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The South’s Best Butts—Pitmaster Secrets for Southern Barbecue Perfection by Matt Moore

South's Best Butts cookbook

Oxmoor House 2017, 287 pages, Over 150 Recipes, probably 200 color photos, $26.95

Moore is a youngish Southern Gentleman from Nashville (and author of A Southern Gentleman’s Kitchen), the son of a cattleman and grandson of a butcher, takes his small plane all over the South visiting a dozen BBQ joints in as many states from Texas to North Carolina. I too have traveled this turf and I must confess he has uncovered some gems of which I have never heard.

The 100 photos shot on location by Andrea Behrends, do a fine job of capturing the earnestness and rusticity of the restaurants, none of which look as if they have seen a paint can in decades.

The book begins with some basic concepts behind barbecue that could be applied to home cooking, but the meat and coleslaw of the book is the “Smokehouse Stories And Recipes” from the restaurants he visits. All the standards of the Southern barbecue canon are here, with an emphasis on pork, but there are plenty of fascinating sides and a few modern variations on the them.

Most are old school such as Helen’s Bar-B-Q in Brownsville, TN where Helen Turner dishes out a statewide favorite, smoked bologna sandwiches topped with a crunchy slaw coated in a thin spicy sauce, spare ribs, chopped pork, Polish sausage, and smoked chicken, all of which she cooks with hardwood in her cinderblock pit in a shed.

Then there is the kimchi slaw and the collard greens braised in rice wine vinegar and miso from Heirloom Market BBQ in Atlanta where husband and wife Cody Taylor (born in Texas, raised in Knoxville, and a culinary student at the Art Institute of Atlanta) and Jiyeon Lee (a South Korean pop star who came to the US and attended Le Cordon Bleu in Atlanta) draw on their upbringings to create a creative menu.

Moore includes “authentic” recipes from each restaurant, but we all know they are never going to give away all their secrets. I know Moore and I am sure he has tested all the recipes and they wouldn’t be here if they weren’t good, but I am highly skeptical that they are the same as the ones used at the restaurants.

Among the treats are Beer batter fried pickles, sweet potato cornbread, smoked brisket pho, burnt ends Mac and cheese, and grilled banana splits. My only complaint is that in the intro he tries to explain the origin of the name barbecue and gets it all wrong perpetuating three myths, but he bails himself out by disclaiming “I’m not a historian”. No you aren’t, but you are a fine writer, great at uncovering places I want to visit, and at gathering a lot of mouthwatering recipes.

Published On: 6/18/2018 Last Modified: 4/28/2021

  • Meathead - Founder and publisher of AmazingRibs.com, Meathead is known as the site's Hedonism Evangelist and BBQ Whisperer. He is also the author of the New York Times Best Seller "Meathead, The Science of Great Barbecue and Grilling", named one of the "100 Best Cookbooks of All Time" by Southern Living.


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