Kosher Wines for Rosh Hashanah

As the true BBQ Jews who read this site already know, the Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah) was observed on Wednesday evening.  In honor of Hebrew Calendar year 5772, I will observe a pork-free blogging day (I can’t make the same commitment in my actual diet, just on my blog).  Instead of reading about barbecue, check out this article on “12 Kosher Wines Besides Manischewitz” at  While you are visiting Snooth, be sure to check out their unusual wine pairings, including the best wines to pair with McDonald’s, Burger King and KFC.  Clever stuff.

Oh, and if you really want to read about pork today, look at this article from the Lexington Dispatch on the Childress Vineyards’ 2011 Fine Swine Wine.

Happy 60th to Hill’s Lexington Barbecue

One of the state’s best barbecue joints (and the purveyors of, very likely, the best banana pudding in the state) just celebrated its 60th year in business. Winston-Salem’s Hill’s Lexington Barbecue has been cooking barbecue over wood-fired pits since 1951. Read more in the Winston-Salem Journal.

Dizzy, Smokey and the Gang

This weekend I spent some time doing something I rarely do: actually cooking barbecue instead of just eating it and writing about it.  Who was my muse for this barbecue session?  Although she remains nameless thus far, my muse was without a doubt my new Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker, which I purchased a few weeks ago.  Some BBQ rub that fell into my hands was another motivator.

I can’t say enough good things about the Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker, despite the needless “e” in the name (it’s the Smoky Mountains, folks!).  At any rate, the WSM is well built, affordable, and holds heat well.  I cooked during a rainy, 70-some degree day and used just one batch of charcoal, which lasted me from 10:45 a.m. to 9:45 p.m. with plenty of charcoal left at the end. Better yet, temperature control was quite simple and I stayed between 225 and 275 degrees with minimal tinkering.

If you’re looking to upgrade from a basic charcoal grill or, gasp, gas grill to something better for the relatively low, steady temprature preferred for barbecue then this cooker is a terrific choice.  Also, you can educate yourself on the ins and outs of the cooker at The Virtual Weber Bullet, a terrific instructional website that features everything from recipes to ways to customize your cooker. ( is not focused on the Weber Smokey Mountain, but is also a tremendous resource, and includes a buyer’s guide, which is where I found out about the WSM in the first place.)

Aside from wanting to give my new WSM a test ride, my other motivation for cooking barbecue yesterday was found in the spices I’d recently received in the mail.  As I’ve mentioned before, one of the benefits of being a barbecue blogger is the ability to get ahold of free samples of barbecue-related products.  The good folks at The Dizzy Pig Barbecue Company in Manassas, Virginia sent me a sampler pack of their fresh-ground rubs–11 types in all, including traditional rubs like Dizzy Dust all-purpose BBQ seasoning and more exotic ones like Pineapple Head, which is sweet and spicy and meant for grilling fruit.

I tried out several of the rubs while cooking and was impressed.  Honestly, I think it is easy and fun to make rubs at home, so rarely purchase pre-made products, but next time I do I will certainly consider Dizzy Pig.  The product tasted very fresh and the blends of spices worked well.  Check out the Dizzy Pig online or send them an email at info at if you want to learn more.

End of the Road(kill) for Rick Perry’s Campaign

Don’t be tempted by the devil’s offerings…

I was saving this juicy barbe-political story for closer to the Republican primaries, but the News & Observer couldn’t resist and scooped me. Oh well, it’s a pig eat pig world in barbecue journalism.

As described in yesterday’s N&O Dome politics blog: “According to ‘Holy Smoke: The Big Book of North Carolina Barbecue,’ in 1992  when [Rick] Perry was a promising Texas politician but not yet governor, he tried some  Eastern North Carolina barbecue from King’s of Kinston, which was served at the  Republican National Convention in Houston.  ‘I’ve had road kill that tasted better than that,’ Perry was quoted as  saying.”

That may well be a quote Rick Perry lives to regret, and not just because he freely admits to dining on road kill.  (Since Perry strikes me as a bit of a vulture, his carrion-based diet is not all that surprising.)  Unless Perry can prove that in Texas there are a lot of delicious road killed beef briskets littering the highways, he’d better prepare a written apology to the people of North Carolina for insulting our beloved state dish.  Mitt, if you’re listening, this could be your big chance since your attempts to point out that Rick Perry is a lunatic thus far appear to be falling on deaf ears.

Greatest Hits: BBQ&A with Jim Early, NC Barbecue Society Founder

[Note: This is a re-post of an interview originally posted in April 2010. Follow this link–Early BBQ&A–for an easier to read .pdf version of the interview.]

Jim Early is a good old fashioned barbecue renaissance man.  A native of Henderson, NC, Early graduated from Wake Forest University law school and practiced as an attorney for many years.  His bio notes that, “In addition to being an avid and accomplished hunter, fisherman, and gourmet cook, he also rides and brokers Tennessee walking horses, breeds and trains English Setters and Pointers, flies with his friends in hot air balloons and WWII war birds, restores British cars and classic Chris Craft mahogany speed boats, paints, writes, plays in bands and loves to dance.”

