Arrogant Swine

Beer Hall Carolina Whole Hog BBQ

5 Reasons Why You Should Cook Heritage Breeds for Whole Hog BBQ

Now there’s a fairly zealous group calling for raising heritage breed produce. Calls for sustainable eating, old world farming etc. I wouldn’t say I’m deeply in that camp. Do heritage variety of tomatoes raised without pesticides taste better? Yes they do. But I like my generic tomatoes just fine and quite frankly the heritage stuff looks pretty ugly.

I do have a soft spot for preserving old world breed pigs though. They cost a whole lot more but I will outline 5 reasons why people doing whole hog BBQ should cook with heritage breed hogs.

#1 They taste better.

You really can’t beat the flavor of an old-school pig. Anyone’s whose had to choke down a dry pork loin will tell you something is amiss here. The term “eating high on the hog” comes from the fact that when hogs were cooked for barbecues pre civil war, the white masters got the loins sitting on of the back of the pig whereas the slaves got to eat everything else. Well if we were to go by our supermarket pork loins you might get the impressions that the folks down south didn’t really know jack about eating. To add insult to injury, the only way one can enjoy loins is to brine them. That’s right, the prize cut of meat on the pig needs to be bombed by a sodium solution to be palpable with all the flavor complexities cheap deli meat could provide.

When you get an old school heritage pig and your pull out the loins of a hog like the Gloucestershire Old Spot, it makes your heart skip a beat. It’s dripping with moisture slowly confit in it’s own backfat. I’ve had plenty of people who have eaten both my barbecues with heritage pigs and with regular commercial pigs who have told me I did a better job with the heritage pig. It’s not my technique being any different. The pig really does taste that much better!

#2 The Carolina dressings FINALLY make sense.

Now think about this for a second. Who in their right minds drowns their food in vinegar or mustard? Hardly subtle flavors are they? We tend to like the acidity or acridity of vinegar and mustard, respectively, when things are either very fatty or very salty. We like malt vinegars with French fries. We like mustard on salty pretzels. A poached chicken breast with vinegar or mustard sounds absolutely atrocious. There’s no counter balance for the weighty flavors of vinegar or mustard.

There are many who hate the vinegar pepper sauce. The mustard sauce on BBQ seems to make as much sense as round square. Most people “fix” these sauces by introducing a high level of sweetness to the sauce. This however was not the intention of Carolina pitmasters. The reason they used these seasonings were because of the fatty pigs they used. When you do a pig picking with a heritage breed hog and you see all that golden clear running fat, the vinegar or mustard just makes a whole world of sense.

#3 You can incubate hog farmers.

Most heritage breed hog farmers can’t supply restaurants. The reason for this is that restaurants order cuts, not animals. They place orders 50lbs at a time of chops, loins, and belly. Well this leaves the other four corners of the hog to get rid up. Even farmers who do fill these orders have to then end up grinding up the hams and shoulders for sausage meat, lowering their overall profit margins per pound. By ordering the whole animal, it keeps the farmers producing hogs for orders they can fill at a good return.

#4 It helps bring the price down for everyone

Let’s be perfectly honest. People will put up with sub-par food if the price is right. Is Taco Bell great food? Absolutely not. But at 10:30pm when I’m home late from work it’s quick, cheap, and does the job just fine. Plus I look forward to their churro dessert.

I believe there’s some campaign where people are encouraging others to eat less meat but better meat like pasture pork, grass feed beef, free range chickens etc. This is a very admirable and an ethically proper way of thinking; it’s also inefficient and will not produce widespread consumption of heritage breeds. It is like the morality that prevents condom distribution in high schools in favor of abstinence to reduce teen pregnancies. We simply cannot moralize our way out of a problem.

By getting more people to like and love the flavor of heritage breeds we can drive enough demand that farmers can safely begin increasing supply. Simple economics – increasing the supply in the market makes it cheaper for us all. Starbucks is wildly more expensive than regular deli coffee, but deli coffee tastes like ass and Starbucks is not prohibitively expensive. This is why we are willing to put up with the premiums that Starbucks charges and is a fantastic model of where heritage pork needs to be.

#5 It makes for the greatest secret ingredient ever

Well not that secret given that if you’re paying that much for heritage pork you might as well like everyone know about it. But everyone looks for a signature edge. From a professional cooking background the secrets in BBQ are both silly and useless. Professional kitchens hold what are known as “Stages”.

In these, the stagire cook works for free doing the most menial tasks for the opportunity to learn another chef’s recipes. I’ve done several myself at big name places like Le Bernardin, Payard, and La Caravelle in New York City years ago. In them I peeled carrots, mixed pastries, prepped raviolis, basically any and everything that the other cook on the station didn’t want to do. In exchange recipes were freely offered. Nothing was ever held back. People would take out their own notepads and let me copy down their notes and then show me live how that restaurant did things.

So rather than hunt around for some special ingredient by walking down the supermarket isle and getting inspired. It makes more sense to have a very poignant ingredient up front and person. You can mix in obscure Indonesian spices all you like, nothing will beat just having a better hog.

News from around the BBQ Blogsphere

Texas BBQ Posse alerts us to John Lewis of LA Barbecue's uber secret smoker. Lewis already well hailed as one of the top 5 talents in the Austin BBQ scene. While others guard their secret sauce, Lewis guards his pit design.

Marie Let's Eat visits Cabin Creek BBQ in Nicholson, GA. Takeaway is skip the BBQ and stay for the Bruinswick stew. "What I do want to note here is that this is some of the best Brunswick stew that I have ever had. It is astonishing, incredibly rich and meaty and seasoned just perfectly. It is thick and red and will leave you melting into a happy and content puddle. If any of you good people are missing the legendary stew of Harold’s in Atlanta, this might make for a pretty good replacement in your affections. I consider it up there with Turn-Around and Speedi-Pig as worth considering among the best in Georgia."

Grilling with Rich lists the top 10 must have products for the upcoming grilling season!

BBQ Nation shares his recipe for Andouille Sausage Sandwich with Spicy Sriracha Slaw. This sausage bites back!

Embers and Flames reviews the new All Fired Up: Smokin’ Hot BBQ Secrets From The South’s Best Pitmasters by Troy Black and Southern Living.

Big Wayner BBQ Blog reviews Fox Bros BBQ Sauce. "Honestly, I was ready to write this sauce off.  I tried it on chicken in a few different combinations – as a finishing sauce, as a marinade, and as a condiment.  Out of those three, I was happiest with it used as a condiment, and even then it was just okay.  It gave great color when used as a finishing sauce, but I just wasn’t thrilled with the flavors it added."

BBQ Zen's new book. Crossroads of BBQ, is now out! Check out the Austin Chronicle's review!

Obsessive Compulsive Barbecue shares his famous Old Virginia Barbecue sauce. "Here is a delicious version of an old VA BBQ sauce inspired by a 19th century VA BBQ man named Shack. It has no sugar in it, so sweet sauce fans may want to stay away." This sauce is actually really popular on the BBQ Forums. I know I'm a fan.

Memphis Que knows about Tex-Mex but Ten-Mex? Check out his discovery of a pulled pork Taco at a Mexican joint in Memphis.

Cowgirl's Country Life gets offers from both the Food Network AND the Cooking Channel! Sadly for us she isn't taking either.

BBQ Jew shares with us a detailed history of BBQ in Goldsboro, NC by one of his readers. Someone's put a lot of homework in this piece!

The MEATWAVE is ready for Cinco De Mayo with some grilled chorizo! Now he isn't just grilling some chorizo, he's actually MAKING his own. Click on for the recipe.

