Arrogant Swine

Beer Hall Carolina Whole Hog BBQ

Filtering by Category: BBQ Road Trips

BBQ ROADTRIP!!! : Hursey's BBQ – Burlington, NC

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Back in the spring I took some friends down to North Carolina on a mini-food tour. As I was out to pick up my new smoker anyway I figured some company and gas aid would be beneficial. I've long used the NCBS Historical Barbecue Trail map to find my next destination. Now to find new places to eat keeps getting harder and harder as I’ve eaten at over 50% of the list so the places are getting more and more obscure.

Thus we made our first stop after a solid 9 hour drive from NYC to Hursey’s Barbecue. Being that Hursey’s was the unknown joint, I planned for us to hit the legendary Allen & Son’s immediately afterwards where I knew the BBQ to be amazing. Good thing too as we might not have left my guests with as great of an impression of NC BBQ at stop #1.

I’ve always said that the “Triangle” area of North Carolina (Durham, Raleigh, Chapel Hill) was a good divider of the Eastern and Western BBQ styles of the State. Hursey’s is like Allen’s in that they combine features of East & West. Whereas Allen’s leans East, Hursey’s definitely leans West.

The one good thing about Hursey’s is that it still cooks over wood, a laud worthy characteristic in a region that long forsaken its BBQ heritage.  According to  the trail map they cook a mixture of shoulders (80%) and hams (20%). The sauce is a tomato based Western sauce but the pork is paired with an Eastern style creamy slaw. I didn’t find the pork all that flavorful as it was lacking in both smoke and moisture.

As was the practice throughout our entire BBQ tour we basically ordered everything on the menu so that we can all get a little sample of what the joint has to offer. One of the regrettable choices was to get the babyback ribs. Almost without fail in North Carolina, it’s a really really bad idea to order the ribs. Whereas traditional BBQ guys in the State are very stringent on their cooking methods for whole hog or shoulder, ribs are not considered BBQ are therefore are fair game for short cuts. The one exception to that rule might be 12 Bones in Asheville, a favorite of President Barack Obama.

As I should have expected, the ribs were boiled and then painted with sauce. Now normally this doesn’t work out all that badly as the Chili’s babyback ribs are boiled and sauced with little issue. The problem is that the “sauce” used for North Carolina BBQ is very thin and doesn’t really adhere to boiled ribs. Caveat Emptor on ribs in North Carolina!!

Other items on the menu were wonderful. We had some juicy broasted chicken. Broasted chicken, for the uninitiated, is chicken that’s fried in a pressure cooker. We finished off our meal with a fantastic peach cobbler and a properly done banana pudding.

I wouldn’t place Hursey’s on a must try category. But if you’re ever in the area it’s worth a stop in. It’s the only BBQ joint for a few miles I believe.

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BBQ ROADTRIP!!! : B's Barbecue - Greenville, NC

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More photos below!!

Complimenting a barbecue joint's chicken is akin to trying to pair a smoking hot girl with your ugly friend by telling her "he got a great personality".

As far as I know there's only only two major joints in the country whose chicken shares place of pride - Big Bob Gibson's in Decatur, AL & B's Barbecue in Greenville, NC. Big Bob's largely because of it's unique practice of dunking the entire finished bird in their trademark white sauce.

B's is a well known fixture in the whole hog world. They clear through an average of 40 hogs a week cooking all night over charcoal. They make a very tasty hog. But interesting enough many many people have high praises for their chicken!

So what is the deal with this chicken? I wasn't even planning on ordering it because, quite frankly, who cares about chicken?? My gluttonous friends on the other hand had to have it, so we got a spread of corn sticks, hog, slaw, and chicken.

Taking a bite I finally got what people were saying about the chicken. It was crispy, toasted, juicy and very very well seasoned. But there's something else there. A secret ingredient. An edge. I took another bite and didn't sense anything unusual in terms of spices. But then I sniffed the bird. AAAAAAH. That's it! The secret. The single reason why everyone loves B's chicken. That little extra something that no one could articulate. It's HOG FAT!!!!!!!

You see, the chicken goes on in the morning after the hogs come off the pits. These hog have been sitting over glowing coal all night dripping juice and grease into the ashes. So when they fire up new coal to cook the chicken, they're smoking up the residual hog grease back up into the birds giving them a porky aroma!!

Well there you go. I just gave you the secret recipe to B's chicken. Step 1 smoke a few hogs.... Anyone want to steal that?

B's cornsticks are the single best in North Carolina. I'm not normally a fan of corn sticks as they're normally dense and hard. These were fried to flaky shattering work of art. I still won't order cornsticks when I visit other BBQ joints but if you don't get them here at B's you're missing out.

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BBQ ROADTRIP!!! : Bum Restaurant - Ayden, NC

Bum's_BBQ_02[1] Quick! Name one of the top 3 greatest Heavy-weight boxers in history. You might mention Mike Tyson, or Evander Holyfield, and you'll definitely mention Muhammad Ali. Especially the latter as he spent most of his career calling himself the greatest. Poor Joe Louis. 12 years reigning as world champion. 25 successful title defenses (Ali had a mere 19). To this day there has not been a similar dominance in any weight division.

Unfortunately for Joe he was neither as well spoken or good looking as Ali.  Hence why none of us know about him. I feel the same way about Bum's Restaurant in Ayden, NC.

