The 5 Worst BBQ Stories of 2016

Fires, Crimes & Misdemeanors: There was plenty of barbecue to regret in 2016

Carey Bringle of Nashville's Peg Leg Porker used to think he knew how to cook ribs until Esquire showed him one amazing BBQ hack
Carey Bringle of Nashville's Peg Leg Porker used to think he knew how to cook ribs until Esquire showed him one amazing BBQ hack

Two week ago, we asked Robert F. Moss to round up his picks for the top barbecue stories of 2016. But who wants to read about good news and positive trends all the time? In the interest of putting 2016 fully in the rear-view mirror, we compiled our selection of the five worst barbecue stories from 2016. Good riddance to them all!

#5. Butt-Dialing BBQ Bandits

Back in December, two crooks In Danville, Kentucky, had a brilliant idea: they would don ski masks, take a gun, and rob a local barbecue joint. The plan would have surely gone off without a hitch except for one small slip up: while they were plotting the crime, one of them accidentally butt-dialed 911 on his cellphone. The police dispatcher listened in and was able to determine through triangulation that the two men were sitting in the parking lot outside of Brothers’ BBQ and Brewing Company, where it just so happened that Danville Police Chief Tony Gray had just finished eating dinner. Officers converged and arrested the pair without incident. Here’s the shocking part: both of the would-be robbers, according to Chief Gray, were “highly intoxicated.”

#4. How Not to Cook a Brisket

Creative barbecue cooks have fashioned homemade smokers out of all sorts of things: old propane tanks, refrigerators, the engine compartments of old cars. It might even be possible to convert a bathtub into a barbecue cooker, but you probably should take it out of the bathroom first, as one Knoxville woman learned the hard way when she tried to cook a brisket in her tub. The local fire department saved the day. News reports failed to clarify whether the brisket itself was salvaged.

#3. Click Bait & Switch

Everyone loves barbecue listicles. We’re quite fond of them ourselves, like our list of the Top 10 Georgia Barbecue Joints or our roundup of the Best 5 BBQ Books of 2016—or the story you’re reading right now (hah! Made you click!) The problem comes when an editor takes a story that an author didn’t intend to be a Top X list and tries to twist it into one, as Time did with two well-known barbecue writers, Daniel Vaughn and Rien Fertel. And thus, what were supposed to be a road-trip guide to barbecue near Austin and a survey of whole hog barbecue joints in North and South Carolina were transformed through the magic of headlines into lists of the Top 8 BBQ restaurants in Texas and the Carolinas, respectively.

Predictably, readers went nuts over what they perceived as the authors' omissions. (“A round-up of the best BBQ in Texas that doesn’t include a single joint from Houston or Dallas?”) They should’ve aimed their ire at the headline-scribbling editors.

#2. Slandering Brisket

Speaking of editors . . . in June, Chris Fuhrmeister, the editor of Eater Atlanta, got a little full of himself and declared, “Sorry, There’s Only One Legit Kind of American Barbecue.” Forget brisket, forget mutton. In America, Fuhrmeister insisted, barbecue is one thing and one thing only: “pork that’s slow-cooked with smoke.”

Shocked at the error of their ways, pitmasters in Texas immediately whisked the brisket off their pits, and out went the mutton up in Owensboro, Kentucky. No one in America has eaten anything but pork barbecue since, and Fuhrmeister was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Journalism. Or maybe not.

#1. Crimes against Ribs

Last but least: In July, Lauren Miyashiro revealed in Esquire that, “Making BBQ Ribs Is Finally Easy Thanks To This Genius Hack.” The use of “finally” is a nice touch, suggesting perhaps that some mad scientist has been toiling away for decades in a lab and dreamed up one crazy trick that no one had ever thought of before. But, no. It turns out that Esquire was simply passing along an age-old formula for making terrible ribs: boil them for 20 minutes, then slap ‘em on a grill for a few minutes more to give them a char. This may go over in New York City, but down in barbecue country this is what most folks would call “fraud.” A hack? Definitely. Genius? You gotta be ribbing us.

Our apologies to Carey Bringle and Peg Leg Porker for including a picture of their food in our "Worst BBQ Stories of 2016" roundup. After reading that Esquire piece, we had an overwhelming urge to show what good ribs look like. We're 98% certain Carey doesn't boil his.

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