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2018 Chief Grilling Officer BBQ Updates

2018 Chief Grilling Officer BBQ Updates

Introducing our first-ever CGO, Kari Blanks!

Kari is an Oklahoma native with a serious love for BBQ. A self-proclaimed “foodie,” our newest team member knows her way around the kitchen and has been grilling since she was 14.

Kari will be embarking on a two week journey beginning September 17 to scout out some of the best BBQ across the country. Check out her blog posts below to learn more about her experience, grilling techniques and recommendations with drool-worthy photos during her time in Nashville, Memphis, Kansas City, Dallas and Austin.

The Legend of Lockhart: Lockhart Smokehouse

Lockhart is roughly 45 minutes from Austin, and with a population of around 30,000, it’s crazy to think that many consider it the barbeque capital of Texas. Lockhart Smokehouse, owned by Jill Bergus and members of her family for more than 120 years, has a barbeque history that dates back way farther than its opening in 2011. Her family also has ties to three very famous joints in the area: Kreuz Market, Smitty’s, and Black’s. BBQ clearly runs in the family!

Cooking at Lockhart is all about dry rub and smoke. The rub is crafted from a few simple ingredients and sits on the meat for four hours. Once it’s ready for the smoker, they fire up the central Texas post oak for a clean flavor, just smoky enough but not overpowering. In their kitchen, foil is used primarily to lock in flavors and moisture when smoking fish, like their salmon.

When it was time to eat, I had the most delicious sausage, brisket and ribs so flavorful I never even thought to put sauce on top (and I love a good sauce!), smoky turkey, and lamb. Everything was perfectly tender. I left Lockhart Smokehouse with a very happy stomach and a deeper understanding of the passion and patience needed to be successful in any barbeque venture.

Magical Micklethwait: Micklethwait Craft Meats in Austin

Micklethwait Craft Meats is tucked away in a grassy knoll on Rosewood Avenue in Austin, Texas. Its owner, Tom Micklethwait, started out throwing barbeque parties for his friends, who motivated him to raise money and start his own place. What started as Tom sleeping in the trailer to tend to his meats has turned into one of the most successful barbeque joints in Texas.

I learned a lot about wood varieties for smoking at Micklethwait. The team uses post oak due to its availability in Central Texas and clean taste. Their rub is crafted from a few simple ingredients and covers the meat, making it ready for the smoker. Before the brisket is done cooking, it’s transferred to foil before being placed back into the smoker to finish it off, leaving it tender and flavor-filled. Micklethwait also turns to foil for easy clean up—very important in the barbeque world.

Everything I ate at Micklethwait was incredible. You can tell that they pay a lot of attention to detail and take time crafting each and every item on the menu. The sausage, ribs, and brisket were loaded with flavor and the people I met were wonderful.

BBQ Brunch is the Best Brunch: Edley’s in Nashville

Edley’s barbeque in Nashville, Tennessee is truly, “a tribute to all things southern.” Before an in-depth meat smoking lesson, Pitmaster UT served us a massive brisket breakfast burrito loaded with eggs, fried jalapeños, and potatoes and delicious fried chicken with biscuits and sausage gravy. As we dove into an amazing barbeque brunch, we noticed UT interacting with customers and workers as though he knew them for a lifetime, and immediately recognized that this place was full of southern hospitality.

UT uses cherry wood and post oak to flavor his meats. The cherry wood gives the meat a moderately smoky and lightly sweet flavor, and the post oak keeps it clean and mild. He then seasons the meat with a few different ingredients before popping it in their rotating smoker. A pro tip for smoking a variety of meat at once in a rotating smoker: place some foil on each shelf to halt any dripping from whatever meats you decide to try (and keep your eye on them because each variety cooks differently). UT is always coming up with new creations to intrigue customers, and wants everyone to have the Edley’s experience.

The Very Rare Whole Hog: Martin’s Nashville

Martin’s in Nashville is determined to keep the rare technique of whole hog from going extinct. West Tennessee whole hog is barbeque technique practiced in the area between Nashville and Memphis. Due to the cost and time of this craft (it’s a 200-pound hog smoked for about 24 hours!), many pitmasters have given up this delicate style. However, Martin’s remains dedicated and delivers delicious whole hog to all who love this family-inspired restaurant.

At Martin’s they perform a butterfly cut on the hog and smoke it over post oak. The vinegary sauce added at the end gives a wonderful flavor to the finished product. I ordered the whole hog sandwich, which comes topped with slaw on a lightly sweet bun. A fun note - most of the menu is based on Martin’s family recipes!

If you’re feeling inspired to try smoking a whole hog at home, make sure you have some foil ready to wrap it up when it’s done—lock in all that well-earned flavor and keep it stored fresh for days!

Let’s Rendezvous: Charlie Vergos’ Rendezvous in Memphis

Rendezvous has been serving up barbeque in a basement located off an alley in Memphis, Tennessee since 1948. Upon arriving, I was led down a flight of stairs into a smoky basement that immediately took me back in time. The memorabilia hanging on the walls and sounds of blues and soul make this place special.

Since the get-go, Rendezvous’ famous pork ribs have been crafted with a unique rub: a Greek chili seasoning that Charlie Vergos acquired from his father, Cajun spices, and a little paprika for color. They’re washed with vinegar and cooked for an hour and 15 minutes, about 18 inches away from the fire. When they came to my table on top of a bed of foil, I dove in happily. They were flavorful and meaty, served alongside slaw and beans.

The experience at Rendezvous was incredible. Almost all of their employees have worked there for well over a decade, most for more than 30 years! It's a really special place to eat in Memphis with a true taste of the city’s soul.

Last, but Not Least: Joe’s in Kansas City

The original Joe’s started in a gas station on 47th street in Kansas City, Kansas. Joe’s growth in popularity very quickly lead to the growth of the building. Behind the scenes lies a maze of rooms containing smokers and pitmasters hard at work, pushing out hundreds of pounds of ribs, brisket, chicken, and sausage daily.

Joe’s smokes their meat with white oak because it doesn’t produce too much smoke – it’s a delicate balance. The team heavily stressed the importance of aluminum foil in the smoking process. When meat achieves the level of smokiness you want, you can wrap it to continue the cooking process without over-smoking.

They also have their rubs down to a science. Joes’ richly seasoned meat contains a flavor that interacts great with the fat on the surface of the meat, leaving a caramel texture - that’s KC style! After trying a good portion of the menu, I finished with the “Z Man”, the famous brisket and onion ring sandwich (yes, onion ring on the sandwich!). I know I will dream of this food often - Joe’s is a must-try for all barbeque lovers.

BBQ Recipes to Try at Home

You may not have been hired as our Chief Grilling Officer this year, but that's no reason to miss out on the BBQ! Here are some of our favorite recipes & tips you can try at home:

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