Ayden is a mecca for whole hog lovers. For decades the Skylight Inn has held the platonic ideal of swine cookery. Their familial cousin Lathan "Bum" Dennis cooks hogs in the exact same fashion and fails to get the same cred for no other reason than Skylight Inn exists in the same town. For God's sake they're not even on the North Carolina BBQ Society Trail!!! This last part is particularly irksome to me because Bum's barbecue is really really good and there's plenty of other joints on the Trail list that taste like ass and are coasting on their reputations.

Aside from my urge to root for the underdog, Bum's really is very good. The pork is not hacked to a tuna fish consistency, juicy, and lightly smokey with lots of little nuggets of crispy skin. Their side dishes are easily the best in the state. No exaggeration there. This is real country eating here filled with soul feeding vegetables. Eastern Carolina corn sticks and pork rinds are available to add just enough crunch.

And the fried chicken. Oh the FRIED CHICKEN! Eastern Carolina whole hog BBQ is usually paired with fried chicken. Traditional giants like Wilbur's, Parker's both serve fried chicken with their hogs. Bum's chicken beats them both. I'm all down for great whole hog, but when you got great whole hog and finger licking fried chicken - oh my....

A proper banana pudding topped with warm southern meringue finishes off the meal.

As you can see I have a particular affection for Bum's. As practitioner of the art and as a traveled eater, I find it an utter travesty that Bum's is never mentioned when talking about top BBQ joints in North Carolina. The NC BBQ Society Trail list is a wonderful tool and there's other sources which basically name the same big name spots. But do yourself a favor, many of those big names are for tourists - Bum's is for those in the know.

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Best Kept Secret in Lexington-Style BBQ

IMAG1137 Peru has over 4,000 varieties of potatoes. Like most of the world, the Peruvians also enjoy fried foods. So in the course of one of the oldest civilizations in the world, how did they never invent the French Fry? It seems like a fairly logical result – Potato + oil = awesomeness.

In Western North Carolina, whole skin-on shoulders are cooked over hardwood embers for hours until the flesh is meltingly tender.  In the process of doing this, skin exposed to the heat continually renders fat and becomes deeply flavored with hickory and soul-echoing crunchy. So how does one serve such a culinary delight? An item that can only be crafted by time and hand fired wood heat? Well they don’t. For the most part the skins go into the trash!!

Now this isn’t the end of the world but it does seem very very odd. It’s like peeling the crust off a pie and throwing it out so that you can eat the filling. Interesting enough, when you head down to South Carolina, skins are definitely a menu item. In certain places in the Palmetto State, there is a limit on how much skin you can take.

The best kept secret when eating BBQ in the Piedmont region (Greensboro/Winston-Salem area) is to ask for some of the crispy skin. It’s not likely that they’ll charge you as it’s going in the trash anyway and you’ll be enjoying perhaps the best thing off the pit.

How to order BBQ in Western North Carolina

One of the more bizarre attributions given to Asian foods is somehow the idea that we like putting oranges in our food. The criminally disgusting “Orange Chicken” found on Chinese takeout dives all over the country would not be consumed by any self-respecting Chinaman. These days any jackass wanting to make something “Asian” will invariably add oranges to the mix. McDonald’s even jumped on the stereotype by placing mandarins into their “Asian” salad.

Fairly similar is the perpetual menu item in generic BBQ places around the country. Carolina pulled pork will always be on the menu. Of course pulled pork is almost nowhere to be seen in North Carolina!! Now I’m sure there has to be some joint somewhere in the state that does a pulled pork sandwich, but I’ve eaten BBQ from Ayden all the way to Lexington and not a single big name joint offers their pork pulled. In Eastern North Carolina you can have your BBQ hog anyway you’d like just so long as it’s finely chopped.

In Western North Carolina located up in the Piedmont Triangle (aka “Lexington Style”) you actually get a number of choices on how you’d like your pork served. Think of Western NC BBQ like espresso drinks. While it’s all the same espresso and milk you can order a doppio, cortado, cappuccino, viennois, au lait or latte and basically receive a different drink. Now here’s my guide to helping you order BBQ like a pro.

THE CHOP – Remember Carolina BBQ is not pulled it’s chopped or sliced.

  • Chopped – This will be the default they’ll give you if you can’t decide. The pork is minced fine and dressed with the house dip (Lexington BBQ has “DIP” not sauce). The vast majority of your Carolina brethren have grown up eating this and it’s pretty much the standard order.
  • Sliced – If you like your pork white and lean this is your cut. It’s slightly drier and is a favorite among the older folk who don’t want to pay money for fat. It comes from the picnic portion of the shoulder
  • Coarse Chopped – As the name implies, the pork is not finely minced and you still get some meat texture. I personally like this one better. More so because by ordering this, you’ll ensure that your meat is freshly chopped. Places that do fine chopped will sometimes put their meat in this blender like machine called a “buffalo chopper”, it’s awful as the meat dries out quickly. To avoid the dreaded buffalo chopper, order the coarse.

BROWN or WHITE?

  • White - North Carolinians don’t tend to like their BBQ too smokey. Thus many places will focus on providing the soft interior parts of the smoked meats where the flavor is not intense. If you don’t specify brown or white, you’ll likely get white.
  • BROWN (sometimes called outside meat) – This is the “bark” of the meat. The exposed flesh that gets the most amount of love time with those hickory embers. The flavor of this is intense and slightly drier. Not everyone likes it, but if you’re a fan of smoked flavor, this is it.

