Southern BBQ, Georgia Style

You all know my roots are American.  I was born in Maine and so was my son but by the age of 2 he was living below the Mason-Dixon line.  Yes, he speaks Southern and proudly so.  This is the way he does BBQ.

His post is long, and it is fully family so I apologize in advance if it’s too much information.  This is the first “family” post I’ve ever done.  The kids are my grandchildren Jade and Jake.  The one with the gray in the chin hair – that’s Al.

AlHe loves to smoke and bbq meat.  His list of friends is a mile long and they all get invited when he cooks.  Recently I asked him if he’d photograph the next bbq he did and write it up as a guest post on my blog.  Now those of us who are parents will understand that I never expected to see it.

Honestly, I don’t know how they do all they do with two small children but in my mail this morning were the photos and BBQ method.  I’m thrilled to introduce you to my son Alan.  If you live within driving distance of McDonough, Georgia (Atlanta) let him know and he’ll invite you too.  My boy’s never met a stranger.  He’s also wordy, just like his mother.

I’ve been encouraging him to start a food blog but he’s not convinced he’s a food writer.


Thanks, Mom.

It’s about time for some respect for southern cookin’.  I may not have been born Southern, but I sure feel it and for a rather long spell we’ve been treated like the red headed stepchild of the kitchen.  More and more our own butter wielding matriarch, Paula Dean, sounds like Rodney Dangerfield.  Now smoking bbq, pork shoulder in this case, is one of those southern things that’s not foo-foo, trendy, fusion or any other silly catchphrase… It’s just plain ol’ good.  Not that my mom’s crock pot bbq pork she made when I was in high school wasn’t good… it just wasn’t THIS good (sorry, Mom).

BBQ means different things in different places.  In Texas, BBQ is brisket, in Memphis it’s ribs, in many places anything off the grill and slathered with Sweet Baby Ray’s is bbq… but throughout most of the South, BBQ means pork – pork shoulder to be exact.

For many folks, cooking from a recipe is something they do with the same vigor as if they were reading aloud from the good book at church.  That is NOT how you make BBQ pork.  So relax a bit, loosen your tie and pour yourself a cup of joe… this is gonna take a while – but it’s gonna be worth it.

bbq rub

First step in BBQ is the rub.  A rub is a blend of spices that we “rub” into the meat before we start smoking.  Most southern cooks have a rub recipe and getting them to tell you theirs is like trying to herd cats… it ain’t easy.

Do you have to blend the spices together or put them on one at a time?

rub mixture for smoked bbq pork shoulder

Well, I’ve actually tried it both ways… and besides taking what seemed forever to season the meat, it wasn’t better or worse.  As for me, I put all my seasonings in a big stainless steel bowl and mix it up with a fork.  Tried the hand blender before… big mistake.  I thought it would make mixing faster with no lumps… nope, all it did was make a fog of seasonings that coated my entire kitchen and made me sneeze every time I walked in it for the next week.  Not my proudest moment to be sure.

Take just enough rub to season the meat and put the rest away.  We’ll use it later after we pull the pork and we don’t want to cross contaminate the rub with raw pork.

For my 4 butts, I used the recipe below with a 1 cup measuring cup.

Quick note about store bought spices —

I know many folks like to use their mortar and pestle or coffee grinder to get the most out of their spices.  Yeah, I agree in most applications that they do a better job.  Here’s the thing, today I’m seasoning 4 pork shoulders and these are hefty hunks of meat.  I’m going to cook this meat for 10-12 hours in 225°F smoke.  Your palate may be able to pick up the nutty overtones of freshly ground pepper on a smoked pork shoulder, but most people won’t be able to.

pork shoulder

Today I’m smoking pork shoulder, which is odd because it’s called a butt.  Why we take a pig and call his shoulder a butt and his butt a ham, I’ll never know.  To make it all the more confusing… a picnic ham is actually the lower part of the front shoulder.  While your scratching your head over that one, stop and take some mustard and slather it all over the shoulder.  I mainly use plain yellow mustard, but you can use spicy brown or any mustard you have.  If you have small children like I do, at this point you’ll want to make a joke about your butt having Grey Poupon on it.

