Come on Baby, Airlight My Fire

Gone are the days when lighting a match was about as advanced a fire starting technology available.  (Even a match beats the pants off relying on this guy to stoke your flames.)  The array of high tech fire starting tools available to today’s outdoor cook is ever-growing, and one of the latest products I’ve learned about is the Bison Airlighter.*

Grill lighting (2)The Airlighter is a USB-rechargeable, handheld butane torch with a fan setting designed to quickly light charcoal, firewood, or whatever else you want to blast with high intensity flames (hopefully not your fingers, as the bright blue flame burns hot enough that it’s tough to see in daylight hours, so pay attention!).

Every time I click on my Airlighter, Smokey the Bear prays to whatever forest god he believes in that I don’t point it toward an innocent tree.  The Airlighter is to a match what a cruise missile is to a BB gun.  In other words, this lighter works… and fast. I’ve had good luck using it directly on coals to get them ready for my grill and on campfire wood–I never was a boy scout, so having an edge in this latter category helps balance out my kindling-design ineptitude.

But don’t take my word for the Airlighter’s potential, take the word of the promotional email that preceded my order: “If you¹re still striking matches or flicking a Bic to light a fire, it¹s time to leave the caveman days behind. The new Bison Airlighter combines a high velocity, 4-inch flame with a jet-air-stream to ignite charcoal and wood instantly. Using the Bison Airlighter you can be barbecuing for guests over hot coals within five minutes without ever having to resort to lighter fluid or gasoline.”  Indeed.

Hyperbole aside, it’s hard to argue with the Airlighter’s results. My only complaint is that the first review model I received had a problem with the butane intake line that prevented me from filling its fuel tank without spilling butane; it needed replacement.  This issue may well have been a fluke, it’s hard to know.  The company was responsive to my request for a replacement model, and does offer a one-year warranty.  Other than that problem, the real question you’ll need to ask yourself is whether a high powered butane lighter is worth the $100 it costs, as compared to similar lower cost torches, or compared to a 99 cent lighter and a $15 charcoal chimney.  I think backyard grill gadgets can be fun, so it’s really a question of whether one wants to put $100 towards a lighter or toward something else equally unnecessary but kind of awesome.  Happy choosing!

*Full disclosure: the Bison company sent me a free lighter to test, though per my usual policy I did not promise to review it and told them in advance that I’d be honest if I did.

The Great NC BBQ Map

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHot off the presses is the locally grown, soon-to-be nationally known Great NC BBQ Map. I ordered my copy today and look forward to it soon taking its rightful place in my car’s glove box. Frankly, if this map had existed a few year’s ago, I would have never bothered with this website, as the website’s origin traces back to a similar idea that good ol’ Porky LeSwine was too lazy and untalented to execute!

I should add that it’s particularly good to see entrepreneurs from NC take on the barbecue map challenge, given our mustard- and hash-loving neighbors to the south put the weight of their state government behind such mapping.

With over 400 restaurants, it seems the Great NC BBQ Map map will cover most of the state’s outstanding barbecue places and a whole lot of other ones too.  Porky LeSwine will probably make a lot of margin notes on his map to keep from getting tempted to detour toward too many generic gassers.

For more details about the Great NC BBQ Map or to order online, visit

Lexington Barbecue Feature

Nice article on Lexington’s barbecue culture at

R.I.P. Hillsborough Hog(g) Day

Whether you spell it with one g or two, the Hillsborough Hog(g) Day festival has come to an end after 31 years. Although it was a nice event, the cancellation makes sense to me–Orange County Chamber of Commerce cited an interest in focusing their limited capacity on economic development rather than festival coordination.  Learn more in the Chapel Hill News.

Maybe a volunteer organizing committee (not it!) will try and bring the festival back to life.  Or maybe a professional in the event business will come up with a proposal to revive the event.  Until then, thanks for the Hog Day memories. Honestly, some of my most enduring memories are of oppressive heat and mid-rate Elvis impersonations, yet I still had fun every time I attended and surely tens of thousands of others did too. R.I.P.

