Roger Mooking tames the flames in outdoor kitchens fueled by wood-burning fires. In Solvang, Calif., the Alisal Guest Ranch and Resort is home to 10,000 acres of land with horses, cattle and a bevy of fiery cooking contraptions. Roger helps fire up a meal of juicy beef ribs and grilled chickens for their weekly ranch cookout. In San Diego, Roger visits the outdoor kitchen of caterer Clyde Van Arsdall to slow-roast herb and citrus-stuffed turkeys on the spit while vegetables roast in the oven. Then it all comes together for a hearty soup that's cooked in an antique cauldron rigged above scorching hot coals.
Roger Mooking visits two Southern California barbecue joints that serve smoked meat specialties on weekends only. First, he meets a husband and wife team running a pop-up restaurant called Moo's Craft Barbecue in their own backyard. He helps load their 2,000-pound smoker with Texas brisket and pork butt for tasty tacos and samples their signature side dishes, Mexican street corn and coleslaw kicked up a notch with tequila. Then Roger finds Calabasas Custom Catering in the parking lot at Jim's Fallbrook Market. He helps caterer Paul Varenchik fire up a big Santa Maria grill to cook beef tri-tip, chickens and baby back ribs, and the waiting customers complete their barbecue plates with crusty garlic bread, macaroni salad and potato salad.
Roger Mooking meets San Francisco-based chef Thomas McNaughton at a farm in Healdsburg, Calif., for a live-fire feast of epic proportions. They affix a whole pig to a metal cross to cook over hot coals for several hours, basted often with a mixture of butter, herbs, warm spices and citrus. The pig roast drippings fall into a potato-filled cast iron pan set over the hot coals, and whole onions and squash are nestled directly in the embers. To complete this feast, Roger and Thomas suspend chickens over a fire to roast. But these aren't just any chickens -- they're black-skinned chickens with a slightly gamier flavor. It's a fiery feast Roger won't soon forget.
Roger Mooking is on the hunt for the most radical barbecue rigs, and he starts at The Pit Room in Houston, Texas, where special events call for a custom-built trailer that can cook up to 600 pounds of meat. Roger helps load up six whole goats for tacos. In Napa Valley, Calif., he checks out Oak Avenue Catering's custom-made asado grill that can cook a huge side of beef. For a side dish, fermented cabbages are hung on the grill to cook low and slow with the meat. As they wait for this feast to cook, Roger learns how to transfer a tree stump into a flaming stove for boiling potatoes that are then crisped on a hot plancha to complete this feast in the heart of wine country.
Roger Mooking heads to the Lone Star State to meet a family that specializes in two fiery traditions: Texas barbecue and Mexican barbacoa. Pitmaster Adrian Davila of Davila's BBQ shows Roger their massive smoker and shares the secrets to their legendary brisket and spicy beef sausages that the locals call "hot guts." Once smoked, these two meats come together in a Texas favorite, Frito Pie. Then Adrian invites Roger to his family's ranch for traditional Mexican barbacoa. They wrap seasoned lamb in maguey leaves and cook it in the ground before firing up an Argentinean grill to toast fresh tortillas and crisp up the lamb barbacoa.
When it comes to finding great barbecue, Roger Mooking knows that it's not just the small towns that dish out big flavors. He heads to Bludso's Bar and Que in Los Angeles, where owner Kevin Bludso brings meat and heat to Tinseltown in a big way. Using the cooking techniques his Texas grandmother taught him, Kevin loads up his massive smoker with brisket, pork ribs and chicken to cook low and slow in oak and pecan smoke. Kevin also shares his family's 70-year-old recipe for mac and cheese with Roger. In San Antonio, another big city stepping up its barbecue game, Roger meets with Emilio and Christi Soliz, who have turned a small house into a restaurant blending Texas-style barbecue with Tex-Mex flavors. They stuff slow-smoked brisket into torta sandwiches with crema and avocado, while fall-apart pork butt is piled onto corn tortillas with cilantro and salsa.
While road-tripping through Texas, Roger Mooking pulls the car over for some seriously delicious barbecue. In San Antonio, he makes a pit stop at The Box Street Social food truck to hang chickens and racks of ribs over a live fire. He also gets a taste of roasted pumpkins topped with goat cheese and arugula. In Santa Fe, Texas, Roger finds another food truck with a penchant for central Texas-style 'cue with a twist. At Smokin D's BBQ Fusion, he loads up a smoker with brisket for a mac and cheese-filled quesadilla, and he also tries the specialty Smoke Dog, a beef jalapeno sausage wrapped in bacon.
Roger Mooking visits an old-school barbecue institution serving chopped pork in South Carolina and a popular restaurant serving Hill County barbecue classics in Texas. First, he heads to Price's BBQ in Gilbert, S.C., which opened back in 1964 and is still run by the Price family. Roger helps fill a massive 20-foot brick and concrete pit with hams, pork shoulders and pork butts to smoke low and slow over hickory and oak coals. Before the pork comes out of the pit, it gets seasoned with Price's time-honored tangy mustard-based barbecue sauce, and Roger learns how to make the family's famed barbecue hash over buttery white rice. In Coppell, Texas, Roger visits Hard Eight BBQ for classic Hill Country barbecue that includes cooking beef, chicken and pork directly over hot coals in rectangular pits. Roger helps owner Chad Decker fill up two pits with pork ribs, half chickens, briskets and jalapeno sausages.
Roger Mooking visits two restaurants in the Lone Star State that turn traditional Texas-style barbecue into crafty culinary creations. In Fort Worth, he meets pitmaster Travis Heim and his wife, Emma, the power couple behind the popular restaurant Heim Barbecue. Roger and Travis fill a giant steel rotisserie smoker with slabs of briskets. Then, in the kitchen, Emma and Roger build the Heimburger -- two beef patties mixed with brisket trimmings and topped with molten cheese and bacon burnt end bourbon jam. In Tomball, Roger visits one-of-a-kind spot Tejas Chocolate and Barbecue. Owners Michelle Holland and her brothers Scott and Greg Moore fire-roast cocoa beans for chocolate bars and confections and smoke beef, chicken and pork in a 3,000-pound propane tank smoker for classic Texas barbecue. The "three chocolatiers" show Roger how to make their signature mole sauce with their craft bean-to-bar chocolate.
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