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May 14, 2013 10:00 AM

Ed Mitchell Opening a BBQ restaurant in Durham this Fall

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    1. I guess this is a good thing for Durham, but I suppose I'm too much of a bbq purist. Overpriced barbecue in fancy surroundings just doesn't get me too excited.

      51 Replies
      1. re: arbyunc

        No news on price or style of restaurant.. just location.. but given that I would imagine the price would be more than say.. Backyard BBQ Pit.

          1. re: goodeatsinadive

            I guess to each their own. I think Backyard BBQ Pit is not good at all. Now, the new place in Durham I'm enamored with is Johnson Family Barbecue. They cook with wood and I like that their 'cue is in small chunks. I don't care for the stringiness of pulled pork or the mushiness of uber-chopped pork. Their fried chicken is killer too and their banana pudding is to die for. It's topped with meringue rather than the short cut of whipped cream. As for Ed Mitchell, I like his ribs better than his pork.

            1. re: bbqme

              Chunky barbecue doesn't do it for me...especially when you're talking about eastern style. Now in Lexington they cook their meat to a less doneness (undercooked by eastern standards) where it doesn't fall apart. That is why you can order sliced and coarse chopped in western style barbecue...the collagens haven't fully dissolved. The bbq at Johnson Family is a mix of east & west styles.

              But you said it each their own. Glad you enjoy it...we all have our favorite spots.

              1. re: carolinadawg

                I'm sorry, but there is a big difference in the final cooking temperature of Lexington style and eastern style barbecue.

                Lexington style is finished to a lower internal temperature. This leaves the collagen intact which in turn holds the meat strands together. When cooked a bit further the collagen dissolves and the meat strands fall apart...allowing the meat to be pulled or chopped to the consistency you find in eastern NC.

                Both methods are traditional in their respective regions. I'm not sure why that is a problem?

                As to cooking a shoulder for 2 days...I'm not sure why anyone would do that. We typically cook whole hogs for 6-8 hours and they fall apart.

                1. re: JayL

                  Lexington coarse chopped, Lexington sliced, and a chopped shoulder cooked to eastern-style standards.

                  1. re: carolinadawg

                    I can't add anything that JayL hasn't already said. This isn't a subjective matter.

                    1. re: Naco

                      Naco, you get it...and I can assume by your words that you know how to cook, as well as the regional differences & the science involved here.

                      CD...please don't take offense to anything being said here. It seems there are some cooking physics going on that you don't understand...and that's ok. No one is making light of that. Personally, I'm trying to help you understand what goes on in the meat at different temperatures.

                      A few degrees of internal temperature can differentiate between slicing and pulling your pork.

                      When I say western style bbq is cooked to a state of less doneness, I literally mean it is cooked to a lower internal temperature. The pork is done...let's make that just isn't "as done" as eastern style pork. I'm going to "guess" that western NC shoulders are cooked to between 180-190 degrees. Much above 190 and a shoulder will start to fall apart. 180-185 might be a more accurate guess. Pork is usually "done" in the 160 range to where the pink is gone. It is safe to eat it at lower temperatures, but many folks don't like pink pork. Those temps are way too low for bbq of course, and we'll all agree to that.

                      The collagen that holds the meat fibers together, in my "opinion", start to dissolve around 190-193 degrees. I can start to detect tenderness differences around that point. At that stage of the cook 2-3 degrees can make major differences in the can start becoming so tender that it's difficult to even get off the pit in one piece. Eastern NC barbecue is cooked to THIS level of tenderness. It is easy to pull apart, and when chopped the meat ends up like we're used to seeing in the east.

                      Hams can throw a wrench into this topic of conversation as their makeup is different than shoulders...but they can be pulled into fine strands also if cooked properly. But since Lexington style is all shoulders, this isn't as relevant.

                      There could be a ton more discussion, but I don't want to type so long as to confuse the subject.

                      1. re: JayL

                        Please explain to me how Lexington style places manage the internal temperature of their shoulders so precisely. I've never seen a meat thermometer at Honey Monks, for example. There are no standards regarding cooking temperature, distance of meat from coals, the set up of the cookers, size of shoulders, etc. so it's not possible to cook at "x" temperature for "y" time to achieve "z" result like a traditional recipe. It's all done by look, feel and experience and nobody can look at the shoulders and precisely impute their internal temperature within a few degrees.

