The Southern State of Barbecue

This summer the Local Palate Marketplace teamed up with some of the biggest names in Southern barbecue: Pat Martin (Martin's Bar-B-Que Joint in Nashville), Rodney Scott (Rodney Scott's Whole Hog BBQ in Charleston), Sam Jones (Skylight Inn and Sam Jones BBQ in Ayden and Raleigh, North Carolina), and Griffin Bufkin and Harrison Sapp (Southern Soul Barbeque in Saint Simons Island, Georgia.

Through their premium sauces, grill rubs, marinades, and cookbooks that share their top techniques when manning the pit, grill, or smoker, you’ll be set to cook outdoors all season long.  

When not tending meats over the live fire, the Southern pitmasters are spending summer in a way we can all appreciate: unwinding with family, experimenting in the kitchen, and looking for the next pulled-pork sandwich, brisket, or rib to sample.

Four Southern Pitmasters and their Favorite Bites

Where can we find you when you’re not tending the pit? 

Pat: I’m either at home enjoying time with my family or pulling inspiration from the many great restaurants at home here in Nashville and in my travels all over.

Rodney: At home with the remote and a beverage of choice in my hand.

Sam: I have farmland that I use for my recreation. I have an excavator and all kinds of equipment that I use to do all sorts of projects around the farm. 

Harrison: Probably in the kitchen prepping—making sauces, stew, or whatever else needs to be done. If I’m at home, I’m working in the yard or playing with our four dogs.

Sam Jones BBQ in Raleigh North Carolina, a lead pitmaster of Southern barbecue 

What’s your favorite music to listen to in the smokehouse? 

Pat: Waylon Jennings, Charlie Robison, Jimmy Buffet, Ryan Bingham, My Morning Jacket.

Rodney: Old school R&B.

Sam: Country Music prior to 2005. I grew up on old Southern Gospel and cortez-style music. 

Harrison: Music is a must. I listen to a lot of P-Funk. At the same time, you could hear Amy Winehouse, and the next song could be "Negative Creep" from Nirvana, or old AC/DC—I love the Bon Scott Albums.

My ideal plate is: 

Pat: A whole hog pulled pork sandwich with a vinegar-based sauce and slaw on top, just like God intended.

Rodney: Ribs, pulled pork, and a hot dog with potato salad and baked beans.

Sam: A pork sandwich with sweet coleslaw. The balance of the meat with the coleslaw creates the perfect bite. 

Harrison: A giant slice of prime rib. Red and almost bloody with a salt and pepper crust. Just writing [this] makes me want one.

 A plate of brisket from Rodney Scott's Barbecue, a James Beard award-winning pitmaster for Southern barbecue

Which of your sauces is your favorite? Rub? 

Pat: Our Jack’s Creek Sauce, and our Big Hoss Rub.

Rodney: Rodney Sauce: Vinegar, cayenne pepper, black pepper, pepper flakes, and sugar.

Sam: We have one called ‘salt of the earth’ that uses salt, pepper, and a few other seasonings, and I swear to God you could eat it on a pancake.

Harrison: Our sweet sauce is my favorite. It goes with everything. Our hot sauce is also delicious. Soul Dust is hands down my favorite rub. It took years to get right.

A pulled pork sandwich with a soft drink from Martin's Bar-B-Que Joint in Nashville

If you had to choose one thing from your menu to introduce a newcomer to, what would it be? 

Pat: A whole hog sandwich. I believe all Southeastern barbecue joints should be first judged on their pulled pork sandwich.

Rodney: Pulled pork.

Sam: Our smoked turkey surprises people the most. This is no dry ‘Christmas Vacation’ turkey—we smoke an 8- to 9-pound breast for about three hours and wrap it towards the end to keep in those juices producing a juicy bite of meat. 

Harrison: Pulled pork sandwich. It will make [them] want to try everything on the menu. 

Biggest barbecue influences?

Pat: The late, great Harold Thomas of Thomas & Web Barbecue (Henderson, Tennessee).

Rodney: The late Mike Mills and Nick Pihakis.

Sam: I always lean on my friends. Pat Martin is one of them and I respect and look up to him in the barbecue community. Billy Durny of Hometown BBQ is another. He doesn’t come from a long family line of barbecue, but he took what he learned from Brooklyn and created something great.

Harrison: My great-grandma and grandpa were great cooks. I wish I could cook for them. And I have always looked up to Tuffy Stone. He is a legit nice guy. His attention to detail and work ethic [is what] I try to match every day.

A pitmaster pulling whole hog pork at Rodney Scott's Whole Hog Barbecue

Favorite bite of barbecue (besides your own) 

Pat: Daryl Ramey, Ramey's Bar-B-Que, in Parsons, Tennessee, [or] Zach Parker, Scott's-Parkers BBQ, in Lexington, Tennessee.

Rodney: Sam Jones BBQ, Ayden, North Carolina.

Sam: Pat Martin’s redneck taco. Essentially a hoecake topped with pork, sweet coleslaw, and a thin vinegar-based sauce on top. Chris Lilly’s smoked chicken with his Alabama white sauce comes in close second.

Harrison: Easy. Skylight Inn whole hog. No contest for me. I’d drive six hours to eat that sandwich for lunch and then drive home.