It’s more than likely that if someone owns a barbecue grill, a sauce-stained copy of one of Steven Raichlen’s best-selling books is close at hand.
From his encyclopedic Barbecue Bible to his recently released Project Smoke, Raichlen’s 30 books include just about every tip, trick, and recipe you’d ever need to become a pit master. (Undaunted, he’s actually writing a new treatise now.)
Given the wealth of knowledge he’s given us, like a heaping portion of pulled pork served on a paper plate at a summertime family barbecue, there is no excuse for your brisket to be tough or your chicken to be dry. And if you’re looking to improve your signature sauce, Raichlen’s got just the thing to take it to the next level.
But when this barbecue hall of famer isn’t behind the grill or shooting episodes of his PBS show Primal Smoke, he’s out (you guessed it) eating barbecue.
I got him to share with us his current six favorite BBQ joints around the country and what he likes to order at each. Let’s just say you might want to skip breakfast.
Hometown Bar-B-Que in Red Hook, Brooklyn
“Professional bodyguard turned pit master Billy Durney has perfect-pitch technique when it comes to smoking brisket, pork shoulder, and beef ribs so large you need both hands to lift them. I love how he reimagines Vietnamese, Thai, and Jamaican flavors in traditional American barbecue.”
What I Order: “Jamaican jerk baby back ribs, lamb belly banh mi, h.t.b.c sandwich (pastrami bacon and smoked turkey). I’m not kidding—wow!”
“It takes audacity to open a Kansas City-style barbecue joint in the heart of Dallas, and downright chutzpah to serve osso buco and cauliflower ‘steak’ (both wood fired) alongside textbook brisket and ribs. Pit master Matt Dallman and classically trained chef Scott Gottlich fuse French cuisine with traditional barbecue in a modern roadhouse setting.”
What I Order: “House-made sausage, Kansas City—style ribs, smoked pork chops with pickled plums, BBQ Texas quail.”
Two Bros. BBQ Market, San Antonio, Texas
“Jason Dady is another refugee from the white-tablecloth world of fine dining, but he displays total mastery of the behemoth oak-burning pits. Yeah, that hint of fruity sweetness on the baby back ribs is a slather of cherry syrup.”
What I Order: “Everything. From bacon-wrapped poppers to smoky wings to classic Texas brisket.”
Heirloom Market BBQ, Atlanta, Georgia
“Cody Taylor provides the Texas barbecue smarts, while his wife, Jiyeon Lee, brings the fire and spice from her native Korea. Together they serve smoke-blasted barbecue that’s long on flavor and short on pretense at this funky convenience store turned Georgia barbecue joint.”
What I Order: “Spicy Korean pork (marinated in gochujang for 48 hours), pulled pork, pulled chicken, smoked kielbasa.”
Franklin Barbecue, Austin, Texas
“I know, it’s almost impossible to get in, but there’s a reason that people queue up for 3½ hours to eat here (doesn’t anybody in Austin work?). Pit master, author, and fellow PBS TV host Aaron Franklin recently won a James Beard Award for Best Restaurant in the South. He’s really that good.”
What I Order: “Brisket. Brisket. (Did I mention brisket?) Everything else is merely excellent.”
“The secret of barbecue success? Start by cooking out of the back of a station wagon. That’s what Justin and Diane Fourton did, and their brick-and-mortar store has played to line-down-the-block crowds since they opened in newly trendy Deep Ellum [neighborhood]. Follow the smoke and arrive early: when they run out, they run out.”
What to Order: “Monster beef ribs, handmade sausage, and, of course, the ‘Pitmaster’: brisket, pulled pork and sausage topped with barbecue sauce, slaw, and fresh jalapeños.”