                        Lexington shoulders do fall apart after cooking, into large pieces that be then be sliced, cut into smaller chunks or chopped. I've watched it done many, many times.

                        Collagen does melt at 190 degrees, that's not your opinion, it's a fact. I already knew that. And I'm not the least bit interested in your your "help" in understanding the "physics" of cooking. I get it and have no need to be enlightened by you. Thanks anyway.

                        What exactly should I take offense to?

                        1. re: carolinadawg

                          You don't need a thermometer to cook bbq at all. It does make it easier to explain the process with exact numbers.

                          Having large chunks fall apart that can be sliced is not the same as cooking it 10-15 degrees further. That is the point I'm simply trying to make.

                          Glad I could help.

                          1. re: JayL

                            And the point I'm simply trying to make, and that you continue to avoid, is that no pitmaster knows, or attempts to know, the internal temperature of his bbq. Therefore, it is impossible to state that one is cooked to a higher temperature than another. There are too many variables involved.

                            1. re: carolinadawg

                              You may be technically correct in that most pitmasters would not need a thermometer, and thus don't measure the internal temp. But they certainly do know when their meat is done, by feel. And when eastern style pitmasters cook until the meat is easily falling apart, and Lexington-style pitmasters cook to a "slice-able" consistency, one is clearly cooked to a higher internal temperature than the other (otherwise there would be no difference). Just because the temperature isn't measured doesn't preclude one from making this inference.

                              1. re: carolinadawg

                                As to avoidance, re-read the first sentence in my last don't even have to expand it as it's right there in the little gray box.

                                I don't need a thermometer to cook bbq and usually cook by sight & feel. I have, however, done experiments so that I can explain to others what it is they are looking for. That is why I can, with no preconceived notion of impossibilities, tell you exactly what is happening inside that piece of meat in specified temperature ranges. Many novices start by cooking with's an easy way to teach them, literally "by the numbers". Again, this is why I use those numbers a way to help you understand the differences.

                                I'm sorry that you refuse to lower your guard and accept the sharing of facts I'm offering you.

                                There are alot of variables involved, but not too many for the experienced to understand.

                                I'll leave the remainder of this conversation to you as it seems hopeless at this point. I'm sure you would like the last word anyway...have a pleasant day.

                                1. re: JayL

                                  I have a couple of questions for you. If barbecue is cooked to the point where the collagen melts and the proteins fall apart then why is there a need to chop the hell out of it and turn it into cat food? Second, when judging ribs, the ideal isn't ribs that are "fall off the bone" but rather ribs that have a "bit of chew." Why wouldn't the same qualities apply to barbecued pork?

                                  1. re: bbqme

                                    It really has to do with how we season our bbq...our "sauce" if you will.

                                    The majority of the country uses that thick, red, sticky stuff. Pour it on a brick and it stays there. Eastern North Carolina uses vinegar spiked with peppers and seasoning. Pour that on a brick and it rolls right off.

                                    Try the same experiment with barbecue and you get the same results. With a finely chopped barbecue it only takes a relatively small amount of sauce to season the way we intend it to be seasoned. In essence, the "sauce" gets inside the meat.

                                    It's just how our barbecue works.

                                    Anytime a person refers to our barbecue as "catfood" I know where they are coming from, and I don't attempt to fool myself into thinking they will ever like come to accept it.

                                    To each their own.

                                    1. re: JayL

                                      To be accurate, my cat food reference is strictly in reference to the texture. My preference is to keep the meat in chunks so that there is still some structural integrity, which I think is still possible even when the collagen has broken down. I have a different theory from yours for finely chopped pork. Rather than having to do with the sauce, finely chopping allows the less desirable parts of the pig-- the fat, the skin, even some of the gristle-- to be mixed in with the meat. Snout to tail eating, so to speak.

                                      Don't get me wrong, I'll eat chopped pork all day, it's just not my first choice.

                                      1. re: bbqme

                                        I can promise you that no one purposefully puts gristle in their bbq. Does some get in there? Oh yeah.

                                        As far as fat & skin...yes please. These are more times than not added on purpose. Although I will say that very few people (restaurants) add skin to their bbq. The one example of this that comes to mind is the Skylight personal favorite & recently named by National Geographic as #2 in the entire country.

                                2. re: carolinadawg

                                  Boys, boys, boys...