No Excuses BBQ is too busy for low and slow! So hot and fast was the order of the day with his BBQ brisket. "The result was a flat that was slightly drier than I prefer, but one that still had a nice smoke ring and mesquite flavor. The point was very moist when chopped; my only regret was not having time to turn it into burnt ends."

Sorghum Molasses & North Carolina BBQ

My recipe section is in desperate need of revision. Much of the list needs reworking and/or rejection. The one recipe I keep the same is my Brunswick County Pork Butt. It has been used by several professional caterers who have commented to me on their success with it. I get emails like this all the time

“Hey Tyson, Yesterday XXX and I did six Butts with your Brunswick recipe - they turned out the best we've ever made. So thanks a ton for that recipe.”

Aside from my affection for the general story of Clay’s sniper rifle aimed at any one who dares to violate the recipe with cumin, it has the added bonus of introducing a technique involving molasses.

As a northern sojourner to the American South, molasses was not a familiar product to me. Several things I never knew included (1) there is more than one type of molasses & (2) it has an extensive presence as a condiment in rural area – much of the North sees molasses as an ingredient.

The molasses in question for North Carolina is “Sorghum Molasses” which our trusty Wikipedia articles notes is not a “true” molasses. Making sorghum is a dying practice in North Carolina. I imagine more Carolinians are pouring a sweetener on their pancakes made in Vermont or Canada than they are sorghum from Moore County, NC.

In broad strokes, molasses is largely thought to be a Kansas City ingredient for BBQ. My first encounter with sorghum came from research into whole hog traditions in Western Tennessee. So to see it pop up in North Carolina was surprising to me. Interesting enough it really only made its way to the coastal regions and affected the barbecue in Brunswick County.  A dating of the ingredients probably means that this tradition isn’t really all that old. Carolina BBQ is cooked with direct heat over wood embers. This would run the risk of burning the molasses coating on the meat.

The further application to Carolina BBQ would be to try adding it to Lexington style dips – the more liberal of the binary State BBQ styles. The one issue would be trying to keep the sauce thin enough to remain a meet and right vinegar sauce. I imagine some dilution with water will help its case. The buttery smokey complexity of the sorghum instead of using plain white sugar should be well within Piedmont Triangle orthodoxy.

The most fascinating discovery I made was the practice of eating hot biscuits with sorghum molasses and butter. Now I have plenty of Southerners who a giggling at me for being so excited at such a commonplace practice down south. I would contend that ubiquity does in no way diminish the sheer genius of this flavor combination. I have personally never seen molasses on biscuits even on my many travels down to North Carolina for research. So for me the vision of hot flaky biscuits sandwiching some complex sweetness with salty butter just generates a sheer amount of excitement.

So as we explore more ways of incorporating sorghum molasses into Carolina style BBQ, we can definitely declare hot biscuits with molasses and salted butter as proper breakfast item for pitmasters.

The thought process came about in conversations with fellow blogger Biscuits and Such. Here is her biscuit recipe.

Dry ingredients.  

Whisk (which will lighten the flours) together

  • 1 1/4 cup self rising flour,
  • 3/4 cup pastry flour (or cake flour),
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder,
  • 1/8 tsp baking soda,
  • 1/2 tsp salt, 1 tbsp sugar

Cube four tablespoons of butter and, using, your fingers, work it into the flour.  I like to smooth the butter out into long, thin pieces.  This way, when you press the dough out later, it forms layers of butter between the flour, which is what makes the flakes.  Work the butter quickly so that your hands don’t warm it too much.

Stir in 1 1/4 cups heavy cream with a wooden spoon, bringing together all the ingredients until they form a rough ball.  It should be on the sticky side as it is always easier to work more flour in than it is to fix a dry dough.

Sprinkle a little all purpose flour on the countertop and dump your dough out.  Using floured hands gently press the dough out flat.  I like to work it a little at a time, working it out and then flipping it so that no one area or side gets too worked.  Continue to press it out until it is 1/2″ thick.  If at any time it starts getting sticky, pop it into the fridge for 20 minutes.

Cut the biscuits and heat your oven to 475, and place them on an ungreased pan.  

The last thing you want to do before baking is give them a glaze.  I like to take the measuring cup that I used to measure out my cream, stick 2 tbsp of butter in there, and melt the butter in the microwave.  Then I brush the butter/cream on my biscuits.  Bake for 10-12 minutes.

Let them rest for 10 minutes before you cut them (any sooner and they’ll crumble).

Where to buy Sorghum

Bourbon Barrel Foods has popular one that uses a 5 generations old recipe.

Doubletree Farm comes highly recommended. Call them to see if they’ll do mail order.

News from around the BBQ Blogsphere

The MEATWAVE notes that "Bacon = awesome. Barbecue = awesome. So bacon barbecue should equal double awesome, right?" Well maybe not. Check out his review of Pigchaser Bacon BBQ Sauce.

Obsessive Compulsive BBQ brings us another fantastic history lesson. The Great Boston BBQ of 1793 - Whole Ox and the French Revolution. Why didn't they teach me this in school?

Chopsticks + Marrow talks about whole hog BBQ coming to Long Island City, NYC. About time the weekly news round up included a story about me no? "Ho knows a thing or two about whole hog and prepared the hog in the classic Carolina style. He and his crew chopped it up with two cleavers in what seemed like a matter of minutes. Bits of crunchy skin and succulent flesh were mixed with vinegar, hot pepper, and little else. Served with a side of slaw, the resulting product was so good I ate two portions."

Texas BBQ Posse visits Opie's Barbecue in Spicewood, TX. "Once inside the door, I knew I was in trouble. The huddled masses had been extremely hungry for Easter lunch. They were out of ribs and brisket, so I settled on pork tenderloin and jalapeño and cheese sausage. ... It' hard to judge a joint on tenderloin and sausage, but I can report both were very good. I took advantage of the warm vinegar-based BBQ sauce to add some flavor to the tenderloin. I'm not a big sauce guy, but this was some of the best I've tasted along the Texas BBQ trail."

Grilling with Rich reviews the SHED BBQ & Blues Joint Junk Free Barbecue Sauce Products. Well wasn't that a mouthful? The Southern Sweet sounds particularly tasty.

Marie Let's Eat visits Shuford's Smokehouse in Chattanooga, TN. "There are certainly some other good places around Hamilton County to get good barbecue, but Shuford’s is my new favorite in the area. This pulled pork is really rich and smoky. So is the sauce, which is a dark, sweet and smoky brew that mixes incredibly well with the meat. I went with baked beans and slaw as my sides and enjoyed them both a lot. I also loved the very cute garnish of a green onion on the plate. Two hundred plus barbecue joints at this blog and I am still being pleasantly surprised by unique little touches like that."

Ulika BBQ cooks a whole hog Asado style for Mule Day. I don't have farking clue what Mule Day is but I'm celebrating it from now on!!

Memphis Que finds a BBQ fried Pie! No not pie in a BBQ joint, fried pies filled with BBQ. "It turns out the pies are available with pork, beef, chicken or turkey filling... when it came out it was way too hot to eat or hold. I had to poke some steam holes in it with a fork and let it cool down. .. At $4.99 before tax the fried barbecue tax compares well to a barbecue sandwich in both price and volume. It is loaded with barbecue sauce as well as meat and ends up being similar to a barbecue-stuffed chimichanga, i.e., similar to a pothead's greatest dream"

No Excuses BBQ discovers his inner french chef and makes a Turkey a la Orange on the smoker! Words of wisdom from the wise chef "run away from all those l’Orange sauce recipes on the Interwebs that suggest using chicken broth as one of the ingredients. Trust me, there are a lot. Also trust me, and don’t use them if you want a sauce that tastes like oranges, not chicken soup with Tang".

