Tag Archives: Wes Berry

‘Cue Cards: A Guide for Father’s Day

Father’s Day is approaching, and you know what that means . . . Time to find the perfect place to take Dad for dinner.


The first step to becoming a BBQ aficionado is being able to talk the talk. In The Kentucky Barbecue Book, Wes Berry defines many key terms for his readers. Here are a few you may not know:

Burgoo: an “everything but the kitchen sink” rich stew made with several meats and vegetables, cooked up in large quantities at Owensboro’s International Barbecue Festival and found at barbecue joints in Kentucky, especially those in the “burgoo tree” (my term) that includes the counties of Daviess, Hopkins, and Christian, among others.324255_346022322091385_842314571_o

Chip or chipped: a style of barbecue preparation popular in Union Co. and Henderson Co., where heavily smoked exterior pieces of pork shoulders, hams, and mutton quarters are chopped and mixed with a thin tangy dip sauce, a bold flavor creation that’s salty and good as a sandwich.

Fast Eddy: a meat smoking apparatus that often utilizes wood pellets and a gas flame.

Hickory: one of the hardest of the hardwoods, hickory trees are nut-bearing friends of squirrels and Kentucky pitmasters, who favor the smoke and heat imparted by hickory over all other woods. Several different species of hickory trees live in North America, including shagbark, shellbark, mockernut, bitternut, and pignut. Some pitmasters claim they prefer one species of hickory—like shagbark—to others.

Monroe County dip: Sopping sauce favored in several south-central Kentucky counties, made with vinegar, butter, lard, salt, black and cayenne pepper, and sometimes other ingredients like tomato or mustard, used for basting meats as they cook slowly over hickory coals. Also served as a finishing sauce.

Mutton: Mature sheep, either female or castrated males. Mutton is Kentucky’s claim to barbecue fame, although only 10 percent of the barbecue places in the state serve it.

Smoke ring: the pinkish hue imparted to smoked meats (a very good thing).

Grab a copy of Wes berry’s book to learn even more BBQ lingo and scope out the best places for smoky meats and saucy treats in the state.

Eat Your Words!

Test your Bar-B-I.Q. with this Word Search of fall-off-the-bone terminology from The Kentucky Barbecue Book by Wes Berry. You’ll find a Word Bank of all the terms below. Print off your own copy to share here.


Barbecue Ham Owensboro
Brisket Hardwood Pit
Burgoo Hickory Pork
Chipped Kentucky Sassafras
Coal Knife Sauce
Cornbread Lamb Style
Festival Meat Vinegar
Fork Mutton Western
Fried Okra

Kentucky’s Regional Barbecue Styles and Sauces

9780813161112Later this week, the International Bar-B-Q Festival will take over the streets of Owensboro, Kentucky. The Bluegrass State’s culinary fame may have been built on bourbon and fried chicken, but the Commonwealth has much to offer the barbecue thrill-seeker. Luckily, Wes Berry (author of The Kentucky Barbecue Book) is here to help you prepare for this notable culinary event, explain Kentucky’s distinctive ‘cue styles, and serve up some recipes from around the state:

Kentucky’s Regional Barbecue Styles and Sauces

by Wes Berry

In the western counties, the preferred barbecue is pulled or chopped pork from whole pork shoulders or Boston butts. Traditionally, pork shoulders cooked on concrete block masonry pits for twelve to thirty hours, depending on the size of the shoulder, the type of wood used, the temperature inside the pits, the weather, and other factors like pit design. Pit masters burned down wood, mostly hickory, to coals and shoveled these underneath the meats every one to two hours, trying to keep a steady pit temperature. The most impressive pits have heavy thick insulated lids that are raised with the help of pulleys and cables.

Many of the western counties are also fond of smoking cured hams (city hams) and precooked turkey breasts, slicing them thinly to serve on sandwiches. Sauce styles vary county by county. The Hickman County sauce is mostly vinegar and cayenne pepper. Some McCracken County sauces taste strongly of vinegar and chili powder. Union and Henderson counties favor a savory Worcestershire-based dip, while over in Christian County to the east the sauces turn again to vinegar and cayenne. It’s safe to say that although Kentucky is most famous for mutton, pork is still king, dominating barbecue menus throughout the state.

Mutton, however, is our most distinctive claim to barbecue fame, although only 18 out of 160 places I visited [in writing my book] serve it. The “Mutton Tree,” as I’ll call it, is concentrated in western Kentucky, with Christian County and Hopkins County forming the trunk of the tree, branching out into Union, Henderson, and Daviess counties for the upper foliage. Owensboro is mutton central, with all four barbecue restaurants serving it. Mutton is usually basted while smoking over hickory coals and served with a savory Worcestershire sauce‒based dip, a thin, black potion that also contains vinegar and spices like black pepper and allspice.

