BBQ – In The News


Washington Post BBQ Article – “Signs of spring: Smoke, brisket and Shiner Bock”

Signs of spring: Smoke, brisket and Shiner Bock

By Joe Yonan  |  April 6, 2010 – The Washington Post

If Texas is “a whole ‘nother country,” as the state’s tourism campaign once proclaimed, then Jim and Jessica Shahin’s place on Capitol Hill over the weekend surely qualified as a whole ‘nother city, because it sure didn’t smell like the District. I swear I picked up the scent of that telltale combination of smoke and spice (no sauce, please) when my Zipcar was still at least six or seven blocks away. Who needs Google maps?

When my friend and I arrived, margarita and beer orders (Shiner Bock, naturally) were being taken on the porch, and after asking for “rocks, no salt,” a phrase I must’ve repeated a thousand or two times while going to school at UT-Austin in the ’80s, I high-tailed it straight through the house to the little back yard. And yes, in case you’re wondering why I’m using such phrases as “high-tailed it,” it’s because I’m talking about Texas, and whenever I do, my now-faded accent comes back to the fore as I start droppin’ my g’s and flattenin’ out my i’s and using words like “fixin’ ” and “high-tailed” instead of “getting ready” and “rushed.”

Anyway, when I got back there, writer and barbecue aficionado Jim Shahin was lifting the lid on his offset-firebox smoker and showing friends, including Washington City Paper columnist Tim Carman, what sat inside, bathed in swirls of gray. Four briskets from the Lone Star State were tightly wrapped in foil on one side of the thing, while mahogany-colored pork and beef ribs sat on the other.


I’m going to let Jim tell the story. The man knows his barbecue; he’s written about it for The Post, GQ, Southern Living, the Austin Chronicle, Chile Pepper magazine and American Way magazine, among other publications. He’s judged at the Taylor Barbeque Cook-off in Taylor, Texas, and the Brady Goat Cook-Off in Brady, Texas. He has eaten barbecue extensively throughout North Carolina, Memphis, Kansas City, Atlanta, and, of course, Texas. A freelance writer, he periodically teaches magazine journalism at the Newhouse School of Communications at Syracuse University.

Anyway, here’s what he says:

Last September, I went to Austin to do a magazine story and some research on a book. Whenever I go to Austin, where I lived for about 25 years, I bring back what I like to call “imported foods” — Elgin sausage, good tortillas from Austin’s Central Market, Jaime’s salsa (usually at least two jars of each the red and green — it is the best commercial salsa I have ever eaten, period), tamales, briskets (smoked from a favorite barbecue joint and raw to smoke when I get home), sometimes a rack of ribs. I always take at least one folding suitcase to tuck inside a carry-on, so that I have space to bring the foodstuffs back.

Without extending the story too long, I’ll note that this routine is not without its distresses. Two Christmases ago, I was bringing back some chopped brisket when the TSA guy at a connecting airport held the plastic container upside down, watched the chopped meat slide downward, claimed it was a liquid, and said it would have to be thrown out. “If you held a container of marbles upside down they’d do the same thing,” I protested. “Does that make them a liquid?” He was unmoved. “Sir,” he said. “I’m going to have to ask you to calm down.” He tossed the ambrosial beef into a trash can. I slunk a few steps, then stopped, and, staring at the trash can, seriously considered the chances of successfully retrieving the container. At the moment when I decided heck-this-just-might-work, my wife and son approached. Seeing them made me reconsider my plan. It probably wasn’t the best idea for Daddy to spend New Year’s in jail. Although, to this day I wonder, if not for brisket, for what, then?

In Texas, arguments over barbecue are fierce. I wondered whether it was possible to actually, objectively, decide the best brisket — the king of the Texas barbecue plate — once and for all. So, while in town, I went to four of Texas Monthly’s top-five rated barbecue joints as ranked its latest quinquennial roundup of the state’s best 50. I made it to Snow’s (TM #1), Kreuz (TM #2), Smitty’s (TM #3), and Louie Mueller (TM #5). The missing brisket was from City Market (TM #4) in Luling, which was too far to go to in the time I had.

I had been to all of the Texas Monthly Top Five ‘cue joints before. Snow’s, only once before, the others scores of times. I had, of course, reached my own conclusions, but the idea of a blind tasting intrigued me. Like wine, only with meat. At the places I went, I ordered only the deckle. That’s the fatty hilly back part, the fatty part, or, as I prefer to think of it, the flavorful part.

Getting briskets from Kreuz and Smitty’s was easy, because they are both in Lockhart, only about 40 minutes south of Austin. As soon as I rented my car at the airport, I dashed down to Lockhart, had lunch at both places and bought the briskets. Mueller’s was also a breeze. On the next to last day of my trip, I reserved the morning to visit my in-laws who live just down the road from Taylor, about 40 minutes northeast of Austin, where Mueller is located. As for Snow’s, it is only open on Saturdays from 8 a.m. until they run out, generally in the early afternoon. My flight left Austin on a Saturday, around 11 a.m. Snow’s is in Lexington, about an hour northeast of Austin. I set my alarm for 6 a.m., left my friend’s house where I was staying around 7:30 a.m., took what I thought would be a shortcut, got lost, and, after thinking I should just forget it so as not to miss my flight, arrived at Snow’s about 9:20 a.m. As always, there was a long line. As I watched the minutes tick away, I told the owner my situation. He took me to their freezer and sold me a frozen brisket Cryovac-ed for mailing. I raced to the Austin airport, got there about 10:20 a.m., and lugged my brisket-laden luggage to the gate just as the plane was boarding.

When I got back to D.C., I double-wrapped each brisket in heavy aluminum foil and zipped them in a plastic freezer bag. Snow’s, I left in the Cryovac. The following weekend, I smoked my own brisket, wrapped it and stored it, too, in the freezer.