Another Pint Please throws some bacon wrapped Jalapeno shrimp poppers on the grill. Nuff said.

Man Up Texas BBQ announces the winner of the San Antonio Barbecue Madness Tournement: Smoke Shack!!

Cowgirl's Country Life realized that this week's New from around the BBQ Blogsphere needs more bacon. And thus she throws in her bacon wrapped beer battered pickles! "One or two of these hot out of the oil make a meal for me.    Yea... I probably should eat healthier meals but once in awhile I crave these things. :)"

Fed Man Walking revisits Sam's Bar-B-Que in Austin, TX. Seems like they're off his top 10 Austin's best list. "And the cutter? He had no interest in slicing from any part of that newly unfoiled brisket besides the part directly in front of his knife. Not the ebony-crusted fatty end, just the pale, flaccid lean side that looked and tasted like cafeteria brisket."

Don O's Texas BBQ is running out of room in his freezer to store all the BBQ brisket he's bringing back from Lockhart!

Patron's of the Pit lives up north. Now up north here, mother nature is a jerk because occassionally after the advent of spring, she'll dump some more snow and cold on us. Patron welcomes back winter with some BBQ Chicken. "Perhaps this is the reason you never hear our state mentioned on the same pages like that of Texas, South Carolina, and Kansas City, when it comes to BBQ. If those blokes had to BBQ in sub-zero temperatures for fifty percent of the year, perhaps we northern wannabes would tally a might higher in their counts."

DivaQ makes a Memphis style pulled pork sandwich. Makes you want to give up always associating Memphis with ribs.

Southern Foodways shares a fantastic podcast on King's BBQ in Petersburg, Virginia. I promise the best thing you'll listen to all week.

Embers and Flames shares a tasty Pit Sauce from the new book Wicked Good Burgers. Baste your burgers today!


Introducing the Team!!

Whole Hog BBQ needs a decently large team. If nothing else, to move the massive dead weight of our pigs. So the Arrogant Swine crew in alphabetical order (of course I end up last) Angel Mercado – Beer-conomist/Head of Infrastructure

Angel believes sobriety is a problem which must be dealt with extreme prejudice. So he’s in charge of calculating how much beer we need to get you properly sh*t-faced. He’s also our infrastructure guy, making sure minor little details like “WE HAVE NO POWER!!!” doesn’t get in the way of Hog cookery. Angel covers our business development activities for Queens.

Ed Mitchell BBQEd Mitchell – Patron Saint of The Arrogant Swine

As a North Carolina BBQ team our patron saint is no less than the legendary Ed Mitchell to hold us to those higher standards of whole hog smoking. Also since the Roman Catholic Church has already excommunicated 80% of the team, we couldn’t go with the normal roster of saints.

Josh Bowen – Banjo Plucker/BBQ Alchemist/Team Patron

Josh is the owner and pitmaster of highly popular joints John Brown Smokehouse and Alchemy Texas BBQ. He has generously acted as incubator for the team – supplying us with hogs, use of his kitchens, and keeping the local Fire Department from shutting us down (again…).

Steven Goldberg – Team mead brewer/Cicerone

Steve is our beer guy. We will not serve a single beer with our BBQ unless it’s Steve Approved. What the hell is a cicerone? It’s a dude who tells you what beer to pair with your food; now shut up and drink your beer!

Mark Macatangay – Event Photographer/Bigfoot-in-Residence

Left to my own devices, we’d never have any photos. Things start getting busy and I completely forget to record the action. This is why we have our very own resident Bigfoot to stand over the crowd and snap pictures. The other important reason for having your own bigfoot is to protect our pig head displays. Our pig heads are enormously popular with the crowd. People take more pictures of the head than they do me! Thus our bigfoot keeps our intoxicated guests from making off with our heads (again),

Matthew Gelfand – Director of Kosher Compliance/ Logistics & Crisis Management

Matt knows how Superman feels. No one ever calls him unless things have gone horribly, horribly awry. Pit get stolen 4 hours before cook time? Call Matt. Vegan protest? Matt’s there with the attack dogs as well as breakfast for the crew. On his last blind date, she wouldn’t give him her number but asked for his just in case her basement floods again. The Arrogant Swine is the only kosher compliant whole hog BBQ team. How does he pull that off? I’m not sure. Don’t ask don’t tell. Matt handles our business development activities for Brooklyn.

Arrogant Swine LogoTyson Ho – Founder/Hog Cooker/PhD in Redneck Anthropology  

They say the best job is the one that follows your passions. To the chagrin of my wife, I love cooking whole animals twice my body weight and I like starting fires. If that wasn’t bad enough I have the largest documentation on whole hog cookery in various American regions. Everything from the cooking styles to hog breeds. Surely that deserves a graduate degree no?

John Brown Day!!! 260lb Gloucestershire Whole Hog BBQ

IMG_20130407_161132[2] See all the Event Photos HERE

John Brown Smokehouse brings LIC the best in good times. Who else in New York throws an event involving Harvard Professors, Blues Legends, and their own in-house Hog expert? As far as I know, John Brown is the only BBQ joint in New York with a person on hand whose sole job is to smoke entire pigs. Along with the festivities we had a congressman proclaim April 7th as John Brown Day with the smokehouse getting a large framed copy of the proclamation.

My mission was to smoke a 260lb pasture raised Gloucestershire Hog. That’s right. I had to cook a beast  who weighed more than the average NFL linebacker. The head alone weighed close to 50 and was larger than my chest. Now I don’t get that intimidated by large animals but this was pretty ridiculous. I approached this challenge with the biggest grin on my face ever.

Friday night we dragged my smoker over to JBS to get her situated. The plan was for the pig to go on at 9pm Saturday evening for over 18 hours of cooking.

Then at 3pm Saturday afternoon I get a call from my buddy Josh that the smoker was missing!

So aside from the fact that it really really royally blows to have someone jack your smoker. It doesn’t help that it’s compounded with the fact that I really needed to use it in 6 hours!!!  The mission then was to find a smoker with the capacity to handle my porcine leviathan. I could have driven up to Bridgeport, CT to grab my monster trailer but the logistics just were not there. We did have one offer to borrow two PR60 hog smokers but they were not on trailers and weighed over 300lbs each. This would require us trying to lift and fit these smokers on the back of my truck. Hernia and possible roadside accident awaited us.

Then we got word that Matt Fisher, one of the biggest wigs in the NYC BBQ pantheon, was willing to lend us his large reverse-flow smoker.

So it was a mad rush to get to Staten Island to pick up this smoker and get it to Long Island City. It was already 6pm by the time we started rolling. My chief logistics guy, Matt, darn near gave me a heart attack getting there. You have never seen a quarter ton pickup truck weave thru traffic that fast.

There seemed to have been some miscommunication in what ball size the trailer hitch was supposed to use and the smoker actually came OFF THE TRUCK!!! Thank Jesus we actually chained it in otherwise we might have made the 8PM news. Heck that would have been the first newspaper report about me ever. “Giant smoker smashes into BMW on Hwy 287”.

So after indeed having an heart attack, we reattached the smoker and wrapped the trailer ball with every cord, string, paper clip we had on us. Keep in mind that we are on the freakin’ HIGHWAY!!

I’m a decently religious guy but I’m fairly confident I have never prayed so hard in my life the whole 35mph trip back to Queens. Every bump and rattle made me die just a little more inside. Ever been on adrenaline for 40mins straight? Yeah no fun. I was more wound up than a cat left at the dog pound.