Pork for a Cause

Come join us for NC barbecue at Toro Dreams of Billy!  Toro Dreams of Billy: 
Billy Cotter thinks of barbecue and puts his thoughts onto the plateBenefiting Meals on Wheels of DurhamMonday, January 13th
at The Cookery

2 seatings: 6:00pm and 8:30pm
Tickets are $35
Please bring non-perishable food donations along with your ticket
(see below for details)!

If you are a vegetarian, you may want to attend a future event!
Since this is a pork-focused menu, vegetarian options will unfortunately not be available.

North Carolina barbecue at it’s finest!

Toast’s very own Billy Cotter will be cooking up some of his Southern favorites, but with a modern twist!  This meal will be served family style, to ensure you get to know your neighbors as you have your very own pig pickin’ at the table.  Other menu items include pimento cheese and homemade flatbreads, Billy’s take on NC clam chowder, winter greens salad with ham hock vinaigrette, and a special made in house headcheese.

Ticket sales include a can of PBR upon entry. Hand crafted cocktails, wine and craft beers will be available for purchase at The Cookery’s bar. All bar proceeds will also be donated to Meals on Wheels of Durham.


Purchase tickets here

Thanksgiving Day at The Pit

In case you want to dine out for T Day…

Porky’s Pulpit: Roasting Raleigh

Every once in a while your’s truly, the Honorable Porky LeSwine, receives an email that restores his faith in ‘cue-manity.  A few days ago I read just such an email.

The message had the subject line, “Raleigh BBQ Scene,” and with a title like that I figured it would be nonsense–Raleigh has no real BBQ to speak of, and what’s a barbecue scene anyway?!   Raleigh is a barbecue desert (one “s”, not to be confused with banana pudding) and I think it’s an embarrassment to have a dearth of BBQ in our state capital.  Well, as it turns out the email’s author agrees with me:

I am a native North Carolinian (a Raleighite) who has been out west for 20+ years and I am here in Raleigh trying to figure out how to move back here to God’s country. I learned to make my own BBQ many years ago because I couldn’t get it any other way. 

Question: Where can I go in Raleigh to get a good plate of authentic (wood smoked, not oven roasted) pork barbecue? Coopers – nope. Carolina BBQ – nope. How many others are using gas or electric ovens and no wood? The Pit cooks with wood, but I just don’t go along with having to make a reservation for a table to get a good plate of true North Carolina barbecue in North Carolina’s capital city. Its just not right. [Editor’s note: reservations or not, I’ve been underwhelmed by The Pit’s barbecue but kudos to them for cooking it over wood and it’s hard to argue with their success as a business.]

Sorry for my ranting. I just can’t believe the BBQ heresy that is going on here. God bless Coopers for being around for 75 years, but they don’t sell BBQ. They sell roasted pork. Are there others that feel like I do?

Heck yeah, there are others that feel like you do.  Not many of us, perhaps, but we exist and we applaud you for speaking truth to propane-power.  Unfortunately, Raleigh is the tip of the iceberg. The lack of real barbecue plagues the state and I can imagine a future that has no true North Carolina barbecue left.

While we wait for the private sector to come to its senses, can’t the state legislators in Raleigh turn their attention to this problem through some sort of hickory smoke stimulus program?  With or without leadership from the legislators wasting space on Jones Street, some of us traditionalists are as mad as hell and we’re not going to take it anymore.

If you care about traditional barbecue, I encourage you to like the page at, where a Campaign for Real Barbecue will soon begin.  Until then, keep your faith in the holy smoke.

R.I.P. Sonny Conrad

A legend of BBQ has passed away…

Happy 40th to Stamey’s of Tyro

Friday marks the 40th anniversary of Stamey’s Barbecue of Tyro, just outside of Lexington.  If you’re in the area, drop by for the celebration. Read more in The Dispatch at

Ed Mitchell Durham-Bound

This news came out months ago, but became official this week: