Dan Delaney started running a barbecue supper club from his living room in 2011. The 26-year-old entrepreneur taught himself how to cook brisket in an 18-foot smoker he drove from Austin to Jersey and is now opening a brick-and-mortar barbecue restaurant in Brooklyn called BrisketTown.
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When really great bakers like brother Ron and Andrew Siegel decide to make the leap from bread to pizza, good things can happen.Slightly sour, very flavorful, lightly seasoned, and wonderfully smoky, it's got flavor where it counts. The menu bills the pizzas as "Neapolitan inspired," and that's an apt description. Certainly they don't easily fall into any category I'm aware of.
"Would those of you who can tell the difference between a McRib sandwich and real barbecue please stand up and raise your right hand?" At the behest of the Kansas City Barbecue Society and by invitation from the Jack Daniel Distillery, I pushed back my seat and joined a sizable crowd of barbecue lovers in Lynchburg, Tennessee, to become a newly minted KCBS judge. With hands in the air, we took the oath.
Every time I mentioned to someone at the Jack Daniel's World Championship Invitational Barbecue in Lynchburg, Tennessee, that I'd been offered a seat at the judges' table, I received the same response: "This is the best barbecue you'll ever have." "The Jack"—a two-day contest with 22 years of history, grand champion cooks from 10 different time zones, and the backing of major corporate sponsors—exists in a world distanced enough from destination dining to be its own culinary tradition.
Scott's only serves whole hog barbecue on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. During those three days the stores sells 15 to 20 hogs' worth (between 2,000 and 2,800 pounds) of smoked pork, attracting visitors from miles around. The rest of the week, Scott's is not much more than a half-stocked, rustic convenience mart with doors that seldom open for regular business.
When South Carolina Barbeque Association president Lake E. High, Jr. curated a whole hog lunch for Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations, he proclaimed that South Carolina is "absolutely the barbecue capital of the world." This isn't the wildest claim a barbecue evangelist can make. I can count at least four barbecue capitals of the world in the American South, and to be perfectly honest I'd like to see at least 500 more vying for the title. The environmental toll of all that burning wood may be an overriding concern. Then again, I may be a hungry man.
Meat may be the undeniable core of American barbecue, but as long as American barbecue is part of the pantheon of southern cooking, it will not stand alone. From the saltine crackers and pickles of Lockhart, to the lard-fried potatoes (you heard me) of Kansas City, to the barbecue slaw of Lexington, the side dishes served with barbecue are often as exciting as the main course. I indulged in this fact on my recent trip through the Carolinas, looking forward to the $2 servings of local flavor that flanked each serving of smoked pork.
Is North Carolina barbecue as great as everyone says it is? Or, once you remove the nostalgia, is it (gulp) dry, overcooked, and disappointing? I cruised down I-81, eager to revisit one of my favorite barbecue regions to figure out the deal with Lexington style 'cue.
Last week, we shared a national guide to barbecue events in the United States. Though my knowledge of barbecue events is pretty limited, I included as many local events as I could find. But I thought it'd be interesting to open things up to anyone out there. Here's a simple Google map for plotting barbecue events across America. We've made it an open collaboration, so any of you can add to it! And we hope you will.
Barbecue events are the intersection of food, friends, family and fun in Americana. Here is an epic roundup of barbecue festivals and competitions across the country. Barbecue season begins as soon as snowfall begins to melt, kicks into high gear at Memphis in May, and peaks in October, when The American Royal Barbecue draws teams from all over the country in the world's biggest barbecue contest.
"I dream of those burned edges. Sometimes, when I'm in some awful overpriced restaurant in some strange town—all of my restaurant-finding techniques having failed, so that I'm left to choke down something that costs $7 and tastes like a medium-rare sponge—a blank look comes over my face: I have just realized that at that very moment someone in Kansas City is being given those burned edges free." —Calvin Trillin on the burnt ends from Arthur Bryant's.
In a way, beef brisket is barbecue's ultimate challenge. Infamously difficult to cook, brisket, more than any other meat, requires a long-haul commitment and substantial attention to detail from anyone who wishes to transform this primal cut of beef into something delectable. When the job is done right, beef brisket barbecue can stand up to any serving of smoked pork.
"Hickory smoked," boasted Hog Heaven's menu in reverence to the barbecue gods. These words aren't the only abstraction of barbecue to be found here. Hog Heaven is a minuscule shack off Centennial Park in Nashville, located literally behind a McDonald's and adjunct to a honkytonk dive. There are a few key tenets to the art of barbecue, the holiest of which is using wood smoke to flavor meat. But does this always make for the best barbecue?
I'll be honest: As I walked from tent to tent at the Big Apple BBQ Block Party, this year asking various cooks for their definitions of barbecue, I thought I'd come away with more controversial answers. I was happy to see barbecue recognized as the culinary glue that binds traditions from across the United States. Still, the basic response of "low and slow" seemed to preempt the semantic shouting contests that tend to go hand in hoof with barbecue culture. For every word that celebrates the diversity of barbecue,. it seems like a bible's worth of conjecture and contention has been delivered on its "true" meaning
Regional representation was an essential element of last weekend's Big Apple Barbecue Block Party. This year pitmasters from 11 different states gathered in Madison Square Park to offer just as many glimpses into what defines barbecue. From Ed Mitchell's celebrity-caliber whole hog chopped pork sandwich to Kenny Callaghan's rich and powerful smoked beef rib, the food served to thousands during this event challenged New Yorkers to trade in our hungry quest for "the best" for something closer to home. I asked 16 pitmasters to tell me his or her definition of barbecue—check out the responses.
Payne's Bar-B-Q, a family operation that has been in business since 1972, serves some of the best pork barbecue in Memphis, if not the country. The fact that the first thing on my mind whenever I enter Memphis is a Payne's sandwich is no minor detail. When most people I know think of Memphis barbecue, images of ribs come to mind. The barbecue sandwich, however, is just as important to the Memphis barbecue experience. Slow-smoked pork shoulder, pulled, sliced, or chopped, topped with red barbecue sauce and stuffed into a bun with a scoop of slaw.
Memphis in May, an extremely expensive competition with a thing for sweet meats, is not a benchmark for the world, or even for Memphis-style barbecue, as a whole. Is it still fair, then, to call the victors of this year's competition "world champions"?
I've seen just about everything over the past 48 hours here in Memphis, bouncing from booth to booth, subsisting only on a diet of smoked meats and taking photographs wherever I've ended up. I offer these photos to you as a taste of hog heaven.
"I have a barbecue prenup," explains pit cook Chris Mills when asked how many years lie ahead of him on the competitive barbecue circuit. "I told my wife that until I tell her otherwise, I will always be at the Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest." Chris and I are sitting in the precious shade of a raised tarp in his team The Flying Pig's official contest booth, facing the Mississippi River with ice-cold cans of Bud Light and doing what he's done on the first day of the WCBCC for many years: relax.