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BARBECUE Continued from page 19


the entire reason for Oklahoma barbecue. “For a while there, Tulsa was the oil capital of the world,” he said. “That created a kind of melting pot, because that booming economy drew in people from around the country.” Sure, Oklahomans had been barbecuing for years, but when everyone comes to town with a different


version of barbecue, those recipes begin to borrow from one another. Texas, Kansas, Tennessee—pretty soon, Oklahoma has a barbecue identity built piece by piece from the best its neighbors have to offer. And that seems to be the secret to Oklahoma barbecue. There’s no set recipe, Coby Wells with Smokin’ Joe’s Rib Ranch and RV Park said. Travel all over the state and you’ll taste plenty of different versions of the same old favorites. They cook a little like everybody else because they want the best of what they’ve had.


HEAR FROM THE BARBECUE EXPERT


aniel Vaughn is a barbecue fanat ic. As one of the food lovers behind the blog Full Custom Gospel BBQ (www. fcg-bbq.blogspot.com), he’s been all over the country tasting the best—and worst—that barbe- cue restaurants have to offer. His trips through Oklahoma yielded a few winners and plenty of los- ers.


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“It’s easy to tell if a place isn’t try- ing, but I can’t tell you exactly what causes it,” he said. “My best guess is that it happens when someone opens a joint without knowing how much work it really is.” Barbecue takes work. That’s the entire point of barbecue: transform- ing otherwise undesirable pieces of meat into tender, fl avorful food. But rather than honing their skills and working on recipes that will turn out excellent food, some lazy restau- rant owners will opt for a Southern Pride “set-it-and-forget-it” smoker, order their side dishes from a food service company and let teenagers


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run the place, Vaughn said. True barbecue artists can be dis- covered any where and can cook in any style, so long as they’re concen- trating on the product, he said. And some of that can be found in Okla- homa’s best restaurants.


When he comes through the state, Vaughn said, he can’t resist picking up a meal at a few old favorites. “I love stopping at Smokin’ Joe’s Rib Ranch and RV Park in Davis, and I love the name,” he said. “Earl’s (Rib Palace, in Oklahoma City) has decent brisket, but I’m always happy to get a BBQ fi x with their smokestack sandwich.”


Another of Vaughn’s beloved spots in Oklahoma City, the BBQ Chop Shop, has closed and is now working solely in catering. But even going an hour off course isn’t enough to keep him from one local legend.


“I’ll always go out of my way for the original Van’s (Pig Stand) in Shawnee.” OL


The crust on a rib is important. It defi nes the out- side of the meat, the same way the regional barbe- cues to the north, south and east defi ne their styles. But the smoke is just as important to great barbe- cue. And in Oklahoma, we’ve been soaking up the infl uence of our neighbors for years to create our own mélange of meats, rubs, sauces and smokes. Which is why, when the sign on the door at Smokin’ Joe’s Rib Ranch tells customers to form two lines when it’s busy, the people gladly queue up and wait for their Oklahoma-style barbecue.


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