So now 11:30pm we finally got the hog prepped and thrown on to the smoker. Because it wasn’t a Carolina style hog cooker we needed to cut the animal straight down the spine and put her on 2 tiers.

Reverse flow cooking isn’t my favorite for hog. Fantastic for almost every other BBQ cut. But beggars can’t be choosers right? The one issue was after 9 hours of cooking the ash build up was keeping me from holding temp the way I wanted to. Essentially all that ash was choking off the airflow to my coals. Removing the ash was painful as the metal expanded making it almost impossible to pull out. We had 3 guys get it out and then push it back in.

By 4pm Sunday afternoon the hog was done and I actually had a chance to do some artistic arranging of the animal as you see in the photos.

As our Carolina custom, we pulled the meat, chopped it up with some of the crispy skin and seasoned it with my vinegar pepper sauce. The one GREAT thing about heritage breed hogs is the fat. All the lovely rendered pig lipid was just gushing out as we pulled the swine. This is was helps balance out the vinegar and mustard sauces that the Carolinas are so well known for. The issue people have with that isn’t due to the sauce; it’s due to our lean produced modern pigs.

The crowd loved the BBQ especially one of my bigger fans whose birthday it was. You’ll see her and her boyfriend in the photos. I figured what a better birthday gift than a Hog Drumstick? Seems like everyone got a big chomp out of it.

A gentleman from South Carolina told me the pork reminded him of home. All the affirmation I needed.

So despite our harrowing journey to the goal, we hit the finish line. A shout out to my crew not the least being fellow blogger WDM, will be coming tomorrow. Despite working with a new smoker and an bigger animal than I have ever cooked, we were able to produce amazing BBQ. Lots of big name pitmasters in New York were on hand to sample my pork and offer moral support. It was an amazing night.

The guests of John Brown Smokehouse were MORE than generous in tossing money into a collection bucket to help me get a new smoker. We collected over $300 that evening. While I might have been impressed with the size of my massive heritage breed hog, the hearts of our guests were far larger.

See all the Event Photos HERE


Hog Display



Stolen Hog Smoker

The Wait Over the weekend I joined the ranks of pitmasters who had their rig stolen. A rig on a trailer isn’t really of much use to anyone other than BBQ people. Hill Country BBQ had their massive 1 ton bells & whistles decked out smoker stolen 3 years ago. Earlier this year, BBQ giant Pat Martin had his specially custom Tennessee Whole Hog cooker stolen too, right in front of his own restaurant in broad daylight!!

Plenty of people are wondering why anyone would do this especially on my rig, which has so little monetary value. I think the options are pretty clear. They might have thought they were merely playing a harmless prank. They might have been under some “Robin Hood” delusion they were taking from the haves and delivering justifiable income/justice to the have nots. They might have done it for entertainment because it’s always funnier to cause harm when you don’t have to stare at the aftermath. Or perhaps they intended to cause me pain.

The frightening thing is that the people who stole my smoker are likely of the same ethical self-reflection as the vandals who graffiti on my wall. They likely consider themselves ethical human beings. They will demand their children learn right from wrong. They are disgusted when they see murder in the newspaper. They pray to higher powers in church. They don’t consider themselves monsters or criminals. Perhaps they like the feeling of being in control by essentially rendering me helpless.

My smoker was a royal pain in the arse. The trailer portion was flimsy. The design was illogical. She wasn’t the best at holding heat. She was a chore to clean. Despite all that, she was mine and I loved her. I figured out how to jerry-rig a pipe thru her to make a reverse flow smoker out of her when needed. I took advantage of her layout to cook more capacity than better built smokers. I made cold spots into holding areas and hotspots into strategic benefits.

My smoker and I were the same – deeply flawed and lacking in pedigree – yet, despite our humble background, produced moments of perfection. She crafted pork butts meltingly tender and fragrant with oak. She took on three 100lb pigs without blinking an eye and produced hog so authentic that it fooled event goers from the South into believing I was from the South as well. I dreamed of better smokers but would never imagine giving her away.

I should join the chorus of those calling for violent punishment for our thieves. After all it is my smoker. But instead I feel pity. I don’t believe in karma or the universe balancing out the worlds of its world. I do believe in the creation of self and what comes from that. BBQ is an act of generosity and community building. What we give out we have received back in exponential friendship. To cause harm for your own entertainment or self-benefit seems to be a lonely world to live in. Forever to keep company with the likes of other thieves, seem to me to be a hellish existence.

She was the conduit of my art. She was the center piece of my events. She caused strangers in NYC to smile due to her sheer absurdity. For many she broke the monotony of daily activities. For others she was a story you could share with friends.

But now she’s gone. The space she occupied in my driveway for years now sits barren. Perhaps if she wasn’t so big the space wouldn’t look so empty. Then perhaps I wouldn't hurt so much looking at the emptiness.

News from around the BBQ Blogsphere

Blue Ribbon BBQ Blog could just "hog" their amazing Tennessee BBQ sauce made with Jack Daniel's Old #7. They could but they didn't and are sharing the same sauce their customers crave with YOU. Thank them by ordering more ribs, cuz life's too short for half slabs.

Big Wayner's BBQ Blog visits North Carolina legend Wink's King of BBQ & Seafood. " The BBQ was perfectly moist – not too dry and not overly sauced coming out of the kitchen.  It had a fine-to-medium chop and possessed a nice nutty flavor courtesy of the wood used in the smoking process.  It did not need any additional sauce; however additional sauces are available on the table if so desired.  The slaw (a vinegar-based slaw, very much a Carolinas specialty) had just the right amount of tang and crunch.  Again, great balance here."

DivaQ shares a video on how to make Texas style beef ribs. I can tell you from experience, making a good beef rib is very very very hard. Watch with pad and pencil ready!

Bob's Brew & Cue cooks up a weird "min Brisket". "I love the point far more than the flat of the brisket and here was a small grass-fed brisket from my favorite Humboldt County producer. Purchased! Woke up Sunday morning, fired the pit and took a look at my little brisket point, and was surprised to see, it as a full 4 pound packer, well, a weird, tiny, 4 pound packer with the smallest, thinnest excuse for a flat I have ever seen. By the time I got done trimming off the membrane and such, it was probably around 3 pounds."

Marie Let's Eat visits Judge Bean's BBQ in Brentwood,TN. "I’ve yet to have a plate of barbecue in middle Tennessee that really knocked my socks off, but Judge Bean’s has come fairly close. This is very good pulled pork,... Perhaps we might make the argument that it’s better to consider the quality of Texas-themed barbecue by trying their brisket, but I’m a Georgia boy, and barbecue means pork to me. Oh, I enjoy chicken and brisket and beef ribs just fine as occasional changes from the routine, but I think that a place stands or falls on the quality of its pork. This is smoked overnight over hickory and is very tender and just a little dry."

Texas BBQ Posse visits with Pitmaster Travis Mayes at Meshack's Bar-B-Que Shack in Garland, TX. "Travis and Donna Mayes opened the now legendary Meshack's Bar-Be-Que Shack in May 2009. They led the way to a renaissance of Dallas barbecue that has been exhilarating, including the opening of Pecan Lodge andLockhart Smokehouse. New joints continue to open in the D/FW area almost monthly now, some good, some bad."

Zen BBQ shares the story of a church pastor whose day job is being a BBQ pitmaster. I'm sure his ribs must be heavenly. Afterall, he has God on his side. When I attended services at Reverend Hodge’s church one Sunday, I met a guest preacher named Reverend Jimmie Cobbin. After I asked him if he ever cooked barbecue, he smiled and said, ‘Funny you should ask.’ As it turned out, Cobbin operated a barbecue stand in Richmond called Jimmie’s Ribs for several years.”