While the above hobbies and accomplishments are interesting in their own right, most relevant to this website is the fact that Early founded the North Carolina Barbecue Society (NCBS).  In 2007, he left his law practice to focus solely on NCBS, which has a mission “to preserve North Carolina’s barbecue history and culture and to secure North Carolina’s rightful place as the Barbecue Capital of the World.”

In addition to founding NCBS, Early authored The Best Tar Heel Barbecue: Manteo to Murphy, which remains the most comprehensive guidebook of NC barbecue joints (and retains a prime spot in my car’s glove box).  He has also authored a cookbook, leads business retreats, and makes presentations on work-life balance and stress reduction.  Recently we added to Early’s stress by asking him a book’s worth of questions, which he was kind enough to answer.

BBQ Jew: In researching The Best Tar Heel Barbecue: Manteo to Murphy, you visited all 100 counties in North Carolina and ate at 228 restaurants.  How long did this field research take and what did you learn from the experience?
Jim Early: How I went about doing the field research for The Best Tar Heel Barbecue: Manteo to Murphy is described on pages 17-20 of the book.  I wanted the research to be current and I pushed myself as hard as I possibly could to practice law 14-15 hours a day Monday through Thursday and drive to the area I was going to work and work 18 hour days Friday and Saturday in the field.  Sunday morning I ate my first meal since Thursday and drove home to do 6-7 hours dictation and crash.  This was my life for 6 months plus in 2001.  Then I wrote the book and went through all the publishing hoops, distribution hoops, etc.  The whole process was about 4,000 hours, 22,000+ miles, 2,000+ people, 100 counties and 228 BBQ places.  To my knowledge no one else has done a BBQ guide book that is this complete, this  well  researched  and invested the time that I invested to complete the project.  I learned that that there was a reason no one else had done such a project.  The price is higher than most people are willing to pay.  I have written several cook books and numerous magazine articles since I wrote The Best Tar Heel Barbecue, but they have been a walk in the park compared to the efforts I put into that book.

Some of the things I learned from the field research are that there are, to my knowledge, less than 30 old fashioned family owned BBQ places in NC that cook over pits fueled with live wood coals or charcoal and Continue reading

World Kosher BBQ Championship

In case you missed it this past weekend, BBQ Jews from across the country (well, at least from a few metropolitan areas) descended on Memphis for the 23rd annual World Kosher Barbecue Championship.  For an event preview, see this article.  For event results, check… actually, do you really care who won?  It’s the concept that is most interesting.

From the contest website: “In a city where treif BBQ restaurants far outnumber synagogues, it was only natural that a creative team at the oldest, Jewish Orthodox congregation in the Mid-South, Anshei Sphard-Beth El Emeth (ASBEE), decided twenty-four years ago to offer a kosher alternative to the long-standing Memphis BBQ contest of the swine variety.”

Sounds like a good time and good food. Not as good as eating pork, of course, but good nevertheless.

Barbecue Bob & The Piedmont Blues

Barbecue and tobacco go together like tobacco and blues, and through the transitive property barbecue and blues go together just as well.  In fact, the history of blues music and barbecue are both intertwined with tobacco.  While pig pickings were a traditional harvest time tradition in the country, blues musicians crowded urban tobacco auction sites when the crop came in for sale.

In North Carolina, tobacco towns like Durham have a rich history of blues music centered around its tobacco industry.  North Carolina’s primary contribution to the blues, a style called the Piedmont Blues, was made famous by artists like Blind Boy Fuller, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGee and the Reverend Gary Davis, as well as somewhat lesser know artists like John Dee Holeman, who still lives in Durham just blocks from the old tobacco district.

Perhaps it is no surprise that the blues industry created an artist who could capture the barbecue demographic.  Robert Hicks (1902-1931), better know by his recording name Barbecue Bob, was a Georgia native who worked at a barbecue restaurant in Atlanta at the time he was signed to Columbia Records.  The label decided that they could cash in on Hicks’ barbecue connection, and gave him his nickname. Barbecue Bob played in the Piedmont Blues style, bringing a country blues flair to his work. Barbecue Bob’s first single was, predictably, called “Barbecue Blues,” and sold a pace setting 15,000 copies.  The publicity photo (inset) of Barbecue Bob wearing a chef’s uniform proably didn’t hurt sales. How the song relates to barbecue, however, is anyone’s guess; it is certainly not an obvious lyrical connection.

Although there is no mention of slow cooking hogs, I still hope you enjoy the recording of the “Barbecue Blues” below. The song shows off Barbecue Bob’s terrific beyond-his-years voice, guitar picking skills and even lyrics (“I’m going to tell you now gal/like Gypsy told the Jew/If you don’t want me/it’s a cinch I don’t want you.”)  Now THAT’s the Jews blues.