adding the rub to bbq meat

Once you have the butts all lubed up with mustard, start working your rub into the meat and don’t be stingy about it.  A helper or two is advised and much more fun.  It’ll be sticky and gooey, just like it ought to be.  Now set the butts in a fridge or cooler for 12 or so hours, but sometimes if I’m in a hurry I just let them chill out for a couple of hours.  As the salt starts to work on the butts, it’ll leach out moisture from the pork and intensify the flavors, so hit it with some more rub.


3 or 4 hours before you’re ready to cook set the butts out on the counter.  Yes, I know the food police are right around the corner, but you’re completely safe.   Setting the meat on the counter is all part of the cooking process.

We want to pull our pork shoulders from the smoker when they’re about 195 degrees.  When you have to take meat that is 40 degrees up to 195 it’s a difference of 155 degrees. If I let it sit out for a while and reach 60 degrees, now I only have to raise the temperature of the meat by 135 degrees.


Dbbq smokero you need a smoker to do pork shoulder?  Nope, but the more meat you smoke the more you’ll want one.  You can use a grill or an oven, but the crock pot just isn’t going to give you a decent crust on your pork.  If you’re using a grill, just  turn on the burner on the farthest side from your meat.  Regardless of what you use to cook in, try to cook between 215F to 240F.  I try and stay at 225, but depending on humidity, dryness of the wood, types of charcoal and your mood, just do the best you can.

The kind of wood you smoke with is a personal thing.  Some swear by hickory, alder, oak or mesquite. I like to use a blend of hardwoods for pork shoulder.  If I was smoking fish, I’d probably use alder as different foods take the smoke flavor differently.  Shavings, chunks, mulch or logs, use what works best for what you’re cooking in.  Chunks and mulch give more smoke when you soak them first.

bbq mop sauce

I like to let my butts cook for a couple hours before I add a mop sauce.  A mop sauce is a very thin sauce that you mop over the meat while it’s cooking.  It’s not a barbeque sauce, but it can have many of the same ingredients.  It keeps the meat moist while cooking and further imparts flavor.

bbq mop sauce ingredients

I like to use a bourbon mop sauce because some of the pork proteins are alcohol soluble when coupled with salt.  Here is my bourbon mop sauce.

4.5 from 2 reviews
Southern BBQ, Georgia Style
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Need a good mop sauce and meat rub for smoking bbq? This is it!
Recipe type: Condiment
Cuisine: American
Serves: 6
  • • 1 Cup bourbon – yes I used rotgut for a mop sauce, don’t judge me!
Southern BBQ Rub
  • • 2 Parts Sea Salt
  • • 2 Parts Granulated Garlic
  • • 2 Parts Black Pepper
  • • 2 Parts Chili Powder
  • • 2 Parts Brown Sugar
  • • 2 Parts Paprika
  • • 1 Part Onion Powder
  • • 1 Part Cumin
  • • 1 Part Cayenne Pepper
BBQ Mop Sauce
  • • ½ cup apple cider vinegar
  • • 1 cup apple juice
  • • 1 cup ketchup
  • • 3 tablespoons black pepper
  • • 3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • • 3 tablespoons garlic powder
  • • 3 tablespoons kosher salt
  • • 3 tablespoons dry mustard
Southern BBQ Rub
  1. Place all spices in a large bowl and mix with a fork. Remove just the amount you need for the roast you're seasoning so you don't cross contaminate the rest of your rub and have to throw it away.
BBQ Mop Sauce
  1. Throw it in a pot and put the heat to it. No need to boil it, just heat it until you can get the garlic powder, mustard and salt incorporated. Check your meat about every hour and slather on some mop sauce each time.


pork shoulder in the smokerbbq thermometerI usually keep one temperature probe in the smoker to watch the temperature and after 4 or 5 hours I keep one in the meat also.

