Thank you Chef TNT BBQ! Thank you for barbecue that actually tastes like barbecue. Thank you for smoked ribs that actually have smoke flavor. And thank you for actually smoking your meats. Allow me a moment to vent a little. In stark contrast, I recently revisited (for the fourth time) a famous Memphis bbq restaurant that countless people have
seen on TV, hoping to discover that all my other visits were flukes and that I would finally find out what all the fuss was about. I could then report that in the past, I’d just stopped in on a bad day-that the bbq served there did indeed represented to the world, what Memphis ‘que is all about. After all, so many signs, ads, TV shows, websites, even other bbq bloggers have touted the place as one of the best places in Memphis (and therefore the world) for real-pit bbq. On this last visit to said famous bbq restaurant, I tried. I really did. I tried to find smoke flavor in the meat. I was careful to pick out some pieces, from the exterior (it gets the most smoke exposure), not covered by sauce. I savored the bite of meat for a minute or two, looking for smoke. The result? No smoke to be found anywhere in a hundred miles. The restaurant is not important here. A read through my articles will reveal more than one smokeless bbq joint. The fact is, some of the famous spots for bbq really do have great bbq, while others are living off of reputation. It’s no secret that I’m a fan of Memphis barbecue, but if there’s anything that irks me in our beloved bbq city, it’s barbecue restaurants, especially famous ones, that misrepresent Memphis bbq by serving smokeless, or near smokeless meat. Condiments, such as sauces and seasonings are secondary. The essence of true southern bar-b-q is the smoke. That’s really what bbq is all about. But getting the right amount of smoke flavor in the meat, takes some smoky skillfulness, meat mastery and fiery finesse.
Where then can one procure such smoke-filled meats? I say ditch some of the tourist draws and hunt down some of the local food trucks. A really good one for authentic Memphis barbecue is-you guessed it, Chef TNT BBQ. Really, food trucks often offer
some of the best food in town. Ever since the Food Network aired various popular shows about food trucks, there has been an explosion of food truck businesses all across the U.S. Until just a few years ago, the Health Department in Memphis only allowed concessions at fairs, festivals and similar events. It was illegal to just park and sell food. It hadn’t always been that way though. In the olden days, Memphis had roadside pits everywhere. It was part of our food culture. Our local government at some point took that away, robbing Memphis of a very important part of its culinary heritage. People would still set up roadside pits, but only on the weekend, when the Health Department was closed. It wasn’t until food trucks became a fad in recent years (and local municipalities didn’t want Memphis to be left out), that our local government relaxed the laws, allowing the widespread operation of food trucks. So thank you Food Network!
Grabbing a bite of outstanding bbq from a local food truck has become a favorite pastime for me. I have to first pull up the food truck’s page on social media to see where they’ll be next, which makes it even more fun! It’s kind of like going on a treasure hunt for that hidden bbq gem. I’ve discovered a handful of really amazing food trucks around Memphis, and one of the most recent standouts is Chef TNT. I followed them to the Nike employee store in the Raleigh-Frayser
area of Memphis. Nike has a nice track record of reaching out to locals. Every year Nike opens the doors of its employee-only store to police, corrections, teachers and the like. Now, they’ve opened their grounds for local flavors by way of food trucks. So thanks Nike, for allowing me to unearth this bbq rib treasure! At TNT, these pit chefs are reppin’
Memphis quite well, cranking out tons of slow-smoked ‘que all over the city every week. Chef TNT is a collaboration of Jeremiah Clements and his Chefs, Tony and Tencil-hence the name Chef TNT. These dynamite chefs are creating explosive flavors that will leave any southern soul satisfied. I can talk about the huge portion of bbq fries, loaded with succulent smoked pork shoulder, sweet and tangy bbq sauce, creamy melted cheese, briny black olives and spicy jalapeños, ready to blast away even the most yearning hunger. I could describe the wonderful contrast of the caramelized outer edges of the ribs, with the moist and tender interior meat-meat so juicy, I was easily able to squeeze juices from a piece (see photos). I enjoyed so many elements of the food from Chef TNT, but above all, the one thing that stood out, was how perfectly
balanced the smoke flavors were. Notice in the rib photos, the deeply penetrated pink “smoke ring,” evidence of properly smoked meat. So again I say, Thank you Chef TNT BBQ-for representing what Memphis bbq is all about. And competition beware. Jeremiah’s energetic personality, combined with the smokin’ talent of his chefs, is a formula that has the potential to detonate competition around town. After all, Chef TNT’s slogan is, Come Taste The Explosion Of Flavor!
So whether it’s a resolve to get fit (and those killer Jordans from Nike that you know will help you get there), or your next bbq food truck adventure to discover real Memphis barbecue from Chef TNT, don’t rest on your laurels. Nothing’s holding you back! Get out and Just Do I…you know the rest.
Don’t miss my Quick-Fire Guide below. Also check out full reviews and Quick-Fire Guides of other bbq restaurants from my BBQ Guide.
Here are a few notes about the ‘que:
- Ribs-The Memphis-style “dry” ribs (a little sauce on the side) were moist and tender enough that I was easily able to squeeze juices from the meat, which also pulled easily from the bone. The savory exterior bark (crust) provided a nice contrast in texture with the smoky, succulent interior meat.
- BBQ Fries-The bbq fries offered plenty for the taste buds, as well as the senses. They were topped with cheese, smoked pork shoulder meat, bbq sauce, briny black olives and spicy jalapeños. Of course, the star of the show was the tender smoked pork.
- Smoked Chicken Breast Sandwich-One might think that smoking a boneless, skinless chicken breast might result in something that closely resembles cardboard. Chef TNT’s smoked chicken breast was both tender and moist. For anyone not eating pork, or who simply wants a lighter option, the smoked chicken sandwich provides a healthy, yet tender and smoky alternative.
- Ribs-These ribs sported a deep, visible smoke ring-a sign of well-smoked meat. Notice the pink is on the exterior, not in the center as one would see in, say, a rare-cooked steak. That’s because this type of pink color on the outer edges of the meat comes from long, low and slow hours of exposure to wood smoke, and not from being undercooked. The meat on these outstanding ribs had a very robust, yet balanced wood smoke flavor.
- BBQ Fries-As with the ribs, the pork shoulder had full and balanced wood smoke flavor.
- Smoked Chicken Breast Sandwich-The chicken breast also had flavorful, balanced wood smoke flavor.
Sauce-The bbq sauce was a sweet-style sauce, with some tanginess to round off the flavors. I thought the sauce complimented the ribs (sauce on the side), bbq fries and chicken, allowing the meat to be in the forefront.
Follow Chef TNT BBQ on social media here…https://www.facebook.com/cheftntcatering/.
Thanks for visiting my Memphis bbq blog! Comments, rants, raves, disagreements and downright bbq feuds are welcome below. Tim Shirley