1,001 Best Grilling (and Barbecuing) Recipes by Rick Browne

When I received a copy of Rick Browne’s new cookbook, 1,001 Best Grilling Recipes, I had a few concerns.

First, 1,001 recipes? Really, is there a need for that many recipes? I figure slow cooked pork butt, pork shoulder or whole hog pretty much covers it and saves 998 recipes.  Second, the books cover features a quote from Regis Philbin: “Rick Browne is one of America’s leading barbecue experts.” Until proven otherwise, I would assume Regis Philbin knows about as much about barbecue as Al Roker knows about 13th century Italian poetry.  Third, and most important, I noticed the word “grilling” in the title and the word “barbecue” used in Philbin’s quote.

In my opinion, grilling and barbecue are two different things, like sauteing and pan-frying: related techniques but not the same.  Whereas grilling is cooking for a relatively short time over high heat, barbecuing is cooking for a relatively long time over lower heat.  Plus, real barbecuing requires wood or charcoal, whereas you can grill over gas, electric or anything else you can dream up.  Browne takes on my holier-than-thou attitude before he even gets to page one.

In his Introduction, Browne writes, “This book is a collection of recipes I’ve gathered over ten years of roaming… an endless pursuit of the world’s best barbecue and grilling recipes–terms, by the way, that I use interchangeably, much to the chagrin of some barbecue purists.  But to me, if you cook food outdoors using wood, charcoal, natural gas, propane or just about any other combustible materials, you’re barbecuing.”  Well, I won’t concede this point, especially knowing that Browne is a Canadian by birth and therefore should be viewed with suspicion, but I give Browne credit for addressing it right off the bat.  Plus, the man knows more about barbecue (and grilling) than most anyone on the planet.

Rick Browne’s TV show, “Barbecue America”, aired on PBS for seven years.  He has published several cookbooks, including The Best Barbecue on Earth, The Barbecue America Cookbook, and Barbecue America: A Pilgrimage in Search of America’s Best Barbecue.  He has traveled to dozens of Continue reading

Organizing a Protest Against Dickey’s

As loyal readers of this site are well aware, I have devoted a fair amount of virtual ink to my reasons for disliking Dickey’s Barbecue Pit.  Well, now is your chance to help me drive my point home: I am organizing a grassroots protest against Dickey’s, which is the barbecue chain equivalent of Applebee’s (motto “Eatin’ Not-So-Good in Every Neighborhood”).

Dickey’s in downtown Raleigh is hosting a pulled pork sandwich eating contest on September 15th at 1:00 p.m.  This event sounds fun until one realizes that it is Dickey’s sandwiches that will be served, not Clyde Cooper’s.

The Pro-Pork Protest: Enter the contest, preferrably wearing the t-shirt of your favorite local BBQ joint or Clyde Cooper’s, but don’t eat a bite of the food set in front of you.  There is no need to say anything, and certainly don’t be rude.  This should be a silent, peaceful hunger strike–remember that Gandhi could go for days without food so you can go for a few minutes without pork.

Unfortunately, the event takes place at a time that I likely cannot attend or I would be there in a heartbeat.  Instead, I encourage all of you to share this idea far and wide and see if we can get a small crowd of protesters to show up for the competition.

If three or more brave soulds drop me a line at BBQJew at confirming your plans to attend, I will alert the media of the protest and see if they will cover the story.  I will also promise to buy the first 10 protesters a BBQ sandwich at the local restaurant of their choosing.  Let’s show Dickey’s what real barbecue is all about: family-ownership, unique local flavor, and loyalty.  Who’s with me?

Breaking News at Allen & Son’s

On Friday I visited Allen & Son’s in Chapel Hill for the first time in months (the location north of town on Highway 86, not the unrelated and inferior Allen’s south of town).  As usual, not much had changed since my last visit: great food, friendly service, and prices slowly creeping toward $11 for a large plate yet somehow still worth it.  And then my jaw dropped.  As I perused the menu to decide whether to get a BBQ plate or sandwich I saw it, the first major change to the menu I can recall besides pricing.  A barbecue tray!

This may not sound like big news to you, but Allen’s has never before–in the 25-plus years I’ve been visiting–offered a tray.  It has always had a sandwich and a plate but never a tray.  But there it was, a recent addition to the carved in stone menu sitting in front of me.

The silver tray with a paper tray nestled inside: classy!

At many BBQ joints that offer a tray, “plate” means BBQ, slaw, hush puppies and fries and “tray” excludes fries.  Trays also tend to offer slightly smaller portions than plates, a nice feature for folks like me who often eat at more than one joint when visiting unchartered barbecue territory.  At Allen’s the regular plate does not include fries (though there is a fries added option), so the difference between the plate and tray appears to be quantity.  As you can see in the picture above, the tray offers plenty of food for a modest appettite, and is a couple of bucks less than a plate.  Next time I visit I’ll bring my postal scale and do a more scientific comparison between the two options…