her it is breathtaking and would turn heads in any restaurant. Not only that, but her steak is perfectly cooked. Joe tells her, “you cooked and seasoned that like a fat, tattooed, bald, bearded New York City steak house grill man and I know several.” Thanks, Joe?

For dessert, she has made a rustic blackberry pie with caramel sauce. She has cleverly topped it with filo which she brushed with butter and cooked in the covered grill. The judges are really impressed with her adventurous, clever dessert.

Micah is up next with his BBQ rubbed T-bone steak with lemon broccolini and sweet potato puree. Man, these guys love to make sweet potato puree. The judges love his rub and the cook on the steak, but his puree is a little grainy.

For dessert, he has made grilled summer fruit skewers with a raspberry lime dipping sauce. His skewers include peaches, strawberries and plums. As these all cook differently, he cooked them all separately and then added them to the skewer. He also used a honey, raspberry and dark rum glaze.

This is definitely the dessert I most want to sample. The judges are thrilled, calling it simple, elegant, delicious, and the dessert of the day.

MASTERCHEF: Contestant Micah in the “Backyard BBQ” episode of MASTERCHEF airing Thursday, July 18 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. © FOX MEDIA LLC. CR: Greg Gayne/ FOX. © 2019 FOX MEDIA LLC.

Poor Keturah now delivers her steak frites with walnut and apple salad and spicy ketchup. As soon as the camera zooms in, I am very concerned for her. Her plate frankly looks like the waiter just stopped by to ask if you want a box.

Her steak is in thin strips, still very rare and with uncooked fat. She has what appears to be five or six frites. I am shocked she tried those at all as I can’t imagine how hard it would be to get good crispy fries off the grill. Her ketchup is in a thick little smear, and the salad is very small.

The judges ask what steak cut she has used and I am horrified to hear it is a tomahawk. So that huge cut she wrestled from Noah became these tiny strips of undercooked meat?  The judges tell her the meat is too rare and the salad is plain. Aaron tells her he is looking for the hawk from her tomahawk. Joe tells her this is a tomahawk massacre.

For dessert she presents her s’more with vanilla and maple glazed grilled peach. Gordon tells her the dessert just reads panicked. “I look at that and it reminds me of season one of MasterChef Junior.”

Noah goes up last and everyone is expecting grilled perfection. I crack up when Sam, standing to the side as part of the safe team, says “I’m taking my sunglasses off for this.” Nick replies, “Yeah, you gotta.”

The judges find his encrusted bone-in ribeye with romesco sauce, chimichurri and brussels sprout hash to be beautifully presented. Gordon says, “watching you on the grill was like watching a drummer. Phil Collins standing there.”

Sadly, the judges are let down when they find the steak medium well. They love the flavors of his steak and his sides but berate him for being overconfident.

He presents his peach melba with raspberry cream only to be told the peach is undercooked. “Your peaches are perfectly medium rare; your steak was perfectly medium well. It’s too bad it wasn’t the other way around.”

Fully chastised, Noah tells us he is embarrassed and feels like a fraud. He plans to take this as a lesson in humility going forward.

MASTERCHEF: L-R: Judges Joe Bastianich and Aarón Sánchez with contestant Keturah in the “Backyard BBQ” episode of MASTERCHEF airing Thursday, July 18 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. CR: Greg Gayne/ FOX. © 2019 FOX MEDIA LLC.

Dorian is announced as our first safe cook, followed by Jamie and Micah. Sarah’s dish wins the day and the recipe online. Out of Keturah, Wuta and Noah, Keturah is told her dish was “outstandingly bad” and is sent home.

I will really miss Keturah’s expressive face, lovely accent and talent in the kitchen. She could really make the best reaction faces in her talking head interviews. I wish her all the best in realizing her food dream.

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Next week, the guest is Chef Morimoto, OG Iron Chef and all around amazing cook. I am excited to say the least!