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].