Guest Post: The Five Favorite Raleigh Barbecue Joints of Christopher Harold Wells of The Neverlutionaries

Monk: In a bit of a break from our regularly scheduled programming, we have a guest post from lead singer Christopher Harold Wells of the San Francisco “psychadelic shoegaze rock band” The Neverlutionaries. Christopher has recently gotten into barbecue but you can tell he definitely has a passion for it – in both eating it as well as smoking it himself. He’s been spending his quarantine time in Raleigh (where he grew up), and reached out to us wanting to share his thoughts.

As you may be aware, Raleigh is about to have a barbecue renaissance, so Christopher will have a lot more places to try out very soon, including the already opened Prime BBQ in Knightdale and Sam Jones BBQ downtown as well as soon-to-be opened joints like Lawrence Barbecue, Wyatt’s Barbecue, Ed Mitchell’s The Preserve, and Longleaf Swine. I’ll be curious what if his list changes later this year, particularly the two non-NC chain restaurants on his list. I definitely hope he checks them out and broadens his horizons when it comes to NC barbecue restaurants.

Photo courtesy of The Neverlutionaries / Michael Phillips

The band’s self-titled debut album was released on 2/12. Check out their lead single “Ariana” below and you can purchase it from their label Polychromatic Records or stream it on Spotify.

Back to barbecue. Take it away, Christopher…

Christopher: I’ve always been a HUGE fan of BBQ. When I was able to travel/tour, one of my favorite things to do was to check out the different BBQ spots in the places I would visit. I loved the regional variations of it. St. Louis has its mustard vibe (Editor’s Note: Hmm….), Nashville has its twangy tomato vibe, and NC has the vinegar-based tomato thang going which is my favorite of them all. 

After I finished freaking out and got my head together after Corona reared its ugly head, I started experimenting with smoking meats with different kinds of woods etc. as a way to relax. It reminds me of my music creation process. 

You must begin with quality basic ingredients, then add seasonings to the point where they are just right and of course timing is of the essence in both. The most important ingredient is love. You can tell by the taste if someone loves what they are doing. We all have had an instance where you get your favorite meal somewhere and it tastes different depending on who is preparing it. If the person cooking loves what they do it will be awesome. On the other hand, if the preparer isn’t feeling it (his cooking mission) you can taste that as well. It’s about the passion of cooking and BBQ that makes us want to get better each time and to experience the reward we get when someone takes a bite of your ‘cue, they smile and possibly get goosebumps. Food and music both do that for me…

Now, to my top 5 barbecue spots in Raleigh:

5. Dickey’s Barbecue (Raleigh, NC)

I discovered Dickey’s by accident though I’d seen their catering truck at many events that I attended. Now I get it. Dickeys’ NC style pulled pork is in my top faves for sure. They smoke everything with hickory wood, have great Brunswick Stew and they also feature next level stuffed potatoes and when I say stuffed, I mean stuffed! Loaded with BBQ or literally any way you want them. I never had pulled pork on a potato before and now I am a fan and will continue doing so. They also have classic sides and desserts to round out your meal to perfection! 6552 Glenwood Ave, Raleigh, NC 27612

4. Ole Time Barbecue (Raleigh, NC)

This cool little spot on the edge of Downtown Raleigh is a NC staple and has been feeding nearby North Carolina State University students and locals for close to 25 years and they are still going strong. Simplicity is the first word that comes to mind, actually, I digress, delicious is a better word to describe this old school spot that has consistently tasty BBQ. OTB also features the classic Southern offering of a “meat and three” vegetable plate fairly priced and seriously filling. They have superb fried chicken as well and yummy slaw which we know can be a BBQ Pork’s sandwiched best friend. They also have sandwiches, chicken pastry and a rocking Brunswick Stew. And did I say affordable? You get your money’s worth here for sure! 6309 Hillsborough St #1148, Raleigh, NC 27606 oletimebarbecue.com

(Editor’s Note: This was a favorite of mine and friend of the blog Boomsauce while at NC State in the early 2000’s)

3. City Barbecue and Catering (North Raleigh, NC)

North Raleigh has a BBQ spot that is worth the drive called “City Barbecue” that has the best brisket I have ever eaten. I have recently started trying to smoke brisket and pork shoulder and I’m getting better but still have a long way to go. What they do at the award-winning City Barbecue is damn near magical. Featuring on-site smokers and hickory wood, the brisket almost disintegrates upon contact. It’s just that tender! And the flavor is outstanding. As any brisket lover knows, the secret is in the bark and they dialed in their seasonings like a champ on this one! 9424 Falls of Neuse Rd #108, Raleigh, NC 27615

2. The Pit Authentic Barbecue (Raleigh and Durham, NC)

You may want to make a reservation for this super popular Downtown Raleigh and Durham eatery! Their celebrated cuisine has been featured on Good Morning America, The Morning Show on CBS and even heralded food publication, Bon Appetit. Hey, they even beat Bobby Flay in a rib challenge.. The Pit not only features Pit-smoked free-range whole hog pork to make their classic North Carolina BBQ but they also have authentic Texas-style brisket and other amazing offerings. They proudly feature North Carolina raised pork. Their entire menu is great! I’ve never had anything bad there, and I’m a bit finicky! 328 W Davie St, Raleigh, NC 27601 thepit-raleigh.com

1. Clyde Cooper’s BBQ (Raleigh, NC)

Clyde Cooper’s in downtown Raleigh has been open ever since 1938 and believe me, there is definitely a reason that they have been open for 82 years! A no-frills casual eating spot with Pig memorabilia donning their walls, they have it nailed with their beef brisket, ribs, pulled, coarse and chopped North Carolina style BBQ pork. They proudly use their own signature vinegar based sauce, and cook with wood or a combination of wood and gas which helps give the exquisite smoke rings that make it super tender and a flavor that will have you smiling after your first bite! 327 S Wilmington St, Raleigh, NC 27601 clydecoopersbbq.com/

Thanks to Christopher for his time and be sure to check out The Neverlutionaries’ new album.