I kept trying to find a time to have the brisket tasting, but life kept intervening. Finally, after picking a weekend, our oven broke. I wanted to warm the briskets in the oven so that they would not take on any flavoring from the wood in my barrel smoker and thus change the character of the brisket. A repairman came out, declared the oven fixed. We went forward. But as my wife was making her mother’s Texas pecan pies, the oven went on the fritz again. Every time it went off — which was about every minute and a half (no exaggeration) — she would punch the keys to turn it back on. This went on for over an hour.

With everyone invited and bringing side dishes, I couldn’t reschedule. I had thawed the briskets the night before and discarded the foil. Now, I re-wrapped them, hoping to warm them through without the woodsmoke from my rig penetrating and changing their flavor. That, though, meant risking that the blackened exterior, known as the bark, might suffer, as the foil might make the meat too moist. So, for the final 10 minutes, I removed the foil. My hope was that 10 minutes would be too little time to damage the flavor but maybe enough time to restore whatever of the original bark had been lost — if any. (Remember, all of this was just theorizing.)

We did the tasting and, after rating each brisket on a 1-to-5 scale (5 being the best), a judgment was rendered: In something of a surprise, Smitty’s was voted No. 1 with a rating of 4.5. The other three were in a statistical dead heat for second, with Snow’s getting 3.6, Mueller 3.59 and Kreuz 3.5.

After the tasting, I sliced into my brisket, which I had also put on the smoker, and, along with Elgin sausage, pork ribs, beef ribs and extra-thick pork chops and all the fixin’s of beans, potato salad, coleslaw, collards and (required at a true Central Texas barbecue) cheap white sandwich bread, we had a barbecue dinner that would have made LBJ proud.

How could I say it any better myself? I’ll add just one thing: While it’s true that the Smitty’s brisket is the one that made me moan out loud, and I gave it a 5 out of 5, I would be ecstatic to eat any one of these briskets any day. (I had Snow’s just last year, one of many who went after Calvin Trillin’s New Yorker piece.) Okay, one more thing: We didn’t score Jim’s own brisket, but this much is clear. If we had, it would’ve been a contender.

— Joe Yonan


The London Telegraph Reports – Barbecue sauces ‘are good for your health’

If you’ve ever needed a reason other than the great taste of BBQ here it is – The London Telegraph is reporting that scientists have discovered that Barbecue sauces “are good for your health”!!!  How awesome is this news?  So head on over to our website and do something good for your health by ordering some Pork Barrel BBQ Sauce!!  Here’s the article:

Barbecue sauces ‘are good for your health’

Barbecue sauces can be good for your health, scientists have found.

Published: 9:55AM GMT 24 Mar 2010

A study by a team of biologists found that popular sauces and marinades contain a range of spices, fruits and vegetables which contain natural antioxidants.

These are chemical compounds which fight diseases associated with old age such as cancer, heart problems, strokes, Alzheimer’s, arthritis and cataracts.

Antioxidants are known to fight harmful molecules called free radicals which damage the body’s cells.

The study, at the University of Western Ontario in Canada, found that barbecue sauces are packed with healthy ingredients which can boost the body’s immune system.

Research team leader Dr Raymond Thomas said: “Herbs and spices are excellent sources of antioxidants, but estimating consumption rates can be difficult considering they are not generally consumed in large quantities, compared to fruits and vegetables.

“Instead, they are used in relatively small amounts as ingredients in recipes and formulations such as spice mixes and marinating sauces that enhance food flavour.”

He said differing processing methods during manufacture, length of marinating time and exposure to various types of cooking can significantly alter the antioxidant status of these products and, consequently, the amount of antioxidants available to consumers.

The team was able to show for the first time the impact of marinating and cooking meat on the antioxidant status of seven different popular brands and flavours of marinade containing herbs and spices as primary ingredients.

Each is commonly available at supermarkets under various brand names and includes jerk sauce, garlic and herb, honey garlic, roasted red pepper, lemon pepper garlic, sesame ginger teriyaki and green seasoning.

His research found high quantities of antioxidants in all seven sauces.

Even though cooking reduced the antioxidant qualities of the sauces by about half, tests after barbecuing showed they still contain significant amounts of health boosting compounds.


Washington Post – Local Slaughterhouse Comes Back To Life

We’re always looking for the best cuts of meat and found this article from today’s Washington Post Food Section of interest and thought we’d share it with you.

Local slaughterhouses come back to life

By Samuel Fromartz
Special to The Washington Post
Wednesday, March 17, 2010; E01

HARRISONBURG, VA. — Huddled in a small pen in the slaughterhouse, the four sheep and two goats were quiet and still. A few men nearby in thick rubber aprons cut away at still-warm carcasses hanging on hooks.

“They don’t seem to know what’s going on,” a visitor remarked.

“Oh, they know,” one of the butchers replied. “They know.”

Maybe it was that awareness that led the men to work quietly and efficiently, dispatching each animal with a bolt shot to the head, until the last sheep, perhaps realizing that the flock was gone, began to bleat. Then she too fell silent.

So began the hard work of turning the animals into meat. The process is usually hidden from view, so that all consumers see is a steak or chop in a shrink-wrapped package. But at True & Essential Meats, one of about a dozen small slaughterhouses in the state that work with local farms, even school classes have visited the kill floor.

Co-owner and manager Joe Cloud, a 52-year-old former landscape architect from Seattle who bought the plant in mid-2008, welcomes visitors so they can see what’s at stake, for the eater and the eaten. “It is a slaughterhouse, but I’m not going to shrink from showing who we are and what we do,” Cloud said. “The industry has walled it off and is in a defensive crouch. I want to be different.”

