It’s summertime and the livin’ is easy — except when your barbecuer breaks down mid-barbecue. That was the situation I found myself in a few weeks ago when the cheapo grill that for years had seasoned our steaks with the piquant flavor of rust and charbroiled hornets nests finally went kaput. Was I upset? Only insomuch as it’s illegal in my town to detonate hunks of metal that deserve a true Viking burial. On the other hand, a promise from my wife resounded within my lizard brain, a promise made many moons ago. “Honey, if you use that grill until it can physically grill no more, I’ll let you buy whichever NEW grill your heart desires.”
It was time. My search for grill-vana, for ignitenment had finally begun.
But where to start? For those who haven’t laced up their ‘kiss the chef’ aprons and dove headfirst into the world of open-air cooking, let me say that it is truly astounding how many ways humans have devised to heat up meat. Millions? Trillions? And each is fiercely defended with personal opinions that run hotter than the inside of a Memphis BBQ pit. Then, just as you feel like you are settling on a type of barbecue that will meet your needs (your needs being more than just ‘was it on sale outside the Home Depot?’), you then must compound the equation with fuel sources and sauces and spices and the mopping vs. brushing debate (which has claimed more lives than the Battle of the Bulge) and it’s enough to make a grown man give up sear lines altogether.
Unless you know Pat.
Pat is my friend. Pat barbecues a LOT. Pat was a pitmaster in Louisiana until Hurricane Katrina veritably washed him to Utah. And it wasn’t until I was truly lost in my own storm of conflicting and contradicting Amazon reviews that it finally dawned on me that I should call him. So I did. We talked for a scant five minutes. But that was all we needed. I spoke. He listened. I thanked him profusely for his time. And that’s when I experienced ‘The Feeling’.
What is ‘The Feeling’? You know it. You’ve felt it yourself — if you’re lucky enough to have an expert like Pat in your life. It’s the feeling that goes beyond comfort, or satisfaction or acknowledgment. It’s the feeling of being heard. The feeling of being helped. It’s the feeling you get when a person who knows what they are doing recommends a product that you know will change your life.
When I reflect back on what Pat said to me, it’s clear why his advice gave me ‘The Feeling’ when almost every attempt to source similar advice from sites like Amazon left me with the opposite emotion — one of increased anxiety, less sure of what to purchase than when I started.
Let me break down the five minutes I had with Pat and see if you don’t recognize similar positive experiences you’ve had in your own gear junky journeys.
- Pat didn’t ask me what sort of grill I wanted. He asked me what I want to make with the grill. He asked me what sort of barbecue I like the most. When I said “ribs and brisket” he replied with “Ah, so you wanna make tough meat tender.”
- He asked me a question I had never thought of before. “How often do you go out for barbecue and will the money you spend be worth it — to not have to do that anymore?” It’s a variation of, ‘Will this be a smart investment for me?’.
- He asked about my experience level and how much effort I wanted to put into it. “Do you want to babysit your meat?” Not particularly.
- After a few more minutes, he had a recommendation for me. “It’s simple. You need a pellet smoker, my friend. There is a local company — Camp Chef — that is just killing it with medium-priced, user-friendly units. Check out the Smokepro series, you won’t be sorry. You’ll go to sleep and wake up to ribs that taste like they were raised right.”
If there was one word I would use to describe what Pat’s recommendation had — that so many reviews do not — it would be empathy. Pat cared about my budget, my time, my familiarity and helping me find a product that would truly satisfy me. He was educated and trustworthy and used his expertise to find the perfect solution for my needs. I left that conversation with ‘The Feeling’ that Pat had nailed it. I knew I was going to love my future Camp Chef smoker — and I have.
Luckily, my experience with Pat was not unique. Having spent countless hours reviewing the feedback ExpertVoice experts are leaving on hundreds of products every day, I am in constant awe of the extra care, consideration and expertise they infuse into their reviews. It’s why they’re called ‘recommendations’ — because so often that’s exactly what they do. While a typical review will often be shortsighted, full of personal bias or suspiciously anonymous, expert recommendations are educated, empathetic and always from a credible, real individual.
So now, when people ask me the difference between regular reviews and the recommendations our experts leave by the hundreds on our site, my response is simple: Recommendations are reviews raised right.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to call Pat. I owe him some freshly smoked short ribs that I can’t believe I made myself.