You’ve now come to the part where smoking meat is not that much about cooking as it is about waiting.  I like to mow my lawn, play with the kiddos and take care of the honey-do list while I’m smoking.  Quite often you’ll see a group of us sitting around a smoker trying to look like we’re doing something useful, but in all honesty, we’re just running our mouths.

Things to do while meat cooksWant to make a man happy?   Give him a hunk of meat, a fire and a stick… Ta-Da!

At some point your meat is going to plateau. You’ll see it hit say, 160-170°F and won’t seem to go any higher.  Guess what… keep waiting.  Your mantra is “low and slow”… just keep repeating that to yourself.  You want all that connective tissue to turn to collagen and be flavored with the melting fat.  It takes low, slow, moist heat and time.

smoked pork shoulder

Now you may think that your pork shoulder is starting to resemble a crispy kritter and it is, but that’s not a bad thing.  The outside is called the crust and once it’s pulled or chopped, all those smoky seasonings will blend in and be yummy goodness in your mouth.  If your using a mop sauce, it’ll help to keep the outside from drying out as well.

I pull my shoulders between 195-205 degrees.  Some folks like to slice their pork and in that case, pull yours at 180 degrees.  As for me and my house, we like it pulled and falling apart.  If it feels like a black bag of jello with a bone sticking out, you should be a very happy camper.

fully cooked bbq pork shoulder, Georgia styleforking

Grab a couple  of forks and start pulling it apart.  If you did it right… I doubt you’ll even need any bbq sauce.

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  1. says

    Oh my God – it’s posts like these which make me insanely jealous that I have only a balcony and no place to set up a smoker like this. This looks absolutely amazing… juicy, tender, crispy edges… just wonderful, and I loved the photos too…. looks like you all had a wonderful day :)

  2. says

    Oh, my. There is nothing, nothing like homemade barbecue, especially when it entails a handmade spice rub and sauce. My fiance was stricken by barbecue love while visiting my family in the US last year (Virginia) – he’s been making my dad’s brisket ever since!

    I love your process photos, and the char on the meat looks just divine.

  3. says

    Where in Maine are you from? I’m from NH… I’m about 30 minutes over the state line. This some of the best looking BBQ. Your son definitely knows what he’s doing! I wish I owned a smoker…. we were just talking about it this weekend because I had a pork shoulder smoked for our Easter dinner!
    Carrie @ Bakeaholic Mama recently posted..Black Bean Burgers

  4. says

    As someone who cooks a couple hundred pounds of butts a week, I usually don’t read BBQ posts, but since I’ve never been to GA….. Nice looking pork! I especially like the rub & the mop sauce (though I don’t mop because I cook so much at once the humidity is high on my cooker). The mop sauce could definitely double as a BBQ sauce too, though I agree who needs one -just some slaw piled on top & a nice white bun. Now where’s the peach cobbler post?

  5. says

    Oh sweet goody girl, if that’s the kind of food he’d be writing about, I’d sure be the first subscriber of his hopefully-someday-going-to-happen-blog.

    C’mon, Maureen! Use your mommy-powers to convince him! 😉
    Thanks for sharing your recipes, Al!

    • says

      toss it in the crockpot, add about a hal-cup of water, set on HIGH for 8 hours. Oh, and saseon up like this below:Pulled Pork BBQ in Slow Cooker3 pounds fresh pork shoulder, well trimmed3 Tbsp. BBQ or Grill Seasoning1/2 cup ketchup1/2 cup cider vinegar1/4 cup packed brown sugar2 tsp. worcestershire sauce1 tsp. ground mustard 1. Place trimmed pork in 4-quart slow cooker.2. Mix barbecue saseoning, ketchup, vinegar, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, and ground mustard until blended. Pour over pork.3. Cook 8 hours on LOW or 4 hours on HIGH. Remove pork from slow cooker.4. Shred pork, using 2 forks. Return pork to slow cooker, mix and heat with sauce before serving. McCormick

  6. says

    I like that man’s style… and taste – beautiful rub & mop – I sure would like to be in line when the dinner bell starts ringing, love those burnt end pieces… thanks Maureen for sharing your son’s talent…

  7. says

    Hurray for the southern BBQ. We have a monster smoker, gas grill and charcoal grill, so to say the least we are in the BBQ club. If I had to be limited to one type of meat BBQ, it would surely be the pork. That pork picture really does speak to me, especially the taste buds and stomach part of me…delicious feast! No doubt he has some talent for outdoor cooking, thanks for sharing this!

