Charleston locals lucky enough to ride by the original location of Rodney Scott’s BBQ on any given morning can smell whole hogs being slowly cooked in the smokehouse just as the sun is rising. The aroma is a part of Scott’s signature approach — each pig cooks for twelve or more hours, right on-site and over real wood. The schedule requires pulling cooked pork off the smokers throughout the day so each customer, from lunch to dinner, is tasting fresh barbecue.
Scott’s restaurant is so beloved that he has two more locations — one in Birmingham, Alabama and another soon to come in Atlanta, Georgia — and has made appearances on Chef’s Table and Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown. Plus, Scott himself won a James Beard Award for Best Chef Southeast in 2018. His newest venture? Putting all of that knowledge into his first cookbook, Rodney Scott’s World of BBQ: Recipes & Perspectives from the Legendary Pitmaster.
Scott, who cooked his first whole hog at age 11 as part of his family smokehouse in Hemmingway, South Carolina, knows how to cook a pig in his sleep. But writing a cookbook? That was another story. “It’s a whole new learning curve,” said Scott. For example, at the restaurant he makes his famous pepper-flecked vinegar-based Rod Sauce in 18 gallon batches — the home cook requires smaller yields, simpler directions, and flawless recipes that won’t require multiple trips to the grocery store.
Though the cookbook captures many of Scott’s signature recipes (including his whole hog roasting method, adapted for backyards with a DIY pit approach using cinder blocks, a steel drum, and some chicken wire) there’s one thing it can’t capture, and that is the hospitality and warmth that guests feel after entering one of Scott’s spots.
“Hospitality is the first flavor that goes into your meal or your event, so of course you want to make it good,” says Scott. “I believe you have to give people an experience as well as a tasteful dish.”
Back in Hemmingway, South Carolina a classmate once told Scott “You know, your food isn’t all that, but your personality makes it great,” recalls Scott. And, though his James Beard award tells another story about the food, this classmate was right about Scott’s personality: His positivity and warmth make his restaurants stand out in a region already awash in BBQ. So, we asked this legendary host for some of his tips for throwing your own memorable barbecue at home.
Go Big With the Invite
Here’s the thing about a whole hog barbecue — your neighbors are going to smell it. And, if the party is good, they’re going to hear it, too. So don’t wait for complaints: “Stick an invite on the door of everyone within listening distance that you can afford to feed!” advises Scott. That’s the thing about whole hog barbecue — there’s plenty enough for a crowd. “The key is, you want them to be with you instead of interrupted by you.”
Have A “Disco Ball” Moment
One thing people might not notice at first glance is the disco ball hung up inside Rodney Scott’s BBQ. “I saw a disco ball for the first time at a nightclub in 1985 and I was just mesmerized,” says Scott. “Now I put one in all my restaurants. It’s a little thing, but it creates a moment, it indicates that you are stepping into a different place for a little bit.”
Whether that’s an over-the-top table setting, a colorful floral arrangement, or even a showstopping appetizer, discover your version of Scott’s disco ball. “You can bring that same energy in your own backyard with or without the disco ball,” says Scott. “But they do make portable disco balls…”
Be Your Own Front-of-House
When Scott first started out he preferred to spend his time up all night shoveling hot coals under slow-roasting pork. But as he gained notoriety after an article in The New York Times, Scott realized people came not just for the food, but to see him as well. He needed to be spending more time up front, talking to customers and welcoming guests.
Take this same approach when hosting a BBQ: Have the cocktails batched, the plates and forks set out to grab, the sides ready to serve room temperature — after all, people are here not just to fill their bellies but to enjoy the company, too. You’ll know you are being a good host when you can greet each guest and let them know where the bathroom is and when the food will be ready, says Scott.
Tell a Story With Your Food
Not everything has to look effortless to your guests. Instead of adopting an “oh, I just whipped this up…” attitude, tell your friends exactly what went into the dishes you’ve prepared and why you chose them, says Scott. “Take the cookbook out, tell a story, try something new and ask them what they think,” he encourages. “That starts a conversion and it helps people open their eyes to the fact that there are different ways of doing food.”
Rodney Scott’s World of BBQ: Every Day is a Good Day by Rodney Scott and Lolis Eric Elie Copyright © 2021 by Rodney Scott’s BBQ, LLC, a South Carolina limited liability company. Photographs copyright © 2021 by Jerrelle Guy. Published by Clarkson Potter, an imprint of Penguin Random House.