The Untold Truth Of Netflix's American Barbecue Showdown

While not exactly a backyard barbecue feast, Netflix's cooking series "American Barbecue Showdown" taps several pitmasters and barbecue experts that put their best beef, chicken, and pork on the fire for the ultimate food crown. Although many of these masters of the smoke have won other competitions, and might receive rave views in their hometowns, it can be more difficult to impress the discerning judges with the tasty plates.

Over eight episodes in the first season, which debuted on the streaming service in 2020, the eight contestants tackled various types of barbecue-related challenges. From working with more creative proteins to the final challenge of cooking a whole hog, the reality is that each episode was a feast for the always hungry Netflix viewer — and not necessarily a class on creating better barbecue, though there are plenty of lessons and tricks to be learned from this program that will ensure a better-tasting final result. 

Although the judges, Kevin Bludso and Melissa Cookston, might have let their personal flavor bias influence some of the decisions in the episodes, the hosts Rutledge Wood and Lyric Lewis tried to keep the competition on a level playing field. Even if the final outcome might have been somewhat predictable in episode one, the Netflix series has been an enjoyable introduction to the skill and craft of barbecue — and we can only hope Season 2 is coming soon.

'American Barbecue Showdown' featured some unusual ingredients

While the low-and-slow cooking method shown in "American Barbecue Showdown" requires finesse, patience, and a little art, the reality is that the cooks were in for a shock with some of the competition's unique ingredients. Although every challenge required them to make a tasting plate of barbecue, sometimes the time constraints and the ingredients were not the perfect pairing. From trying to get beef ribs tender in a short amount of time to never having cooked with certain cuts of meat, the contestants had to think and plan ahead, even before they lit the fire.

The most usual challenge of the season was when the contestants were asked to cook with non-traditional game meat. Although venison and rabbit might occasionally be served on the table, it's less likely that iguana and raccoon are available at the local Publix. Even though these proteins might not be typical, the contestants were able to find the similarities between other ingredients and create some tasty dishes in the end. 

And although the home cook might not be serving raccoon at Sunday dinner, the idea of creating a stew with a less common protein doesn't have to be a huge stretch. In some ways, "American Barbecue Showdown" might have sparked a conversation on a new way to look at sustainable food practices.

More about judge Melissa Cookston

As one of the two judges on "American Barbecue Showdown," Melissa Cookston has a plethora of titles and adjectives attached to her name. The 7-time World Barbecue Champion has two locations of her restaurant Memphis BBQ Company (one in Georgia, one in Mississippi) as well as a line of cooking spices and sauces. She's also published two cookbooks and has appeared on various cooking television shows (per her official website). Even though Cookston might be the grill's best friend, she doesn't shy away from being a woman in a male-dominated field. After all, sometimes the grill needs a feminine touch.

Southern Living categorized her as the "Winningest Woman in Barbecue" in their female pitmasters discussion, and Cookston has a passion that drives her to make the best barbecue possible. As shared in the article, she even looks to enhance the ingredients put on the smoker. Since she started raising hogs, she has formulated their diet to ensure "the optimal amount of fat in all the right places to ensure the best cooking on the pit." For the pitmaster who has earned her reputation in cooking the whole hog, that attention to detail in the ingredients is as important as that nuance that the low-and-slow cooking method imparts.

Judge Kevin Bludso is another familiar face on food television

Never afraid to share his knowledge, Kevin Bludso is another recognizable face to food television fans. Having appeared on "Diners, Drive-ins and Dives" and also having helped with "Bar Rescue" (per his official website), Bludso is never afraid to share his restaurant experiences, both successes and downfalls. Having evolved a small BBQ stand in Compton, California into a thriving barbecue business, he strongly believes that mentorship is the key to success in the field.

As shared in a Texas Monthly article, Bludso is part of Kingsford's new Preserve the Pit fellowship. While Bludso says he learned the secrets of the pit from his granny and mom, the reality is that today's aspiring pitmaster may not have that smoky sage in their own home. As Bludso said in the article, "If it wasn't for people taking time and teaching me, I wouldn't be doing what I'm doing." While the craft of barbecue requires a willingness to take that long journey, the reality is there is more than just great seasoning to becoming a success at it.

For the person who wants to turn barbecue into a business, there can be many pits along the way, but Bludso hopes that through mentorships those stumbles will not become unsurmountable.

Why was everyone always wearing the same clothes in Season 1?

Although many Netflix shows are made to be bingeable, one-and-done series, that type of mass consumption can have viewers noticing little quirks that make them their heads. As many people watched "American Barbecue Showdown" episodes back-to-back, the comments sometimes focused less on the competition and food and more on the clothes. Did you notice that all of the judges and contestants wore the exact same outfit in every single episode?

As discussed by Cheat Sheet, many viewers were wondering why each episode featured the exact same clothing. After hours and hours standing in front of smokers, grills, and other cookers, it doesn't seem likely that participants would want to still be wearing the same shirt over eight episodes. According to the Season 1 runner-up, Rasheed Phillips, everyone was provided multiples of the same outfit. Whether this concept was convenience for the production crew or something else, it did leave a peculiar flavor for many viewers. Maybe in Season 2, the contestants and the judges will get a change of wardrobe.

What happened to the 'American Barbecue Showdown' Season 1 winner?

While eight aspiring pitmasters stepped up to the smoker, only one winner earned the "American Barbecue Showdown" Season 1 crown. Tina Cannon seemed to be the Southern Belle of the competition from the get-go. Even while wearing her signature pearls, Cannon was able to bring the big, bold flavors to each plate of food. Although some people might have thought that Rasheed Phillips deserves a slice of that barbecue glory, the reality is that Tina was a tough competitor and earned her spot.

Even though winning the competition comes with bragging rights, the experience was about proving that women are a force behind the grill, too. According to The, Tina also earned the title BBQ Champion at the World Food Championships. While she might be an avid gardener and a classically trained chef, her social media feeds are all about that barbecue. From easy cooking demos to some great recipe tips, Tina is still bringing her signature style and flavor to the grill.