So best success you’ll want to get  a tray of Course Chopped outside brown. This earns you instant Carolina cred.

Western Carolina BBQ - Don't Order the Sliced BBQ

Hill's Lexington BBQ - sliced & chopped Plain steamed white rice is the bedrock of a Chinese dinner. It is warm, filling and really bland. The intention of this dull starch is to be canvas in which more seasoned proteins and vegetables are painted on. The rice itself has a very specific intention and the eaters of the cuisine would not have it any other way. There is no desire to cook it in chicken stock, or add secret herbs and spices to it. So imagine how a Chinese person would feel, if you went to their favorite restaurant and ordered the white rice and wrote a bad review about it for being bland.

In the life of eating, most foods can be divided up into one of two camps. That which sustains and that which enhances. For foods that sustain i.e. foods that we eat twice a week or more, we seem to demand a certain level of pejorative qualities to it. Elements of dryness, blandness, single dimensional flavors etc. In West African nations this comes in the form of the pounded yams or cassavas known as Fufu. In Austria, dinner comes in the extremely not sexy boiled beef dish called Tafespitz (delicious btw). In Mexico chicken is boiled until it’s dry as a board, pulled and then sauced to add moisture back for tacos.

In a recent blog post, a writer visited Stamey’s BBQ and upon the recommendation of the waitress got the sliced BBQ. As I write on tomorrow, there’s several different ways you can order BBQ in Western North Carolina. Our writer was extremely disappointed in how dry it was. How could the “best” that the waitress recommended be so underwhelming?

When we’re visiting these “shrines” of BBQ, we’re expecting eyes rolled back, breath stopping, nearly sexually gratifying bites of food. For much of the country, BBQ is pretty much this way. It’s sweetly sauced, complexly seasoned and piled high. In North Carolina, BBQ is ingrained in life. No one makes special plans to eat BBQ any more than one would plot out a trip to get meatloaf. State citizens eat BBQ twice a week or more. It’s at highschool games, quick lunches, dinner etc. Thus the tourist and the citizen are starting at different points. One is seeking an experience and one is seeking sustenance.  That which sustains life vs that which enhances life.

The Sliced BBQ is a holdout of an aging population. This older generation grew up in a generation that doesn’t value fat as much as we do now. Many BBQ joints in Georgia and South Carolina take pride in serving non-greasy BBQ which is a marked difference in what we enjoy now. We love fat so much that a local favorite BBQ joint actually collects all that grease and sells it as a separate menu item named “master fat”. When this older generation gets a white lean piece of meat, they see value and prefer it. This is why many joints in South Carolina and Georgia will smoke the leaner hams for BBQ rather than shoulders.

Western “Piedmont/Lexington” Carolina BBQ smokes only whole shoulders. Within a whole shoulder you get two primal cuts – the richer dark butt and the more white meat picnic. The sliced BBQ comes from the picnic which is not as tender or fatty thus giving older folk their preferred cut. I wouldn’t call it inferior BBQ just as it’s senseless to call boiled white rice inferior rice. It has a specific audience and intention. For people who are traveling around the state on a BBQ tour, I’d recommend that you skip it and just get the coarse chopped. If you're open minded about trying what others enjoy, it might be worth your while to order it.

BBQ ROADTRIP!!! : Hill's Lexington Barbecue - Winston Salem, North Carolina

Hill's Lexington BBQ - Banana Pudding See all the Food Porn HERE

In New York City, Charles’ Country Pan Fried Chicken makes the city’s best tasting fried chicken. I also don’t eat there very often. While the chicken is amazing, it’s all the way up in Harlem and in a particularly dodgy area to boot. The staff tends to be indifferent to your presence and you need some effort to get them to stop talking on their cell phones to take your order. The space is also very cramped. Needless to say if it was up to my wife, we would never go there.

So the “best” BBQ experience is the sum of its parts. They have TV shows in which they do bIind taste tests to determine who has the best hotdogs/BBQ/Pastrami etc. That’s all fine and good on an entertainment level but it’s not terribly practical.

I will say that of all the Western/Piedmont/Lexington style BBQ in North Carolina, I enjoy eating at Hill’s the best. For one it’s definite a lot nicer looking than most places. Hey even serve you on plates and trays not made of paper! Not that I really care about that but it sticks out. It’s not as pretty as Stamey’s in Greensboro but it’s nice. Winston Salem as one of the major cities in North Carolina is oddly well served by top BBQ spots. Charlotte for example doesn’t have much BBQ to brag about. The University Triangle area really only has Allen & Son’s a destination spot. I’d throw in the Pit but as Big Ed is no longer there, I’m unsure of its current quality.

Is everything about Hill’s the best? No. I actually enjoy the hush puppies at Little Richards more. But Hill’s hush puppies were very good PLUS they got North Carolina’s best banana pudding. Banana pudding is the state’s signature dessert and I’m not sure how Hill’s does it, but the entire custard wafer mixture is just perfumed with banana essence. I tried getting dessert over at Little Richards but they don’t seem to offer it on a regular basis. Even my wife loved the pudding and she hates pudding. I honestly can’t think of a better dessert than a warm custard. It’s definitely not the prettiest dessert but there’s something very proper and regal about it.

