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This week’s Young & Hungry column checks in with three different barbecue houses, each with its own method for smoking ribs, brisket, chicken, and sausage. Blue Ribbon BBQ uses a Southern Pride unit, which combines smoke and gas; KBQ relies on a J&R Manufacturing pit that kicks on an electric element when the temperature drops too low; and Rocklands has built its own custom smoker that burns only split hardwoods.

Which one turns out the best barbecue?

Well, here’s the thing: One pit may generate more smoke than another (J&R unit, for example, produces big, thick clouds), but that alone does not guarantee superior ‘cue. The art of barbecue requires more than the ability to babysit a smoker. It takes (particularly in the city) the ability to balance the expense and labor to produce great barbecue with the practicality of running a business and catering to a wide variety of palates.

A pitmaster, in other words, may want to produce a thick, peppery bark on his brisket, but he  knows that, if he does, half the orders will be sent back. Urban barbecue is not so easy, which you can discover in this week’s column.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery