The smoke signals of fiery feasts lure Roger Mooking to the Southwest, where his first stop is West Alley BBQ and Smokehouse in Chandler, Ariz. The hot spot specializes in Tennessee-style barbecue, and Roger helps founder Bardo Brantley and Pit Boss Robert "Jim Dandy" Spann load brick pits with over 300 pounds of pork. The pork butts are piled high in their signature sandwich, The Big Jim Dandy, and their fan-favorite ribs are tossed in a barbecue sauce with a heavy hit of cayenne. For his second stop, Roger gets lucky in Las Vegas, where he meets Chef Justin Kingsley Hall of The Kitchen at Atomic. His portable rig known as "The Swing Set" is anything but child's play. To build this winning jackpot of meat, Roger and Justin suspend Mediterranean spice-rubbed legs of lambs, nestle butternut squash into a bed of coals and grill carrots in a swinging basket.
Roger Mooking meets two barbecue brainiacs who have mastered the art of marrying heat and meat to turn out top-notch barbecue. Pitmaster Christopher Prieto teaches students the science of smoking and seasoning meats at Prime Barbecue in Knightdale, N.C. Roger helps Prieto season a whole hog with Puerto Rican flavors, and then they smoke it in a North Carolina-style pit using coals made from pecan, hickory and cherry woods. In Glen Allen, Va., Roger meets Tuffy Stone, a classically trained French chef, cookbook author, champion pitmaster and the owner of local barbecue chain Q Barbeque. When Tuffy's not tinkering in the kitchen, he's busy building rigs from scratch, and Roger helps fire up his latest contraption with hickory coals and then hang whole spiced and buttered chickens.
Roger Mooking goes hog-wild at two legendary barbecue restaurants located in America's Barbecue Belt. At A&R Bar-B-Que in Memphis, Roger helps owner Andrew Pillard load racks of St. Louis-style ribs into custom wood-fired pits. Andrew also shows Roger how to make Barbecue Spaghetti, a dish created in Memphis in the 1950s. In Lexington, N.C., Roger visits Bar-B-Q Center, a local institution famous for its chopped pork sandwiches and massive ice cream sundaes. Roger and co-owner Cecil Conrad fire up big brick pits with oak and hickory wood and then load salted pork shoulders to cook low and slow for ten hours before they're chopped and piled onto soft buns. And no trip to Bar-B-Q Center is complete without their famous banana split that weighs a whopping four pounds!
Roger Mooking heads to the South to visit two family-run barbecue joints that have been passing down recipes and rigs for generations. At Smokin' Joe's Bar-B-Que in Townsend, Tenn., pitmaster Zack Peabody honed his barbecue chops under the watchful eye of his grandfather, Joe Higgins. Zack and Joe built a smoker that can cook up to 1,000 pounds of meat, and Roger and Zack arrange briskets and pork butts on its shelves. At Shack in the Back BBQ in Fairdale, Ky., Mike and Barbara Sivells converted an old log cabin into a barbecue restaurant. Roger and Mike load pork shoulders and turkey ribs into the smoker to create two popular dishes: The Hump and Turkey Ribs.
Roger Mooking meets up with a few culinary titans in Tennessee who are swinging for the fences with outrageous rigs. At Wedge Oak Farm in Lebanon, Tenn., he joins Chef Trey Cioccia, owner of Nashville's Black Rabbit, to set up the Burn Tower. On this unique rig, meat, fish and vegetables are hung at varying heights around a metal cylinder filled with hot coals. In Nashville, Roger hangs with James Peisker and Chris Carter, the owners of Porter Road Butcher. Chris shows Roger an old swing set that he transformed into a cooking contraption, and they hang meaty rib roasts and fill a basket with chorizo and kielbasa.
Roger Mooking visits the Lone Star State, where they're taking open-fire cooking to new culinary heights with unique rigs. In Fort Worth, Texas, chef and restaurateur Lou Lambert invites Roger to his ranch to slow-roast whole hogs over oak coals in a massive, custom-built metal rig. Dessert is a sweet treat inspired by Lou's chuck wagon cooking days -- pear and blackberry cobbler crisps baked in Dutch ovens using hot coals from burn barrels. Then Roger heads south to Houston, Texas, to meet up with Eight Row Flint's chef Marcelo Garcia, who gets customers fired up for the Trompo Wagon parked out back. Roger helps him load ten vertical spits with marinated pork butts and chicken thighs to spin slowly next to a triple tier of fire, smoke and heat. While the wheels are turning and the fires are burning, Roger and Marcelo make corn tortillas for tacos.
