Image by Josh Bousel

1. You’ve only visited places that say ‘World Famous’ on their sign / menu item.

If they need to say they’re ‘World Famous’, they don’t have the goods. Great BBQ attracts customers by word of mouth about their tasty meats, not aggrandizing claims.

Tip: Let several friends try the ‘World Famous’ BBQ before you spend your money. If it’s worth your time, they’ll tell you.

2. You don’t know what a smoke ring is.

If your favorite smoke ring happened with five high school buddies standing in a circle passing a joint…you may not know real Q. While it may have been a good time, it wasn’t a smoke ring — BBQ style. A real smoke ring is the ¼ inch or so pink discoloration just under the surface of smoked meats.

3. You’ve never been served ribs or smoked chicken on butcher-style paper.

Many great BBQ places still serve their meals on a piece of brown butcher paper. When done without pretense, this old school style does more than just add ambience, it shows the restaurant puts more into the cooking of their meats than anything else. And that is very important!

4. Your favorite restaurant sends meat to the table smothered in sauce.

Not everyone likes a lot of sauce. Some even think well cooked Q should be able to stand on its own — sans sauce. If your pulled pork sandwich or sliced brisket comes covered in sauce (instead of having sauces available if desired), they’re possibly masking unwanted flavors or, at worst, making up for a lack of real smoke flavor.

Tip: If you can’t get sauce on the side, go elsewhere. Remember, they’re probably covering more than the meat with that sauce, like poor flavor.

5. You think liquid smoke takes the place of using an actual smoker.

This is just ridiculous. Some, maybe even many, competition BBQ teams use liquid smoke (added into their sauce for example) as a supplement, not a replacement, to the smoke flavor cooked into their meat during the smoking process. Let’s say that again. It’s a supplement, not a replacement.

6. You eat a certain ‘style’ rib when you aren’t in that area.

As a rule, to get great BBQ, only eat the style that is specific to the area you’re eating in. Don’t order the Carolina pulled pork sandwich in Memphis. Eat the RIBS! You’re going to get an authentic product, not a fake representation.

Tip: Don’t order the KC style ribs in Zagreb, Croatia — they’re not good (I live in KC so I HAD to try them!).

7. You enjoy the gimmicks more than the BBQ.

If a restaurant uses a gimmick to lure you in, like cute cartoon pig signage or a kitschy atmosphere, then doesn’t deliver with great taste, they’ve got their priorities out of order. And if you love going to a BBQ joint for the gimmicks and not the tasty meat, you’re priorities are more than a bit skewed too.

Tip: Check online or with friends to find out what is considered the BEST BBQ in your city. Eat there. Once you do, you’ll forget about the gimmicky place you used to go.

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