BBQ Jew tells the curious tale of Guy Parker's BBQ Sauce. "I used to regularly travel to Goldsboro for work and was always curious about the vacant but tidy Guy Parker’s Barbeque Restaurant near the edge of downtown.  I never did figure out the story behind the restaurant until seeing this interesting article.  Between Guy Parker’s and Scott’s, Goldsboro is becoming a barbecue town known as much for its ghosts (and their sauce) as for its existing restaurants."

The MEATWAVE says what's in everyone's mind - skewers suck. They look nice but yeah ultimately they suck. Follow his tips on making Pichos Morunos to make amazing skewers.

Embers and Flame review the new Wicked Good Burgers book by Andy Husbands, Chris Hart and Andrea Pyeson. "Wicked Good Burgers won’t teach you have to make a good burger, it won’t even teach you how to make a great burger.  It will teach you to make a perfect burger.  A perfect burger, what’s a perfect burger?  Well, a perfect burger is a burger that makes you smile when you eat it.  I love all kinds of food, cooked all kinds of different ways.  But there is something about a burger, when done correctly,  that can just make you forget almost anything else you’ve ever eaten.  If you don’t understand what I’m saying then you’ve never experienced a perfect burger and you need to buy this book and read it."

Memphis Que visits A&R BBQ's Downtown location in Memphis. After a waitress mistakenly gives his rib tips instead of ribs, she offers to replace them. "Once food has been served to a customer restaurants are required to throw it away if it is sent back, even if it hasn't been touched. In my world view it would be a crime to cause such good-looking rib tips to get tossed in the trash. And speaking of good-looking food; during my visit I also noticed some mouth-wateringly delicious looking smoked sausages coming out of the kitchen. I'll definitely be trying one of them soon."

Grilling with Rich let's BBQ LEGEND Dave Anderson tell you his story in his own words. If you're a student of BBQ or just believe in redemption and the human spirit, read and reread.

John Brown Day is Coming!!


"His zeal in the cause of my race was far greater than mine—

it was as the burning sun to my taper light—

mine was bounded by time,

his stretched away to the boundless shores of eternity.

I could live for the slave,

but he could die for him."

 - Fredrick Douglass

This Sunday is John Brown Day over at John Brown’s Smokehouse. In a year promising to one of may firsts – this will be the first BBQ event I have ever done that featured a lecture by a Harvard Professor. Who says country cooking and academics can’t exist together?

I never particularly read up on John Brown prior to my current tenure as Whole Hog expert for JBS. As a child we’ve always been given the impression that John Brown was a necessary evil. Rational logic would not force this country to recognize her violations of the sworn creed of liberty. Slavery was the norm and it required zealous violence of a true believer to get people to start noticing. Our history books would have preferred one that was not so indiscriminate with his killings. Historians to this day debate the characterizations of John Brown – domestic terrorist? Civil rights hero? Martyr? Serial killer?

Any place naming itself after John Brown makes a statement. He’s not an easy person to like. He’s impossible to ignore. If nothing else, John Brown perhaps overturns the “flawed hero” concept. He was not a hero with flaws but his flaw and zealousness pushed him to heroic actions. It’s not a concept foreign to religion. Especially in a Judeo-Christian culture, saints and sinners are not binary figures. In contrast, all saints were sinners, the most famous of them perhaps the worst offenders.

Harvard Professors, Blues Legends, and a whole hog cook will be strange bed-fellows this weekend. I have written at length before about how North Carolina whole hog BBQ is deeply embedded with American slavery. Perhaps it won’t  be all that strange after all.

News from around the BBQ Blogsphere

Kevin's BBQ Joints likes to be thorough. So he visits all three locations of Phil's BBQ in San Diego! Lots of tasty photos.

BBQ Jew notes there's plenty of Bruhaha about Texas Monthly having the country's first full time BBQ editor. Sorry Texas but North Carolina's Bob Garner's been writing full time about North Carolina BBQ for a LONG time.

Don O's Texas BBQ is heading to the Houston BBQ Festival and has hits up plenty of BBQ joints on his way down!

Cowgirl's Country Life smokes up some salmon using Harry Soo's Slap Yo Daddy chicken rub and brown sugar. Looked so good it slapped me across the computer screen!

Another Pint Please is facing two problems - a snow storm and a slab of ribs that might need to go in the freezer. "Even with a winter storm warning in effect, I felt obligated to fire up the grill. I had a rack of ribs in the fridge which I refused to freeze.  Fortunately, BBQ takes precedence over inclement weather." We salute you sir!

BBQ Sauce Reviews checks out Texas Sweet Hickory and has only one BAD thing to say about it. "They only sent me one bottle". Nuf said. Go buy this sauce!

THE MEATWAVE doesn't hand our props like candy! So when he awards Rufus Teague Blazin' Hot Barbecue Sauce a stunning 8 out of 10 points that's reason to click in and check it out.

Obsessive Compulsive BBQ digs deep into American history and finds a fun little tidbit. "In the early 19th century, during the administration of president Andrew Jackson, two groves of trees were planted on the Capitol Grounds for barbecues." Read the entire article - WORTH IT!!

Fed Man Walking visits Stiles Switch in Austin, TX. "Stiles Switch is my go-to for BBQ without the BS. They’re open when they say they’re open. They cook enough meat to last the day. Even if the line wanders the 15 yards to the door, pitman and slicer Lance Kirkpatrick keeps it moving without sacrificing an affable sense of ease. I can dodge in, get a half-pound of moist brisket and be out the door in five minutes most days."

Marie let's Eat hits their 200th BBQ review! For the this milestone they hit up Texas style The Rib Ranch in Marietta, GA. "I was happy to tilt my head back and let the smoky taste of the ribs linger while considering all of the silly Texas kitsch and bric-a-brac on the walls, but Marie was keen on dessert and tried a hot fudge brownie, which she loved. I accepted her offer of a bite, expecting the cool taste of cold chocolate syrup instead of piping hot brown goo. That was an unpleasant surprise."

DivaQ smokes up a crispy duck dish. "I think duck doesn’t get used nearly as much as it should be. Its an incredibly rich dark and forgiving meat that lends itself well to many applications.  Plus I have been watching many episodes of Duck Dynasty on A&E lately and well its been making me hungry and Si cracks me up. HEY!"

Texas BBQ Posse shares two little known facts about Slow Bone BBQ, the newest joint in Dallas. I won't give it away but this line is worth quoting (concerning their BBQ Drugs sign) - " I've always believed that good BBQ is like good drugs"

Patron's of the Pit gives you tips on how to clean your pit without getting covered in ash. "Every pit should come with its own built-in Shop Vac we think. For there were times I’d wheel over the garbage can and just invert my grills and ash pans over it. The result naturally resembled something akin to loitering on the flanks of Mount St Helens after a modest eruption."

BBQ Master thinks out of the box. When I think of cabbage & BBQ I'm thinking slaw. But then I'm not a MASTER. She stuffs it with sausage and smokes it on the grill! So much I need to learn.

Memphis Que visits newly opened Razorback BBQ in West Memphis, TN. "After glancing over the menu I asked the two employees present which they thought was better between the ribs and the pulled pork. "I just took the ribs off this morning and they turned out great today," was the answer I got so I ordered a half-slab plate.The hefty portion of ribs was incredibly tender and served in my preferred dry-with-sauce-on-the-side manner. They didn't have a ton of smoke flavor but I liked the dry rub on them. The beans and slaw were both pretty standard with the slaw being creamy but not obnoxiously so."

