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Big Bob Gibson's BBQ Book: Recipes and Secrets from a Legendary Barbecue Joint

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Chris Lilly’s recommendations for where to eat BBQ in Alabama, Illinois, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina and Texas.

Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q - Alabama & North Carolina



Q & A with Pitmaster Chris Lilly

Q. What makes Big Bob Gibson different from other barbecue places?
A. Big Bob’s has the history that very few barbecue restaurants in the country have. It’s a mixture of old and new barbecue techniques, because we take what we learn in competition and bring it back to the restaurant to improve the quality of our food. So instead of just salt and pepper, now we’re using four different barbecue seasoning blends that we developed and perfected on the competition circuit.

Q. You married into barbecue royalty.

A. Yes, my wife’s great-grandfather was Big Bob Gibson, who started the restaurant in 1925.

Q. Had you gotten involved in barbecue before or was that your step into it?

A. That was my step. I graduated college with a degree in marketing and finance.

Q. Are your techniques your own or learned from the family?

A. I developed my own only after learning everything I could from a guy named Jerry Knighten, who started working for Big Bob Gibson when he was 15 years old. Jerry and he spent his whole life in the pits training with Big Bob Gibson and then I worked for years in the pit room at Big Bob Gibson’s just soaking it all in.

Q. Who are your current pit master heros?

A. Let me throw out a few:

Ray Lampe, Dr. BBQ. There is not a better ambassador for barbecue today, than Ray Lampe. He is full time on the road teaching and preaching the good things about barbecue and he’s doing it right.

Adam Perry Lang does a great job. It’s all about taking the old tried and true methods of barbecue and adding new techniques and inspiration. Redefining the word. He goes out on limbs that nobody else will go out on, not only the flavors being used, but also the equipment and technique. He mixes a lot of hot temperatures with low and slow and there is nobody better at layering flavors than Adam.

Mike Mills. Since I’ve been cooking, which I started around 1991, cooking barbecue full time, Mike Mills has always been a mentor and his classic barbecue style has been an inspiration. The dry rub he uses on his ribs was the inspiration for me to get in the kitchen and work hard developing my own dry rub and seasoning blend.

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Advice / Tips

Q. What are the greatest misconceptions that people have about the whole idea of barbecue?

A. It’s one of those things that a lot of people are intimidated. They don’t want to go out in their backyard and spend three and four hours out there cooking. It’s something if they’ve never cooked at a low temperature for a long period of time, they don’t know how easy it is.

Just like a crock pot cooking inside, you set it and you do other things while your food is cooking. It’s the same way with barbecue in your backyard, only you get a better taste.

Q. What are some BBQ tips?

1. Set up your charcoal grill to have two zones, direct and indirect heat. Push all of your charcoal over to one side of the grill for the the direct heat and the indirect heat is away from the coals.

2. Set your larger cuts (ribs, brisket, pork butt or your whole chicken) away from the coals on the indirect side. The fire should be at a lower temperature, 200 - 250 degrees, and you cook for a long period of time and that is what gives you the moist, juicy tenderness. I like to cook my chickens at about 300 degrees, over indirect heat.

3. Put your thinner cuts (hamburger, pork chops and hot dogs) will go directly over the coals.

4. Gas grills are viable, but I will tell you this, you’re not going to get near the flavor that you’re going to get on a charcoal grill. That’s all there is to it. But if you use a gas grill, what you do is turn one burner down on low on one side, and turn the other burners off. Therefore you’ve got a hot side over direct heat and you’ve got an indirect heat side as well.



Q. What barbecuing item do you think should be on everyone’s radar or is great for gifts?

A. Grill baskets - it’s an essential tool and you can get them at any hardware store. It’s a shallow pan with holes cut in the bottom, so you can get that great grill flavor, but they are small enough holes so that the pieces, or vegetables or potatoes or meat doesn’t fall through. It’s great for stir fries, marinated vegetables, and homestyle potatoes. I do a lot of potatoes and vegetables on the grill outside, and it just gives it that extra pop.

