How Barbecue Works


Legendary Pitmasters and Barbecue Joints
Pitmaster Ed Mitchell attends the 10th Anniversary Big Apple Barbecue Sponsored By Southern Living on June 9, 2012, in New York City. Brian Killian/Getty Images for Southern Living
Pitmaster Ed Mitchell attends the 10th Anniversary Big Apple Barbecue Sponsored By Southern Living on June 9, 2012, in New York City. Brian Killian/Getty Images for Southern Living

There are many people who cook barbecue but ones who become truly adept are known as pitmasters. While there have been many such virtuosos over the decades, here's a list of some current barbecuing stars who've won acclaim for their skills and contributions to the art of barbecue.

  • Aaron Franklin: In 2015, the owner and pitmaster of Austin's Franklin Barbecue won the James Beard Best Chef: Southwest, the first pitmaster to take home the title — an achievement that helped barbecue's prestige in the culinary world [source: Rupersburg].
  • Chris Lilly: Alabama pitmaster Lilly runs Big Bob Gibson BBQ, and has won numerous barbecue competitions, including the Memphis in May BBQ cook-off that's known as the "Super Bowl of Swine." He was inducted into the Barbecue Hall of Fame in 2016 [sources: Rupersburg, Barbecue Hall of Fame].
  • Tootsie Tomanetz: The pitmaster — or perhaps more accurately, pitmistress — of Snow's BBQ in Lexington, Texas, made an important contribution to barbecue by reviving the use of mop sauce — a sauce slathered onto the meat during the cooking process, which adds a more complex flavor [source: Vaughn].
  • Ed Mitchell: North Carolina-based Mitchell has been featured in Bon Appetit magazine and competed against Food Network chef Bobby Flay in a cook-off. He's also traveled internationally as an ambassador of American barbecue [source: WRAL]. He's famous for his vinegar sauce that barbecue writer Steven Raichlen describes as "sharp enough to make you sit up and take notice."
  • Rodney Scott: As the pitmaster of Scott's Bar-B-Que in Hemingway, S.C., Scott has helped keep the smoked whole-hog tradition alive. Chef and food journalist Anthony Bourdain featured the restaurant on an installment of "Parts Unknown" in 2015 [sources: Giddick, Donovan].
  • Sam Jones: A sixth generation pitmaster working in Eastern North Carolina and owner of Sam Jones BBQ, Jones also works with his father at his own destination restaurant Skylight Inn [source: Weigl].