Barbecue is the centerpiece of the southern table, and the pork butt is its hallmark. (Actually, the pork butt is a shoulder cut). Everyone can agree on that, but it’s the sauce and sides that are always up for discussion. As Matt Moore’s mother always said, “Opinions are like butts, everyone has one.” In his latest book, The South’s Best Butts: Pitmaster Secrets for Southern Barbecue Perfection, Matt Moore highlights the Barbecue Quilt of the South by touring twelve southern states to feature the unique flavor and pattern of recipes and stories from the pit masters. Matt Moore explains the different flavor profiles for barbecue sauce: “Just like the French have the five ‘mother sauces,’ the south has its five ‘mother sauces’ for barbecue.” North Carolina enjoys vinegar based sauce for the whole hog. South Carolina’s mustard base sauce is influenced by the German immigration. Northern Alabama savors its white sauce made with mayonnaise. Kentucky is unique since their preferred BBQ is mutton and served mainly with Worcestershire based sauce, and Memphis, Kansas City and St. Louise are known for tomato and molasses in the sauce.”
In addition to the variety of flavors, Moore emphasizes the diversity of pit masters’ gender and ethnicity in his book. He shows that barbecue isn’t a man’s world by including several incredible women. The diversity of restaurants is also highlighted. For example, in Pell City, Alabama, you can get barbecue at a Texaco station called “Butts to Go.” As Moore explains, “In the south, there is perfect harmony in eating barbecue at a gas station.” Moore got some great advice from Skip Steele of Bogart’s Smokehouse about preparing barbecue: “Time + Temperature + Great Results.” And of course Moore’s book features delicious side dishes for the barbecue meal. As he says, “Sides should run the length of the mighty Mississippi River on a southern table.”
Here are Matt Moore’s top tips for the home chef:
- Cast iron. Cast iron. Cast iron. “There’s nothing more versatile than a cast iron skillet.”
- A sharp knife.
- A can-do attitude “Never be afraid to cook something new.”
What is your favorite barbecue sauce?
Savor the day!