The one thing I really liked about Hill’s was they mixed in the outside brown into your BBQ without you asking. In the western part of the state, you can order your BBQ in a myriad of ways. One of them is getting “outside brown” which is the part of the shoulders where the flesh was exposed to the smoke during the cooking process. I’ve been to plenty of BBQ joints in which none of the bark was mixed in and you just had bland inside flesh. Unfortunately for me, I tend to forget to specify I want some bark mixed in. The fact that Hill’s just mixes it in without asking is definite plus. Just to sample everything I got it chopped and sliced. Both were very good.

Hill’s claims to be the “original” Lexington barbecue. This does not mean they think they originated the style, they’re taking credit for coining the name “Lexington-style BBQ”. The vinegar-tomato sauce is largely a creation of the city of Lexington, soon it became the signature style of the Piedmont Triangle. People now continue to call Piedmont area BBQ to be “Lexington-Style”. Hill’s has long left the fairly small city of Lexington to serve the larger Winston Salem area.

They’re also open on Sunday which is an important thing to note if you’re going on a BBQ roadtrip. Many places down South do not. So If you have a Sunday itinerary, they’re a great resource to have.

After dinner they were nice enough to show me their pits in the back. Now the cooking for the day was long done but the lingering hickory smoke just hits you like a heavy-weight boxer! A few wood chips in your charcoal grill is a very pleasant smell. But these guys burn through truckloads of hickory wood and that concentrated pungency is needed to get through that dense meat.

As noted above, I have and will continue to sample many different North Carolina BBQ joints both Eastern whole hog and Lexington-style shoulder. Everyone has their little niche and there’s many who do a great job. Others have their standard pick for the “Best” in Lexington BBQ. Names like Honey Monk’s are legends for a reason, they’re really really good. For me though, I still pick Hill’s as my favorite Lexington style joint.

Country Barbeque - Greensboro North Carolina

Our State Magazine, a publication devoted to promoting the state of North Carolina as a great new article out on Country Barbeque in Greensboro. This as you all know is also home to the legendary Stamey's BBQ where the folks also studied their craft. Read the entire piece HERE 

It's not trying to be anything more than a great local joint serving regular people like you and me.

The restaurant draws mostly working-class folks dressed in worn jeans and stiff work shirts. Although a few businessmen in white collars and sharp ties do roll up their pressed sleeves to the elbow, a proper precaution before digging in. When the plates, trays, and sandwiches arrive, knowing customers reach for Tony’s barbecue sauce, sweet and tangy with a ketchup base.

 

While the Lexington style BBQ does sound delicious. The deferentiating factor here seems to be the extremely tasty sounding tenderloin biscuit - a country-fried tenderloin in a buttery biscuit. Dear lord I wish I had one right now.

Frank retired about 13 years ago, but he still meets his former coworkers at Country Barbeque for breakfast once a week. It’s a tradition they’ve followed for decades. Frank’s favorite is the tenderloin biscuit, a cut of chicken-fried pork as big as a man’s palm between a biscuit large enough to lock your jaw.

 

“Every Thursday I look forward to that tenderloin biscuit and having a genuine conversation with all those guys,” Frank says.

 

Frank may have retired and his work routine may have changed, but those tenderloin biscuits are a constant. Customers rely on those Country Barbeque constants — tenderloin biscuits, trays of chopped pork, sandwiches served in deli paper, squeeze bottles of sauce — to give them comfort as everything else around them changes.

 

BBQ ROADTRIP!!! : Texas Smoke Barbecue - Jefferson, New Jersey

Texas Smoke Barbecue_10 See all the Food Porn HERE

Francis Bacon, the 17th century English philosopher, is a martyr in the ancient and holy faith of BARBECUE. Most famously, he died by contracting pneumonia while studying the effects of freezing on the preservation of meat. We have all benefited from his sacrifices since then. One of his well-known quotes comes from an apocryphal tale concerning the Islamic prophet Mohammad, saying “If the mountain will not come to Mohammed, Mohammed will go to the mountain”. The moral of the story being that if things aren’t going as you would like, you might need to take another route.

Well good thing for me that sometimes instead of taking my usual BBQ road trips, which at its peak has taken me over a thousand miles from home, sometimes a BBQ joint comes to me instead. During a recent street fair in front of my office in heart of Manhattan’s financial district, I bumped into Texas Smoke BBQ, a joint located in Jefferson, NJ. Jefferson is not quite Cordele Georgia, so the drive is only 50 miles versus over a thousand, but it’s still a trek.

Texas Smoke BBQ was started by Scott and Maria Reid after a trip to Texas gave them the BBQ bug. The formed a competition team and eventually started doing catering and street fairs. They specialize in Texas style barbecue. Which region is not clear from the site but if I were to guess I would place them solidly in the Eastern Texas style. What’s nice about their menu is that it includes tex-mex foods like the Chimichanga. Having lived in West Texas for a number of years, I can tell you that a chimichanga (basically a fried burrito smothered in cheese and sauce) is just as Texan a dish as BBQ brisket. I would even argue that state-wide the enchilada has more pull than BBQ brisket.

On this particular day, the Reids were smoking brisket for chopped beef sandwiches. To this end I broke my own rule about getting brisket from an unknown source. What sold me was the fact that he had his big black metal offset smoker parked right there next to Wall Street smoking BBQ. This might actually be an special treat as there was some hint that the food at the restaurant might actually be smoked with a gasser instead of a wood burning smoker like he had that day.