Whole Hog BBQ - Tools of the Trade II

Rammstein is a metal band based in Germany and one of my favorite forms of musical entertainment. I like them for their tongue-in-cheek lyrics, storyline rich music videos, heavy jams and their insane feats of pyrotechnics. It is further proof that adding a flamethrower to any situation makes it all that much cooler. I’m confident that if the US Federal government would mandate the use of flame throwers in our children’s math classes, we’re probably have the highest math scores in the world – we’d also need to hold math classes outdoors which wouldn’t be too bad of an idea.

The very first time I ever smoked a pig, I had a secret weapon. I found a massive bottle of Zippo lighter fluid which, due to its utility, has very little in terms of scent. People don’t like smoking anything that tastes like gasoline. I was a GENIUS! I had all the power of lighter fluid with none of the smell!! Well turns out I was an absolute MORON as we hosed down over 80lbs of charcoal with Zippo fluid, had a big poofy fire which lasted as long as a jelly donut at fat kids camp.

So we gave in and rushed to the deli for a jug of regular charcoal lighter fluid. Lighter fluid isn’t necessary a bad thing. I know it’s BBQ orthodoxy to hate on it, but plenty of the top cookers in the world use it to start their coal. I guarantee if I had you taste their food you wouldn’t taste the fluid. Plus I like the smell of burning lighter fluid on a small scale – reminds me of childhood summers (along with burnt chicken).

But burning that much coal with that much lighter fluid is not pleasant at all. Someone suggested one time I use chimney starters. Have you ever had to start 80lbs of charcoal with chimney starters? We’d probably spend the next 3 hours just lighting coal!

So in comes the solution – a baby FLAMETHROWER!!

More specifically it’s a Lincoln Electric Inferno Propane Torch.

Like everything with whole hog BBQ it’s a great crowd pleaser. The most popular photos people take are

#1 Them standing in front of my smoker

#2 Them holding a pig’s head

#3 Them shooting flames out of my baby flamethrower.

In the annuals of badassness, this tool ranks pretty high up there. When fired up it shoots out a jet stream of fire and will get your coal lit in almost no time. It’s actually kinda disappointing sometimes how effective it is as I’d love to just burn some more stuff. It even sounds like a jet! Make no mistake, it’s loud. The first time I had my buddy work it, he darn near wet himself. And my buddy’s a tough guy! Tatted up, big muscles, bald head – scary. I swear when that fire busted out he was ready run home to his mommy. You've been warned.

How to keep your ribs from tasting like HAM

I went to college down in the west Texas town of Lubbock. Growing up in the culturally diverse and blue voting city of New York, I needed a change and Texas provided it in spades. Antagonism ran high in NY vs TX. Texans were no more interested in New York culture than the New Yorkers were interested in ostrich skinned cowboy boots. New Yorkers were godless heathens and Texans were unread right wing nutjobs. To be fair we haven’t really deviate all that far in public sentiment.

As far as BBQ goes now, New Yorkers love Texas BBQ. Specifically Central Texas BBQ. We now eat our meats on butcher paper and people now pay by the pound. As of 2013 we have no less than 5 groups doing Texas style BBQ around and more are on their way! These are not faux Texans either, they’re really going out of their way to reproduce the product and it’s really good.

One strange by product of this is the simplistic salt & pepper rub being used on everything in New York. In Texas, they put salt & coarse ground pepper on their BEEF products but are much freer with the seasonings when it came to pork ribs. Somehow this got translated into ONLY salt rubs for ribs, leading to somewhat unpleasant results.

It’s not that you can’t get great ribs just using salt & pepper. You can indeed get GREAT ribs just doing the duo. The danger is that you get “hammy” ribs. This happens where the salt, smoke and long cooking accidentally “cures” the meat. Now you’ll get some of that in pork butts but it’s not as much of a problem given the large amount of interior meat to mix with it.

Hammy ribs tastes -- just as the name implies – like ham on a long bone. And not complex good ham either, just sodium inflected meat.

There’s several ways you can make sure that you don’t serve ham on a bone.

#1 Salt late!

You should only season your ribs right before you toss them into the smoker. Because of how thin a slab of ribs are, seasoning your pork with a rub and letting it sit overnight will cause it to cure.

#2 Cook hotter

Low and slow is the mantra of BBQ and it’s a good thing. REALLY LOW and REALLY SLOW is just ridiculous and doesn’t produce a superior product. In fact, it doesn’t help the pork ribs render fat very well. So now, not only do you have hammy ribs, you have fatty hammy ribs. No good. You hear of people cooking ribs for 9 hours? = HAM

#3 Avoid Enhanced Pork

Many places sell enhanced pork which have been injected with a brine mixture to give the illusion of juiciness. You know what that produces? Well you guess it. HAM. Don’t get me wrong, I love ham but you’re looking make ribs not ham right?


Breaking some Rules in BBQ for Success!

Recently a sport commentator remarked that the best thing you can learn from a sport is what’s illegal, specifically in combat sports. For example, we don’t let boxers hit each other while hugging because quite frankly it would be dull and it would sacrifice the development of beautiful crisp punches for the more effective “dirty boxing”. In high school wrestling, you were not allowed to lock your hands in certain positions because it gave an unfair advantage. The list of techniques banned in combat sports e.g. kickboxing, Judo, boxing, taekwondo etc, is filled with really effective moves. No amount of punching power will beat out a good ole “kick in the jimmy”.

So what does this have anything to do with BBQ? Contests are highly artificial. You will never find the world’s best chef in a contest. BBQ is no different. Take the top 5 best BBQ joints in the country by popular informed consensus and you won’t see a single big contest winner on there. They are solid and talented cooks but they’re not destination restaurants.

So what are the “illegal” moves in competition BBQ that would be effective for us to make superior BBQ? No too much is prohibited in BBQ contests but there’s plenty of implicit penalties for certain actions. So here’s a few.

Oil-based injections

Tony Chachere’s Injections are strange, slimy and very delicious. They’re also highly popular for one reason – they add great flavor to dry meats like turkey and pork loins. They’re also oil based. Oil based injections taste better because the vast majority of seasonings are fat soluble!!

Try this at home. Warm up some garlic powder in some water vs some oil. Which one would you rather slather on bread? The water will smell like a broth but the oil will smell delicious!

Pitmasters are not ignorant of this fact and yet inject their meats with liquids instead of lipids. Why is that? Why bother with the apple juice when some olive oil would throw in a nice garlic punch with little effort? In fact, liquid injections are highly inefficient for flavoring due to the fact that the muscles naturally just squeeze them back out.

The reason is largely cosmetic. Judges at contests will penalize a cook because the oil based injections will leave a streaky mark. There’s nothing in the rule book on this but still you’re getting marked down. If you are interested in boosting some flavor try injecting with fats.

Use less sugar use more tart

In the first season of BBQ pitmasters, newbie cook Harry Soo discovers that one of the keys to winning was to make their meats cavity-inducingly sweet. You will not win any contests serving tart BBQ. However this is not true in the general market place. Tart is big amongst consumers. Stubb’s BBQ Sauce is thin and tangy. It is also the #6 best selling sauce in the country grossing over $20 million in revenue a year.

It’s pretty clear that Stubb’s BBQ sauce being used to glaze ribs at a contest would lose and lose badly. Again there’s no rule against tangy sauces but the contests in general prefer it sweet and sticky. It’s worth going back to the original tangy sauces of the South. They’re a natural partner to BBQ .

