I live in the South. For the majority of us, half of the liquid that pumps through our veins is barbecue sauce. Meat that is slowly roasted over a well-used pit is a staple food for Southerns. The trend has caught on in the fast food section of the food industry. But let me be clear: barbecue is not a fast food item (hence, NO drive through on a real barbecue establishment). Yeah, places like Jim and Nick’s is okay on the fly, but it just doesn’t have the same feel as good ole’ barbecue joint. Here is a quick list of how you know if a joint will be good before eating:
- The sign out front is usually homemade, faded and possibly missing letters.
- 95% of all joints are located in a bad side of town or seedy area.
- The pit can be smelled from quite a distance, and ironically a smiling pig is typically part of the joint’s logo.
- The joint is usually not open after 5 PM (see #2).
- Most of the furniture inside does not match.
- Normally, the menu has less than 10 selections and most of those come from a combinations of things.
- The order is taken from the counter; then you have a seat and wait for your name and/or order to be yelled.
- Most of the owners are matter-of-fact and don’t smile very much. It is your privilege to eat his barbecue.
- The sweet tea borders on perfection.
- Usually there are multiple pictures of Little League teams plastered around that the joint sponsors and/or old sports memorabilia from a local high school is on display.
I could easily get into various sauces: mustard, ketchup, or vinegar base. I could get into cuts of meats or kinds of meat. But when it’s all said and done, it is about the pit. The pit is the charred and molested grill that is made of a heavy-gage metal with wood as its source of heat. WOOD, I say . . . not gas. The wood makes the difference and using pecan, oak, poplar, or any other wood (or a combination) can affect the taste. The pit’s surface is rarely cleaned. The juices from the meat, various secret sauces and rubs build up over time and add another distinct and full flavor to the meat. The smokey and ever so slightly charred meat is tender and never dry. The pit is HOT, so the thought of pathogens should be dismissed. A really good pit master knows his place in life, and when you find one, stick with him.
Okay, so this is kind of a confessional with all of my talk of eating healthy and staying in shape, but it is not a regular thing. I just know of some really good joints. Every now and again, I’ll get the urge to eat some pig flesh that could possibly give me intestinal trouble, and I know exactly where to go. I enjoy it and eat very very slowly.