Jerry Nelson column of smoked meats brisket Kansas City


It has been said that smoking is one of the hardest habits to quit.

I can personally attest to the veracity of this sentiment, although the type of smoking I enjoy does not involve tobacco. The form I have chosen for smoking involves hardwood and flames and scorched eyebrows every now and then.

Part of the unwritten Guy Code states that nothing is so good that it cannot be improved. For example, the Jersey beef my wife and I raise is tender and delicious. But imagine how much more delicious this brisket would be if it were lovingly bathed in the smoke of a slow cherry wood fire! The mere thought of it is enough to make me salivate at levels often associated with lawn sprinklers.

My wife and I recently traveled to Kansas City to visit family. KC is the mecca for barbecue lovers. Any city that has an organization called the Barbecue Society has a serious smoking problem.

By the way, if there is a search for The Cutest Baby In The World, it may be canceled. My wife and I have found the cutest baby in the world, who by a great coincidence just happens to be our grandson. Don’t take my word for it. Random citizens, seeing our grandson in his stroller, will stop in their tracks and coo, “Oh, what a cute baby! And what happened to the world if you can’t trust the judgment of strangers you pass while walking in the park?

While at KC, we decided to visit an establishment that specializes in all things barbecue. Not to do so would be like going to a world class steakhouse and deciding not to go inside even though you can hear the beef sizzling and smell its mouthwatering aroma.

The barbecue depot we visited was aptly called The Kansas City BBQ Store.

I knew we had found the right spot when I saw a sign in the window that said “R Butts R Smokin ‘”. I must have read it twice before realizing that the sign did not refer to the physical appearance of the store employees. It turned out to be an advertisement for a line of barbecue seasonings.

When we walked into the store we were faced with a mind-boggling array of barbecue products. There were shelves and shelves of sauces. Some sauce bottles had names like Hawg Wash (for cleaning pigs, I guess) and Ghost Pepper Sauce (which I guess will come back to haunt you).

The large number of rubs that were exhibited was beyond comprehension. It was a good thing that my wife was with me because I was tempted to exclaim to the owner, “I don’t know what all this is, but I’ll take one of everything!”

Sacks of broken hardwood lined one wall. I didn’t have time to review them all, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they had 10,000-year-old hardwood that had been salvaged from Siberian permafrost.

Did they have smokers on hand, you might be wondering? Ha! It’s like asking if a chicken has feathers.

They had heavy smokers, light smokers, egg-shaped smokers, and smokers who would do anything for you except buy the meat.

One of the bigger and more expensive smokers was the size of a walk-in closet. There was enough space to cook an amount of food that could feed a small town with room for a substantial amount of outerwear. This would give a whole new dimension to the words “tuxedo jacket”.

But of all the computer-controlled, Bluetooth-connected smokers, the one that caught my eye was the most primitive model.

It had a rounded top and sported a set of steel wheels. There was a fireplace at one end and a chimney at the other. Its main source of attraction was that it looked like a steam locomotive. Each guy secretly wishes to own a steam locomotive.

I fantasized about what it would be like to have this smoker. Puffs of fragrant smoke billowed from its fireplace, and I sounded its steam whistle when the meat was ready.

But I knew we couldn’t buy the thing. It would never fit in the trunk of our car and its steel wheels weren’t made for highway speeds.

My wife pulled me out of my reverie. “It’s time to go,” she said, putting an overflowing shopping bag in my arms.

I looked in the bag and almost cried with joy. I can’t wait to put KC Cowtown Steak Rub on one of our Jersey beef breasts and sit on the deck and enjoy a nice, slow smoke.

Jerry Nelson’s book, “Dear County Agent Guy,” is available at and bookstores nationwide.

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