Pitmaster Profiles: Jordan Smith of Bar-B-Q King

Monk: For this Pitmaster Profile, we are staying in Western North Carolina. Jordan Smith is a second-generation pitmaster at Bar-B-Q King in Lincolnton, who we recently re-reviewed. Much like Spencer Purcell, our last profile, Jordan is a new and different voice in North Carolina barbecue, and I hope you enjoy hearing from him.

For more about Bar-B-Q King, check out their websiteInstagram, and Facebook page.

If you know of a pitmaster who we should feature next, let us know!

Courtesy Jordan Smith and BBQ King

How long have you lived in Lincolnton and what’s your family’s history there? 

I’ve lived in Lincolnton my whole life, I was born and raised here.  I only left for college where I played basketball. My dad Keith, has worked at BBQ King for 40 years.  He started working for Steve (owner and founder) when he was 15 years old. Keith quickly became Steve’s right hand man and bought into ownership in the late eighties.  

How did you become a pitmaster? 

I started working on and off at the King at 15 years old. After college I became a full time pitmaster/manager. Barbecue has always been a passion of mine since I was a child and I was excited to dive right into the business after college. I’ve always said barbecue is a labor of love because it is not a quick process. Smoking ‘que the right way takes time but it is well worth it.

What other types of roles do you do for Bar-B-Q King? 

Other roles than pitmaster/manager include social media manager and catering manager. I do a little bit of everything around here and I love it!

Courtesy Jordan Smith and BBQ King

What is your favorite meat to smoke? What type of wood do you prefer?

My favorite meat to smoke is pork shoulder over hickory wood coals. We’ve smoked over hickory wood for almost fifty years and have always used a pork shoulder for the restaurant. Although for caterings we have smoked whole hog and briskets and I thoroughly enjoy those meats as well.

What are your barbecue influences?

My barbecue influences are my Dad (Keith Smith) and Steve Abernethy.  They have taught me everything I know about barbecue. I’ve read plenty of books about barbecue but nothing compares to someone actually showing you the process from start to finish.

What is your favorite barbecue joint or style?

BBQ King is obviously my favorite joint and I love Lexington style barbecue. Pork shoulders with a tangy sauce is my go to. I have an appreciation for all styles of barbecue though and have tremendous amounts of respect for old school joints that have been in business for many years. And I also appreciate the new school barbecue joints smoking barbecue the old school way!

What is your earliest memory of barbecue?

When I was around 5 years old I can remember riding up to BBQ King in the wee hours of the morning to “help” my dad smoke barbecue, and I’ve been in love ever since. There is nothing better than that primal feeling of standing in front of a fire and smoking meat. Many employees/friends that I met at BBQ King as a child still work here to this day.  Employees like Kelly Lineberger and Charlie Reep, who have been here for many years, have played a pivotal role in my life and the restaurants success.

Courtesy Jordan Smith and BBQ King

What is the best thing about barbecue in western North Carolina?

Western NC BBQ has many great qualities but my personal favorites are the meat, sauce, and wood.  The meat is usually pork shoulder or butts. The sauce has just enough vinegar with a hint of ketchup.  And the wood is usually hickory or oak. These techniques are tried and true in this part of the state and I’m thankful to be a part of it.

What is a weakness or opportunity of barbecue in western North Carolina?

Weaknesses of western NC BBQ are restaurants that don’t smoke BBQ over wood.  Oven baked pork is not barbecue. Another weakness is some restaurants use too much ketchup in the sauce and not enough vinegar.  Barbecue smoked over live wood coals and a well-balanced sauce is a recipe for true success!

Courtesy Jordan Smith and BBQ King

Anything else you’d like everyone to know about you or Bar-B-Q King?

My younger brother, Jared, is also a pitmaster/manager and has a passion for BBQ just like me. My fiancée, Stephanie, works at BBQ King as well. Stephanie is great with customers and she is a staple up front at the counter. Her parents (Steve and Becky Abernethy) are the founders of BBQ King. My mother, Kelly Smith, does the payroll. Stephanie’s mother (my future mother-in-law), Becky, helps decorate the restaurant for different seasons. BBQ King is family run from all angles. It is a blessing being able to work with family and share the workload. We are excited to celebrate 50 years in September 2021!

Thanks again to Jordan for his time, and if you ever find yourself in the Lincolnton area stop by BBQ King and say hi.

If you know of a pitmaster who we should feature next, let us know!

Monk and Jordan, December 2019

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s