                                  May I offer a solution?

                                  Table the debate and battle it out with a regional CH pig roast!

                                  I volunteer to try everything served with an open mind and willing palate.

                                  I'll even help with the planning!

                                  1. re: meatn3

                                    I dont understand what you mean, sorry.

                                    1. re: carolinadawg

                                      I'm half serious -

                                      We should find a spot, get some pigs and have a Chow-eat & meet event! Each pig gets cooked differently - one Lexington style, one Eastern NC style, etc.

                                      Pot luck sides, donations to cover the swine, and beer to smooth it all over!

                                      And a few non-piggy items for those who don't indulge.

                                      1. re: meatn3

                                        It sounds as if you think we are disagreeing over the old eastern vs. Lexington, which one tastes better deal? That's not the case. The discussion is about whether all eastern style restaurants cook their 'q to a higher internal temperature than all lexington style places. I don't how a cook off would impact that.

                                        1. re: meatn3

                                          I'm down! I don't have the place but I'll definitely pitch in money, side dish, and libations.

                                          1. re: bbqme

                                            Lulu'sMom & I tried getting an area CH picnic going last year. There was a bit of interest but finding a date was hard. I finally called it off since it still seemed iffy when the cancellation deadline arrived and there was $150 down for the park shelter.

                                            Tehama started a google group for area CH get-togethers a few years ago. We have had a number of group Chinese dinners which have been a lot of fun.

                                            If there is interest in a pig roast or people just want alerts for get-togethers please join!


                                      2. re: meatn3

                                        Would love to work with both JayL and Naco on this, have cooked with gas before, but would like to work with someone who has experience cooking on coals.

                                        1. re: chazzer

                                          After attending Bovinova I'm psyched!

                                          This method is fairly low tech and doesn't require digging a pit:


                                          1. re: meatn3

                                            I think those globetrotter guys were inspired (I don't wanna use the word "steal") by the 3 Guys From Miami guys


                                            Somewhat lower tech, but same principle. The biggest hurdle is to decide to do it...
                                            Granted it ain't no Bovinova, but after your first hog, it becomes an easy, enjoyable, less daunting task.

                                            1. re: porker

                                              This years Bovinova used a number of techniques and styles.
                                              From their website (and most articles I've read) :
                                              "The idea of roasting a whole cow was seen on TV and inspired by Chef Francis Mallmann from Uruguay."

                                              I grew up near Tampa so Cuban style roast pork was one of my first food loves!

                                              I think we should do this! Heck, the E-Gullet folks had a pig roast in the Triangle some years ago and people traveled to attend from all over!


                                      3. re: carolinadawg

                                        I'm not jumping into this argument other than to say that if a pitmaster like in the case of Skylight has been doing it for X number of years and/or has 3 generations behind it.. they know that a shoulder weighing X amount will take Y time to cook to the degree they want it and the know that because they've been doing it their whole life. It is like when you hear people talking about how their grandparents made wonderful dishes and never measured anything or followed a written recipe but some how always came out great.

                                        1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                                          I agree. An experienced cook has learned the cues that result in a perfect finish. So often what they see is so subtle that they really can't explain it to a new cook.

                                          1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                                            Actually, to be technical about it, the Skylight Inn folks would likely have no idea how long it takes to cook a shoulder. They cook whole hogs, as any self-respecting BBQ joint should. ;)

                                            1. re: arbyunc

                                              Yes I know that I wasn't making the point about what meat they cook..

                                3. re: JayL

                                  And the shoulder is the greasiest part of the animal from what I've read and seen.

                                  1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                                    The shoulder/butt is an excellent cut, but in itself doesn't make for the best my opinion.

                                    If I were to cook only one piece of the hog, it would no doubt be a whole shoulder. Some people only cook hams and that yields a different product...a little more dry and certainly less flavorful.

                           preference stems directly from my eastern NC heritage. And that heritage screams whole hog. There is nothing quite like mixing an entire hog on a single fork full of porkalicious goodness.

                                    People say the way to eat an elephant is one bite at a eastern North Carolina you can eat an entire hog in a single bite. ;-)

                                    1. re: JayL

                                      I agree, depending on the numbers we can scale down to 1/2 a hog

                                      1. re: JayL

                                        Just quoting the jones's of skylight

                                      2. re: burgeoningfoodie

                                        Not even close. That would be the belly.

