Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day Weekend Barbecue - Travis

I started off my Memorial Day weekend right on Saturday morning with a trip to Millington to pick up a barbecue pork butt from my friend Travis. I spent a few misguided years in my early 20s eating a mostly vegetarian diet after managing to largely miss the point of Eric Schlosser's Fat Food Nation, a book that provides an excellent analysis of an industry built around turning government subsidized crops into cheap, unnourishing food-like products. Living in Memphis and having friends like Travis made it impossible to turn my back on my lifelong love of slow-cooked pork for too long. I've enjoyed an amazing variety of restaurant barbecue since I started my current quest but the barbecue Travis cooks in his backyard still ranks among the best I've had. 

People visiting the Mid-South often want to know where the best barbecue is. We definitely have some outstanding restaurants to choose from, but every restaurant is ultimately in business to make a profit. For people like Travis, barbecue isn't a commercial venture. It's an obsessive passion. They may only get to cook it a few times a year, but they spend countless additional hours daydreaming ways to improve their recipes and techniques. Some of the best barbecue in the Mid-South is being created in backyards as a labor of love. And you won't even see a lot of it at barbecue competitions. Travis doesn't chase after awards. He is content to just call around to barbecue-loving friends saying the simple words, "I'm cooking next weekend," and then enjoy the honest compliments from the people who inevitably flock to his house. 

In my post about the Millington Winery I said that on Sundays, "If you happen to see a Hagrid-from-Harry-Potter-sized man selling crawfish, chicken wings or barbecue, be sure to try whatever he is cooking that day." That was because is Travis is a good friend of the Winery's owner, Perry, so this barbecue rig is known to show up there from time to time.  

Even among friends Travis is ultra tight-lipped about a lot of the secrets to the cooking style that he has been honing for most of his life.

I do know that the butts are all rubbed down with mustard and then seasoned with Travis's homemade dry rub the day before he cooks them. He absolutely refuses to comment on any questions or comments about the content of the dry rub.

I've always preferred pulled pork to chopped. Great barbecue doesn't require a meat clever. You just stick a regular-sized fork into it and the meat should pull apart effortlessly.

"Charred crust" and "pink smoke ring" are two phrases used a lot in this blog. This is what they're all about.

Travis also makes his own barbecue sauce. The jar in my fridge was almost empty, which means I'll be opening a jar that has been aging in my pantry soon. I got a fresh jar from Travis so that it can sit in my pantry while I'm working my way through the old one.  A year or so worth of time spent canned but unrefrigerated can really improve an already-great homemade sauce.


  1. Yeah buddy! I say it all the time...I love my uncle Travis' butt!! He is the bestest :) His red beans & rice is amazing too. Heck, anything he cooks is!

    1. From venison burgers to hot wings to gumbo, I've never had anything he cooked that wasn't excellent.

  2. It doesn't matter what he cooks, it is always good! Got my BBQ on Saturday and it was GONE in two days!!! It was out of this world. Love the chicken wings. Not a big eater of craw fish. But my men are. When he cooks at the winery and it is where my men can go, they do! Keep up the good work Cuz!!!

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