Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
The Kentucky Barbecue Book

The Kentucky Barbecue Book

Wes Berry
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 384
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    The Kentucky Barbecue Book
    Book Description:

    Kentucky's culinary fame may have been built on bourbon and fried chicken, but the Commonwealth has much to offer the barbecue thrill-seeker.

    The Kentucky Barbecue Bookis a feast for readers who are eager to sample the finest fare in the state. From the banks of the Mississippi to the hidden hollows of the Appalachian Mountains, author and barbecue enthusiast Wes Berry hit the trail in search of the best smoke, the best flavor, and the best pitmasters he could find. This handy guide presents the most succulent menus and colorful personalities in Kentucky.

    While other states are better known for their 'cue, the Kentucky style is distinct because of its use of mutton and traditional cooking methods. Many of the establishments featured in this book are dedicated to the time-honored craft of cooking over hot hardwood coals inside cinderblock pits. Time intensive and dangerous, these traditions are disappearing as methods requiring less manpower, less wood, and less skill gain ground. Pick up a copy of this book and hit the road before these great places are gone.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-4181-7
    Subjects: Sociology, American Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. How to Chew the Fat Bluegrass Barbecue Lingo
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-28)

    I’ve recently been diagnosed with Hyper Enthusiastic Barbecue Disorder (HEBD). I’m supposed to drink eight ounces of KC Masterpiece daily to make the cravings go away. The prescription isn’t working very well. I still get the nervous trembles when I think about deliciously smoked meats. But I do know this: I’m not fond of KC Masterpiece and many other major-brand sauces—thick concoctions sweetened with corn syrup and sometimes tainted by unnatural-tasting liquid smoke.

    My students sometimes tell me that their lives are so busy it’s difficult for them to turn in work on time. They ask for extended deadlines....

  5. Western Waterlands Region
    (pp. 29-117)

    When driving on Highway 121 between Mayfield and Bardwell, or Highway 51 from Bardwell to Fulton in far western Kentucky, you get the feeling that industrialism has to a great extent passed the region by. Sure, you may come across some industry, like the “Hamtastic” Harper’s Country Hams factory on Highway 51 between Bardwell and Clinton, but mostly the region features a gently rolling landscape of cornfields, barns, grain bins, and a few homes and businesses like Yoder’s slaughterhouse. It’s a lush, green agricultural region. If you decide to head to this part of the world, make sure you have...

  6. Bluegrass, Blues, and Barbecue Region
    (pp. 118-161)

    The folks at the Kentucky Tourism Council (or Chamber of Commerce or whoever did the naming) got it partly wrong when coining such a description for this eight-county region. Sure, Bill Monroe, father of bluegrass, hails from here. But the counties in the “Western Waterlands” region could as easily claim the barbecue title. Still, you can smack your lips on plenty of scrumptious smoked meats in this region, and I’m here to lead you to some of the best places.

    Several big steel cylindrical tanks sit outside of this grocery store/takeout barbecue joint near the banks of the Ohio River....

  7. Caves, Lakes, and Corvettes Region
    (pp. 162-227)

    A railroad town nudging the border of Tennessee, Guthrie was the boyhood home of Robert Penn Warren, the first poet laureate of the United States and winner of Pulitzer prizes in both fiction and poetry. Warren left Guthrie to attend high school in Tennessee and never came back to live. Maybe he’d have stuck around longer if these two barbecue places—less than a mile apart from each other—had been in business back then.

    Mike and Nancy Reeves made me feel right at home when I waddled into their cozy restaurant on a Friday afternoon, having already visited five...

  8. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  9. Southern Lakes Region
    (pp. 228-240)

    The small town of Burkesville, seat of Cumberland County, lies on the highway to Dale Hollow Lake. The curvy drive on the John Muir Highway down to Dale Hollow is beautiful: cattle and hay rolls in the fields, good stands of hardwoods, rustic barns with quilt patterns painted on them, and modest-sized country homes. The Kingsford charcoal plant near Summer Shade and a few lumber companies testify to the importance of trees in this area. I’ll bet that many locals don’t know why this is called the John Muir Highway. Well, the little bearded tree hugger walked from Indiana to...

  10. Derby Region
    (pp. 241-290)

    The barbecue safarian could easily pass up Big Kahuna, and that would be a shame because the Big Kahuna special—a half-pound of thinly sliced smoked beef from a “special” cut of steer layered up on a garlic-spread hoagie roll and topped with a sweet and spicy sauce with strong hints of molasses—stands as one of the tastiest and oddballish creations I’ve seen at a Kentucky barbecue restaurant. Owner Frank Hewes, with roots in Los Angeles and Texas, brings beef into pork country and gives it a far west of West Coast flavor with his rubs and sauces, including...

  11. Northern Kentucky River Region
    (pp. 291-293)

    There’s not much barbecue in northern Kentucky other than chains like Smokey Bones and Famous Dave’s. I ate at four barbecue places in this region, and only one made the cut, Tina’s in Carrollton. Two places didn’t make my highly subjective good list because they serve a heavily sauced sloppy joe–style pork sandwich. The other place that didn’t pass muster served way-saucy ribs that tasted old, along with beans and potato salad right out of food-service jugs. Now, if I had world enough and time, I’d return to these places and sample other things on the menu. It’s highly...

  12. Bluegrass Region
    (pp. 294-321)

    The finale of my statewide barbecue tour took place in the state capital, capping my journeys with a touch of symbolism. The big cemetery in Frankfort—the one with great views of the capitol building and the Kentucky River—holds at least some of the relocated bones of Daniel Boone, along with an impressive monument. Boone explored unfamiliar territories. I’ve explored new barbecue territories. The connections are stunning! Where’s my long rifle?

    I’m glad the lawmakers in Frankfort finally have a local place to eat barbecue, the food of the people.

    When I met Frankfort dweller Charlie Winter at Staxx...

  13. Appalachian Region
    (pp. 322-331)

    I stopped at the fire department in Winchester, Kentucky, east of Lexington in Clark County, to get recommendations for barbecue places in the area. A fireman, whose name I never got, talked to me awhile about barbecue in the mountains. This fellow, originally from Morehead in Rowan County, said mountain people were smoking whole hogs regularly and having big parties where they smoke lots of meats. He has a custom cooker he built himself—a “redneck rig” he called it—assembled from various found items, including a food warmer from a restaurant, and it has lots of racks in it...

  14. “Wrap it up, son! The sun’s almost up.”
    (pp. 332-334)

    I’m nearly out of gas. The Ford Ranger died, and I’ve eaten at nearly every barbecue place in the state. I gained twenty-five pounds and lost twenty of them. I’ve talked with some wonderful people, soiled several shirts with dripping grease and sauces, improved my photography skills, and cultivated some strong opinions about what makes excellent barbecue.

    It’s common in books such as this to ponder the future of the subject at hand. Here’s a stab at it.

    In “A History of Barbecue in the Mid-South Region,” a chapter of Veteto and Maclin’sThe Slaw and the Slow Cooked,barbecue...

  15. Wes’s Great Kentucky Barbecue Feast Favorite Dishes from My Travels
    (pp. 335-340)

    British celebrity chef Marco Pierre White toured the United Kingdom several years ago searching for special foods. His discoveries, televised asMarco’s Great British Feast,culminated in a huge meal featuring the best of British cuisine. In this spirit, I offer you Wes’s Great Kentucky Barbecue Feast—a collection of my favorite smoked meats, sides, and desserts from my tour of the Commonwealth....

  16. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 341-344)
  17. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 345-348)
  18. Index
    (pp. 349-356)