Another noteworthy regional tradition—called Monroe County style—dominates barbecue menus in five south-central counties: Monroe, Barren, Cumberland, Allen, and Warren. This is the stuff I grew up eating. Locals refer to it as “shoulder.” Boston butts—the thick end of a pork shoulder—are frozen and then cut into thin slices, bone in, with a meat saw. Pit masters traditionally burned down hickory wood to coals and shoveled the coals underneath iron grates that held dozens of slices of shoulder. As the meats cooked over hot coals, the pit tenders flipped and basted the pieces periodically with a “dip” of vinegar, lard, butter, cayenne and black pepper, and salt. Because of the small surface area, pieces of shoulder soak up a lot of smoke in a short amount of time. Preferred length of cooking is around forty-five minutes, but on a hot fire you can grill a piece of shoulder in fifteen minutes.

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South Fork Grill’s Vinegar Coleslaw

  • 4 cups distilled vinegar
  • 5 cups sugar
  • Pinch of salt and pepper
  • 2 heads large cabbage, chopped
  • 1 carrot stick, chopped
  • ½ medium onion, chopped
  • ¼ green pepper, chopped

Heat vinegar, sugar, salt, and pepper. Set aside and let cool. Add 7 cups cabbage mix to the cooled vinegar. Stir well and refrigerate. Makes 10-12 servings.

Brothers Barbecue’s Red Potato Salad

  • ¼ cup white vinegar
  • ½ cup sweet pickle juice
  • ½ cup yellow mustard
  • 3 cups mayonnaise
  • 3 tablespoons dill weed
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon celery salt
  • ½ cup white sugar
  • 5 pounds red potatoes, chopped and boiled
  • 8‒10 sweet gherkin pickles, chopped

Whisk first 9 ingredients together for the dressing. Add cooked potatoes and chopped pickles and mix well. Refrigerate a few hours for flavors to blend.

Sarah’s Corner Cafe BBQ’s Smoked Shrimp with Pineapple and Vidalia Onions

  • 3 pounds shrimp, peeled or unpeeled (both ways work well)
  • 10 medium-sized Vidalia onions, quartered
  • 6-7 pounds pineapple chunks, with juice
  • Spicy dry rub (with cayenne, black pepper, paprika, etc.) to suit your taste

Spray large foil pan with cooking spray. Add onions and dry rub to pan and place on smoker at 250°F for 1 hour. Add pineapple and shrimp, shaking on additional dry-rub spices. Smoke for about 20 minutes or until shrimp is pink. Serve with barbecue sauce.

Ole South Barbeque’s Mutton Dip

  • 1 gallon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 gallon water
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 2 cups white vinegar
  • 1 cup lemon juice
  • 2 pounds brown sugar
  • 5 pounds tomato paste

In a large pot, cook all ingredients until paste dissolves. Use it to baste meats, preferably mutton, periodically throughout the many hours of cooking required to tenderize the muscle tissues. When serving mutton, offer this dip in a bowl on the side for the dipping of individual pieces. Yields about 2½ gallons.

Ruby Faye’s Sweet Shoppe Chocolate Torte

  • 1 large box (14 ounces) graham crackers
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 2 packages (3.4 oz.each) vanilla instant pudding and pie filling
  • 8 ounces Cool Whip
  • 15-ounce can of milk chocolate frosting

Combine milk, pudding mix, and Cool Whip. Mix until smooth. Line bottom of 9 x 13-inch pan with graham crackers. Don’t crush. Add half of pudding mixture, and then cover with another layer of graham crackers. Add rest of pudding mixture. Cover this layer with graham crackers. Cover with milk chocolate frosting, thinning frosting with milk to make it spread easier. Refrigerate until pudding is set, 1-2 hours.

Kentucky Barbecue Flavors at Home and on the Road

The Kentucky Barbecue Book is more than just a restaurant guide: author Wes Berry serves up sauce and side dish recipes as he scours the commonwealth for the best barbecue joints.

Bourbon Chipotle BBQ Sauce (courtesy of Charlie Winter)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA“My fellow barbecue lover, Charlie Winter, joined me on a trip to some Bluegrass barbecue joints and helped me celebrate the finale of my barbecue tripping at Staxx BBQ in Frankfort. Charlie has been seeking out the best in Kentucky barbecue for longer than I have and mastering the smoky arts at his home in Frankfort. He’s generously shared his recipe for a barbecue sauce with a healthy dose of bourbon, Kentucky’s native spirit.” – Berry

  • 1 cup of Heinz ketchup
  • ¼ cup of white vinegar
  • ¼ cup of water
  • ¼ cup of molasses
  • 3 tablespoons of honey
  • 1 tablespoon of chipotle ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon of freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup of Kentucky bourbon

Combine vinegar, water and ketchup in a non-aluminum saucepan over med-high heat. Use a whisk to blend until smooth then add all remaining ingredients. Once the mixture comes to a boil, reduce the heat and let simmer uncovered for 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally. If you like your sauce with more heat, add more chipotle pepper to taste.