  8. says

    These are probably the most appetising meat photos I have ever seen! The real Southern Barbecue… I have once seen a tv program about a Southern BBQ contest and this is how I realised what region I would love to visit when I go to the US 😉 Since then I have been dreaming about such a magic machine, but unfortunately I don’t even have a garden (live in the city centre), so I can only admire this delight!
    Sissi recently posted..Cannelés de Bordeaux

  9. Megs says

    What a fantastic family blog……..Alan you need to share more with us!!

    I’m thrilled to have this recipe as most won’t share their secret. Great family pics as well and I’m sure we have another generation of cooks in the making.

  10. Mary says

    Found this post on pinterest, and must say this is a great post!!! Why your son doesn’t think he is a food writer is beyond me!!!! He has TALENT for this!!! Good, easy to follow instructions, great photos, and a sense of humor (sitting around running their mouth)!!!! Can’t wait to get my hubbie or son out on the smoker!! Thanks!

  11. says

    Snicker snicker… you said ‘butt’! Sorry, that was my six year-old looking over my shoulder. I’m still stunned that you’re a grandmother. Gorgeous grandkids, btw. Al’s voice is strong and unique – he definitely should be a blogger. I’d read it. And I’m loving his mop sauce. Great post!

  12. says

    I agree start a blog, please! Or maybe more guests posts here? :) This is the first BBQ post I’ve read in a while that has made want to run to the kitchen and try it myself. Wow, does this ever look good! I was too lazy to cook tonight so I bought cooked food at my local store–this post is making me wish I’d opted for the BBQ ribs instead. They may not be as good as this looks but at least I wouldn’t feel so deprived right now.

  13. says

    Oh boy, that’s the real thing. I’ve eaten tons of barbecue in my time (at one time my wife and I seriously thought of doing a pie and barbecue tour of the US – and we still may at some point!), and that’s how it’s done. I’ve never gotten around to doing a pork butt or whole brisket (brisket is big in Texas barbecue) but need to. Maybe this summer – now I’m inspired! Thanks for a truly fun post.

  14. says

    hi maureen, i just made bbq pork ribs the other day (will post soon). i got the dry rub and braising liquid recipe from Food52 cookbook. But thanks for posting this, as I’m forever looking for the “perfect” recipe! of course, i don’t have a bbq smoker for that smokey flavour! oh well! maybe i’d have to go to the South one day!

  15. says

    I had to show this to the hubby, he wants a smoker sooooooo bad! He was loving the pictures, and we love the rub and sauce recipes:-) I am so glad your son shared them with us:-) I want to grab a fork and dig in! Hugs, Terra

  16. says

    I was going to say that up here in the crown of Maine, we don’t have access to amazing BBQ like this. But that wouldn’t be true, because there’s a BBQ truck that comes around nearly every weekend – pulled pork, ribs, beans, slaw. It’s more than I could ask for given my location!

    • says

      Emma, I’ve only been to Presque Isle once and to Madawaska a few times but never heard it described as the crown of Maine. The things I learn every day amaze me. I lived in Central Maine and we went from home to Boothbay or shopping to Portland or Boston. Going north meant hours driving through forest or potato fields. Boring for a kid. :) Thanks so much for visiting!

  17. says

    Thank you Maureen for introducing your son, and his GREAT recipe! Your grandchildren are so cute too. =) My husband and I are always talking about getting a smoker. This post just convinced me that we need one. After I write this I’m going to send this link to my husband – if he sees these BBQ meat, I am hoping he’ll be convinced, too. 😉 The recipe is a keeper! Thanks Alan and Maureen! p.s. He should start a food blog!