Photo courtesy of The Neverlutionaries / Michael Phillips

Guest Post: “For The Love Of Smoke: Mastering Your Offset Smoker”

Monk: Happy National Barbecue Month! This week, we are switching things up a bit and have a guest post from Darren Weyland who blogs at BBQ Host where he shares “all of his tips, tricks, and best secrets for creating the best barbecue you – or any of your friends and neighbors – have ever had.”

If you are interested in contributing a guest blog post, email us at barbecuebros@gmail.com.

For The Love Of Smoke: Mastering Your Offset Smoker

Image courtesy of BBQHost.com

Offset smokers–also known as “horizontal smokers” or the more esoteric “stick burners”–are an essential addition to any barbecue lover’s grilling lineup. Don’t be put off by their intimidating appearance. It’s actually very easy to use an offset smoker once you get the hang of it, and the flavor it imparts (especially when it comes to favorites like slow-cooked pulled pork) is second to none.

Although there’s a definite trick to the technique, the rewards are well worth the effort. Once you’ve taken that first succulent bite, you’re sure to be hooked. To that end, we’ve listed several ways to help you make the most of your offset smoker purchase.

How They Work

You’ve probably seen an offset smoker before, even if you didn’t know what you were looking at. The units resemble large barrel-shaped grills, with a smaller compartment located off to one side. Sometimes, this attachment is located to the rear of the smoker instead. The food is placed in the larger compartment, while the fire is stoked in the smaller attachment. The heat and smoke from the fire feed into the cooking chamber, infusing the food with flavor.

How To Build The Perfect Fire

1. Don’t be tempted to start with wood. This will take too long and coat your food with a layer of unappetizing ash. You’ll get much better and faster results if you start your fire with regular charcoal, adding wood once you have a good blaze going.

2. Use a chimney starter to light the coals. If you prefer, you can substitute the lighter fluid method, but we don’t recommend this. Lighter fluid can upset the delicate flavor balance, which is the main reason you’re using an offset smoker in the first place.

3. Empty the lit coals into the fire box, as close to the cooking chamber as possible.

4. Gather your wood, using logs that are about 4 inches in diameter and 6 inches long. Using pieces of a uniform shape and size will help you regulate the temperature with a higher degree of accuracy.

5. Add a few pieces of wood to the fire box, without putting them directly on top of the coals. This will remove any excess moisture, giving you a more efficient fire.

6. When the logs have dried, place them atop the coals. Keep drying and adding new logs as needed to keep the wood flavor flowing into the main chamber.

7. Position the vents and chimney cap so that they’re open by about a third, and no more than half.

8. Check your temperature probe regularly until your fire has reached the desired temperature. If you notice frequent fluctuations, adjust the vents slightly, or add more logs as needed.

Other Tips

– Keep an eye on the weather forecast. Unlike gas grills, which can be used in all types of weather, offset smokers are greatly affected by ambient temperatures. This can adversely affect your cooking experience. Don’t fire up the smoker if the weather is particularly cold or windy.

– Start with a couple of inexpensive cuts of meat, prepared just for you and your immediate family. Once you’ve gotten a feel for how this particular smoker works, you can graduate to more complex cooking applications.

– Position a rack above the area where your fire will be hottest. Fill a disposable aluminum tray with water and place it on the rack. In addition to regulating the fire’s temperature, this will add flavor and moisture to your meat.

– Keep an eye on the smoke that pours out of the chimney once the food has been added. If you see a great deal of white smoke coming out, it’s probably because your logs weren’t sufficiently dry when you added them to the fire. If this isn’t the case, then the firebox might not be operating efficiently. Check the manual and examine the unit before you attempt to start another fire.

– Don’t add any food until your cooker has reached the desired temperature. This can add a layer of creosote to your finished product, which is both unattractive and unpleasantly flavored. Remember that an offset smoker gives off a great deal of smoke before the fire reaches its peak–far more than you might be used to from a traditional charcoal smoker.

– Keep the lids closed during cooking. Open them only to add wood to the firebox, to check the temperature, and to adjust the ingredients for even cooking (see our next tip below). For low and slow cooking applications, you won’t need to check the temperature that often anyway.

– When cooking meat, be sure to rotate it at least once to ensure even cooking. This is especially vital when it comes to larger cuts like pork butt and brisket.

There’s no question that offset smokers require more skill and attention than pellet grills or regular charcoal smokers. Fortunately, they also give you more control over the process–and therefore, over the flavor of the food. As long as you’ve followed our advice and paid attention to the quirks and demands of the unit, your offset smoker can yield consistently delicious results.

Thanks again to Darren from BBQ Host. If you are interested in contributing a guest blog post, email us at barbecuebros@gmail.com.