3 red flags a pitmaster looks for when dining at a barbecue restaurant
- Rodney Scott, a pitmaster, shares his
tipsfor spotting a true barbecue restaurant.
- The James Beard Award-winning chef says using your senses comes in handy.
Rodney Scott, a James Beard Award-winning pitmaster and the founder of Rodney Scott's Whole Hog BBQ, says there are a few key red flags to keep an eye on when you're looking for a quality barbecue restaurant to satisfy your craving.
The cookbook author told Insider that spotting the difference between a true
If there is no visible pile of wood or pit area, that's your first red flag
"If you could see if they've got wood, or if you could see if they're cooking it on-site — that's a good sign," Scott said.
Sometimes, a restaurant will have their pits and cooking area visible to diners, like at
"For example, at our spot here, you can see the pits because we're on this corner," Scott said of his restaurant in Charleston, South Carolina. "And our Birmingham location, when you walk in the door, you can see the pits through the dining room through a glass window, and you can see everything going on in there."
He said it was important to his team to give customers an opportunity to see, when they show up, that they cook everything on-site. But some restaurants may not have the space or ability to do that.
If you can't see the pits, Scott says to look out for smoke
"Smoke is a telltale sign," Scott said. If the restaurant is cooking their barbecue on-site, customers will be able to see the smoke or, at least, smell it.
If you're confused or unsure, the pitmaster said you should simply walk in the building — or walk by the building — and inhale. Do you smell the meat cooking? If so, that's a good sign.
The next big red flag, according to Scott, can be the location
If you're still unsure after looking for some of the more blatant signs of on-site cooking (stacks of wood or visible pits), take note of your location.
Location doesn't mean asking yourself which city you're in but rather what kind of space the restaurant occupies. Think about whether it's possible for there to be a chimney or a large exhaust in the kitchen that would be able to handle the cooking process needed to smoke meat — or ask if you're unsure. If you're able to see the outside, look for those vehicles for smoke escape on your own.
"For example," Scott said, "if I see a spot in the airport saying they're a barbecue joint, that would put a question mark with me. Because how much smoke do you see going around an airport?"
He said in this case, he would question when and where the food was cooked.
Even if the restaurant passes these red-flag tests, it's not a guarantee you're going to like the food, Scott said. It's just showing that the team is likely staying true to the practice of barbecue. Similarly, this doesn't mean that the food will be bad at a place that's not burning wood or smoking meat in pits — it just probably won't be true, technical barbecue.
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