    • says

      Nami, the kids are adorable. Jade is 6 and she’s going to conquer the world one day and her brother will be her #1 henchman. They are both securely wrapped around their father’s little finger. He doesn’t spoil them but he’s older and realizes just how special they are. Al also has a son who’s 21 :) He’s blonde and blue-eyed and adores his little brother and sister. Now how old does that make ME? 30! my story and I’m stickin’ to it. :)

  18. says

    OMG! This post was truly orgasmic. Look at those rub ingredients! The smoked meat! Everything looks amazing. You don’t have to be born in the south, to feel the south. Your son feels it!


  19. says

    Love, love your son’s writing style. That platter of barbecue pork is making me so hungry, and my mouth is watering. Thanks Alan for sharing your recipes.
    You grandchildren are gorgeous, Maureen.

  20. says

    Omg I can’t stop drooling. That meat looks fabulous! And I must say, I am rather jealous of that smoker 😉 I do my faux bbq in the oven low and slow (apartment living..) but this would blow it out of the water! Great post and it was nice to see some family stuff – people seem to avoid it too often.

    • says

      I’m not sure. He cooks to feed and entertain his friends. He loves it. He’s run restaurants and owned his own in the past and bbq sauce runs in his veins I think. :) I think if he won the lottery he’d have a big party every weekend.

  21. says

    For the record, “Holy Smokes”, I am so not showing my husband that smoker, I’ll never hear the end of it. lol This is great Maureen, I wish I lived that way, I’d bring the cookies if I could get an invite.

  22. says

    What a great post, I definitely think Alan should have a blog. He also has adorable helpers :) This is making me drool and want some BBQ and it is only 9am here in AZ !

  23. says

    Yum with a capital Y! There is nothing better than a Southern BBQ. Thanks so much for sharing the recipe. I’m going to pass it on to my hubby – King of the grill & smoker.

  24. says

    how much do you want to bet that my husband and I are doing this on saturday? Seriously, nothing says down home comfort food than an amazing bbq spread and this recipe looks out of this world. You should be so proud of him! Please tell him to give us more recipes! I can’t wait! Will let you know how it turns out. Can’t wait to show my husband

  25. says

    WOW!!! Fabulous post and Maureen, he’s giving you a run for your money in the blogging gig thing. Great, engaging write up and what an amazing recipe and how-to! I am bookmarking both the rub and the mop sauce – even if I don’t cook butt (he he) or have a grill or smoker. Something this tasty must be tasty indoors as well, right? Great post. And gorgeous grandkids!

  26. says

    I am very late again…

    Nice to meet u Adam! I read the post full excitment because I am huge fan of BBQs. Very useful lesson, interessting that u call that the rub, when marinating the meat. Great spice combination too, absolutly my taste. thank your for sharing soo much knowledge in just one post!

  27. Christy says

    Hey fellow Georgian! Any yank who can cook a shoulder like you do is a true Southerner. I grew up in the northside of Atlanta in Dunwoody but have family in your neck of the woods. I now live in St. Louis, Mo where anything yiu grill is called BBQ, something that drives me insane. I maybe from the south but i have tried to smoke a shoulder with not so good results. I am going to give your recipes a try.

  28. says

    this is so good, intact Heavenly Good…
    Great Job Alan!!
    Maureen, I can only hope that one day my sons will cook something too…
    For now if they eat properly without whole lot drama I am a happy mama….

  29. says

    I’d be darned if that’s not the MOTHER of all BBQ grills! (MOAB for short.) LOVE this post. I was introduced to Southern BBQ a few years back, on of our “Yankee” friends had perfected a method for pulled pork and his so far is hands-down the best I’ve had. I may have to invite myself to your son, now, tho. :)
    Sofie Dittmann @thegermanfoodie recently posted..German Pancakes (Pfannekuchen)


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