Southern Kentucky barbecue: Home of the ‘shoulder plate’
If you’re ever in Tompkinsville, Ky., don’t miss the pork-shoulder steak, said Steven Raichlen in The New York Times. The local culinary specialty—known as shoulder plate or shoulder sandwich—is “like no other barbecue you’ve eaten.” Instead of slow-smoking pork shoulder, the masters of the trade have marbled meat sliced into pencil-thin steaks that are dipped twice in “a fiery amalgam of vinegar, melted butter, lard, salt, and tongue-torturing doses of black and cayenne peppers.” First the meat is swabbed with dip while it’s slow-grilled over hickory embers. It’s then immersed in the dip, coating the surface in “a peppery, buttery veneer.” You’ll find shoulder plate throughout Monroe County, and into Tennessee, but start with these Tompkinsville landmarks.
R&S Barbecue Anita Hamilton Bartlett and her crew start stoking their hickory fire at 5 a.m. to be ready for their daily 10:30 opening. At R&S, “green beans are boiled to within an inch of their lives, in true Southern tradition,” and the slow-cooked shoulder steaks may remind you of Buffalo wings or jerky, but with the taste of wood smoke. Bartlett’s pepper dip was passed down by a grandfather who said it was developed generations earlier in a slave camp about an hour away. Her shoulder steaks are “the essence of Monroe County barbecue.” 217 S. Jackson St., (270) 487-1008
Backyard BBQ Randy Walden, who took over the barbecue joint his grandparents founded, gives the Monroe County formula “a few subtle twists.” He adds a touch of ketchup and mustard to the fiery dip, shortens the grill time, and lets his steaks steep in warm dip before they’re served. He also serves an “ingenious” side: a hard-boiled egg pickled for seven days in Monroe County dip. 293 Old Edmonton Road, (270) 407-5435