BBQ Brawl Flay vs. Symon review: Regional styles bring unexpected results


With a finale spot on the line, BBQ Brawl Flay vs. Symon asked these pit masters tempt the judges with some regional barbecue styles.

BBQ Brawl Flay vs. Symon is looking to crown the Master of Q. With only two spots available in the Food Network show finale, could the title go to a woman pit master? Whoever earns the title, she definitely cannot just wing it.

The summer Food Network show has captivated a lot of foodies. While the barbecue is show’s focus, Bobby and Michael’s banter is equally entertaining. From their cooking challenges to the good natured ribbing, this show exemplifies that food is more than just a pretty plate.

To kick off this episode, Bobby and Michael had their own challenge to give one team an advantage. Since this entire episode was based on regional barbecue flavors, the two chefs had to cook Carolina barbecue.

Thinking about Carolina barbecue, there are certain flavors and elements that always stand out. The slightly more vinegar tasting sauce to the coleslaw pairing, a Carolina pork sandwich is instantly recognizable.

Looking at the two chef’s dishes, Bobby’s open face sandwich was more Carolina inspired than a direct application of flavors. By transforming a pork loin into an open faced pulled pork sandwich, the judges appreciated the slight twist on the traditional.

Michael’s sandwich took a more expected route. Where Michael should be commended is on the use of so many parts of the pork. Blending all those items together offered a nice contrast of flavor and texture.

Winning this challenge was Bobby. The advantage was a big one. He was able to assign all four competitors’ regional flavors for the challenge.

In a way, Bobby’s flavor decisions were smart and strategic. For example, he gave Lee Ann Memphis, which was definitely a plus for her infamous rub. In contrast, giving Lynnae Alabama style barbecue was quite difficult.

Still, all these four pit masters should be able to create any barbecue style and two complementary sides. Although everyone has a preferred style, this competition is all styles, not just a specialty.

Of course, every episode has to have a twist. This week, the twist was for the contestants to make some wings. This twist showed the chefs’ creativity.

At the beginning of this challenge, everyone was lead to believe that Phil and his crack wings had a big advantage. But, as the judges tasted the wings, they felt the flavor was a little too salty.

Looking at the various wing flavors, Lee Ann and Lynnae had the most interesting ones. Lynnae’s thai inspired dish with peanut dipping sauce sounded delish. It is a nice reminder that barbecue doesn’t always have to be traditional American.

Lee Ann had a little twist to her flavors, too. The combination of heat and lime was both refreshing and spicy. Plus the sriracha sauce was a real plus.

Winning the chicken wing challenge was Lee Ann. While there isn’t necessarily an advantage, the win is weighed in the final decision.

While these mid-challenge twists are good for the competition aspect, it would have been nice to see the challenge work into the main challenge. Although wings are relatively easy to make in a short period of time, it would have been nice to see something related to each chef’s regional flavor.

The pressure seemed to be weighing on these chefs. Lee Ann was indecisive about her sides, Lynnae had seasoning issues with her potato salad and Phil committed the ultimate cooking competition don’t, a dual dish.

It was curious that Susie, the person with the non-Southern barbecue choice seemed relatively calm. The person with the least experience seemed mostly at ease.

Going into the judging, it was Lee Ann’s spot to lose on Bobby’s team. Even though she burned her carrots and was worry about the doneness, her plate was spot on. The judges loved her famous rub. More importantly, her plate was composed and represented Memphis well.

As for Phil, it wasn’t necessarily a smart choice to do both burnt ends and ribs. The judges inevitably will like one part better than the other. Also, his slaw needed more flavor.

In the end, Phil was eliminated from Bobby’s team. That decision ensured that the Master of Q would be a woman.

On Michael’s team, the battle between Lynnae and Susie was tight. After being the last chef picked, Susie has found her groove. Given that she had to cook Santa Maria style barbecue, she had a big challenge.

While her tri tip was perfectly cooked, the components on her plate were best enjoyed as a single bite, not individually. Still, she handled the situation well.

In a way, a few comments early in the episode foreshadowed some of the judges’ criticism of Lynnae’s plate. Michael warned her that the potato salad was a little salty. It didn’t appear that she ever went back to re-adjust.

Granted, Lynnae might have been a little gun-shy about seasoning. After previously hearing her dish was under-seasoned, she might have been somewhat heavy handed.

Still, Lynnae impressed with her chicken and white sauce. That dish is difficult to execute and she nailed it. That accomplished should have been rewarded.

But, the judges eliminated Lynnae from Michael’s team. Personally, this decision was flawed. Given the challenge, her dish, even with the extra salt, was the better choice.

In BBQ Brawl Flay vs. Symon, the winner will be a woman. At the beginning of this series, no one would have guessed that the Master of Q would be a woman. Maybe this Food Network show will inspire some more women to light up the grill.

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What did you think of this BBQ Brawl Flay vs. Symon episode? Who do you think will earn the title?