In the pantheon of BBQ dishes the only dish I tend to avoid more than BBQ chicken would be the chopped beef sandwich. Now the chopped beef sandwich could be a really good thing, provided that it’s made with the fatty trimmings of a brisket or made using chuck (which dries out less). Unfortunately most people will still do chopped beef sandwiches with brisket.

Texas Smoke actually makes its own sauces. And who couldn’t resist bull dressed up as a cowboy on the label. I was given a choice of mild or spicy, and in Texas that’s always a test of one’s manhood. Are you going to step up and take on the big boy hot sauce? Or are you heading to the back to play with barbies? I elected the spicy.

As expected the meat was dry and needed the sauce. This further supports my contention that brisket is the insensitive douchebag of the BBQ world. I did like the sauce though. It was a bit spicy, nothing too challenging and wasn’t too sweet. It complements the meat well. The beef had a good deep smoke flavor and overall it was a very very solid championship lunch. Were Texas Smoke BBQ near my office everyday I’d certainly add them to the weekly rotation. Would really love to taste their chimichanga!

The ART OF WAR - Strategies on ordering BBQ

Alright the title might be a bit facetious as I'm sure you all know how to walk up to a counter and order Combo #1. But for the most part if you read bad reviews of decent BBQ joints there's a pretty common thread which tells me that people are not employing proper BBQ ordering strategies.

#1 What NOT to order

COMBOs - Any kind of combo meal is generally a bad idea. It's great from a restaurant's point of view as the margins are higher, but it's generally less bang for your buck. The combo invariably will contain that all popular filler - chicken (more on this later) 

BRISKET - 99.999% of BBQ brisket suck. I have eaten brisket at joints owned by world champion brisket cooks and they sucked. This is not necessarily the fault of the cook. As I've stated before, brisket is the insensitive douchebag of the BBQ world. The second that a fresh new cooked brisket is sliced into, it's going down and going down fast. Now this isn't a problem if everyone was lining up ready to get their fill, but this doesn't happen in a restaurant setting. People get the brisket at 6 then perhaps 6:20, then 7 etc. You really don't have a fighting change when it comes to brisket unless you're literally the first person to order it. If the place you're eating at happens to pre-slice and rewarm their brisket you're basically screwed. There's even a well known blogger who makes it a habit of stopping by BBQ joints late in the day and ordering the brisket - surprise surprise he constantly has bad things to say ...

Now this if a place SPECIALIZES in brisket and you do see a line of people waiting for it, you will do well to follow suit. If you are ever in Austin, Texas and waiting on line at Aaron's BBQ just to order the turkey - baring dietary restrictions you are an idiot. Get the brisket.

CHICKEN - I have never met a chicken I wouldn't have preferred deep fried. I've eaten chicken that's been delicately roasted on a bed of vegetables stuffed with truffles and foie gras and I'd still rather have some pan fried chicken. Now that might be more telling of the fact that I'm an uncultured brute but I stand by my view. Chicken is a bland meat. Where as hardwood smoke transforms much meat garbage in to BBQ gold, it simply makes chicken taste like smoked blandness. People really love my smoked chicken and I still make it and serve it, but if my wife would only let me get a deep fryer, everyone would be eating fried chicken. The one standout in BBQ chicken was the one I had at Big W's Roadside BBQ. I don't know what that guy does but that chicken was just gushing with juice. If you're seeking success at a BBQ restaurant, just skip the chicken.

Side dishes - BBQ joint side dishes are pretty uninspiring. Quite frankly you really only need some slaw and hush puppies. Everything else just takes up room better served by smoked meat. Skip the sides and order more beer. Your stomach and your pitmaster will love you.

#2 What TO order and how to do it

BY THE POUND - best bang for your buck is to get things by the pound. Ignore the 2 sides, ignore the corn bread. Go straight to the good stuff. If you need some carbs just drink more beer.

PULLED PORK - When you order pulled pork tell them to make sure you get a decent amount of bark mixed in. This is the outside crust that's been exposed to the smoke. A good 60% of the meat is not exposed to the smoke and will not have much flavor compared to what the bark is offering you. Try not to get pre-sauced meat. Pulled pork that has been pulled and sauced ahead of time oxidizes and will be dry by the time it gets to you.

BURNT ENDS - If they offer it, always get a side of burnt ends. I don't care if you just stopped by for coffee. Burnt ends are the twice cooked fatty end of the brisket and they are magical. They're also hard to time because BBQ joints can only make them once someone orders a brisket. So being first in line won't help you. They also tend to run out the fastest as the fatty deckle is relatively smaller than the flat which is normally sold for brisket.

RIBS - In general it's pretty hard to screw up ribs. Whether they're pork spares or beef shortribs. If you want a half slab of ribs get spares. If you want to eat a full slab, get baby-backs. Baby-backs are leaner so plowing through a full slab is more pleasant. Even though ribs are the easiest BBQ to cook, I still tend to order them when I go out to eat BBQ.

BRISKET - Yes I know I just told you not to order the brisket. Now if you must have the brisket, ask for the fattier end. I always order the lean end but that's because I'm trying to gauge the skill level of the cook. No need for you to be a hero or an academic. It's pretty hard to screw up the fatty end.