Cloud is riding a wave of consumer demand for meat from local farms, which has burgeoned along with the rash of deadly E. coli food poisoning incidents, hamburger recalls and undercover videos about grossly inhumane practices at a few large plants. Prominent chefs, who work with farmers and processors like T&E to get high-quality meat, have also championed the products.

For farmers, the sales are alluring; they make more money per animal when they sell direct, even if these channels represent less than 2 percent of all meat sales. It’s also a way to escape the conventional system of meat production, since Virginia cattle typically are raised in-state for a year before being shipped to feedlots in Nebraska, Kansas and Texas to be fattened up and slaughtered — and then shipped back as meat.

“Every step of the journey, someone has their hand in your pocket,” said Jeff Lawson, who raises cattle and sheep at Green Hill Farm in Churchville, Va., a few miles outside Staunton. “If I could sell every animal I raised through Joe Cloud to get to your dinner table, I would. Any farmer would.”

Small-scale slaughterhouses like Cloud’s faded as processing concentrated in a handful of huge operations in the Midwest and as grocery chains sought out bigger suppliers. But the four-decade decline in niche processing plants has begun to turn around in the past five years, said Arion Thiboumery, a researcher at Iowa State University who helps run a national assistance network for small processors.

Richard Hackenbracht, head of the Office of Meat and Poultry at the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Affairs, said farmers had pleaded for years for more small-scale processors, with inspectors on hand. Without a federal or state inspection seal, meat can only be eaten by the farmer or given away.

Larger plants often won’t take on a farmer with a few animals, and if they do, some farmers question what happens inside. “I looked into it and was not all comfortable with the process,” said Nick Auclair of Green Fence Farm in Greenville, Va., between Staunton and Lexington. Auclair, a former Defense Department intelligence analyst, processes his sheep, goats and hogs with T&E and sells the meat out of his truck on Capitol Hill and in Northwest Washington.

That lack of confidence in the conventional food chain also affects consumers, who have been seeking out more “ethical” meat. As a result, programs such as American Humane Certified have been growing nationally.

Humane concerns prompted Doug and Lois Aylestock, who had been raising sheep, to open Blue Ridge Meats of Front Royal, Va., in 2006. “We didn’t like the way the animals were handled and thought there was a better way to do it,” Lois Aylestock said. So they bought a slaughterhouse, went though a lengthy process to get humane certification, and opened a store selling local meat.

Bev Eggleston, who went deep into debt to start EcoFriendly Foods southeast of Roanoke in Moneta, Va., is blunt about what he’s trying to do: “The food system is broken and dysfunctional, so we had to start building our own,” he said.

His company buys animals from about 45 small farms and processes and sells meat to restaurants and to consumers through venues such as the FreshFarm Market in Dupont Circle. After nine years, he’s breaking even.

Even small farms are getting into the act. Last year, cattle farmer Charlie Potter reopened Donald’s Meat Processing, which had been shut for two decades, in Lexington, Va., because he had tired of driving five hours round trip to process his animals. Now he sells his beef to Washington and Lee University in Lexington and through an on-site store.

Access to an abbatoir was tough even for Joel Salatin of Polyface Inc., a high-profile farmer thanks to his role in Michael Pollan’s book “The Omnivore’s Dilemma.” He had relied on T&E to process the cattle and pigs he raises on his farm near Staunton, but it became clear several years ago that the owners would soon retire. “It was absolutely our weakest link,” Salatin said.

He paraded many potential buyers through the 70-year-old plant, but said “it took a lot of hooks in the water before I got a bite.”

Cloud was a good prospect because love of food and wine runs in his family. His brother Roy Cloud runs Vintage ’59 Imports, a French wine importer in the District. After his father’s plans to start a vineyard on farmland near Staunton were thwarted by an accident, Cloud began helping his mother manage the farm. Soon, he was wondering whether to trade his office in Seattle for a herd of cattle in Virginia. Salatin, who was leasing a few of their fields, proposed that Cloud buy the slaughterhouse instead.

“You certainly don’t have the allure of the country life in a slaughterhouse, the kind of thing sought out by the weekend farmer,” said Salatin. “But processing plants and distribution are the two biggest hurdles in the local food movement.”

Cloud eventually agreed, sinking 40 percent of his retirement savings into the deal and signing up his mother, Helen, and Salatin as partners. They bought the plant in July 2008, and Cloud has been pulling 50- to 60-hour weeks ever since, managing a workforce of 20 and fielding calls from restaurants and farmers.

T&E now processes meat for more than 100 farms, up from just a handful before the sale. The number of animals he slaughters has shot up 70 percent — during the worst recession since the 1930s.

Cloud sells local beef, pork, lamb and poultry out of T&E Meats’ store, but unlike Blue Ridge, he can’t make the business work without buying some beef from the Midwest and pigs from Pennsylvania. He can’t get enough locally, nor can he sell it at a price his longtime customers are used to paying.

“For 40 years it was the cheapest place in town,” says Salatin. “Now we’re trying to make it the best.”

T&E, for example, sells conventional ground beef for $2.67 a pound. The local ground beef, from animals without antibiotics or hormones, goes for $3.50 a pound, and local grass-fed beef runs $3.99 a pound.

Cloud is putting every dollar he makes back into the business, expanding into poultry processing this year and hoping to grow again in 2011.

Oren Molovinsky, general manager at Mie N Yu restaurant in Georgetown, who coordinates local meat sourcing for half a dozen Washington chefs, says those plans are well placed. “Right now I could sign up 20 more restaurants for our local meat program, but I know the capacity is just not there yet,” he said.