Bring on the Mustard

Mustard sauces get absolutely no love from BBQ contests (unless it’s sauce contest). If you took 10 random turn in boxes from 10 contests, I guarantee you that you’ll get 10 boxes full of red glazed meats. Any of the yellow stuff would get your entry fed to the dog.

Mustard sauce is popular in central South Carolina and parts of border towns in Georgia. They’re a great compliment to greasy meat. Given that everyone’s secret sauce is more or less composed of ketchup and molasses, give mustard a try. I think you’ll like what you find.

News from around the BBQ Blogsphere

Kevin's BBQ Joints reviews Just Leave the Bones BBQ sauce. "This is hands down one of the most balanced, satisfying sauces you can find. I tried it will pulled pork, brisket, sausage, and even some secret items (to be seen later) and they all matched perfectly with this vinegar based sauce with a slight kick (not too much though). Let’s just say I am incredibly impressed by this Carolina based sauce that goes on thin enough to cover a large surface area, but with enough thickness to not be considered watery."

Patrons of the Pit knows how to impress women - caramel rolls on the charcoal grill! I'm not sure that it works but I sure am impressed! "A few blogs back we showed you how to impress a woman by baking her bread on the grill. Women chimed in from all across the blogosphere, and were impressed left and right, and a good thing had been done"

Full Custom Gospel BBQ is living the dream. Turning BBQ from a hobby to career and is now Texas Monthly Magazine's BBQ Editor. Congrats!!

Grilling with Rich tries out Fox Bros BBQ sauce. Seems like Georgia BBQ sauce is on the rise!! Watch your back Kansas City. "Overall, the barbecue sauce was great and would work perfectly on a great piece of grilled chicken and also any sort of ribs. If this is a definition of what Georgia barbecue sauces taste like, then I better start looking for more Georgia style sauces, because they are amazing!"

Texas BBQ Posse posts their top 10 blog posts of all time! I guarantee you, you don't want to miss their post on butcher paper wrapping. Pure gold.

Man Up Texas BBQ tells you where to get the best BBQ pork sandwich in all of Alabama.  "I don't get many chances to stop at one of my favorite BBQ joints, but when I do, I always pop in for a pork sandwich and iced tea. The pork sandwich at Kendall's B-B-Q in Georgiana, AL, is easily one of my favorites in the state. The pork is supple, and they put a perfect amount of sauce to complement pork and seep into the soft bun."

No Excuses BBQ shows off some photos of his "ugly ribs". I'm not sure what he's looking at, they look sexy to me!

BBQ Geek visits Quick Bite Bu-Ba-Q in Woodstock, GA.. "This day we sampled ribs and pulled pork.  I thoroughly enjoyed my ribs - properly smoked and not overcooked.  But as you can see in the picture, the pulled pork was over-pulled and dry (aka hammered).  The pork was the same for my wife and daughter's pulled pork sandwiches."

BBQ Nation has a grilled Bananas Foster recipe ready to submit for the upcoming Kingford Charcoal One Bite Challenge!

BBQ Sauce Reviews tries out Black Bart's Brisket Rub from Tasty Licks BBQ Company. "I did two different cooks with this rub — a low and slow cook using some beef ribs and a hot and fast cook on the grill with a tri-tip roast.  I was pleased with the results in both, although it was interesting to see how the flavors changed between the two cooks.  The heat level of the rub was definitely more noticeable in the hot and fast cook, while it seemed to blend in more with the other flavors on the low and slow cook.  In both cases, the meat had a beautiful color when finished."

Barbecue Master reviews Cowboy Joe's Pit and Grilling Sauce (Vinegar Sauce). "The darker color was throwing me off, but when I opened the jar, this was what I call a mop. It's thin like a classic North Carolina vinegar sauce but with a sweeter smell. What this means is that you can use it as a marinade, and you can brush it on while grilling where on thick sauces you need to wait until the meat is almost done, or the sugars will burn, and your barbecue meat will be charred on the outside."

The MEATWAVE is here to help you out. Your traditional grilled steak sandwich is dry as leather and tastes like ass. "I was late to jump on the banh mi bandwagon, so much so that the all out craze they had going so many years ago was breathing its last breath when I finally joined. Still, my first taste of one of these Vietnamese sandwiches was a revelation—the contrast between the sweet and salty meat, pickled diakons and carrots, fresh cilantro, and airy, crusty bread was nothing short of spectacular. Whether in or out of food fashion, I still think these are royalty among sandwiches, deserving continued prominence, which is why I'm bringing you this grilled steak banh mi today."

Marie let's Eat reviews Bailey's BBQ in Ringgold, GA. " I had the vinegar slaw, which was awesome, and some really curious Brunswick stew. Packed with lima beans and carrots, this was like vegetable soup with some meat in it, and it was served with oyster crackers, which might be a first. Once in a while, you’ll run into a Georgia barbecue joint that will give you saltines, but I really don’t know that I’ve ever seen oyster crackers served with stew. The sauces are thick red tomato-based, both a mild and a hot. The hot was not particularly lethal, and went very well with the meat. We enjoyed our barbecue very much, took Marie a sandwich that she also enjoyed (no slaw, mild sauce), and thanked our hostess for a satisfactory meal. Not extraordinary, but a fine time kicked back in what is clearly a popular local spot with lots of regular guests."

Some BBQ Poetry

The Pitmaster's Dilemma  The alarm failed to ring, it’s a quarter past eight!

And our dear poor pitmaster was dreadfully late.

We are way behind schedule, we are way past dawn.

The wood must be fired, the hog must go on!

Well the pig has been load, the coals have been lit,

the smell of pork smoke surrounds me as I felt free to sit.

Dear Lord what happened? How could this happen to me?

I lit up my cigar and sipped from a brew. It then became all clear! I was beginning to see!

A poetry reading my wife told me! It would be fun and a date!

If you keep ignoring me for BBQ, we’re getting divorced at this rate.

So I put on a tie and shined up my shoes. Ready for readings on floral and fawn.

I prayed the good Lord to kill me as I fought off a yawn.

There were readings on zen and faith and overcoming our fears

If the reader’s bosom weren’t so huge, poems would have bored me to tears.

Then PETA came up and plead the rights of chickens! So passionate So bold!

Oh dear Jesus that was so boring, it knocked me out cold.

It’s not that I hate poetry. I love it I do!

No I’m not joking, I swear that it’s true.

Well my pig is done smoking and we’re ready to eat.

Glad my friends aren’t vegan cuz there’s a whole crapload of meat.

We chop and season and mix up our hog

A couple brought a salad! Which we fed to the dog.

The beer flows freely, the air thick with song and play

Disaster averted, the pitmaster saved the day.

So the morale of the story O reader, write this down too!

Avoid all poetry readings, they’re dangerous for you.

Frank Underwood's Ribs – House of Cards

If you've been watching Netflix’s House of Cards series, you’ll be quite familiar with how much the main character Frank Underwood loves his BBQ ribs. So let’s say you wanted to get the same ribs that Frank gets, what type of BBQ ribs would you eat?

Frank has his choice of 3 different types of ribs from the pig - Upper spare, Lower Spare, and Baby Backs.

Upper Spare – Frank would choose this one if he valued fat and meat thickness the most. The upper spare ribs are the ones closest to the neck and are meatier and fatter.

Lower Spares – If tenderness yet full flavor is what Frank prefers he’d the lower portion of the spareribs which have less meat and fat but since it’s thinner will cook up much more tender.

