Delicious advice

The scent of charring wood and slow-cooking meat will hang over downtown Franklin all weekend long.

Expertly cooked pork shoulder, beef brisket and chicken breast will fill industrial-scale smokers as the annual Smoke on the Square event takes over the community.

While live music, food vendors and other attractions will keep people entertained, it’s the more than 30 professional barbecuing teams that will provide the mouthwatering lure to the Kansas City Barbecue Society-sanctioned event.

Becoming a professional requires patience, practice and investment in the right equipment. But even the most basic backyard grill-jockey can get good at smoking by sticking to a few simple rules. 

As the pros get ready to square off this weekend, they’ve shared some of their best tips to get started.

World Famous Butt Brothers

Where: Franklin

Who: John Cole

Advice: “Find a professional, look and learn. You’ll save a lot of time and efforts to get started with it. Always buy good quality meat. Don’t use the cheapest cuts that you can find.”

Smokin’ Hookers Bar-B-Q

Where: Tippecanoe

Who: Kristy Hooker

Advice: “We think that a piece of good advice for the novice smoker and the backyard barbecuer would be a timeline. Once you practice smoking your meats and you’re happy with how they turned out, the best thing to do is make a timeline of your cook. You should list everything from the time you inject, rub, put on smoker, check or temp meats until you are finished. This keeps your time organized and helps you to stay focused.”

Farmer’s Retreat Smokin’ Barbecue

Where: Dillsboro

Who: Gary Lewis

Advice: “You want a clean smoke — a light blue or white smoke; the protein only absorbs smoke until around 140 degrees and then it lays on top of the meat. Use good charcoal if you cook with charcoal because all this is going on the food. Also, get a thermometer to help from over-cooking food.  Remember, the meat will keep rising in temperature after taking off the grill.”


Where: Greenfield

Who: Doug Todd

Advice: “Always keep it fun. For me, barbecuing is a relaxing pastime providing a stress-releasing diversion from the day-to-day tensions. Plus at the end of the cook, you always have delicious barbecue to share with your friends and family.”

Butts-N-Racks BBQ

Where: Madison

Who: Gene Copeland

Advice: “Just have fun! Practice, and anytime you get the opportunity to be around the (Kansas City Barbecue Society) cookers, listen and ask lots of questions. They are all a great group of people and are always willing to lend a hand.”

Sweet Aroma Bar-B-Q

Where: Indianapolis

Who: John Packwood

Advice: “Follow your heart and love what you do; that way you’ll always be a winner. In order to improve at anything you must surround yourself with people that are proven and better than yourself, to strive to be better. Last but not least, practice, practice, practice.”

2nd Hand Smoke

Where: Indianapolis

Who: Rob Bachek

Advice: “Most people cook too hot and have no idea what their temperatures are. Low and slow. If it’s dripping, it’s cooking. Don’t be afraid to grab a recipe off the internet and try it. Then build on off that.”

Tire Smoke BBQ

Where: East Liberty, Ohio

Who: Luke Legett

Advice: “For grilling, a fast-read thermometer is the best investment you can make. Cooking meats to the correct temperature will ensure that they are the best they can be. When smoking meats for a long period of time, however, temperature doesn’t mean everything. Learn a technique called ‘probe tender’: take a skewer or using your thermometer, probe the meat until it offers up just a slight resistance. That’s when its ready.”

Little Bob’s BBQ

Where: Indianapolis

Who: Bob Melton

Advice: “Cook what you like to eat. If you like beef, cook beef. If you don’t like pork, don’t try to cook pork at the start. You will do better if you like what you’re cooking. If you don’t like hot sauce, don’t use hot sauce. Sounds simple but you would be surprised at the people that try to cook with something they found on the internet that even if it turns out right they won’t like it anyway.”

Squealers Award-Winning Barbecue

Where: Mooresville

Who: Jeff Yater

Advice: “Have the patience to do it right. Second, gain as much knowledge as you can by reading or Internet, and practice, practice, practice.”

Black Metal BBQ

Where: Indianapolis

Who: Chris Morrison

Advice: “Burn a clean fire. Too much billowy, thick, white smoke means your fire is not getting enough oxygen and can leave a bitter taste on your meat. Clean fires leave a thin blue line of smoke. Sometimes its barely visible. Be patient and don’t rely on a meat’s temperature so much. Temperature can be a tool to get you in the ballpark, but cooking by feel for big meats like brisket and pork shoulder is the way to go. When you stick a probe in the meat and it feels like its sliding easily through warm butter, you’re probably good to go.”

If you go

Smoke on the Square

What: A barbecue competition and community event featuring more than 30 professional barbecue teams as well as kids activities, live music and food vendors.

When: 5 to 10 p.m. today and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday

Where: Downtown Franklin

Ryan Trares is a reporter for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at or 317-736-2727.