Fromartz, author of “Organic, Inc.,” blogs at


Los Angeles Times – Kansas City barbecue, the art of the heartland

I have to admit, I don’t usually read, or think good things about the Los Angeles Times – but I have to give huge credit to Catharine Hamm, who really seems very wise.  At Pork Barrel BBQ, as two guys from Missouri, we love Kansas City BBQ and the KC Style of BBQ – especially Oklahoma Joes, Arthur Bryant’s. Gates and Jack Stacks – read this article to understand her brilliance!

Kansas City barbecue, the art of the heartland

By Catharine Hamm

Los Angeles Times

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Please don’t tell the family this, but they’re not the only reason I return to Kansas City whenever I can. I love them, of course, but I can talk to them on the phone. We can e-mail. We can Twitter, for crying out loud.

But barbecue is something you have to do in person. And it is best done here in the heartland. Sorry, Santa Maria, Calif. No disrespect to your juicy tri-tip. Forgive me, Lexington, N.C. Your pulled pork is fabulous. And a tip of the hat to you, Memphis, Tenn. Ribs at the Rendezvous are always memorable.

But Kansas City has made an art of this science of slow-smoked meats. So when business brought me back for 36 hours, I knew I could partake at least five times – if I didn’t mind barbecue for a late breakfast. And I didn’t, mostly. But I’ll explain that in a minute.

What I want to explain now is how Kansas City became a barbecue mecca and why you’re not going to hear me talk extensively about Arthur Bryant’s or Gates.

The barbecue legend started with Henry Perry, who is said to have opened a barbecue shack in the early 1900s in downtown Kansas City, Mo. Perry had an employee, Charlie Bryant, who eventually bought him out. Bryant had a brother, Arthur, who took over, opening what writer Calvin Trillin called the best restaurant in the world: the self-named barbecue apex that’s been at 18th and Brooklyn for a half-century or so.

Bryant’s has it all: the feel of a joint that’s just this side of grubby, the ribs that are just this side of heaven, which is where Arthur Bryant (and his brother and his brother’s former boss) now reside, I am certain. Taste the ribs or the sliced meats (or get them to go in the butcher paper) and you cannot help but believe.

Gates, meanwhile, traces its roots to George Gates, who also is said to have worked with Henry Perry. When you enter any Gates restaurant (there are six, including one up the street from Bryant’s), you’re greeted with, “Hi, may I help you?” which always unnerves me because I’m usually having a mental tussle: ribs? Burnt ends? Sliced beef sandwich?

There’s really no wrong answer. In nearly 20 years of Gates-going, I have never had anything less than fabulous, smoky, rich, and tender.

So in this discussion of barbecue, let’s put aside Bryant’s and Gates, because you cannot top perfection.

But you can compete with it. And in this last trip (and two before it), I ate my approximate weight in barbecue just to see if I could find a contender or two.

If you’re K.C.-bound this year – and you’ll find plenty to love about it if you are, including that prices for these feasts often run less than $15 a plate – I offer these suggestions, old and new, fancy and not. My list is by no means complete, because there are said to be about 80 barbecue places here, although recent news reports suggest the economy may have finished off a few of them.

Fiorella’s Jack Stack

If you’re in the mood for Spanish Moorish architecture and many of the city’s 200 fountains, choose the Jack Stack on the Country Club Plaza.

Up till this trip, I’d eaten at the Stack’s at 95th Street and Metcalf Avenue in Overland Park, Kan., and I loved the food. But this time, I chose the Country Club Plaza location in Kansas City, Mo., for a dinner with my cousins and my adopted aunt.

For every meal on this trip, I ordered burnt ends, which are a tribute to Arthur Bryant, who is credited with figuring out that chopping off and serving the crispy parts of the brisket could delight the masses.

Burnt ends aren’t incinerated the way a burger gets when it’s too close to the flame. The best ones are tender in the right spots and chewy-charred in spots. Jack Stack’s were right on. (The Poor Russ sandwich is made of burnt ends, and previous encounters with that gets my stamp of approval.)

Stack’s also has ribs: pork and beef, of course, and also crown prime rib and lamb, which I’ve not tried. The sides are stupendous: The beans have a wonderful smoky flavor, and the cheesy corn bake side dish is so good I’d go just for that.

Stack’s Plaza location is the kind of place you’d take out-of-town guests if you were trying to show them everything that’s right with Kansas City. The decor is rich and warm and unobtrusive.

The Plaza is also close to my new favorite place to stay (next to Chez Cousin, of course). Southmoreland on the Plaza, 116 E. 46th St., 816-531-7979,, is a 12-room (plus Carriage House) B&B full of antiques.

I stayed in the Satchel Paige room. With a business rate of $109 and a breakfast worth getting out of bed for (great muffins, pastries and quiche), I found it more than satisfactory.

Danny Edwards

I’d regret my full breakfast only slightly upon arriving at Danny Edwards a little after 11 a.m. Every one of the 70 or so seats was taken, and when a table opened, my college friend Cindy and I grabbed it.

This Southwest Boulevard location in Kansas City, Mo., is new for Danny Edwards, whose father, Jake, was a barbecue legend. Danny (also known as Lil Jake) moved out of an 18-seat downtown shop a couple of years ago to this exposed-beam spot where “Gary B!” and “Mike W!” ring out as heaping plates of ribs and sandwiches come pouring out.

A bite of the burnt ends explained why Gary B and Mike W and, on this day, Cindy M and I were crowding the place: They were crispy-chewy with just the right amount of sauce. I think I am in love. Again.

Brobecks Barbeque

Please, purists, don’t hurt me. I tried Brobecks in Johnson County, which opened in November 2007, and I liked it. A lot. The problem: Brobecks is not, strictly speaking, Kansas City barbecue. Instead, it relies on rubs, not sauces (although it has sauces too).

