Gods of Whole Hog BBQ – Ricky Parker

Western Tennessee probably has more whole hog restaurants than any other region in the country. It’s sandwiched between Nashville and Memphis. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have the same sexy music appeal as the two. I’m not sure how Eastern North Carolina’s whole hog cooking method arrived in the area, but they’re pretty faithful to it.

Ricky Parker is the owner and head pitmaster of Scott’s Barbecue in Lexington, Tennessee. He has been cooking hog for close to 37 years. The Duroc-Yorkshire hybrids weight between 180 to 200lbs and a picked for their thick backfat. Tennessee style whole hog necessitates a bigger pig because they serve each individual part separately – Shoulders, hams, bacon (middlin’), loins, and tenderloins (catfish). The thicker backfat protects and seasons the loins through the long cooking process. Parker not only continues the old tradition of cooking whole hog, he’s actually thriving where many of his competitors in the areas have shut down due to the loss of the meat processing plant.

Style – The duroc-yorkshire hybrids are cooked on their back over hickory embers in open pits. The top of the pit is covered with cardboard paper that Parker has specifically made for him. He goes through 3 hogs a day and needs to change the cardboard every 3 days because the heat causes them to crumble.

Fuel – Tennessee is all hickory all day. Apparently it’s really good hickory too. A good friend of mine in the region actually trucks hickory up to BBQ joints in New Jersey. He gets them in planks for a sawmill.

Sauce – Like in North Carolina, his sauce is a vinegar pepper sauce. He does have some super spicy and some sweet sauces he says are for the “tourists” from Memphis.

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