BBQ Throwdown @ STL Home Fires

Al Bowman (left). Bill Grenko (right)

Al Bowman (left). Bill Grenko (right)

Some of the biggest rivalries stand the tests of time…

Ali vs Frazier
Coke vs Pepsi
Microsoft vs Apple
Letterman vs Leno

…then again, most rivalries don’t mean jack squat like this one:

Bill Grenko vs Al Bowman

These gladiators of the grates went mano y mano to see who could produce the best 3 BBQ courses. The throwdown venue was held at the St. Louis Home Fires store in Ballwin, MO. Their mission was to cook a championship football themed menu which included an appetizer, sandwich and party wings. Who had the best BBQ? Neither of them did, but between the two, one had to win!

Meat the competitiors

Bill Grenko is the pitmaster for Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels BBQ Competition Team. He cooked on his custom made drum barrel smoker from Gateway BBQ Store. BG’s secret to cooking great BBQ is making his own rubs and sauces.  His favorite ingredient is bacon and he is widely considered a notorious shigging expert.

BG’s Menu:

  • Appetizer – Pork Shots
  • Sandwich – Pork Tenderloin
  • Party Wings – Smoked with Code 3 Spices Back Draft Rub
Bill's entries

Bill’s entries

Bill's drum smoker

Bill’s drum smoker

Big Al Bowman is the founder of Canadian Bakin’ BBQ Competition Team. His cooker for the evening was the mighty Black Olive smoker, a pellet-kamado style grill (sold at St. Louis Home Fires). Al has a tendency to eat anything with “ghost peppers” in it and there is controversy whether his competition meat has performance enhancing flavors.

Big Al’s Menu:

  • Appetizer – Jalapeno Poppers
  • Sandwich – Pulled Pork
  • Party Wings – Super Wings with Super Sauce
Al's entries

Al’s entries

The Black Olive

The Black Olive

Before they started to fire up their grills, both participants were instructed to incorporate 1 of 3 BBQ rubs by Code 3 Spices in each entry. Code 3 Spices donate proceeds from purchases to aid military and first responder charities. Not only is this a first class cause, it’s a first class ingredient for all types of meat, seafood and vegetables. Read my review here.

As the duel went underway, less than desirable conditions were concerns for the battle at the BBQ boutique. Gusty winds and torrential rain became a challenge for the pitmasters as they try to hold consistent grill temperatures. Despite this, they accomplished their task and the entries were immediately served to the judges.

Judges at St. Louis Home Fires

Judges at St. Louis Home Fires

Frank Schmer talking to his guests

Frank Schmer talking to his guests

I had the distinct honor to help serve these tasty treats to the guests in attendance that evening. Afterwards, I had my own sample plate and I was glad I didn’t have to vote because all the food was amazing. I was even able to pluck extra jalapeno poppers and chicken wings while the opponents talked to the guests inside.

In a unanimous vote, albeit each category was close, Bill Grenko swept the throwdown challenge to take bragging rights. Al was gracious in defeat, congratulating Bill while at the same time, asking for a rematch due to the close results. The two backyard warriors decided to settle it on the competition circuit once and for all. I doubt it will be settled, but I anticipate some trash talking in this ongoing rivalry.

Great job guys! Both BG and Big Al were nice enough to share their appetizer recipes from this throwdown.

Bill Grenko’s Pig Shots


  • Johnsonville Smoked Pork Sausage
  • Thick Cut Bacon
  • Code3 5-0 Rub
  • 8 oz. Cream Cheese
  • 1 cup Mexican 4-cheese Blend
  • 3 oz Diced Green Chiles
  • Brown Sugar
  • Toothpicks or Skewers


  1. Cut sausage into ½ inch disks
  2. Wrap ½ piece of bacon around the sausage to form a “shot “
  3. Fix bacon in place with a toothpick or skew several shots together
  4. Mix softened cream cheese, cheese blend and chiles in a bowl
  5. Spoon cheese mixture into each shot
  6. Top the cheese with brown sugar
  7. Lightly sprinkle shot with 5-0 rub
  8. Cook indirect at 300 degrees until bacon is crisp (approx. 75 – 90 mins)

Note: Smoke is optional

Big Al’s Jalapeno Poppers


  • 30 jalapenos, halved lengthwise, seeds and membrane removed.
  • 2 packages apple or hickory smoked bacon, thin cut if available

For the filling….

  • 2 packages cream cheese
  • 1 tbs brown sugar
  • ½ cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • ¼ cup your favorite bbq sauce such as Nellie’s Hot BBQ Sauce
  • 1 tbs your favorite hot bbq rub such as Code 3 Backdraft Rub


  1. Fill each pepper half with filling, taking care not to over-fill.
  2. Slice strips of bacon in half crosswise.  Wrap each filled pepper with a piece of bacon.
  3. Sprinkle each assembled pepper lightly with more bbq rub.
  4. Smoke peppers at 300 degrees with Mojobricks cherry until bacon crisps…about one hour
  5. During the last 10 minutes, baste peppers with more bbq sauce.

Book Deal with Skyhorse Publishing!

MLG Exclusive!!!


Whoa! MLG made the BIG SHOW! I was approached by Skyhorse in February about writing a cookbook for them. They liked this blog and my BBQ and quickly made a decision to let me author a BBQ cookbook. The plan is release the book in the Fall. Here’s a little info about them from their website…

Skyhorse—with its four imprints (Arcade Publishing, Allworth Publishing, Sports Publishing, and Sky Pony Press) now boasts a backlist of more than 2,000 titles. Since its founding, Skyhorse has published an eclectic and maverick list that includes books on history, politics, rural living, humor, and more. With its imprints, the Skyhorse program now includes business, art, fiction, regional books, and children’s books. Skyhorse has had six New York Times bestsellers.

I should have announced this sooner, but I have been busy writing recipes, taking lots of pictures of my delicious BBQ and preparing for BBQ competition season. In addition, I have lots of surprises in the book I know all MLG fans would appreciate. Stay tuned and be patient…I’ll try to keep new content coming.