So I strayed off the farm and tried this Tennessee barbecue. I had the Tennessee Porker – pulled pork – and it was worth every guilty mouthful. But I also did the burnt-end dinner (served dry, without sauce) and found it delicious.

We also loved the steak fries and, most of all, the homemade potato chips, and Cindy noted that Brobecks gets extra credit because it offers dessert. We had to skip it because we were headed to our next stop.

Hayward’s Pit Bar-B-Que

Minutes before the clock struck 9 p.m., we walked into Hayward’s, also in south Johnson County. I’m sure the folks would rather have stuck shards of glass in their eyes than serve one more customer, but we were on a mission, and they were gracious.

I’ve been a big Hayward’s fan almost since it opened in 1972 about two miles north of where it is now. I’ve never had a bad bit of barbecue there, but that night wasn’t the best I’ve ever had (though we did love the sweet potato fries). The 220-seat restaurant is not too jointy, not too snooty – you could take the in-laws and they’d feel comfortable.

We were near Gates (the Leawood location). I wanted to try it again. Or we could swing over to Oklahoma Joe’s in Kansas City, Kan. Maybe we could make it to 85th Street and B.B.’s Lawnside BBQ in Kansas City, Mo., where the smoking pit is more than a half-century old. But I just couldn’t. One more mouthful and I was sure I was going to drop dead.

At least I would have died happy.

Know Your Barbecue Styles

The word “barbecue” is thought to have derived from the Taino and Carib peoples of the Caribbean and South America, who slowly roasted meats over a bed of coals called a barbricot, which the Spanish pronounced “barbacoa.”

In his book Savage Barbecue, author Andrew Warnes theorizes that Europeans who encountered this way of cooking mixed the word “barbacoa” with “barbarian,” and the word “barbecue” was born.

It’s not always easy to say what barbecue is, but purists will say what it is not: It is not grilling meat over an open flame. Barbecue is a slow method of cooking – low heat, lots of time, lots of patience. Sauce may play a part, but might not be part of the cooking process.

Here’s a look at some of the regional differences.

Kansas City Barbecue. The sauce tends to be tomato-based, with molasses or brown sugar. It doesn’t soak in; it sits on top. Meat may be beef, pork or poultry.

Texas Barbecue. Beef brisket is king, and the sauce is spicier and thinner than the K.C. version.

South Carolina Barbecue. This is pork (shredded or pulled), and the sauce might be yellow, because it’s mustard-based. Coleslaw is part of the picture.

North Carolina Barbecue. Sauce tends to be more vinegar-based, with pepper. In the western part of the state, it may have a hint of tomato.

Memphis Barbecue. Relies on spiced rubs; sauce may be an afterthought.

Kansas City-Area Spots

Fiorella’s Jack Stack
4747 Wyandotte St.
Kansas City, Mo.

Other locations:

13441 Holmes Rd.
Kansas City, Mo.

101 W. 22d St.
Kansas City, Mo.

9520 Metcalf Ave.
Overland Park, Kan.


4615 Indian Creek Parkway
Overland Park, Kan.

Danny Edwards

2900 Southwest Blvd.
Kansas City, Mo.


11051 S. Antioch
Overland Park, Kan.


1325 E. Emanuel Cleaver Blvd.
Kansas City, Mo.

Other locations:

1221 Brooklyn Ave.
Kansas City, Mo.

10440 E. 40 Highway
Independence, Mo.

3205 Main St.
Kansas City, Mo.

201 W. 103d
(103d and State Line)
Leawood, Kan.

1026 State Ave.
Kansas City, Kan.

Arthur Bryant’s

1727 Brooklyn Ave.
Kansas City, Mo.

Other locations:

1702 Village West Parkway
Kansas City, Kan.

3200 N. Ameristar Dr.
Kansas City, Mo.


Washington Post – Where There’s Smoke, There’s Flavor

We don’t usually agree with much that is written in the Washington Post, but really enjoyed the article this week by Andreas Viestad, author of “Where Flavor Was Born” and co-host of the new public television series “Perfect Day.” You can read the article at the Washington Post’s website here, or take a read below – if they keep writing great stuff about BBQ, we might just have to subscribe!

Where There’s Smoke, There’s Flavor

Why We Crave It, and How to Do It With Or Without a Grill

By Andreas Viestad
Special to The Washington Post
Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Smoking isn’t even half as bad as it has been made out to be. The 19th-century satirist and Know-Nothing Party activist George D. Prentice put it succulently: “Much smoking kills live men and cures dead swine.”

Although smoking cigarettes has nearly become anathema in modern society, smoking foods is more in vogue than ever. Smoke, it seems, is like a fifth flavor (or sixth, if you allow for umami), with the ability to transform, contrast with and accentuate the food that has been exposed to it, whether that is salmon, pork, fruit, chili peppers or tea. In gastronomy, smoke is the door to another room, a lively, hazy space that is at once promising and almost limitless, yet also dark and dangerous.

Today smoking is done mainly for flavor, or rather for the distinctive aroma compounds it imparts. That has not always been the case. Smoking has been a part of our cooking for as long as we know. With an abundance of game and fish at certain times of the year and an acute, often life-threatening scarcity at others, our ancestors used smoke as a way to preserve food. By hanging meat or fish over an open fire, one would speed the drying process and keep flies away. After prolonged smoking, the meat would be not only dry but also coated in tarry substances with the dual ability to kill bacteria and form an impervious layer that sealed out air and hence protected against oxidation.

The flavor was only a pleasant side effect in a world where enjoyment always came second to survival. In my native Norway, where the smoking of foods seems to have been the rule and not the exception, it was not until the 18th and 19th centuries, when British and German “salmon lords” started visiting the country to fish its rich waters, that the ubiquitous smoked salmon was upgraded to delicacy status.

