High on the hog

Top pitmaster Tank Jackson shares a few barbecue secrets. 

By Daisy Dow

Good cooks can claim to know their ingredients inside and out. Pitmaster Tank Jackson of Holy City Hogs can boast having a very special relationship with his ingredients. For more than 20 years, Jackson has bred, raised and butchered Sowega King and Ossabaw Island pigs and used them in his cooking classes. Jackson takes his pigs from farm to table on Wadmalaw Island, motivated by the ethos that happy pigs taste better. His family-run operation sources pork for a number of restaurants stretching from New Orleans to New York. If you are looking to perfect your barbecue skills before the summer ends, take a page out of Jackson’s book by testing these tips on your own grill. 

1. Keep it simple.

“When it comes to ribs, I’m a purist. I think all you need is sea salt and a little vinegar. When you are cooking some of the finest in the land, you want to let that pork shine through without adulterating it with too much sugar,” Jackson said. Vinegar and salt add acidity to meat. While some pitmasters might advocate elaborate seasonings with herbs, peppers and powders, Jackson finds that too many flavors can distract from the taste of the meat itself.

2. Find the kind of ‘cue that suits you.

“I don’t wrap, I don’t paint. I like my ribs to have a little bite to them. I’m not looking for fall-off-the-bone stew meat, but I do want my meat to be tender,” Jackson said. Wrapping a brisket in foil helps the meat cook faster and retains the moisture in the meat. Painting or basting meat draws more smoke toward the meat and gives it a smokier flavor. Find the flavor and texture you want and prepare your barbecue accordingly.

3. Every batch is different.

“I cook to desired temperature by rigidity of rib racks as I move them around the smoker,” Jackson said. The more you know about what you are cooking, the more you can play with how you cook it. Do some research before you get to cooking and keep a meat thermometer handy.

4. Give it some last-minute flavor.

“When the meat is ready to be pulled off the smoker, I spritz mine with apple cider vinegar, pineapple juice and hot sauce. I dust them with Tank’s Ultra Premium BBQ Rub,” Jackson said. This is your time to let your wildest barbecue dreams shine through. Use your go-to hot sauce, backyard barbecue mix or get creative with citrusy flavors like Tank.

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