Saturday, February 4, 2023

Payne’s Barbecue in Memphis: Why you want sliced and not chopped.

By: Tom Freeland,, Blogger
I’ve posted, probably more than once, about my strongly held opinion that, at Payne’s barbecue, what you want is sliced meat and not chopped.
I’ve been eating at Payne’s since the 70s, and it has hugely influenced my reaction to barbecue.  They don’t meat every test for purists (it’s an urban barbecue place, and cooks over charcoal, not hardwood) but it meets the central one:  They are cooking in a real pit over live coals.  It is without peer as place to get Memphis barbecue, and for a number of reasons is my favorite anywhere.
But here’s why you need to get sliced and not chopped at Payne’s.  Their meat is at the same time very tender and a bit toothy.  By “toothy” I mean it still has an interesting texture, yet is quite tender.  If you chop the meat, you lose every bit of that.  Additionally, their meat has a really nice smoke flavor from cooking over coals (and their barbecue sauce makes no attempt to fake that with smoke flavoring).  Chopping takes that down and submerges it more than a bit.
There’s a layering thing that goes on with these sandwiches that make them my favorite of all:  First, the sliced meat with all the characteristics I’ve just described;  second, the intense flavor of the sauce (yes, you should get hot sauce.  They will basically admit that mild is pretty much catsup, and mixed is just taking down what is great a notch or more.  It’s not that hot.  Get the hot); third, the way the neon ballpark-mustard-flooded slaw finishes the sandwich.   Perfection.
I need a trip to Memphis.
At some later time I want to address the whole “pulled pork” thing that seems to me a really unfortunate legacy of the rise of barbecue competitions.  Neither choice at Payne’s– or any other barbecue place I loved prior to the rise of Memphis in May– involved pork pulled into stringy threads.
Read more blog posts by Tom Freeland at his NMissCommentor blog page.