Beef is king in Texas, and Roger Mooking visits two pitmasters who are elevating traditional smoked meats with exciting global flavors. In Pearland, Texas, he helps Ronnie Killen season and smoke brisket and beef ribs to serve at Killen's Barbecue. Customers can order the smoked meats by the pound, but Ronnie also combines them in a Tex-Mex dish, Short Rib Tamales with Brisket Chili. Then Roger heads to Houston, Texas, to hang with Khoi Barbecue co-owner Don Nguyen, who holds Central Texas-inspired, Asian-influenced barbecue pop-ups using a 500-gallon smoker in his backyard. Roger helps him prepare Brisket Pho and Beef Rib Nigiri for a pop-up happening at Baileson Brewing Co.
Roger Mooking finds two chefs in Texas who are pushing the boundaries of whole hog barbecue, where pigs are roasted low and slow over coals before the meat is chopped or pulled and seasoned with sauce. At Banger's Sausage House and Beer Garden in Austin, Texas, Roger and pitmaster Ted Prater season a whole hog simply with salt and smoke it for 10 hours for Carolina-style sandwiches. In San Antonio, Roger helps Chef Pieter Sypesteyn stuff a wild hog with chaurice, a spicy pork sausage typically used in Creole and Cajun cooking. After roasting the hog, they add the meat to a spicy tomato-based stew.
Roger Mooking is in Lockhart, Texas, to meet the team responsible for designing and crafting a monster rig that offers seven different cooking contraptions. Brothers Matt and Caleb Johnson create smokers for chefs and pitmasters across the country through their company Mill Scale Metalworks. They collaborated with local chef Arturo Ramon II of Blanco River Meat Co. on an impressive rig, and Roger helps Arturo roast whole young goats on asado crosses, hang sweet tea-brined Cornish hens and steam whole red snappers stuffed with aromatics.
Roger Mooking visits the Louisiana bayou for barbecue, brunch and a crawfish boil. In Prairieville, La., he helps a husband-and-wife team of caterers prepare baby back ribs, brisket and 200 pounds of live crawfish. Then Roger heads to Baton Rouge, La., to meet a caterer serving barbecue breakfast sandwiches at a local eatery. They season pork butts and beef cheeks for smoking and then pile the meat onto biscuits with fried eggs, cheese and bacon.
From live-fire cooking to low-and-slow barbecue, Roger Mooking meets up with two couples making fiery feasts and creating sparks in California. He starts with Danny and Nicoletta Herlihy, whose company Do or Dine Catering specializes in Mediterranean farm-to-table feasts cooked with a live fire. Roger helps them hang legs of lamb and cook vegetables on a large, hot plancha for an event at an olive oil company. Then Roger meets up with Matt and Nina Horn of Horn Barbecue, an underground craft barbecue business with Southern influences. Roger helps pitmaster Matt season and smoke lamb shoulders for sandwiches that are served with a side of Nina's Pit Beans.
Roger Mooking drops in at two backyard cookouts where the smoke is thick and the fires are hot. He helps guest chef Jeremy Conner prepare a fish roast at renowned bed and breakfast Maison Madeleine in Breaux Bridge, La. They spear marinated whole red fish and pompano on sugar cane poles and arrange them around fire pits. In Bakersfield, Calif., Roger joins pitmaster Fred Reclusado in his outdoor kitchen to make ribs al pastor and fry tilapia.
Roger Mooking is in Louisiana, where smoked meat makes an appearance in many classic Cajun dishes. He meets Chef Nathanial Zimet, who serves North Carolina-style smoked whole hog in po' boy sandwiches at Bourree in New Orleans. Roger helps Nathanial season and smoke a whole hog, and they also prepare Smoked Buffalo Chicken Wings. At Paul's Meat Market and Grocery in Ville Platte, La., Roger helps owner Paul Fontenot fill his outdoor smokehouse with several different kinds of sausages, tasso, pork belly, turkey wings and drumsticks. Paul also shares a family recipe for Cajun Brown Gravy.