America's Most Influential BBQ Pitmasters and Personalities

These barbecue mavens have shaped the way Americans eat fire-roasted meat

Aaron Franklin of Franklin Barbecue in Austin, Texas

Humans being smart, the first thing they probably did after discovering fire was to throw some meat over it. So America may not be the birthplace of barbecue. It’s just the place where barbecue become perfect. A handful of people have shaped American barbecue into what it is today.They’ve elevated our primordial instinct into something amazing, and they’re in a class of their own. Here are some of the most influential pitmasters and BBQ personalities in the country.

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1. Aaron Franklin, Franklin Barbecue

Ten Speed Press

Wyatt McSpadden

He’s the owner and pitmaster of Austin's Franklin Barbecue – probably the most famous everyman restaurant in the country, and most definitely the most famous BBQ joint – and this year he became the first pitmaster to take home the James Beard Foundation Award for Best Chef: Southwest. The achievement legitimized American barbecue as a distinctive culinary category.

2. John Markus,"BBQ Pitmasters"

YouTube/DeBragga New York's Butcher

Thanks to shows like Top Chef and just about everything on Food Network, cooking has become part of our pop culture. Though he isn’t a pitmaster himself, Markus – the Emmy-winning creator of BBQ Pitmasters – has been hugely influential in promoting barbecue as a culinary art and in fostering the celebrity status of guys like Franklin and Myron Mixon. In 2010, Markus gathered five of the world's greatest pitmasters, including Mixon and Johnny Trigg, to feed 5,000 U.S. soldiers in Kuwait. He then directed a documentary about the experience: The Kings of BBQ Barbecue Kuwait