SLAW ON THE SANDWICH - Here up North and around the country, coleslaw is a side dish. Down South, they put their slaw on top of the meat in their sandwich and for good reason. It adds a bit of freshness which really helps lighten and highlight the smoke flavor of the meat. Watching people leave their slaw uneaten next to their sandwich makes me cry. It's like flying to a foreign country where people serving cheese burgers decide to put the cheese on the side only for the majority to ignore the cheese. Slaw that pork Yankee!

Sid's Catering & BBQ in Beulaville, NC

Sids Catering BBQ

I found an episode of NC Weekend which featured Sid's BBQ in Beulaville, NC. This is the South Eastern portion of the state so whole hog BBQ is still gospel. They cook with charcoal here (no gas or electricity) so it's definitely worth adding it on your BBQ roadtrip.

Now Beulaville isn't the most popular city around, it has a population of just over a thousand people. The town was originally known for its " alcoholism and frequent street brawls." Charming isn't it?

So I added a map above which will take your on a whole hog eating tour on your way to the beach! And who doesn't love a beach? Beaufort is the third oldest town in North Carolina is a well loved vacation spot. So my map will have you start with a meal at Wilbur's in Goldsboro, down to Dudley for a meal with the Grady's and hitting Sid's before enjoying the scenic drive through the Croatian National Forest to the beach!

Keep in mind that Sid's only opens on Saturday and will likely run out before noon.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nhx_dIx1OyI]

Madroño Ranch - Whole Boar Cooking School

The Wall Street Journal had an article featuring Madroño Ranch, a 1,500 acre writing retreat filled with bison.

They host regular series of ethical hunting, fishing, and cooking classes by Austin's Dai Due supper club. The one featured in the WSJ was their one on the Feral Hog. The sessions are three days long and are limited to eight guests.

Jesse Griffiths literal wrote the book on cooking game and wild fish and leads the class. Sounds like a lecture in delicious after they killed a 50lbs boar.

Over the course of an hour, he dismembered the carcass, stopping to explain the uses for each cut. We learned how to wrap the tenderloins in caul fat for a noisette (a small, round piece of meat) and how to roll a porchetta. We moved on to a second hog, which Jesse butchered in all of 45 minutes, and a third he dispensed with even faster.After a break, it was Tabatha's turn to teach sausage-making. She walked us through a Cajun boudin made with rice and the organs, which had been simmering on the stove. I helped feed onions and near-frozen chunks of allspice-spiked boar through the grinder for chaurice, a Creole sausage. In quick succession came a chorizo verde and coriander-and-juniper-seasoned sausage that was bound for the smoker.

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Their hog school was also featured in an article by Philipp Meyer in Texas Monthly Magazine.

Brisket as a fairly recent Texas BBQ trend

What is considered "traditional" BBQ is sometimes left to public opinion. If you are a follower of the more recent narrative on Texas BBQ, you might be under the assumption that beef brisket has always been king. In fact many BBQ places in Texas are judged by the Holy Trinity of Texas BBQ - Brisket, Sausage, and Pork Ribs. In a recent interview, John Fullilove, grandson of Edgar Schmidt, and owner of Smitty's gives a different history. Smitty's which was started in 1948 is one of the major institutions of Texas BBQ. These days people line up for their brisket. Growing up, Fullilove (shy of 40) noted that back then the most popular items were their clod (beef shoulder), sausage, and smoked pork chops. Thus only the sausage is an constant in Texas BBQ. The now justifiably popular brisket and pork ribs is far from "traditional" and have only really seen a surge in popularity in the past 10 years or so.

I started a nice little discussion on this at the BBQ forums. You can read it all HERE

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7i8sZJkidIs]

Franklin's BBQ - Brisket Series

Now celebrity Pitmaster Aaron Franklin's entire PBS series of his nationally acclaimed Brisket. Enjoy! [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sMIlyzRFUjU]

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News from around the BBQ Blogsphere

OUR STATE magazine profiles Grady's Barbecue, a historical North Carolina Whole Hog joint in Dudley. This is old school hog cooking with charcoal, hickory, and oak woods. Interesting enough, he actually gives details on how he cooks through the night and how much time it actually takes to cook it as I profiled on my "Whole Hog Myths". Definitely worth a read.

Grilling with Rich announces Operation BBQ Relief as barbecue "person" of the year for 2012! "Operation Barbecue Relief a 501 (c) 3 was founded in May of 2011 by Jeff Stith, Will Cleaver and Stan Hays in response to the need for relief efforts in tornado-stricken Joplin, Missouri. In the wake of this nearly unprecedented destruction, competition barbecue teams from eight states answered the call to help feed displaced families and police, fire, National Guard and other emergency personnel.  The group served over 120,000 barbecue meals in less than two weeks now that is a lot of “Que.” "

The Washington Post says that 2012 was the year that BBQ took the nation by storm. Lots of great highlights and given the progress I've made in my own BBQ journey it seems that the tide really does bring up all boats. No less of a geo-political highlight is mentioned than our President giving the Prime Minister of England a BBQ grill.

Man Up Texas BBQ gives a run down of their latest BBQ tour group. A bunch of crazy Northerns hopping into Central Texas eating at 7 BBQ joints in TWO DAYS!!! Sounds like my kind of people.

No Excuses BBQ smokes up a Xmas Ham for New Years Eve. We all know ham is good all year round!

