A brisket sandwich from Jimmy’s BBQ//Photo by Betsey Barron.
Barbecue smoke is a hallmark of the summer season that’s right up there with the smell of freshly cut grass. We’ve tracked the scent to its source, picking up these insider tips, tried-and-true methods and secret ingredients from three local pit masters.
Chris Calhoun, The Desmond
The Desmond’s executive chef is no stranger to the smoker. His seasonal pig roasts and patio barbecues are always sellouts. His approach to barbecue is easy: Source locally when you can, keep the seasoning simple, and put the emphasis on quality everything—that included the wood used for cooking.
Master tip: “Smoking is key. It’s critical to seek and utilize fresh, whole and quality wood for smoking,” says Calhoun, who drives more than an hour to source large slabs of fresh hickory.
1 Liberty Blvd., Malvern, (610) 296-9800.
Jim Mog, Jimmy’s BBQ
Mog’s method may be simple, but rushed it’s not. He smokes at 225-240 degrees. “Don’t make the mistake of trying to hurry this process by turning up the heat or wrapping the meat. You just have to let it sit,” he says. “Cook it until it’s done. In my opinion, ribs are overdone if they fall off the bone.”
For smoking, Mog uses indigenous wood—hickory and cherry—delivered by a Glen Mills local. “Cherry gives ribs, chicken and fish a beautiful hue and great flavor. Pork and brisket, which cook for 12-14 hours, aren’t as delicate, so it’s great to use hickory wood,” he says.
Master tip: Mog’s rub recipe includes salt, pepper, paprika and brown sugar. “We use brown sugar in everything,” he says. “As the moisture pulls out of the meat, it wets the brown sugar, which then bakes back on and creates that excellent bark.”
309 Lancaster Ave., Malvern, (610) 879-8805.
Chad Rosenthal, The Lucky Well
“You can’t rush barbecue to do it right,” says Rosenthal. His cooking time? Fifteen hours. “I stick my finger through the fat, and if it goes straight to the meat, then I know it’s good to go.”
And ribs? “There’s no exact cook time to follow because every pig is different and the size of the ribs varies,” says Rosenthal, who suggests checking ribs after four-and-a-half hours. “We say it’s done right as the bone starts to crack.”
As for smoke, his go-to is hickory. Second choice: white oak.
Master tip: Take the time to season correctly—at least 48 hours prior to cooking—so spices and salts to penetrate the meat throughout. Otherwise, as smoker temps rise, juices and fat can cause the dry rub to run off.
111 E. Butler Ave., Ambler, (215) 646-4242.