Q. Are there certain charcoal bricks or woods that you can recommend?

A. I would start with something that is consistent no matter where you get it. In my opinion, the most consistent charcoal out there is your standard Kingsford briquettes. Start with those and then if you want if want a little more wood flavor, you can add your own wood chips or wood chunks. Typically when I barbecue, I use hickory, but sometimes I’ll use a combination of hickory and fruitwoods, such as apple or cherry or peach.

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Q. Where can you buy them?

A. Most hardware stores, Lowe’s and Home Depot, will all carry different flavors of wood, or you can go online and get them shipped straight to you.


Q. If we were to take a barbecue trip through the South, where should we go?

A. Some are new places, others are old barbecue staples.


Big Bob’s Gibson in Decatur, AL, of course. Order the whole chicken with the white barbecue sauce.

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17th Street Bar and Grill in Murphysboro, which is Mike Mills’ place.

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North Carolina

Lexington BBQ in Lexington, NC. I think when you’re talking barbecue, you definitely have to make a run through there. Order either the pulled pork or the whole hog and you want to pay close attention to the different styles of sauces that they use - like the traditional North Carolina sauce.

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The Shed in Ocean Springs, MI. If I’m going through Southern Mississippi, I would hit it. They have a spicy orange sauce that they put on chicken that I really like.

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The Commissary in Memphis for any of their smoked meats. They do very simply smoked food, but it’s always cooked to perfection. Any of the ribs or chicken would be great there.

Dead End Barbeque - it’s a fairly new one in Knoxville. They’ve got great pulled pork and barbecue nachos that are out of this world.

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Kreuz Market in Lockhart for get their jalapeno sausage.

The Salt Lick for beef brisket.

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Q. Do you have barbecue places in New York that you like?

A. I like to order different things at each of the barbecue restaurants.

- Blue Smoke - if I getting a beef brisket sandwich.

- Texas Hill Country - if I’m getting beef ribs.

- Dinosaur - if I want a pulled pork.

- Fatty ‘Cue - if I want to get really crazy and have a barbecue with infusion of other flavors. They do a lot of barbecue, but it has a lot of fish sauce and very interesting flavors. you can get some interesting barbecue over there.

- Wildwood - great for ribs.

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Q. Where do you eat when you’re not eating barbecue?

A. Simp McGhees in Decatur, Alabama. It's been around forever and it's inspired by a river boat captain. It's really traditional fare, great steaks and great seafood and a local indicator of Alabama.

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Q. Other favorites around the country?

A. Pican in Oakland, CA. For an Alabama boy, if I'm on the West Coast, I go to a restaurant called Pican. Really, really good stuff. It's Southern food and it gets to my soul.

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Q. What do you like to pair with BBQ?

A. In the South, it’s either cold beer or iced tea.

Q. What’s your favorite beer?

A. I like Fat Tire, when I can get it. It taste like your traditional American beer, but it’s got a little depth and a little more backbone.

If I want a beer where I can taste a little more of the hops, I go with a Dale’s Pale Ale.

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Q. Is there a great watering hole in your neck of the woods that we should check out?
A. The Brick for live music, great atmosphere, fun people. Get a beer on tap.

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Q. Other than beer, what are you drinking?

A. Pappy Van Winkle.

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Details of Chris Lilly’s recommendations for where to eat BBQ in Alabama, Illinois, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina and Texas.


- Airline Chicken with Basil Butter

- Brined Chicken With White Sauce

- Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q Chicken with White Sauce


Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q

Multiple Locations

American / Barbecue


Decatur, Alabama

1715 6th Avenue SE

Decatur, AL 35601

T: 256.350.6969


Daily, 9:30am - 8:30pm

Decatur, Alabama

2520 Danville Road, SW

Decatur, AL 35603

T: 256.350.0404


Mon - Sat: 9:30am - 8:30pm

Monroe, North Carolina

1507 W Roosevelt Blvd

Monroe, NC 28110

T: 704.289.5102