Barbecue Bros Book Club: “Southern Living Ultimate Book of BBQ” by The Editors of Southern Living and Christopher Prieto

Not that we’re anywhere close to being qualified enough to evaluate books but more so as a public service announcement we will periodically discuss barbecue and barbecue-related books.

The first time I personally became aware of Christopher Prieto was when this book came out by the editor of Southern Living magazine “with Pitmaster Christopher Prieto.” Who was he, and how did he get this spotlight in a barbecue book from a national publication seemingly out of nowhere (at least to me)? Of course, I now know that he is pitmaster and owner of Prime BBQ in Knightdale, but in 2015 Prime BBQ was a cooking school and catering operation and Prieto was known on the competition barbecue circuit as well as from TV appearances on Food Network’s Chopped: Grill Masters, the Cooking Channel’s Man Fire Food, and Destination America’s BBQ Pitmasters. His star certainly continues to rise.

In addition to Prieto’s input, there is also tips and short Q&A’s from noted barbecue personality’s such as Carolina Cue to Go’s Elizabeth Karmel, Tim Byres of Smoke (Dallas), Justin and Jonathan Fox of Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q (Atlanta), Carey Bringle of Peg Leg Porker (Nashville), Skip Steele of Pappy’s Smokehouse (St. Louis), Harrison Sapp of Southern Soul Barbeque (St. Simon’s Island, GA), among others. So, Prieto was in nice company.

As for the book, Southern Living contributor Robert Moss wrote the foreword and refers to the book as “a comprehensive survey of the technique and styles of contemporary Southern barbecue,” and that hits the nail on the head. Officially titled “Southern Living Ultimate Book of BBQ: The Complete Year-Round Guide to Grilling and Smoking,” this book heavily focuses on recipes for the backyard and home cook, with a little barbecue 101 sprinkled in here and there.

After spending some time on a brief history of barbecue in North America, there is a section on the different cuts of meat as well as fuels for the fire, the recipes for beef, pork, and poultry come fast and furious. Starting with “Low & Slow” (smoking) before moving onto “Hot & Fast” (grilling) and then “Rainy Day BBQ” (ovens and crockpots) before wrapping up with sides, rubs, and a pretty extensive section on pickling(!!). The book comes in at over 200 recipes across 350 pages and is quite the tome, complete with beautiful food photography from Greg DuPree.

I personally used their recipe for pork spareribs recently and was extremely pleased with how the ribs turned out – perhaps the best ribs I’ve ever done. I didn’t follow the recipe to a tee in terms of rubs or sauces, but the guidelines on prep and timing served me well. Take a look for yourself:

There are a lot of seemingly great recipes in “The Ultimate Book of BBQ” that would be perfect to try out at a time when you are mostly home and have a lot of time on your hands. If that happens to apply to you, consider buying or even renting from your local library.

Jon G’s Barbecue Will Have an Authenticity You Can’t Fake

Have you ever made the trip from Charlotte to Lexington Barbecue during a work day for “a quick lunch?” Or when in Austin, have you ever made the trek to The Salt Lick in Driftwood or Snow’s in Lexington (TX)? When the long-awaited Jon G’s Barbecue brick-and-mortar restaurant opens later this month, it very well might fill that same niche for Charlotte in the small town of Peachland just a short 40-45 minute drive east (praise G’s for that new-ish 74 bypass).

If you’ve been following this site in the past three years, you should already know about Jon G’s Barbecue. But when their brick and mortar opens, they will instantly offer a few things you won’t find at other Charlotte barbecue restaurants.

There will almost certainly be a line, central-Texas style. Each tray will be sliced to order and the counter service simply takes some time for each customer to go through. This is of course not the usual in North Carolina where most of the joints both classic and new are sit down affairs and you rarely have to wait. And even though the reconfigured former Barbee’s Bar-B-Que space has been opened up, Jon G’s is still on the smaller end of the spectrum with only 40 or so seats inside and another 40 or so outside (weather permitting, of course). But that doesn’t matter, because…

As it turns out, the town of Peachland (just across the county line in Anson County) is actually a dry town so if you want brews with your brisket, you will actually be able to bring your own cooler (yes, you read that right). In line waiting for your barbecue? Sit on your cooler and have a cold beer as you move through it (you might even get handed a free one). Nice day out? Sit on one of the custom-built picnic tables outside and have a picnic once you get through that line. The newly-opened Prime BBQ in Knightdale is the only other example of a BYOB barbecue restaurant in NC that I’m aware of, but I love the idea.

Besides the line and the BYOB-nature of it all, Jon G’s feels different because its an updated take on the NC roadside barbecue joint (albeit one that happens to serve brisket, of course). There’s simply no pretension to their barbecue operation (not that much would likely be tolerated in Peachland). All of Kelly and Garren’s hard work has led to this point, from the tailgate tent at Southern Range Brewing to the food truck and now to a brick and mortar store. There’s no big money backers here, and they have worked for everything they’ve earned. Major props to them.

Then of course, there’s the barbecue itself. Jon G’s has been our favorite Charlotte-area barbecue for 3 years running and it looks like there is no stopping it anytime soon. Garren has honed his meats on his new Oyler smoker over the past few months and on the night I tried them the brisket, ribs, Cheerwine hot link, and pulled pork were all consistent with the meat I fell in love with that was smoked on the offset. And the tacos should continue to be big sellers.

Opening a restaurant during a pandemic is not ideal and North Carolinians may not be quite used to driving long distances for barbecue (well, outside a few of us wackos). However, I assure you that it will be well worth your time. Once Jon G’s Barbecue opens full time, I predict I will be dragging as many people as I can out that 74 bypass to spread the gospel of Jon G’s. I would urge you to take the trip as swell. Congrats Kelly and Garren!

Linkdown: 6/10/20

The Wilber’s Barbecue pits have officially been refired

Congrats to Desiree Robinson of Cozy Corner Restaurant, 2020 BBQ Hall of Fame Inductee and the first African-American woman to be honored with that distinction

Backyard Barbecue Pit is a black-owned restaurant to support in the Triangle of NC

Black-owned barbecue restaurants that ship overnight nationwide: Bludso’s BBQ, Interstate Barbecue, The Bar-B-Q Shop (sauces)

Jones Bar-B-Q is among this list of black owned businesses to support

Greg Gatlin of Gatlin’s BBQ in Houston spoke with Rien Fertel in this oral history for Foodways Texas in 2013

Helen Turner of Helen’s Bar-B-Que was interviewed by the Southern Foodways in 2012

“The Cooking Gene” by Michael Twitty has been on my list and I need to get around to it

Derrick Walker’s of Smoke-A-Holics BBQ in Fort Worth is one of four pitmasters to help the backyard smoker

Lolis Eric Elie remembers David McAtee