Exactly what makes smoked foods so appetizing to us is still a scientific unknown. Like smoking cigarettes, it just doesn’t make sense: Why would we deliberately expose ourselves — and with such great pleasure — to the impurities left on our food by fire? Perhaps it is genetically implanted in us from a time when all cooked food was slightly smoked and all uncooked food was unsafe.

Smoked food does allow for more and different flavors. Few savory dishes do not benefit from the addition of a little bacon. But the smoking process itself seems inaccessible and mysterious to many home cooks.

I discovered the joy of smoking (food) by chance about 10 years ago, on a visit to the basement of the apartment block where I was living. There, in searching for the water main, I found a dark room, one of those places that give you the shivers but also a vague, exciting feeling that a treasure might be nearby.

And so it was. After I flicked the light switch, the room remained nearly as dark as before: The walls were completely covered in tar. I had come across the smoking room of a long-abandoned butchery. The smokers there still seemed to work, so I bought some wood shavings, returned and started a fire. On my trial run, I set off the fire alarm at 11 p.m., resulting in a rear court full of sleepy and worried neighbors.

But after I started closing the door more efficiently, I quickly progressed. With professional-grade equipment, smoking was not difficult, and in the following months I exposed everything but my neighbors to my new hobby: curing my own bacon and smoked salmon and also lamb shanks, cheese and even an ice cream base, in a strange and not altogether unsuccessful attempt at smoked vanilla ice cream. (It was just as good when I simply cured the vanilla bean.)

The most surprising result was a green apple that managed to remain as fresh as ever, its characteristic cool, crisp acidity combined with deep, rich smokiness reminiscent of an Islay malt whiskey.

Smoking without special equipment can be more of a challenge. But it is far from impossible. The most important thing is to know your limitations. Broadly speaking, there are two main techniques. One is cold smoking, in which the food is smoked at temperatures under 100 degrees Farenheit (37 Celsius), often at specific, even lower temperatures. That is how most smoked salmon is produced and how the flesh manages to keep that silky, uncooked texture.

According to my experiments and all the experts and books I have consulted, cold smoking is very difficult without the right equipment, such as an abandoned smoking room in the basement. You can build your own smoker from cheap or free parts, such as an old metal pipe and a refrigerator. But it will take hours of construction and calibration for it to work properly and for you to be able to control the temperature.

Hot smoking, on the other hand, can be the simplest thing in the world, a re-creation of any Stone Age meal. An open fire will do. If you have a grill, you can throw a handful of sawdust or wood chips on the burning coals and cover it with a lid to concentrate the smoke. (In a gas grill, you need to place the sawdust on a metal tray directly over the burners.)

A couple of years ago, we were filming a segment on smoking for an episode of my television series “New Scandinavian Cooking.” The location was a remote, road-less farm, and there was no room for the smoker in our helicopter; all we had was a camping stove, a pot and some wood shavings. By throwing those shavings into the bottom of the pot and hanging small river trout from the top, we managed to achieve the same perfectly cooked and smoked fish that our smoker would have produced. But I am afraid the pot will never be the same again.

The idea of smoking food indoors is intriguing but impractical; there is almost no way to flavor your food without also seasoning your home. Before you try, you might want to ask yourself how much you really hate being outdoors and whether you would allow a dozen people to smoke a pack of cigarettes in your kitchen if they promised to stand near the kitchen fan or window.

I have tested several indoor contraptions, and even though I quit smoking cigarettes 15 years ago, you would never guess it if you visited me the weeks after these experiments. Enough smoke managed to seep into my kitchen to give it a real pre-smoking-ban-dive-bar character. (For gadget enthusiasts, there is a small, hand-held smoker called the Smoking Gun, available from PolyScience for $80. The amount of smoke is so limited and controlled that it is easy to contain; on the other hand, there is not enough for the food to be properly smoked, just lightly seasoned.)

But you can always cheat. If you do not want to smoke but want more or different flavor from what can be achieved by adding smoked salmon, bacon or smoked salt to a dish, liquid smoke is an alternative. I had always felt that the bottles of often-overpowering condensed smoke were the result of some sinister process, like the manufacture of artificial vanilla (a byproduct of cellulose production). But Kent Kirshenbaum, an associate professor in chemistry at New York University, tells me liquid smoke is completely natural, insofar as putting smoke into a bottle can be natural.

Kirshenbaum says he initially was repulsed by the product. But after researching it for a recent Experimental Cuisine Collective workshop in New York, he found it to be little more than carefully controlled smoking of water (a few brands also add molasses, sugar and vinegar; that is stated on the label). The problem of liquid smoke is mostly one of scale; it is very easy to use too much, rendering food almost inedible.

And whereas all smoke, as we know, contains carcinogens, the controlled smoking plus an ensuing filtering process has removed if not all, then most of these compounds. So, at least from a health perspective, the best approach might be to pretend that you are smoking rather than to actually light up.

Andreas Viestad, author of “Where Flavor Was Born” and co-host of the new public television series “Perfect Day,” can be reached at or His Gastronomer column appears monthly.


Pork Barrel BBQ Issues BBQ Challenge to Jessica Ravitz of CNN

Jessica Ravitz of CNN wrote the following article on the quest for the best BBQ – I think its obvious that she is from Texas, California or the East Coast (and probably calls the Midwest “flyover” states) because she completely ignores Missouri barbecue in her article.  At Pork Barrel BBQ, we support the exploration of all things BBQ, and encourage Jessica to travel the nation a bit more in her quest – her first stops need to be Gates Bar-B-Q, Arthur Bryant’s, Oklahoma Joe’s in Kansas City, MO and Dickie Doo Bar-B-Que in Sedalia, MO.  Jessica – we at Pork Barrel BBQ will be glad to meet you any day that works for you in Kansas City and take you on a tour – just let us know what works – and best of all, we’ll pay for all your Missouri BBQ!  You can reach us at

Read Jessica’s article here:

Quest for the best barbecue

By Jessica Ravitz

(CNN) — If Daniel Vaughn has his way, he said, his newborn daughter will “teethe on a rib bone.”  It’s not that the Dallas, Texas, architect means to channel his inner caveman. He just loves barbecue and, given that his wife doesn’t, is hoping the little one will share his passion for ” ‘cue,” as he calls it.

