The "Rib"-bon Cutting
Pitmaster Ken Callaghan from Blue Smoke brings a ceremonial open to the Big Apple Barbecue Block Party with the most delicious "rib"-bon cutting imaginable.
St. Louis-Style Ribs from Pappy's Smokehouse
The honor of first ribs of the day came courtesy of pitmaster Skip Steele. His St. Louis-style ribs glisten from the brown sugar based rub that caramelizes beautifully when cooked low-and-slow. A seriously sweet way to kick off a day of immense eating.
Working the Pit
Ed Mitchell from The Pit in Raleigh, North Carolina, engulfed in the sweet smoke produced from cooking farm raised whole hogs over oak. One of the hardest parts of the day was rolling up to his tent to find all those pigs to be long gone, knowing exactly what I was missing after having his glorious pork almost every year past.
Homemade Smoked Sausage
My beloved sausage from the Texas-based Salt Lick didn't make it to the Block Party this year, but luckily pitmaster Drew Robinson from Jim ‘N Nick’s Bar-B-Q in Birmingham, Alabama, was there to fulfill my sausage kick.
Smoked for an hour over hickory and then taken to the grill to give them that snap, these links were juicy with a pleasing spice, even if they were not a true substitute for Texas smoked links.
Whole Hog at Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint
Representing Nashville, Tennessee, pitmaster Patrick Martin's rig was filled with 200 pound hogs, smoked for nearly 24 hours over native hickory wood at a nice and low 200°F.
Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint's Western Tennessee-Style Whole Hog
One of the standouts of the day, this sandwich was truly something special. The most tender pork oozed a combination of natural juice and vinegar sauce, with some cracklings mixed in as an added textural bonus. A creation everyone must try, but don't try to ask for it without slaw—because that's not going to happen!
17th Street Bar & Grill's Barbecue Fountain
Chocolate fountain gone barbecue, just as nature intended! Just grab a rib or piece of sausage and you have instant barbecue fondue, brilliant.
Mike Mills's Baby Back Ribs
There's a good reason Mike Mills is bestowed the honor of being called "The Legend," and it's all in these babies. The meat has just slightest pull off the bone—coming clean off with a regular bite—combined with a rub and sauce that teeters between sweet and spicy, but never overpowers the natural flavors of pork is why these have been the winner of numerous championships.
Finishing the Pork
A pork shoulder that's been smoked for 18 hours over pecan, then pulled, is mixed with a finishing rub and a vinegar sauce at BlackJack BBQ, reigning from Charleston, South Carolina. Pitmaster Jimmy Hagood schooled us on this process, which creates a meat that has a spice that seemed to only enhance the natural pork flavor.
Big Bob Gibson's Pulled Pork Sandwich
The pulled pork by which to measure all other pulled porks. This pork represents the perfect amounts of tenderness and juiciness, with a meat that gushes with each bite, but doesn't turn a bun into a soaked mess. Even after being finished with a vinegar sauce, it merely compliments and doesn't overpower, leaving only a deep porky goodness.
Slicing Beef Brisket
Nick Cochran from Jack’s Old South in Unadilla, Georgia, was one of only two pitmasters giving props to Texas barbecue this year. Done in true hill country style, but with a Georgia twist, the brisket got a light rub made up of mostly salt and pepper and was then cooked over peach wood. Cooked a bit faster than normal, the brisket lacked that extreme tenderness that I've fallen in love with in my many trips to the land where the stars shine bright.
Hill Country Brisket
What I consider the better of the two briskets, pitmaster Charles Grund Jr.'s beef was juicy and served with a beautiful layer of fat. Going by the label they use in their New York restaurant, you could call that fat "moist," but I don't kid myself, it's fat and it's delicious.
Pulled Pork Shoulder from Ubon’s Barbecue of Yazoo
One of the less gussied-up pork shoulders, this one from pitmaster Garry Roark from Yazoo City, Mississippi, was all about the meat. Pork butts were smoked for 14 hours over pecan, producing a meat that was a little less tender than the other pulled porks around, but delivered on one solid flavor, pork!
Capturing the Mood
Leslie Roark Scott, daughter of Ubon's pitmaster Garry Roark, captures the spirit of the day. All the pitmasters and crews were ready to share a good story, a good laugh, and some good barbecue. I contend barbecue is only as good as the people you have to share it with, and the Block Party brought together the best group imaginable to do that with.
Barbecue Mutton from Moonlite Bar-B-Q Inn
Another true highlight of the day was the Mutton being served by Moonlite Bar-B-Q Inn from Owensboro, Kentucky. At this point of the day, my stomach was ready to burst, but this sandwich was so delicious I couldn't help but devour it all. A unique flavor akin to a lamb shank, lingered in mouth, along with a nice spiciness that made me more hungry each time I tried to stop. It's no wonder they went through 15 whole sheep.
Blue Smoke's Texas Salt and Pepper Beef Ribs
Pitmaster Ken Callaghan does these beef ribs simple: salt, pepper, and cooked over hardwood charcoal and that's it. It's hard to believe that's all that goes into these because they have a flavor that runs so much deeper than their ingredient list. Beefy and smokey, these were a much welcomed change of pace from all the pork ribs that came before.
Never has a New York City traffic sign ever been used to speak a more true message. Until next year...