Barbecue: The Culture of Smoke & Fire
Nothing fires up a Southern crowd like barbecue. From a modern-day pitmaster to the ultimate whole hog road trip to a succulent smoked chicken recipe, we salute the meat of the matter with an ode to "Q".
The Pitmaster: Aaron Franklin
In 2009 Aaron Franklin began serving barbecue out of a trailer in East Austin, Texas. In a region already intimate with exalted smoked meats, Aaron's brisket proved so transcendent that folks practically started speaking in tongues. Two years later, Aaron moved into a funky building near the original site, and the lines grew—all the way down the block. Now, the two-hour-plus wait equates to a pilgrimage. His brisket is the silkiest possible expression of carnivorous rapture, but he also excels in velvety pulled pork. Aaron has appeared as a judge on Destination America's BBQ Pitmasters series, will debut his own instructional PBS show early next year, and is writing his first book. But Aaron is no flash-in-the-pan attention hog. Those trailing lines? So worth it. And behind the service counter, Aaron is ceaselessly friendly to famished customers, making it impossible not to like the guy. His mug may be known across the land, yet he still shows up at 2 a.m. to tend the day's fires—just another reason why Aaron is the new face of BBQ. franklinbarbecue.com
The Up-&-Comer: Georgia Barbecue
Consider Georgia the great melting pot of 'cue. It eludes a fixed identity and has emerged as an enthralling nexus of styles. Places like Grand Champion BBQ (gcbbq.net) outside Atlanta and Southern Soul Barbeque (southernsoulbbq.com) on St. Simons Island specialize in finessed versions of several smoked meats: pork shoulder, ribs, and beef brisket. Georgia joints often offer many regional sauces. Swallow at the Hollow (swallowatthehollow.com) in Roswell has three: North Carolina vinegar, South Carolina mustard, and a sweet Kansas City tomato. The state's lack of convention allows it to be an incubator for new 'cue frontiers. At Atlanta's Heirloom Market BBQ (heirloommarketbbq.com), Southerner Cody Taylor and Korean pop star Jiyeon Lee merge backgrounds with dishes like chile-marinated pulled pork with kimchi slaw. Unorthodox? Yes. Delectable? Absolutely.
The Recipe: Smoked Chicken with Fresh Herb Marinade
"Instead of a sauce, [this recipe] features a tasty marinade of fresh herbs and bright lemon juice," writes pitmaster Chris Lilly, in Fire & Smoke. "By cooking the chicken in a pan instead of directly on the grill grate, the meat gets extra protection from drying out."
6 Tbsp. olive oil
¼ cup peanut oil
¼ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh basil
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh oregano
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
4 tsp. dark brown sugar
4 tsp. Worcestershire
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tsp. table salt
½ tsp. black pepper
1 (3- to 3½-lb.) whole chicken, halved
1 cup hickory chips
1. Whisk together first 12 ingredients. Pour mixture into a 1-gal. zip-top plastic freezer bag; add chicken. Seal bag, and turn to coat. Chill chicken 8 to 12 hours.
2. Pile hot coals on 1 side of grill, leaving other side empty. Let grill heat up, covered with grill lid, 10 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 300°. (Go to southernliving.com/bbqchicken for gas grill instructions.)
3. Place chicken, skin-side up, in a 13- × 9-inch disposable aluminum foil pan. Pour marinade over chicken. Sprinkle hickory chips over hot coals. Place pan with chicken on unlit side of grill.
4. Grill, covered with grill lid and maintaining internal temperature at 300°, 2 hours or until a meat thermometer inserted in thickest portion registers 175°. Spoon pan drippings over chicken.