“My main quest is to find the best in Texas,” said Vaughn, 31, who phoned CNN while he was heading to his 168th barbecue joint since he began his search in August 2006.

So far, listed among his favorites: Snow’s BBQ in Lexington and Kreuz Market in Lockhart.

“The best experience is finding a place you’ve never heard of, a place that’s not on anyone’s list,” he said. “It feels like you’ve really discovered something special.”

Vaughn’s journey, which is chronicled on his blog Full Custom Gospel BBQ (which also features reviews), is just one illustration of how this American culinary tradition has taken hold. It has spawned pilgrimages to out-of-the-way shacks, associations and “societies,” competitive cook-offs and countless debates among those who take this smoked-meat matter most Vaughn’s tasty experience at Kreuz Market

“It’s a combination of flavors, sights, smells, sounds, people and stories,” said Mark Dunkerley, 32, of Nashville, Tennessee, who embarked on his own barbecue quest last fall (a road trip spanning four Southern states) and named The Bar-B-Q Shop in Memphis, Tennessee, as his top pick. “Anything you spend six to 18 hours preparing, it’s more than a meal. It’s an event.” Check out some iReporter BBQ joint recommendations »

This “event” became possible about half a million years ago, when humans discovered fire. For about 250,000 years, humans have been throwing meat on and around the flames, said Steven Raichlen, best-selling author of “The Barbecue Bible.”

But the 16th century Spanish explorers to the Americas first chronicled the unique cooking technique that became barbecue when they came across the Taino Indians of the West Indies using a barbacoa, their word for a wooden framework propped above flames, to smoke meat.

It was a way to preserve meat and was later popularized by the poor and slaves, who didn’t have refrigeration, explained Amy Mills, daughter of barbecue’s legendary champion pit master and restaurateur, Mike Mills, with whom she co-wrote “Peace, Love, and Barbecue.”

The smoking approach was also useful in that it tenderized lesser cuts of meat, said Mills, whose father is behind the ribs celebrated at 17th Street Bar & Grill in Murphysboro, Illinois, and Memphis Championship Barbecue in Las Vegas, Nevada.

“Today, barbecue has enjoyed a renaissance,” securing its berth as “America’s original comfort food,” which is especially important in these tough economic times, when supporting local and affordable businesses is more popular than ever, Mills said. “It’s the most democratic food group. You can come into a barbecue restaurant and find people in ties and people in overalls. … You leave your title at the door.”

Depending on where you are, the meat and smoking wood that is used, the sauce (if there is one) or the rub, barbecue can mean many different things, Raichlen, the best-selling author, journalist, cooking teacher and TV host pointed out.

While it’s pulled pork with vinegar sauce in most of North Carolina, Raichlen said barbecue is, for example, mutton with butter and Worcestershire sauce in Owensboro, Kentucky, grilled bratwurst in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, and oysters on the half-shell with chipotle sauce in Tomales Bay, California.

“We live in a world of homogenization,” he said. Barbecue is “the last bastion of regional culture, and I think that’s one reason we prize it so dearly.”

Fans, in fact, prize barbecue for a multitude of reasons. For city slickers, who live in places where backyard smokers are not viable or even legal, a country jaunt for some finger-licking meat can be an escape. And the time, sweat and, indeed, “labor of love” shown by those who run these establishments, as Dunkerley of Nashville puts it, is something to behold and honor.

The slow food, which bucks the nation’s fast-food focus, is “a backlash against the hustle and bustle of daily life,” said Carolyn Wells, executive director and co-founder of the 10,000-member Kansas City Barbecue Society, which she calls “the world’s largest organization of barbecuing and grilling enthusiasts.”

“It’s not a solitary pursuit,” she said. “It’s something you do with your family and friends.”

This might be why barbecue is, for Frank Beaty, a reminder of different times and people. Beaty’s barbecue recommendations

He may live in Las Vegas, Nevada, today, but Beaty, 55, grew up in Texas, the grandson of Dempsey Davis, a man who “grew his own meat.” Using an “old brick smokehouse,” in Paris, Texas, Beaty said Dempsey practiced what he preached.

“My granddad said two things about barbecue,” Beaty said. “If you have to have teeth to eat it, it’s not right. And if you have to put sauce on it, it’s not right.”

For 35 years, wherever he’s traveled as a festival producer, Beaty said he’s always been on the lookout for the best and most tender barbecue a town can offer. One of his top choices, a surprise even to him: Everett and Jones in Oakland, California.

“Texas has the best barbecue, but somehow Everett and Jones migrated from the south,” Beaty said.

Because his wife will rarely join him, Vaughn — the man on a mission in Texas — counts on some friends to help him on his traveling feeding frenzy. In March, he said he and two cohorts outdid themselves, setting a record: 10 barbecue restaurants in one day.

“You get the meat sweats, where you rub your brow and it comes away smelling like smoke,” he said with a laugh. “But you get used to it.”


