I’ve written a lot about BBQ.
So today I write about it again. Today is National BBQ Day and my friends at the Kansas City Barbecue Society have been reminding me that May is National BBQ Month. I do love BBQ. I was just in South Carolina in March for bbq, judged a competition in Atlanta in April, judged a competition in Indianapolis later in April, and was in Austin last weekend eating bbq for fun.
In June I am judging contests in Ohio, cooking in a contest in Kentucky and judging another contest in Indiana. I spend a lot of time traveling to eat, cook and judge great bbq.
It doesn’t take a lot of of anything to make great barbecue. Just meat, fire, and time. Three little things that when done right produces a great product. The best bite of barbecue I have ever had didn’t require electricity. Just a guy and a fire and long long hours tending to both.
Here are four things I have learned over the last 8 years traveling, eating, judging and studying American Barbecue.
First: The debate of Kansas City vs. Texas. Which is better? They are both crazy good. It’s a style difference. It’s like comparing deep dish pizza with a slice of thin New York City pizza. Both good. Not the same. All the major BBQ regions offer something unique about their region. BBQ is personal like that. It’s built on tradition and proteins that are local. Texas = Beef. Lots of it. Carolinas = Pork lots of it. My tip, don’t go to Greeneville South Carolina or Memphis looking for Brisket.
Second: Behind every good plate of barbecue is a family and that family has a story and barbecue is how they share that story. In South Carolina I ate at Mike and Jeff’s BBQ. Mike’s mom was the server, Mike’s sister was at the register and Mike was tending the coals at the smoker out front. Louie Mueller’s in Taylor Texas is operated by Wayne Mueller, grandson of Louie. His sister operates one of the hippest BBQ shops in Austin, La Barbecue.
SLAPS BBQ in Kansas City is run by brothers Joe and Mike and their mom is often in the store working the line. Payne’s in Memphis is still run by Flora Payne with her son and daughter at her side. She is still chopping pork at the lunch rush.
Third: BBQ is communal. It’s meant to be shared and eaten as a group. That’s my favorite. Order it all and share it family style. It’s a slow meal. It takes hours to prepare and there is no need to hurry to eat it.
Fourth: BBQ has a real legal definition. The United States Code of Federal Regulations defines BBQ, such as product labeled “Beef Barbecue” or “Barbecued Pork,” shall be cooked by the direct action of dry heat resulting from the burning of hard wood or the hot coals therefrom for a sufficient period to assume the usual characteristics of a barbecued article, which include the formation of a brown crust on the surface and the rendering of surface fat. The product may be basted with a sauce during the cooking process. The weight of barbecued meat shall not exceed 70 percent of the weight of the fresh uncooked meat.
So technically, if there isn’t a wood fire resulting in smoke or hot coals, it isn’t barbecue.
Here are the questions I am asked the most when people learn I have traveled a bit for some great barbecue:
Bryan, what’s your favorite in Texas, Memphis or Kansas City?
Texas: Must visits, Louie Mueller in Taylor Texas, Smitty’s in Lockhart, both Valentina’s and Interstellar in Austin. Snows in Lexington is worth it as well. (I plan to spend time in Houston soon).
Kansas City: My favorite is SLAPs and Q39. Please visit Kansas City Joes and Arthur Bryant’s for the experience.
Memphis: Payne’s is a must as is the Bar B Que Shop (try the spaghetti).
Bryan, what’s your favorite BBQ in Dayton?
I love what Curtis is doing at Fatbacks BBQ and his brisket is full of flavor and is my favorite in town.
It is hard to beat the ribs at Flyby BBQ at the Fairfield mall.
I have been so impressed by what Warped Wing Springboro is creating out of their Ole Hickory smoker and the pulled pork nachos and pork belly sliders are better than Dayton deserves.
With that said, I have had great BBQ at Oinka Doodle Moo, City Barbecue (same smoker as Warped Wing), Hickory River in Tipp City, Adam’s Rib in Eaton, Combs in Middletown, Just Q In in Cincy, Pickles and Bones in Milford, and many many more. Those three up top are just my favorites here in Dayton.
So go. Celebrate National BBQ day and find some barbecue. Find a spot you like and support your local Pitmaster.