Watch the Charleston, South Carolina, pitmaster at work. 

Pitmaster John Lewis made his way from Charleston, South Carolina, to Southern Living’s headquarters to show us the secret to his delicious BBQ. Lewis brought his well-known Texas BBQ to Charleston, South Carolina, and opened Lewis Barbecue. He’s known for his unwavering and dedicated barbecue technique, along with his hand-crafted BBQ rig. Lewis believes that the authenticity and innovative craft of the cooker is the key ingredient in making his one-of-a-kind BBQ. He’s known for his smoked spareribs, oxtail, and beef brisket.

Lewis brought his off-set, 500-gallon road pit to the lot to smoke his famous ribs and oxtail. Oxtail is similar to brisket in taste but cooks in half the time because it has bones running through the meat that garner and generate heat. If you’re new to oxtail, a great indicator to tell when it’s done and ready to eat is from the shade of the bones. Darkened bones mean it’s time to eat, where lightened bones usually mean more cooking time is needed. Another fool-proof indicator is checking the slab of meat to see if it’s tender or firm. Lewis dunks the meat in secret sauce before throwing it on the pit. His attention to detail is evident throughout his smoking process. He exclusively uses dry heat, which allows his sauce to fully immerse within the meat, while also cooking with Charleston’s native tree, oak. Lewis particularly likes oak wood for its mild flavor that seemingly complements his incredibly savory BBQ. We can’t reveal the entirety of the secret sauce, but it does include tomato, sugar, and a heaping helping of hatch red chile, which pays a true ode to Lewis’ homegrown roots. Hints of hatch red chile can be found in all of his BBQ.

After smoking the BBQ in Southern Living’s lot for about 5 hours, Lewis pulled the oxtail, ribs and, sausage off the grill and laid them on top of a bed of fresh dried beans. These beans are never more than a year old, extremely tender, and have a pinto bean flavor. He drizzled a sauce of hatch red chile, garlic, and salt over the meat. The final touch is a bit of Pico de Gallo and Jack cheese that are sprinkled and torched on top. Each ingredient pays tribute to his Texas roots and his South Carolina home. The smoked meat is so tender, it falls right off the bones and the hints of hatch red chili pack some major heat in this BBQ. The verdict is clear, if you’re in Charleston, Lewis Barbecue is a must-visit BBQ joint that fuses Texas’ legendary barbecue with South Carolina flavors to create an award-worthy dish.

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