Kansas City Star – Barbecue Fans Aren’t Reluctant To Voice Opinions

Today’s Kansas City Star has an interesting article on Kansas City BBQ by Joyce Smith titled Barbecue fans aren’t reluctant to voice opinions.  As you can probably tell from past posts, I’m not reluctant to voice my opinion either when it comes to BBQ, especially Kansas City BBQ.  I’ve had good BBQ all over America, and occasionally I even run into great BBQ in my travels.  In Kansas City BBQ is considered a form of art and the people that sweat over smokers for hours at a time while you’re still in bed getting a good nights sleep take their art very seriously.  Next time you are in Kansas City make sure you visit several of the many BBQ joints in the area that don’t just serve good BBQ, they serve great BBQ.  We are big fans of the Kansas City style dry rubs and sauces and hope you’ll give our Pork Barrel BBQ All-American Spice Rub a try.

Posted on Thu, Mar. 05, 2009

Barbecue fans aren’t reluctant to voice opinions

By JOYCE SMITH The Kansas City Star

There’s an old saying that in polite social circles one should never discuss religion, politics or sex.

In Kansas City you might add barbecue to the list.

Almost nothing gets barbecue fanatics riled up as a discussion of Kansas City’s best.

Take the recent reports on the closing — then reopening Wednesday — of Famous Dave’s Legendary Pit Bar-B-Que in the Kansas City Power & Light District.

Dozens of readers rang in on The Kansas City Star’s business blog, economy.kansascity. com, with such comments as “it turns out Famous Dave’s is actually better than a lot of KC BBQ places” to “a Minneapolis BBQ joint in the BBQ capital of the world — Kansas City? What a joke.”

But there’s no debate that Kansas City is a barbecue town.

Zagat Survey even selected three barbecue places — Oklahoma Joe’s Barbecue, Danny Edwards Blvd. BBQ and Fiorella’s Jack Stack Barbecue — in its list of top 10 area restaurants for 2008.

So this week I stopped at those restaurants, and more, to get the inside scoop from pit masters themselves on what makes great barbecue.

•Arthur Bryant’s Barbeque, Kansas City and Kansas City, Kan.

The technique: “The sauce, the tradition, the way we prepare our meats — slow-smoke it over hickory and oak. The key to barbecue is the pit master. We have three here and all of them have been here over 15 years. We try to prepare it the way Mr. Bryant did 80 years ago,” said Eddie Echols, general manager.

Also on the menu: turkey, sausage.

•Danny Edwards Blvd. BBQ, Kansas City.

In 1980, Danny Edwards went head to head with legendary Gates Bar-B-Q and Arthur Bryant’s. Not only did it survive, it often makes top barbecue lists, right along with them.

“I didn’t worry about what they have, just worried about what I sell,” he said. “You just do your best. I’m the one back here doing the cooking. It really makes me happy seeing all these people at the door every day, even in a depressed economy. They just want a good product at a reasonable price.”

The technique: Juicy slow-smoked brisket using hickory wood.

Also on the menu: Mexican chili, sweet potato fries.

•Famous Dave’s Legendary Pit Bar-B-Que, Kansas City, Kan., and Kansas City Power & Light District.

“Minneapolis, that’s where our company is based, but our flavors and our cooking processes and all that came from all over the country,” said Mat Eastlack, general manager of the downtown Famous Dave’s. “Our founder, Dave Anderson, spent 25 years developing his recipes from all over the country — Kansas City, Memphis, the Carolinas, Texas — and so he takes the best from all those areas.”

The technique: Signature rubs, meat smoked for 2½ to three hours, then cooled. The next day it’s brought up to 160 degrees to help break down the fats and loosen the meat up so it falls off the bone easier. It’s charred on the grill, then sauce is added and the meat is grilled until caramelized.

Also on the menu: chicken Caesar salad, catfish fingers, smoked salmon spread, Cajun chicken sandwich.

•Gates Bar-B-Q, Kansas City, Kansas City, Kan., Leawood and Independence

George Gates II calls Gates a specialty house that concentrates on just making great barbecue.

“Barbecue is an art, it’s a feeling,” he said. “Everybody can paint, but not everybody is an artist. That’s what makes Kansas City so great, because you have so many styles of painting — of artistry of barbecuing.”

The technique: The pit has to be at the right temperature with the right moisture. Ribs start off on the bottom of the pit, close to the fire. The meat is seared to keep the juice in, then moved away from the fire to finish.

“Directly over the fire, not indirect, is what gives us our Gates flavor, along with our Gates spices,” Gates said.

Also on the menu: mutton, turkey, yammer pie.

•Fiorella’s Jack Stack Barbecue, Country Club Plaza, downtown, Martin City and Overland Park.

“We really try to focus on the quality of our raw ingredients and preparing all our products fresh from scratch,” said Case Dorman, president.

The technique: Authentic brick pits using 100 percent wood — 60 percent hickory, 40 percent oak — with meat seared at 350 degrees, then moved to a rotisserie smoker to slow-cook and hold the moisture.

Also on the menu: Rack of lamb, seared tuna, vegetable kabobs, entree salads and cheesy corn bake.

•Oklahoma Joe’s Barbecue, Kansas City, Kan., and Olathe.

Started as a competition barbecue company, Oklahoma Joe’s opened as a restaurant in 1996.

“There’s a big difference in cooking barbecue in your backyard, cooking barbecue at a competition or cooking barbecue in a restaurant,” said Jeff Stehney, co-owner with his wife, Joy Stehney. “The most important thing when you go from cooking competitively or in the backyard to the restaurant is you obviously have to figure out a way to make money at it … but you do need to stay true to your belief that quality comes first.”

The technique: “Our barbecue rubs are what makes our barbecue stand out. The most important thing is how the barbecue rubs interact with the smoke and the heat,” Jeff Stehney said. “And we use only Missouri white oak to smoke with.”

Also on the menu: Red beans and rice, smoked chicken gumbo, Z-Man sandwich (smoked beef brisket, barbecue sauce, smoked provolone cheese and onion rings).