Smoking Dad Out of His Den for the Summer

So you’ve already gotten Dad a grilling tool kit? Maybe he’s ready for something a little more challenging…


Wes Berry doesn’t just tell us about different cuts and sauces in The Kentucky Barbecue Book. From smokers that burn wood pellets or yummy hickory sticks, to those that use water pans to add moisture, it won’t be difficult to find a pit to bring Dad’s barbecue to the next level. Backwoods Smoker, Fast Eddy’s, and Ole Hickory Pits all design residential models, perfect for your pitmaster to make his own Kentucky barbecue – right there at home.

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And don’t forget to sign up for a chance to win The Kentucky Barbecue Book by Wes Berry, for a guide to Kentucky barbecue and recipes for Dad to test out on his new pit!

It’s a Father’s Day Giveaway!


The countdown is on; you have 2 weeks to find that perfect Father’s Day gift. Don’t panic, we’ve got you covered! This week we’re giving away a fan favorite: The Kentucky Barbecue Book by Wes Berry. Back by popular demand, The Kentucky Barbecue Book has found the best smoke, the best flavor, and the best pitmasters in Kentucky. Snag this guide and take Dad on a roadtrip along the Bluegrass state backroads for a memorable (and delicious) Father’s Day!

Fill out the form below to be entered to win. Winner will be announced Friday, June 7 after 1:00 pm EST. And stay tuned for more on how to make this year the best (and tastiest) Father’s Day ever.

Mark Your Calendars: KY BBQ Book Signing

Three weeks from today, Wes Berry will be at the Morris Book Shop signing copies of The KentucWes Berryky Barbecue Book. You won’t want to miss it!

The event will be held March 14, 5:30-7:30 pm, at the Morris Book Shop on E High Street in Lexington, KY.

Want a free copy of The Kentucky Barbecue Book? Enter for your chance to win our weekly giveaway! The lucky winner will be announced tomorrow afternoon at 1 pm.

Make Plans to Travel

Who doesn’t love a good road trip through Kentucky? Cruising the scenic by-ways, taking in some bluegrass history, dreaming of the next break for food. Planning the venture is half the fun. This summer, why not borrow some ideas from Wes Berry? He’s been all over the state, stopping in every mom-and-pop barbecue place he could find. Grab a copy of his latest, The Kentucky Barbecue Book, and take it along with you as you sample some of the best eats that Kentucky has to offer. You can enter our giveaway for a chance to win a copy!

To help get you started, check out videos below from some of Wes’s stops, and visit Wes Berry’s KY Barbecue Adventures on Facebook for more food-inspired travel ideas.

One of Wes’s favorites: R & S Barbecue (Tompkinsville, KY)

Close by: Collins’s BBQ (Gamaliel, KY)

Off I-65: Mama Lou’s BBQ (Horse Cave or UNO, KY)

End the summer right with the The Kentucky BBQ Festival (to be held in September in Danville, KY)

Find these locations on the map below:

Kentuckians: What BBQ style are you?

During his travels, Wes Berry discovered that KY counties have different regional specialties. What counties would you visit to satisfy your cravings? Would you head to the tangier Union or Henderson for some famous KY mutton? Or would you keep it simple with a pork sandwich in McCracken or Caldwell? Perhaps you’re feeling a little saucier, and want to stop in Jefferson…

Whatever your preference, the wide variety of styles could make any BBQ enthusiast at home in Kentucky.

Don’t forget to enter this week’s giveaway for a chance to win a copy of Wes Berry’s The Kentucky Barbecue Book! In it, you can learn much more about the regional particularities of Kentucky barbecue.

 photo MAP_revised.jpg

Map by Dick Gilbreath.

Gettin’ Hungry in Kentucky: KY BBQ Giveaway

9780813141794In 2009, Wes Berry set out to visit each and every barbecue joint in the bluegrass. A Kentucky-native, Wes wanted to write a travel guide centered on one of his favorite fares—hoping it would prove that his state can rival the more famed barbeque regions (think: North Carolina and Texas). In his words:

“I’m here to tell you that Kentucky has some really fine barbecue, and that my home state’s rich traditions of barbecue have been pretty much overlooked by food writers and the Travel Channel.”

Soon, he will share his findings with all those BBQ-lovin’ fans out there in his new book The Kentucky Barbecue Book—presenting to them all that Kentucky has to offer. Much more than a travel guide, this book is a rich record of the state’s past and present ties to the smoked cuisine. It will leave your mouth waterin’, and your gas tank hurtin’, as you hit the road to taste these places for yourself.

Now’s your chance to win a free copy of The Kentucky Barbecue Book! Fill out the form below to enter this week’s giveaway from the University Press of Kentucky. One lucky winner will be chosen at random on Friday, March 1, at 1 pm.

Meet Wes and hear a bit more about his adventures: