At the end of May, I wrote an article for The Coast about the two BBQ joints here in Halifax — Q Smokehouse & Southern BBQ and Boneheads BBQ. I decided to have a chat with Mark Lambert from Memphis in May world champs Sweet Swine O’ Mine about what makes good barbecue.
When it comes to competition, and tips for cooking from that perspective, Lambert had lots to say.
“Balance of flavours is important,” was the most important thing Lambert had to say. “When you taste it you aren’t remembering the smoke, the sweet, the salt or the savoury end of it. It has to be tender and it has to be flavourful. And it has to have hickory on it. It’s not Southern if it doesn’t have hickory on it.”
“In competition, the sauce doesn’t go on until they serve it,” he continued. “Most teams in competition will season the meat with a dry rub or seasoning, and right when the meat is finished they’ll finish it with a glaze that will tone down the flavours in the rub that make it more balanced and make the meat shine. You put it on at the very end so it creates a bark on the meat.”
We also talked a lot about side dishes; we really covered what makes for an authentic Southern spread.
Halifax does pretty good for some of the standard sides—baked beans, potato salad, cole slaw, mac & cheese—but we are missing a few essentials. Tamales, for instance.. And in Memphis, bbq spaghetti is at the top of the list of sides. Deviled eggs, rib tips, hot links and smoked sausage are other dishes you could throw into your own back yard barbecue if you want to do something authentically southern.
As I quoted in the article, Lambert told me “If they want to get true southern, find an all beef baloney, slice it ½ inch thick, season it, put some sauce on it and smoke it. That is true Southern BBQ. It used to be something people looked at as cheap lunch meat,” Lambert said. “But there are so many good ones that are available now.”
It was especially interesting since while he sang the praise of such a maligned meat, beef ribs don’t really make the cut in his eyes. “True southern BBQ? Beef ribs don’t really fit into that. You’d be hard pressed to find a beef rib in Memphis… you won’t find a beef brisket worth eating. You’ll get brisket when you go to Kansas City or Texas, though.” But then he laughed, and said “I like them, just because I get sick of pork.”