                                        1. re: bbqme

                                          And that is exactly where I head first at a pig pickin'.

                                          This ain't my first rodeo LoL

                                            1. re: chazzer

                                              If you need a place to do this, and don't mind coming to Hillsborough I've got plenty of room at my house.

                                              1. re: bbqme

                                                I'm trying to follow the thread but I think you've lost me.

                                    2. re: bbqme

                                      I simply refuse to ever consider Johnson Family BBQ as an option based on the owner's rude treatment of people online and in person. Check out Wayne Johnson's cussing and name-calling of customers in the comments section of the Carpe Durham site:


                                      That guy is unbelievable.

                                      1. re: ToothTooth

                                        Tooth, I did see that on CarpeDurham. However, my personal experience from two visits have been entirely different. He and especially his employees have been nothing but kind to me. The conclusion I've drawn from this is that Wayne perceived that his wife had been mistreated and had to come to her defense. I think people should try it for themselves and come to their own conclusions. And with BBQ joints they should expect some eccentricities such as running out of items, unexpected closings, etc. Allen & Son certainly has theirs too, for example.

                                        1. re: bbqme

                                          Except for the fact that he continues to come back to the site and pick fights with completely random individuals and call them names. Way beyond the pale.

                                          1. re: bbqme

                                            I've had nothing but good experiences at Johnson's. That type and sized place I am not surprised if something runs out or they close up shop early.

                                            It's their business and they are running it as they see fit. It is hard to imagine many transactions where words would be exchanged. My exchanges have been limited to normal ordering and basic time-passing chit chat. All pleasant and within bounds.

                                            There are many sides to each story. I'm there to eat and negative personality quirks of the owner have not been in evidence on my visits.

                                            On a side note the "customer is always right" pov can be greatly abused. After a lifetime of dealing with the public I can see where a business owner may be at a point of running things as he feels fit and not particularly caring if it doesn't work for every potential patron. It's his vision, his choice. Might work, might not but he has the option of doing what ever he wants (within health and legal restrictions).

                                        2. re: bbqme

                                          I went to Johnson Family BBQ for the first time for lunch today. I had a bbq plate w slaw, brunswick stew and hushpuppies. I thought everything was delicious. Excellent cue, celery seeds in the slaw, very meaty stew and tasty hushpuppies. I want to go back to try the fried chicken and beef brisket. The owners and staff were all very friendly and checked up on me several times to make sure I was enjoying my lunch.

                                    3. re: arbyunc

                                      I don't expect Ed Mitchell's new place in ATC will be cheap. I don't think it has to be.

                                      I will happily pay a few bucks extra for a restaurant that uses local meat from humanely-raised animals as Sam does at The Pig. I think there's room in BBQ-universe for multiple approaches.

                                    4. I'm a northerner (Canada) and a big Ed Mitchell fan - he's almost a hero of mine.
                                      I wish him the best on his new restaurant, but I'm always sceptical about new ventures...
                                      Is he partnered with a big conglomerate only to use his name? How much input/control will he have on the establishment? Can he retain greatness while going big and glitzy? etc etc.

                                      Just my opinion; although not my cup of tea, I wouldn't mind overpriced BBQ in fancy surroundings (whatdja expect, I'm from Canada) as everything has its place.
                                      I wouldn't mind, but I'd hope It'd be GOOD BBQ.

                                      BTW, the article mentioned "American Tobacco Campus". Not being from the area, one might wonder what Ed Mitchell or his restaurant had with tobacco...wikipedia straightened me out...

                                      1. You guys don't think The Pit did a pretty good job balancing good 'cue and a quality mix of traditional and non-traditional sides in an upscale downtown setting at a fair price? I never felt like I was being overcharged for what I got there; if I had a complaint it was that while still pretty good I thought the quality in later years wasn't as good as it was initially, and that they didn't seem set up for carry-out.

                                        1. My last two trips to Backyard have been very disappointing, the quality seems to have really fallen off with the BBQ. I made a trip to the Johnsons Family spot and was very impressed with the BBQ, the internet stuff is very petty all the way around, but I am going to keep returning.

                                          2 Replies
                                            1. re: ToothTooth

                                              To quote Alton Brown, "I'm just here for the food." I'm looking for good cue, not to make friends.