February 15, 2017
Dubliners clearly have a bit of a thing for food porny BBQ restaurants, just look at the success of places like Pitt Bros, My Meat Wagon, Bison and Smokin’ Bones. Ireland’s capital is fast becoming a hotspot for meat lovers.
But the real carnivore’s paradise, the place that inspired all of our local joints, is America’s Deep South.
The home of BBQ, the supreme craftsmanship that you’ll find in the preparation of meat here is staggering.
How exactly does smoking meat work, you ask? Different woods are burnt to evoke different flavours, like hickory, mesquite, pear, apricot, grapevine, pecan, cherry, birch, soaked and unsoaked.
So there’s a little bit more involved than you might have thought.
From the art of smoking, low and slow cooking and fire grilling to the intensely competitive BBQ competitions, the whole food culture of the region is fascinating.
Over the next few weeks, we’ll be bringing you on a tour of some of the most famous states and towns in the Deep South, in partnership with the recently launched Fire & Smoke. These guys were inspired by the flavours and sense of adventure of the Southern states and hopefully you will be too!
We’ll be looking at everything from signature dishes and quirky festivals to restaurant recommendations and rich history for each location – here’s what you can expect…
Kansas was one of the first states to adopt BBQ, and where its strongest roots can be found.
Kansas City is bursting with sumptuous restaurants – Smokehouse Bar-B-Que, Q39, and Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Cue to name but a few – where you’ll find the very best in BBQ techiques, offering intense flavours through traditional methods of low ‘n’ slow cooking, wood smoking, fire-grilling, and marinading.
While the craft is finely honed by pit masters and BBQ expert these days, these techniques originated in the rough ‘n’ ready fire pits of the Deep South’s early days.
Kansas City-style BBQ sauce is one of the most famous and classic BBQ sauces, traditionally quite sweet with tangy notes.
While you’re in Kansas City, you can head over to Missouri quite easily, as the metropolis straddles both states.
Everywhere has their own speciality and these parts are perhaps best known for their barbecued pork shoulders or spare ribs slathered in a sweet tomato sauce that slow-grilling to perfection.
While not exactly the Deep South, Missouri typically is categorised as both a Midwestern and a southern state. The culinary influences come from the huge number of settlers who originated down south – which is why there’s a region known as Little Dixie here.
From St Louis to Kansas City, you’ll find a whack of spice to the meat cooking in this area.
Sausage aficionados will tell you that Louisiana is place to get your fill of the stuff, being world-famous for boudin and andouille sausage.
Upon entering, be warned – this is Cajun Country, so prepare for spiciness. If that’s your bag, you’ll be wanting to try the local favourite chicken creole, which is served in a sauce hot enough to blow your socks off.
Louisiana doesn’t have a distinct BBQ style, so the state is a melting pot of all processes and styles. They’re also responsible for the first bottled hot sauces so we have a lot to thank them for!
Of course, if you’re in Louisiana you’ll be heading to the birthplace of jazz: New Orleans. So you’ve got cool music and succulent meat, what more could you ask for?
4. South Carolina
South Carolina is brimming with wonderful sights – the Fort Sumter National Monument, Brookgreen Gardens, Hunting Island State Park – but the best way to while away a stay here is on one of the many culinary tours they have on offer.
With Charleston Culinary Tours, for example, you’ll get a chance to sample all the dishes that have been perfected in the Deep South: pulled pork, slow cooked beef brisket, grits, buttermilk chicken, gumbo, fried green tomatoes, numerous BBQ sauces and basically any part of a hog slow cooked, smoked and fire-grilled.
Mustard sauce is distinct to South Carolina and is made predominantly from yellow mustard, vinegar, honey, sugar and spices.
Come to worship at the altar of musical history, but stay for the red hot chicken, rubbed in cayenne paste and fried.
Every music heads must do a pilgrimage to this particular state at least once in their life, to see Elvis’ Graceland and tread on the pavement of Nashville where so many stars were born.
But foodies need Tennessee on their radars too, where honey BBQ ribs, black bean dip, and sweet hot glazed shrimp can be found on every street corner.
For some, this is about as close to Heaven as you’ll find on Earth.
Fried chicken isn’t Kentucky’s only contribution to world of indulgent dining, it’s also well-known for taking meats like pork or mutton and smoking ’em in a hickory pit for up to a full day to create a truly intense flavour.
It’s places like this where you’ll see how far real BBQ is from the standard Irish version – where we stick on a few burgers and drink beers in the back garden – and you can see firsthand that it can be a highly skilled, competitive and technical craft.
Kentucky celebrates this proud tradition by hosting numerous quirky BBQ competitions, like such Blues, BBQ, and Bikes, and now Ireland wants to get in on the action. This year’s Annual World BBQ Association Championships in none other than Limerick City on October 14 and 15 – so you’ll be able to discover the myriad flavours of the Deep South right on your doorstep.
It’s also famous for its bourbon, which is used both for cooking and for drinking!