The month of May is National Barbeque Month. It’s a month I enjoy celebrating. Barbecue has become so very personal. Tell somebody about a great recipe or a restaurant that serves up great barbecue and you’ll always get an argument. It’s the same thing that happens when you talk about meatballs, and everybody knows a better recipe.


As you can imagine, human beings have been cooking meats over an open flame since the beginning of time. Native Americans are credited with using cherry wood and other smoking woods that would add flavor to their catch. We’ve come a long way in chemically treating wood so that we get a certain flavor on our smoked meats of choice.

Photo by Stephanie McCabe on Unsplash

I’m a big fan of barbecue but I’m not obsessed with it and I certainly don’t treat it like a science experiment to obtain the perfect item for your plate. I use natural ingredients with natural sauces and non-treated wood to make my barbecue meal the best that it can be.

Big Joe at the BBQ Festival in North Wildwood
Big Joe at the BBQ Festival in North Wildwood (Townsquare Media NJ)

For years I used to go down in July to North Wildwood to do my radio show from The New Jersey State Barbeque Championship. It was by far one of my favorite appearances because I love the smells but mostly the taste of great barbeque. The people are great there and the competitors and organizers, particularly the Angle Sea Fire Co., do an outstanding job.

BBQ and Brew Fest at Mercer County Park

Through going down there and through my travels I have become a student of the art of good barbeque. I have spent quality time in Memphis, Nashville, Dallas, Houston, Chicago, The Carolinas, Atlanta, New Orleans, Mississippi and Oklahoma and I have had great barbeque at each of those fine locales. However, I truly believe that right here in New Jersey we have the best barbeque.

Youtube ScreenGrab via Food Network
Youtube ScreenGrab via Food Network

I met a guy who has broken the myth and the notion that anyone north of the Mason-Dixon Line can’t cook good barbeque. I met Butch from Butch’s world famous Smack Your Lips Barbeque! The guy has won hundreds of awards for his sauce and ribs and won a barbeque “throw down” with renowned TV chef Bobby Flay. I have had many sauces, made my own, too, for years, but his is the best, bar none.

Youtube ScreenGrab via Food Network
Youtube ScreenGrab via Food Network

I got to know Butch quite well, went to his house to pick up sauce and used to see him every year in North Wildwood. He was an icon to me. A great guy, gentle soul who had a tremendous passion for what he loved, good barbeque.

Unfortunately, Butch passed away a few years ago. Thankfully his daughter has stepped up so proudly and took the reins in continuing Butch’s tradition of championship barbecue and making outstanding sauces and rubs and this great barbecue is coming out of Mt. Laurel, New Jersey. I love it. You can reach them on line at

Big Joe Henry/ Cinecall Productions
Big Joe Henry/ Cinecall Productions

Big Joe’s award-winning ribs recipe

Well, first off the bat, my ribs have never won anything, not a darn thing, no ribbons, no honorable mentions, nothing, but that’s because I never entered them in any contest. They have “won” a few compliments when eaten and that’s a great thing!

There are so many factors in making the “best” ribs possible. Gone are the days when you run to the grocery store, pick up the ribs, slap on some sauce and throw them on the grill. I have learned that the most important factor in cooking great barbeque is time, lots of time. Nice and easy, slow down, let them permeate the great rubs and sauces and the meat will be flavorful and tender with a mouth-watering taste that will make you wish you cooked more.

Most of the pros have smokers. I do not, but I can tell you from friend and family reaction, these ribs are very good. Relax and cook some ribs, Jersey style! Just a note, these ribs are going to take about 8 hours to cook, so be prepared!

Two racks of ribs. (pork, membrane removed and trimmed – the large pork ribs, not the baby back ribs, those are too small!)

1 can of beer. (OK, two cans of beer one for the ribs and one for you.)

2 cups of rub. (I use Butch’s but just in case you can’t get Butch’s in time, here’s a rub recipe that I’ve used before that works well)

Big Joe’s Emergency Rub

1cup paprika
1 ½ cups brown sugar
½ cup garlic powder
¼ cup Kosher salt
½ cup onion powder
½ cup chili powder
¼ cup black pepper freshly ground
¼ cup cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon white pepper
2 tablespoons of dried thyme
2 tablespoons of dried oregano
¼ cup ground cumin

1 ½ teaspoons finely grated orange zest


Butch’s Doctored Barbeque Sauce, Big Joe Style

1 bottle 18 oz of Butch’s Mild Barbeque Sauce (if you can’t get Butch’s try an upscale Barbeque sauce)

1 bottle 18 oz of Butch’s Pyro Barbeque Sauce (if you can’t get Butch’s try an upscale Barbeque sauce)

2 tablespoons of habanera infused honey

¼ cup of orange juice

½ cup of bourbon liquor (optional)

2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

After you have prepared the ribs, generously apply the rub to both sides of the ribs. I suggest you use plastic gloves as to not get the paprika stains on your fingers. Really get the rub into the meat. Once covered with rub, wrap the now covered ribs in plastic wrap, then aluminum foil and put back into the refrigerator for 6 or more hours, preferably overnight.

After the ribs have been taken out of the refrigerator and are now ready to be cooked, pre-heat the oven to 225 degrees. Place ribs on a standing rack I use a turkey rack and lay the ribs up against the sides of the grate. Make sure that the ribs are not touching the bottom of the pan. Add the can of beer to the bottom of the pan holding the ribs, making sure that the beer is not touching the ribs. Once the oven has reached 225 degrees place the ribs in the oven and cook for 7 hours.

In a large sauce pan, over medium heat add just a ¼ of one bottle of barbeque sauce to pan, add garlic and orange juice, let reduce for about 5 minutes, add the honey and stir well with a wooden spoon. Add the bourbon and remainder of barbeque sauce. Let simmer for 1 hour stirring occasionally.

Big Joe Henry/ Cinecall Productions
Big Joe Henry/ Cinecall Productions

Once ribs are cooked, preheat your grill so that it is at maximum heat. After the ribs come out of the oven immediately apply barbeque sauce generously to the ribs. Head over to the grill and cook ribs on the grill for about 3 – 4 minutes on each side, depending on the heat of the grill. Apply more sauce as you cook. You want the ribs with a glazed coat. Be careful not to burn the ribs.

Remove from the grill. Cut the ribs using the ribs as guidelines and savor. Remember it took you a long time to cook them so take the time to enjoy them.

I recommend serving these ribs with a side of Nana’s Potato Salad or try my Big Joe Too Sweet Potatoes.

The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 weekend host Big Joe Henry. Any opinions expressed are Big Joe’s own.

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