Smoker Stories

BBQ 101: This is how we do it

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City Barbeque brisket

Sometimes it feels like there’s a lot of mystery surrounding barbeque—secret rub recipes, meats on the smoker all night long, that sort of thing—but we don’t want to hide behind our hickory smoke. Other than our recipes (which are staying secret, sorry), we want to teach folks all they’d like to know about what we do and how we do it.

Take bark: something we’re talking about (and tasting!) in our joints every day, but something folks may not know much about. When we smoke a brisket, we give it a rub with our signature blend and throw it on the smoker to cook, low and slow, for up to 18 hours. While it’s in there, moisture—both from the meat itself and from the water vapor in the smoke—dissolves the water-soluble elements of our rub, and the fat from the meat gets to work on the fat-soluble ones. As the moisture evaporates in that low-and-slow cooking process, that dissolved rub starts to harden up into a beautiful, flavorful bark. There’s a lot more to it (polymerization, proteins, the Maillard Reaction), so just let us know if you ever feel like talking shop.

The vocabulary can trip folks up, too. Sometimes guests ask why our pitmasters say they’ve “scored a 9” with our hickory-smoked meats. Why not a 10? Well, in a Kansas City Barbeque Society (KCBS)–sanctioned competition, barbeque is judged on appearance, taste, and tenderness… and the scale for each criterion only goes up to 9. Many of our teammates are KCBS-certified judges themselves, so when they say it scores a 9, you can take their word for it that the BBQ you’re about to enjoy is literally competition quality.

We get it: sometimes, our dedication to the art of barbeque seems unbelievable. For example, folks assume we’re exaggerating when we say things like “the smokers never turn off.” We aren’t: our smokers churn through local hickory 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year… which means the smokers at our first location have been running non-stop for more than 20 years.

So the next time you’ve got a question about our process or our proteins, just ask! We’re here and happy to help.