Cowgirl's Country Life cooks up some Central European Goulash in her drum smoker. Just when you thought you could only cook pork butts in there.

Don O's Texas BBQ provides more details about Slow Bone, a new BBQ joint opening up in Dallas, Texas.

Chopsticks and Marrow visits Chicago's Uncle John's Barbecue and gets a massive plate of rib-tips. "I’ve eaten more than my share of ‘’cue, but I’ve never been much of a rib tip man. I’ve always thought that bigger meant better when it came to pork ribs. Mack’s meaty nuggets—smokey with a mahogany bark—changed my mind. I wish had a half pound of them right now."

Conversations with Charles Stamey - Can Lexington Style BBQ Work Elsewhere?

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This is the fourth part of my reflections on my conversation with Charles Stamey, patriarch  of Stamey's BBQ.

Lexington Style barbecue exists primarily in the western part of North Carolina. Stamey contends that it's an immense challenge to be able to bring his style of barbecue to other areas. Even intra-state barbecue styles present a challenge. A Eastern North Carolina whole hog guy tried opening a joint in Greensboro which failed miserably. Just because it's extremely popular in one region doesn't mean that it will work in another.

To Kansas City barbecue's credit, they have been able to get their style of smoking and saucing to the general American public without much adulteration. While there are places claiming that they are serving Texas brisket, Memphis style ribs or Carolina pulled pork, they most certainly are not. If you traveled down to Lockhart or Winston-Salem or Memphis, it will be crystal clear from the first bite that what you're eating at Generic BBQ LLC is not even close. Just as while you might find orange chicken at your local Chinese food takeout, no such dish exists in China. Kansas City on the other hand has a national influence. Every time you dip your chicken nuggets in some "Barbecue sauce" you're tipping your hat off to the pioneers in Missouri/Kansas.

With some exceptions in Virginia, I don't know anywhere else in the country which offers Western Carolina BBQ. Memphis style pork comes pretty close but their sauces tend to be sweeter.

New York City, ironically enough is actually leading the way when it comes to hyper-regional BBQ. Hill Country BBQ actually reproduces in partnership with Lockhart's Kreuz Market the Central Texas flavors and experience. Delaney BBQ smokes Texas Brisket completely with a wood burning offset. RUB NYC and John Brownsmoke house specialize in Kansas City.

The Stamey challenge asks what needs to be done to effectively propagate Carolina BBQ. Several challenges exist

  • Narrow menu - Carolina BBQ is solely pork and limited in the types of cuts where as Central Texas and Kansas City has a wider variety 
  • The Vinegar - Vinegar and mustard are natural pork enhancers but are not well suited for tasting alone. Kansas City sauces pretty much go with anything
  • Lack of national awareness - North Carolina isn't really that present in people's thoughts. We think of cowboys in Texas and Elvis in Memphis. While North Carolina is growing into a national center of finance and medical research, most people in the country couldn't name anything about the state.

BBQ ROADTRIP!!! : Fletcher's BBQ – Brooklyn, New York

See all the Food Porn HERE

New York City barbecue used to mean lighter fluid scented hotdogs. No longer, as the massive wave of new barbecue joints hyper focused on doing smoked meats right have hit town. It may have been true in the past that the South could hold a moral high-ground in doing things the old fashion and traditional way. The old school methods of only cooking with wood and avoiding overtly sweet sticky sauces. This is no longer the case as many BBQ joints in the American South have moved to gas smokers and slap generic corn syrup sauces on their ribs.

You can count on one hand, the number of joints in NYC that smoke with only wood. Fletcher's BBQ is one of them. Meats expertly smoked by well known pitmaster Matthew Fisher, former pitmaster of establishments like RUB NYC and Wildwood BBQ. Standing tall and proud is their all wood smoker made by J&R Enterprises. My favorite all time commercial smoker.

The menu is decidedly Brooklyn. While they're sticking with the traditional BBQ cuts and smoking old school with red oak and maple wood, the seasonings reflect that innovation and artistry permeating Brooklyn. There's pork steaks seasoned with coriander, and their own in-house "Char-Siu", a traditional Chinese pork roast.

As stated before, I make no claims to being an impartial reviewer. My lunch at Fletcher's was part of a friendly coffee hour with their pitmaster. I had a massive portion of chopped pork with slaw and a sandwich bun. The pork was deeply smokey, tender and full of flavor. When you're cooking with all wood, the flavor reflects this and it's clear from the deep smoke penetration.

I also had a side of Burnt Ends. Burnt Ends can easily be Kansas City's single greatest contribution to mankind. Were burnt ends adopted as a dish globally, I firmly believe we'd achieve world piece. Matt having served his time with RUB NYC, is a master of burnt ends. It is very hard to get burnt ends at RUB, they're always out of them and will only make them when a point is available off a sliced brisket. The fact that they're here makes a visit a MUST. Of course it was wonderful.

Support all wood cookery in New York City. Visit Fletcher's!

433 Third Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11215

A reflection on a year in BBQ 2012

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One of the hallmarks of a happy and successful existence is the feeling that you wish you had more time. There have been several years where I was fully glad to turn the page and see what the New Year offers me. This year more than any other, I'm sad to see her leave.  I have done much this year and have made strides in both my personal journey as well as my professional life. There was much traveling to new countries in 2012, a promotion, new friends, deeper bonds with family. Since this blog is about BBQ I'm listing out my year in BBQ.

