Yes. I do barbecue, grilling, and outdoor cooking related reviews on various products in addition to writing about our day-to-day outdoor cooking along with recipes and tips.
I do not disclose that I am working on a barbecue restaurant review except on rare occasions like when I want a photo that can't be snapped without giving some explanation. An example there would be when I want a shot of a barbecue smoker inside a wood burning BBQ restaurant. In those cases, I wait until I've had my meal and paid.
I want to have the typical experience when dining out, and I just cover family trips where we'd be eating at barbecue restaurants anyway. So, hopefully, readers get the real scoop, although I know restaurants can have off days. If the experience seems atypical, then I usually go back for a second visit to double check.
There may be times when I hit a grand opening where bloggers are emailed and invited. That was the case with our new Save-A-Lot grocery store. But, I am clear that it's an opening and not just a daily visit in instances like that. I've been invited to a barbecue restaurant opening reception, but it was a long drive, so I wasn't able to attend that one.
Barbecue and Grilling Products
I do buy a lot of grilling gear, but obviously I can't buy every new grill or barbecue tool that comes out on the market. I'd go broke in a hurry and also run out of storage space.
Companies do sometimes get in touch about sample products. If I'm not swamped with my day job, then I usually will check out something new related to outdoor cooking, so I can share the information with readers. It is a gamble on the part of the company, because I give my honest opinion regardless of how I happen to be using a product. Readers trust me to give good grilling information, so that is my top priority. Companies can trust me to turn down anything I know I'm likely to not like. For example, I hate figs. I was offered a fig barbecue sauce. I just said "no thanks," because that would not be a fair review coming from a fig hater.
I also disclose in the blog if I have a complimentary sample or if I have any other connection. Since I don't work for a grill or grill product company, any direct connections would be rare. Once I bought a Forkula (neat barbecue turner) and found out that my brother up in Ohio is friends with the inventor. I didn't make the connection until a year after I bought the Forkula. But, I mentioned that later on when I found out.
As with grill gear, I also write about new BBQ sauces that I try out. Most of my barbecue sauces come from the grocery store or when we travel, and relatives look for new small batch barbecue sauces when they go on vacation. In fact, my mom said she found a barbecue sauce in Wyoming last week that she is bringing back, but she can't remember the name of the sauce. I shall see when she gets home.
Some companies do send samples on sauces or other outdoor condiments, and again I simply give an honest review based on reactions of the whole family or any friends who happen to be over for a grilled meal.
I also mention if someone sent me sauce or other seasonings for grilling. This is required by law, and I think the readers need to know anyway. It wouldn't change my review (I've had some thumbs down for sure), but it keeps things on the up and up.
Generally, I work up my own barbecue recipes, but I do occasionally review a barbecue book. Those are usually gifts from the family for holidays or sent by publishing houses. If the book is sent by a marketing firm (or now and then by an author), then I note that.
Working with barbecue books takes more time. I read them (yes - I do read cookbooks), and I also try out recipes before weighing in with my thoughts on a barbecue book. I usually try a few recipes and mention a favorite. So, I'm not super fast on books, because I want readers to have good information.
Giveaways and Contests
I do some giveaways and contests when I think someone is offering something readers will find attractive. Those are pretty straightforward. I simply note that a product was supplied for a drawing, and I offer simple ways of entering.
I prefer to have experience with the product, but that's not required. I just note if I've not used or tried something in a giveaway. I can't say it's great if I don't know. I just say it's up for the contest, but I can't attest to the quality, taste etc.
The only information I gather (besides entry names) would be the snail mail of the winner to send to the company, so they can mail the prize. So, readers do not have to worry about spam.
On contests, I keep it low tech. I write down each entry and literally put the slips in a hat or bucket. My Mom (who is not an onliner) draws a name, unless she is out of town. In that case, I get one of my nieces or one of the church ladies to pull a name or names (if a company offers more than one prize).
The contests are pretty labor intensive. I manually get the word out with here and on FaceBook and just by passing the word along. So, I don't do a whole lot of those.
As I mentioned, my first responsibility is to readers online who hope and expect to get good and fair information at Barbecue Master and at my web site - Yes You Can Grill.
I do work with barbecue companies and individuals who are comfortable with my policies and have found some of my favorite barbecue stuff when I've been contacted by email to check out a product.
Some of the small or new companies, in particular, have few ways of getting the word out, so blogs (and private sites) provide a chance for products to get some exposure.
I've enjoyed sharing the word about some great products that simply do not pop up at Amazon or on search. Thanks to companies who put their products and faith in me.
Of course, I've had a few duds as well. But, that's just life.
If you want to get in touch or have questions about any of my Barbecue Master polices, just shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org I'm a real person, and that's my real email. I'm just "real" that way.