No regions, no rules, lots of innovation
New generation of pitmasters is breaking all the rules of barbecuing
One weekend last October, some of the America’s top young pitmasters gathered on a pig farm just outside Durham, North Carolina, to participate in an event called the N.C. Barbecue Revival.
On undulating farmland, the cooks, veiled in wood smoke, tended their creations while Duroc and Berkshire pigs trundled freely in the surrounding woods. Without setting out to, these pitmasters — they’re all in their thirties and opened their places in just the past few years — were making a statement: that the next generation of barbecue has arrived.
Tyson Ho of Brooklyn’s Arrogant Swine slow smoked a lamb, which he would season with fermented red chiles, fennel and Sichuan peppercorns. John Lewis of Lewis Barbecue in Charleston, South Carolina, prepared gargantuan beef short ribs. Bryan Furman of B’s Cracklin’ Barbeque in Atlanta and Savannah, Georgia, kept a watchful eye on several glistening beef briskets. In the past, such contributions would be shunned as invasive species in pork country.
Meanwhile, Sam Jones, the scion of a prominent North Carolina barbecue family, and Wyatt Dickson, who helped organize the event, supervised the cooking of a trench-cooked whole hog. The hog was a reminder of where barbecue had come from, while the other offerings showed where it was going.
“There are less and less rules,” said Elliott Moss, a co-owner and pitmaster at the retro-modern Buxton Hall BBQ in Asheville, North Carolina.
It’s hard to imagine an older generation of pitmasters throwing around the word “umami.” But the Revival, so-named to reclaim a cuisine once seen as dying in the state, was intended to showcase the upand-comers, new lingo and all. (Full disclosure: I moderated a panel at the event.)
As recently as 10 years ago, pitmasters used commodity pork and select (the lowest) grade for beef. The next-gen pitmasters gravitate toward choice and even prime grades for beef and pasture-raised heritage hogs for pork. Their approach is marked by more creative side dishes, a return to all-wood smoking, ethnic influences, local sourcing, cheffy experimentation and pan-regionalism. Even smoked tofu is popping up on menus.
Cherry-Glazed Baby Back Ribs
In San Antonio, Texas, at Two Bros. BBQ, pitmaster Laura Loomis serves baby back ribs in a cherry glaze; this recipe makes a cross between a sauce and a glaze that can be served at the table. You’ll need 1 cup of apple, pecan, oak or cherry wood chips or 6 fist-size chunks; replenish coals as necessary.
MAKE AHEAD: You’ll probably have spice rub left over. It keeps well in a sealed container in the pantry for up to a month.
From Smoke Signals columnist Jim Shahin.
MAKES 2 TO 4 SERVINGS
For the rub and ribs
3 tablespoons sweet paprika
2 tbsp kosher salt
1 tbsp granulated garlic (garlic powder)
1 tbsp granulated onion
1 tbsp ground ancho pepper
1 tbsp light brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp freshly ground white pepper
1 rack (about 2½ pounds) baby back ribs For the glaze
1 cup cherry preserves
6 ounces tart cherry juice
½ tsp finely grated lemon zest and
2 tbsp juice (from 1 lemon)
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
½ tsp ground cinnamon
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 chipotle pepper in adobo (from a can), diced
½ tsp kosher salt
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
For the rub and meat: Whisk together the paprika, salt, granulated garlic and onion, ancho chili pepper, light brown sugar, and the cayenne, black and white black peppers in a bowl, until lump-free. The yield is about 2/3 cup.
For the glaze: Combine the cherry preserves, cherry juice, lemon zest and juice, Worcestershire sauce, cinnamon, butter, diced chipotle, salt and pepper in a large pan over medium heat, stirring until well incorporated. Once the mixture begins to bubble at the edges, reduce the heat to low and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, to form a slightly thickened sauce.
Transfer to a food processor; purée until smooth. Pour into a bowl for use later to baste the ribs. The yield is about 2 cups.
Place the ribs on a rimmed baking sheet, meat side down. You’ll see a thin membrane on the bone side; some say this prevents flavour from penetrating the meat and is papery to chew on. But pulling it off can be a little tricky, and a lot of ribs are served with the membrane still on. The choice is yours. If you opt to remove it, slide a small, sharp knife beneath the membrane to cut it enough so that you can grab it with your hands and pull it off. The best place to insert the knife is in the midsection, so that you can tear off one side and then the other.
Coat both sides of the ribs with the rub, working it into the meat. (You may have some rub left over.)
Prepare the grill for indirect heat. If using a gas grill, turn the heat to high. Drain the chips and put them in a smoker box or foil packet poked with a few fork holes to release the smoke; set it between the grate and the briquettes, close to the flame. When you see smoke, reduce the heat to medium (375 to 400 F). Turn off the burners on one side.
If using a charcoal grill, light the charcoal or briquettes; when the briquettes are ready, distribute them on one side of the grill. For a medium fire, you should be able to hold your hand six inches above the coals for six or seven seconds. Drain the chips and scatter them over the coals. Have ready a spray water bottle for taming any flames.
Set the rack of ribs meat side down directly over the coals; grill for five minutes, then turn them over (bone side down) and repeat.
Move the ribs to the cool side of the grill, bone side down. Close the lid. Smoke the meat until it is browned and tender, 3 to 3½ hours.
In the final half-hour, baste the meat with the cherry glaze at least three times, or every seven to 10 minutes.
Use tongs to transfer the ribs to a cutting board; let them rest for about 10 minutes before cutting them apart between the bones.
Pile onto a platter. Serve warm, drizzled with more of the glaze.
Per serving (based on 4, using half the rub and glaze): 850 calories, 55 grams protein, 36 g carbohydrates, 53 g fat, 20 g saturated fat, 205 milligrams cholesterol, 1,170 mg sodium, 2 g dietary fibre, 24 g sugar
Cherry-Glazed Baby Back Ribs.