  • This year alone I have smoked 31 Whole Hogs. Most of which are over 200lbs with the smallest pig being 125lbs. I couldn't begin to count how many chickens, pork butts, or sausages I've smoked.
  • Being too cheap to head down to Memphis to see the country's Biggest swine cooking competition. I threw a Memphis in May Party for my friends in NYC. Many who have never been to the South to taste real BBQ.
  • I ate through 11 Barbecue Joints in 3 days during my research & development travels through North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia. BBQ Roadtrips rule!
  • I cooked with my teacher, North Carolina pitmaster Ed Mitchell at this year's Big Apple BBQ FestivalTalking BBQ with a master of hog - Aubrey Mitchell long through the night, stoking the fires at 3AM.
  • I enjoyed an almost 2 hour long conversation with North Carolina BBQ patriarch Charles Stamey. As a Carolina BBQ stylist, this was akin to seeing the grandmaster up the mountain. A cherished memory.
  • Had the honor of cooking through the summer with New York's top BBQ blogger and Competition Team Head - Josh Bousel.
  • Previously the Arrogant Swine was just a photo page for some of my cooks. Even though wordpress uses a blog platform, I didn't really use it as a until my buddy Angel forced me to start posting my thoughts and in the span of 4 months we have hit over 8,060 views.
  • Made some great Smoking friends with Chris & Julian of the Island Smoke Ring BBQ Competition team. Lots of meats and cigars smoked!
  • It wouldn't be the proper start to the Fall unless I did my annual Carolina Whole Hog Event.
  • It was my distinct honor to cook with Josh Bowen & John Zervoulakos - Pitmasters of John Brown Smokehouse, where we combined their deep Kansas City flavors with my whole hog pit to cook a 200lb Gloucestershire Old Spot pig. The finest heritage breed I have ever smoked. Not only was John Brown named #1 BBQ Joint 2012 by the Village Voice, I was named their resident Whole Hog expert, a title I wear proudly.
  • I cooked at this year's Georgia State BBQ Championship better known as the Big Pig Jig with Team Bubba Grills, where we took on over a 120 competitors and came in First Place in the uber-stacked category of ribs.
  • After YEARS of envy at Big Bob Gibson's dual cooker trailer. I got my own 16 foot 1,000lb meat capacity trailer. 2 multi-tiered cookers capable of smoking 2 hogs and still have enough room to knock out enough chicken to feed a football team.
  • Finally 2012 I had the chance to break bread with some of the biggest names in the New York City BBQ scene including Robbie Richter, Daniel Delaney, and Matt Fisher.

I'm sad to see 2012 go. It had its ups and downs but overall it was a winning year. I hope for more like it. There's unresolved goals I hope to meet. I thank all my readers to sharing the journey with me.

Conversations with Charles Stamey - Designing a New Pit

Stameys 44

This is the third part of my reflections on my conversation with Charles Stamey, patriarch  of Stamey's BBQ.

One of the main differences in Ed Mitchell style whole hog BBQ is the technique of "banking the fire". As far as I know, only Mitchell students bank the hog. The act of banking a fire is to get your wood fully burned down into coals and then shut off all but the barest source of oxygen so that the temperature will decrease and hold steady for a long time. Keeping true to the North Carolina tradition, the "pit" used by Ed & Co is really nothing more than a box with a cover. The metal hog coffins are popular all around North Carolina and most party stores will rent them out if you want to cook a hog.

One of the big interest we talked about was my designing a new style of barbecue pit that would be uniquely Carolina in flavor and reproducing Ed's cooking style. Stamey was very interested in how Ed was doing his cooking, as his process requires less tending than they do at Stamey's. He was especially interested in my design and says he's looking forward to seeing it.

There's several philosophical guidelines in which I'm designing my pit.

#1 Carolina flavor.

Carolina flavor is that of embers and hog juices. The fat drips on to coals and smokes back on to the meat. In the Carolinas the flavors have to be a delicate balance between a roasted and a smoked flavor. A pork chop tastes roasted but not smoked, a slice of ham tastes smoked but is definitely not roasted. That is the profile you're looking for.

The way that commercial smokers are designed now is based off of a Kansas City/Texas flavor profile. Gas powered smokers burn wood for flavor but that's a completely different flavor than the subtle flavor of wood embers. There are many who claim that there is basically no flavor imparted to the meats with embers, which I strongly disagree with. Open up any North Carolina pit and you'll be hit with a strong punch of hickory and oak.

So my pit is going to aim for that Carolina flavor by combining the dual hits of hog juice and blue ember smoke.

#2 Off Center Chambers

One of the major reasons that traditional pits have to be tended to is the danger of grease fires. Because this isn't like Texas offset smoking, the danger is always there. A pit needs to be designed where you're able to get the heat and blue smoke into the meat without the coals being exactly under the meat. Many whole hog open pit practitioners also shovel their coals on the side. Huge names like Sam Jones and Larry Hite do not shovel the coals underneath the animal any longer. If there was an benefit to it, the risk-adjusted return just simply isn't worth it.

#3 Fire Banking Option with Embers

Mitchell disciples like those at The Pit in Raleigh use Pits designed by Ed. These are designed to cook with both wood and charcoal. I believe that one can be designed that will be able to solely cook with wood. Same banking technique minus the charcoal.