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Fired up for summer 

PITMASTER: Ron Blasingame
  • PITMASTER: Ron Blasingame

Fired up for summer

The Arkansas Times this week gets its annual jump on the hot season with a roundup of articles about summery things, plus a clip-and-save list of the can’t-miss activities of this summer in Arkansas.

We fire up the grill for starters, slake your thirst with sangria, provide a handy beach retreat and otherwise entertain with a report on skinny dipping in the, well, Natural State, and an investigation of the latest in swimsuit fashion. But first:

 

 

 

 

Advice from the pros on perfect barbecue

It’s coming on summer, which means it’s time to break out the lighter fluid, charcoal and “Kiss the Cook” apron. While most anybody can whip up a fairly decent hamburger or hot dog (remember: outdoor chefs in Arkansas get bonus points just for braving the chiggers), most folks are a little scared to try their hand at smoking — that slow, eye-watering art that can leave you with either a perfect rack of ribs or (if you’re not so talented or lucky) a smoldering prop from “Alien Autopsy 4.”

Never fear, citizens. The Arkansas Times is here to take the anxiety out of your adventures in smoke. To that end, we enlisted the help and advice of two of Little Rock’s barbecue masters: Ron Blasingame, one of the founders of Whole Hog Cafe, and Mary Rose, owner of Mr. Mason’s Pit Bar-B-Q. Together, Blasingame and Rose dished their secrets on how to make that hunk of meat into a backyard treat.

Hog Heaven

Blasingame on perfect pulled pork and ribs

When he and two friends started Whole Hog Cafe, little did Ron Blasingame know how far his knack for cooking perfect pork would take him. From the original location on Cantrell Road, Whole Hog has grown to a chain with seven locations in four states, including outlets in Santa Fe, New Orleans and Memphis. New locations in North Little Rock and northwest Arkansas are in the works.

Without further ado, here are some of Blasingame’s tips for cooking that plate of perfect ’cue.

First, go shopping: When buying a smoker, Blasingame said the first thing home barbecuers need to consider is what they plan on doing with their new toy. Will you be cooking meat to feed your family? Your extended family? Your church? Your kid’s little league team picnic? “Consider what you’re trying to accomplish,” he said. “Be sure to choose a cooker that you can cook enough product on.” Beyond that, Blasingame said he has seen workable cookers made out of just about everything (as proof, he showed the interviewer pictures of his first rig: the Trash-be-Cue, built from two galvanized garbage cans).

Practice, practice, practice. Once you’ve got your cooker, Blasingame said, don’t expect to be turning out perfect fare overnight. “Don’t get in a rush. It’s a tool,” he said. “You’ve got to practice on it until you learn how to use it.” Part of that learning curve, he said, is figuring out the location of your smoker’s “hot spot,“ the place in every smoker where the heat from the firebox makes things several degrees hotter, thus cooking the meat in that area faster. Once you know where the hot spot is, you can rotate your meat in and out of it to minimize the effect.

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