Baby backs – Where as the spare ribs are flat, baby backs are curved at the bone. Hence if you look up at the photo, you’ll notice that Frank is indeed chopping on some baby backs. Several other proofs of this

  • Freddy the BBQ guy often opens early to serve Frank a breakfast plate of ribs in the morning. BBQ takes a long time to do, so unless the Pitmaster wants to wake up at 3 in the morning, it’s not likely that he’s cooking him spares.
  • Babybacks have a quick turnaround, most places will cook up babyback ribs in 3 hours. One famous joint Tennessee fires them out in just over an hour. Given that Frank likes his ribs at odd hours through the day, it’s likely babybacks are logistically more possible.
  • In Chapter 6 Freddy gets a last minute party catering request. Again, unlikely that he was going to fill that order without using baby backs.

Some reasons that it might not be baby backs

  • Freddy’s is dive. Like a real dumpy dive. Unless you’re a connoisseur, most people have trouble understanding the price premiums that Baby backs command.
  • Freddy’s a South Carolina boy and all the top rib guys there – Sweatman’s, Maurice’s etc use spares not babybacks.
  • Spares have more flavor and since he refers to his rib habit as a vice, it might lean more towards the fatty belly meat on the spares vs the lean loin meat of the babys.

Why Frank might prefer baby backs.

  • First off Frank eats a lot of ribs. A lot. Most people who like to eat a lot of ribs will tend to go for the baby backs as they’re less fatty.
  • Frank eats them before going to work. As baby backs are relatively more uniform than spares, they’re less messy to eat. Thought nothing says political power like BBQ sauce on your tie.
  • Baby backs are easier to eat. Frank looks like the type of guy to streamline everything. It’s hard to imagine that on his off hour, he’d want to deal with inconsistent bone structure of spares when he can have a nice neat row of ribs from the baby backs.


It’s likely that Frank prefers a more tangy sauce with a bit of spice. This would be consistent with his Carolina heritage and the fact that he likes to eat a lot of ribs. BBQ sauces are sweet for a reason, because people don’t eat that much BBQ so the acute sweetness is very pleasant for the occasional smokey binge. But for people who eat BBQ all the time, the tart sauces cuts through the fattniess of the meat and enhances the smokey pork flavors.

Freddy’s BBQ Joint – House of Cards

I am awful when it comes to keeping up with new television. Several years have past after the premiere of BBQ Pitmasters before I even thought to tune in. So when Netflix came out with their subscription only political thriller series – House of Cards – I expressed my usual indifference. It’s not that don’t like watching TV, I love it, I just don’t really find the time to do it.

But then my wife started complaining about the main character’s affection for BBQ and how much BBQ kept popping up in the scenes. Well that caught my attention. In the show, Frank Underwood is a South Carolina Congressman whose playing at the upper levels of cut throat politics. Just as Tony Soprano does his deals at a strip club, Underwood schemes and does his backroom deals in a BBQ hole in the wall while stuffing his face with sweet sticky ribs.

Sounds like my kind of character!!

Several fun observations from the media on Frank’s choice of BBQ and my commentary.

Media: Frank Underwood is from South Carolina so he’s more likely to want mustard based BBQ

My Commentary: Frank’s from Gaffney, SC which is only a sneeze away from Charolette, NC. This area is pretty much ANY-TOWN, USA when it comes to regional BBQ i.e. it doesn’t exist. Only certain areas really stick to the old Carolina tradition. The closer you get to major cities, the less regional your BBQ becomes.

Take for example Daddy Joe’s Beach House BBQ in Gaffney, SC where Frank’s supposely from. On the menu the BBQ really isn’t any different than what you might find in Los Angelos or Boston. The rib likely the same as portrayed by the show – saucy and sticky.

Media: Frank would more likely be eating pulled pork than ribs being from the Carolinas.

My Commentary: That’s pretty on point except for a few caveats. I’m sure the show is picking ribs because it’s easier to see that he’s biting into a piece of BBQ. A pulled pork sandwich just looks like anything else between a bun on camera. For all we know he might be eating a tofu sandwich. The ribs is an interesting distinction between North and South Carolina. Strong representatives of the area like Maurice’s and Sweatman’s actually go through the trouble of preparing South Carolina style ribs. In North Carolina, ribs are an after thought because when someone says BBQ, they’re thinking chopped pork.

Media: The closest equivalent to Freddy’s BBQ would be Rockland’s in the DC area.

My Commentary: I would have to agree with that. Rockland’s is indeed very good. If Frank was eating here though, he might want to give the Beef Rib a go, it’s mind blowing.

News from around the BBQ Blogsphere

Another Pint Please notes that nothing says St. Patrick's Day like Guinness and nothing says dinner like Cajun Rub & Smoked Guinness Beer Can Chicken. I'm not really a fan of the shoving a beer can up poultry ass cooking but that sure looks tasty.

DivaQ had the midnight munchies. So she decided to take some smoked breakfast sausage, stuff them with cheese, jalapenos, cheese and wrap them in pastry. Mind blown?

The Meatwave takes on an old favorite - Stubbs Spicy BBQ Sauce. Stubbs & I have some history in the sense that we both spent a good deal of time in Lubbock Texas. While it's fan base is strong, the MEATWAVE is unimpressed. "I'm trying hard to like this sauce, but I still can't say its up in the higher echelons of greatness. While the heat of this spicy version improved the flavor for me compared to the original, there was a slightly chemical and off-putting aftertaste both out of the jar and after being cooked. That being said, looking back at everything I've reviewed, this deserves more of an average or slightly above average rating for its good balance of flavor, even if it's not the most exciting sauce on the planet."

Fed Man Walking visits Franklin's BBQ. You'd expect him to join the chorus of devotee's to what has been called America's best BBQ joint. Well you'd be wrong. Fed Man found the brisket to be "Sunday dinner-table chuck, with only the rosy edges to speak for its time in the smoke." and the ribs "Blindfolded, I would have said these came from a crockpot." Ouch.

Once Upon a Stein had a great time at the recent aPORKalypse NOW event here in NYC. Seems like she enjoyed my hog! "Now here’s the funny thing – I don’t really like pork! At least that’s what I thought before the event. Turns out I’m just picky about my pork. The food was delightful. Pork from a smoker, marinated in au jus, served on artisan bread, or my favorite, served up as Chicharrónes."

Texas BBQ Posse visits Fat Boys BBQ in Cooper, TX. "The meats at Fatboy's continue to be cooked low and slow using only seasoned pecan wood. Marshall declared the ribs and brisket cooked "absolutely perfectly." That's a real compliment from a guy who has 30 years experience cooking real Texas BBQ. Shannon has added a simple salt and pepper rub to his brisket and ribs, just enough to add another layer of flavor to Fatboy's meat offerings."

Full Custom Gospel BBQ visits Black Diamond Smokehouse and awards it a vaulted 3 stars. "Once again the brisket was deeply smoky as well as dried out. The ribs had improved. There was still a heavy smoke flavor that verged on overkill, but a lighter rub had been applied that allowed a crisp bark to form on these moist ribs. As I concluded my meal I could still see the potential. A fattier cut of brisket closer to opening time may be great, but the slices I got were just above acceptable. The ribs seem like a safer bet."

Grilling with Rich shares a photo of a massive pile of juicy pulled pork. Sometimes that really all you need isn't it?

BBQ with Franklin (the fellow bashed by one of the posts above) shows us some Texas style pulled pork. Guess you get tired of brisket after a while. Interesting enough the country's brisket king prefers pork butts.

No Excuses BBQ smokes up an entire pork chop rack! Really nothing much to say about this other than the fact that when I saw the photo (posted on top) my jaw dropped.

Man Up Texas BBQ is in Hoover, AL visiting Golden Rule BBQ. Mixed chopped pork sandwich with food porn galore!