New York City pit masters and grillers alike took center stage last night at the Thrillist BBQ & the Blues, part of the Food Network's New York City Wine & Food Festival, where famous barbecue spots across the five boroughs vied for the top spot against the backdrop of the swingin’ Diablo Dimes and the Bloodhounds band. Mighty Quinn’s BBQ in the East Village served some tender peppercorn-crusted beef cheek pastrami, while Virgil’s BBQ in Times Square offered their slow-cooking spin on wings, marinated for 24 hours in butter, Virgil’s seasoning and Louisiana hot sauce. Fletcher’s Brooklyn Barbecue prepared smoked dry tips (a sirloin cut) over fingerling potatoes. There were of course the classic New York smoked meats from Noah at the Mile End Deli in Brooklyn who simply doled out Montreal-style pastrami on rye. “Sometimes simple is best,” as he squeezed out spicy brown mustard onto his open face sandwiches. “Can’t go wrong with that.”
The winner of the night ended up being Sweet Chick Life Chicken & Waffles in Brooklyn who made a succulent rack of lamb ribs.
Regardless of who won, everyone’s a winner when you end up with a face full of sauce and a belly full of smoked meats. We asked the cast of The Kitchen, including Geoffrey Zakarian and Jeff Mauro who hosted the event, as well as several of the BBQ masters, what exactly makes amazing barbecue.
The cast of 'The Kitchen' enjoyed some amazing barbecue and mason jar Southern-inspired drinks at Thrillist's BBQ & the Blues.
“There are no compromises. With barbecue you can’t cut corners, it takes practice, it’s like an instrument,” sad Jeff Mauro. “To achieve that smoke ring get that pull-able meat done takes a lot of practice.”
Geoffrey Zakarian was skeptical about his expertise on the subject, but no one can resist talking about their favorite barbecue.
“You are going to have to grill a lot of meat first before you learn how to make great barbecue; you have to know how to season and marinade,” said Zakarian, who said he loves to eat Hill Country BBQ when he’s going out for barbecue in New York. “The meat talks to you. It sings. You have to listen.”
Noah from Mile End Deli serves some of his Montreal-style pastrami to guests.
Even if your meat doesn’t sing to you, the theme of the night was patience: patience when it comes to smoking and marinating long enough, and patience when it comes to learning from the best.
“I have two 1800 pounds smokers at Virgils,” said chef Neal Corman, executive chef of Virgil’s Barbecue. Virgil’s will be opening up a new restaurant in Las Vegas next year. “Sometimes we marinate stuff for 14-15 hours. Patience is key.”
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Joanna Fantozzi is an Associate Editor with The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @JoannaFantozzi