Introduction to Georgia BBQ
I will be heading down to the Big Pig Jig down in Vienna, Georgia in a few weeks. So I posted on a BBQ Forum the call for suggests on AMAZING Georgian BBQ. The responses were not encouraging. This one was particularly entertaining
Native Atlanta'n here. For the most part, IMHO, you're out of luck. I surely wouldn't drive more than a 100 yards out of my way for Williams Bros ... A few years ago I moved here, not far from Macon. Fresh Air got my attention because they consistently win "best of" awards in this area. I've eaten there twice; both times the pork sandwich was extra-ordinarily bland, chopped very fine, very dry, and badly needing to be buried in sauce. They have a pretty good sauce, and I'm thinking that's why they've won. There are a few Georgia Bob's around this area. The owner will be featured on a BBQ Pitmasters next season. His BBQ restaurants are known for their fabulous.... <drum roll please> their Chicken Salad Sandwiches. The only thing I can thing of that's worse than a BBQ restaurant known for great sauce is one known for great something else not BBQ related. Not good.
You can actually read the full very entertaining thread HERE
The guys over at the Southern Foodways Alliance just recently complied their oral history project on Georgian BBQ with transcripts and video. Well worth clicking over and reading. John T. Edge is a GOD-like hero to me. His writing ability is something I'd gladly trade a limb for. So it pains me to disagree with his assessment of the state of BBQ in Georgia.
barbecue, as cooked and savored in Georgia, is not merely a food. It’s an event
However, the general consensus from people in the know seems to be that Georgian BBQ has hit the wayside. Many of the historical sites are more proud of their Brunswick stew than they are of their BBQ. To a true pitmaster, to be known more for your soup making abilities than your meat would normally be devastating. Here the indifference seems very clear. Many championship bbq winners including Myron Mixon and Lonnie Smith live in Georgia. Yet there's not too many places that really pop out as 100 mile barbecue, if any. It seems that the state itself needs a BBQ revival. The Georgia Barbecue Hunt's reflection is a common one among visitors
The pork was almost as dry as the sawdust you walk in on. I asked for my sauce on the side but immediately added the tangy tomato sauce after the initial taste. The coleslaw was fresh and had an amount of sugar in it that's tough to compare to. My favorite part of the meal was the Brunswick stew.
As Edge notes, there's no specific style of BBQ in Georgia. Oddly enough there are several "Georgian Mustard Sauces" available for sale everywhere but Georgia.
One of the reasons I think accounts for the dryness is that many of the Georgian BBQ places, at least the old spots featured in the SFA link, favors cooking hams. While there are places that do cook shoulders, it seems hams pop up more than any other part of the pig. This likely stems from old tastes. Many old school Southern joints often brag about how there's little fat in their BBQ. The perception of value when BBQ was cooked with lard hogs was that if you saw fat in your BBQ, the restaurant was aiming to pull one over on you. Fat was the original filler.
Unfortunately, old traditions did not keep pace with livestock husbandry. Leaner hogs are now bred. So that what used to be simply lean is now unbearably dry. The favoring of hams is not all bad. Many well reputed South Carolina places prefer using hams and they seem to do a good job with them. Cooking hams alone is similar to cooking chicken breasts. When done right they're really good. But the margin of error is really slim. While there doesn't seem to be a geninue "style" that is Georgian BBQ, I would have to pick out the preference of hams as the top distinction.
That being said I will be hitting up several Georgia spots in my road trip to Georgia.