Photo: Courtesy of Time Inc. Books/Andrea Behrends

“It’s a great documentation of people, places, and food.”

Just in time for National Barbecue Month in May, The South’s Best Butts: Pitmaster Secrets for Southern Barbecue Perfection offers a literary testament to the deep, primal connection between the South and its longstanding tradition of expertly-smoked meats. And here to examine that relationship is cookbook author, chef, and entrepreneur, Matt Moore. The Nashville-based, self-proclaimed Southern Gentleman returns with his third cookbook to highlight the pitmasters who have mastered the slow-smoked, fork-tender pork butt and iconic sauces, as well as the stories behind their love for cooking this modest cut of meat over flames. Serving as somewhat of a tour guide and mentor through the “barbecue belt,” Moore’s long experience manning the pit makes him the perfect person to take us on this tasty journey. So buckle up your seat belts, this read promises to be a very filling ride.

Southern Living: Why did you choose pork butt for this book?

Matt Moore: For me and the band of barbecue brothers, ribs have always been the lead singer. Everybody loves them. But truth be told, they can be kind of finicky and difficult to deal with from time to time. More recently, you’ve seen brisket make a splash on the scene. We’ll call brisket the lead guitarist, trying to steal some of the spotlight. I thought it was kind of important to pay attention to the people behind the front lines. You can call it [pork butt] the drummer or the bass player, keeping everybody in time. It’s kind of the humble and affordable cut that doesn’t get a lot of love, but if cooked properly, can be absolutely delicious. And in my opinion, better than a great rib or piece of brisket.

Southern Living: We noticed the recipes were quite simple. Was simplicity your original goal when curating this collection?

Matt Moore: Simplicity was always my goal. For people who pick up my cookbooks, I want them to be books that are tattered, torn, stained, and well-used. It’s a great documentation of people, places, and food, but at the same time, I want people to find it accessible. Traditionally, cooking and smoking meat takes some equipment and quite a bit of time and effort. We wrote recipes where you could really do everything from start to finish. You don’t have to cook a 20-hour pork butt to be able to enjoy the book.

Southern Living: On this barbecue road trip, why was it important to give wood recommendations and suggestions for side dishes?

Matt Moore: I think anyone who’s interested in a barbecue book is wondering what types of wood are being used to smoke the meat. I felt it was important, for those who have less experience, to walk them through different methods of smoking. You can create great barbecue on a $50 grill, or you can create it on a $10,000 grill. It’s all the result of time and temperature control, rather than a fancy piece of equipment. I wanted to make sure we put everyone on a level playing field.

In terms of side dishes, any Southern table should have side dishes than run the mighty length of the Mississippi. I wanted to round out the book with a lot of accessible sides for you to enjoy your barbecue with.

Southern Living: Why create a road map through the South, as opposed to just including recipes?

Matt Moore: One thing most folks will probably agree upon is that there are 12 states that make up the barbecue belt. In the front of the book, you’ll see the 12 states. I felt that it was important to not just focus on Tennessee or Kentucky and what was close to my home or my knowledge. We wanted to make sure we hit a destination in each state, so we covered the vast majority of the region. Everywhere we went was an actual restaurant, so you would be able to take the journey yourself, whether you get in the car or hop on a plane. Rather than it being recipes from inaccessible home cooks, this was more about including places you could actually visit. You can get great results at home, or you can get even better results by going out and visiting some of the places, creating your own road map. From my standpoint, this is not a book about me or recipes. I’m just one storyteller. 

Southern Living: Were there any new things you learned or things that surprised you when developing this collection?

Matt Moore: We used the pork butt as a funny title and a medium to go out and explore, but there are recipes for brisket, chicken, sausage, and everything else you can find. But what was kind of fun was finding out all the different ways people cooked the pork butt. In fact, it was kind of shocking, realizing the diversity of the cut. And not everyone is serving it on a sandwich—it goes on top of nachos, ramen, collard greens, and tacos.

 Photo: Courtesy of Time Inc. Books/Christopher Testani

Southern Living: Speaking of nachos, what’s the deal with the name behind the Redneck Pork Nachos (pictured above)?

Matt Moore: It comes from Mississippi. When you add some pulled pork, melted cheese, and a little bit of the sweet-and-smoky sauce there, I just think it takes that classic dish to a totally different arena. It’s certainly one of my favorite melanges of traditional Mexican cuisine mixed with a Southern twist.

Southern Living: Finally, beyond delicious recipes, what do you hope readers take away from the book?

Matt Moore: The people and the stories. The food is fantastic and the photography is great, but it’s the stories. It was really important for me to get out and give folks an idea of where barbecue stands today, and where it might be in the future. I came across so many special people from all different walks of life—male and female, different ethnicities. It was really important for me to capture a broad, diverse spectrum of great people who are just working hard every day, cooking for their family to make a living for themselves. I think there’s nothing better than to recognize these people who are carrying on the Southern tradition of cooking barbecue and their hard-earned efforts.

Get ready to fire up that smoker this summer and make this mouthwatering Redneck Porch Nachos dish. It’s one of many top-notch barbecue recipes from Matt Moore’s new cookbook, The South’s Best Butts: Pitmaster Secrets for Southern Barbecue Perfection. Available for purchase here.

Ingredients:

  • 5 cups round tortilla chips
  • 1⁄2 cup baked beans, warmed
  • 10 ounces sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded (about 2 1⁄2 cups)
  • 6 ounces pulled pork
  • 2 tablespoons sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons sliced black olives
  • 1 tablespoon Squealer’s Original BBQ Sauce (original recipe in book)
  • Toppings: dill pickle chips or sliced jalapeño chiles

How to Make:

1. Preheat the broiler with oven rack 6 inches from heat. Arrange half of the chips on a large ovenproof platter. Layer half of the beans, 1 cup of the cheese, remaining chips, remaining beans, and 1 cup of the cheese. Top with the pulled pork and remaining 1⁄2 cup cheese. Broil until the cheese is bubbly and slightly browned, about 5 minutes.

2. Top with the sour cream, black olives, and barbecue sauce. Serve with desired toppings. Serve immediately.

Excerpted from The South’s Best Butts by Matt Moore. Copyright © 2017 Oxmoor House. Reprinted with permission from Time Inc. Books, a division of Time Inc. New York, NY. All rights reserved.