(Formerly B. E. Scott Bar-B-Que)
Ricky Parker worked the pits for Early Scott from his early teen years, until becoming the current owner of his bbq shop in Lexington, TN, eventually creating the hyphenated name, Scott’s-Parker Bar-B-Q. He’s carrying on the tradition of smoking whole hogs over hickory wood in cinder block pits, a craft he learned from pit-master Mr. Scott. Only a handful of bbq shops in the U. S. are still smoking this very authentic, early American style of barbecue. And since it’s just off of I-40, a mere hour and a half from Memphis, it’s worth a detour for anyone passing through Memphis, Jackson or even Nashville. It’s truly a rare bbq experience not to be missed by any self-respecting bbq aficionado.
…the meat literally went from the hog, straight to my bun.
I’m no stranger to whole hog barbecue. As a certified bbq judge, I’ve had my share of world-class whole hog in bbq competitions, including Memphis In May and Memphis Barbecue Network competitions. Beyond that, I’ve also enjoyed an amazing country whole hog barbecue feast at a church function in the rural Tennessee town of Selmer. Then there was Martin’s Bar-B-Q in Nashville. Yet after all of those amazing experiences, the whole hog sandwich I had at Scott’s-Parker Bar-B-Q was one of my personal favorites. I’d even say that is was on par with and, in some ways better than the world-class competition stuff. Here’s why. Commonly in barbecue competition, competitors are so consumed with tenderness and moisture content, that the bark or crust is reduced to a simple, albeit beautiful and flavorful glaze or a mushy paste of moistened seasoning dubbed “bark,” because pit-masters are reluctant to allow enough time and air exposure for a crispier bark for fear of drying out the meat. Some such teams might like to take notes from Ricky Parker. His bark was delightfully crisp, yet that smoky, meaty treasure hidden beneath was dripping with juices. All of that was intensified by redolent smoke flavor to create perfectly crafted whole hog barbecued pork. In competition, teams are also reluctant to include some of that flavorful crusty bark because they know that the following judges will see the mutilated hog, thereby “marring” the presentation. In some cases, they’ve spent hours to produce at least some sort of bark, only to serve lonely white meat without that beautiful part of the hog that gets the most smoke and compliments the tender portions. I like the mahogany color that glazes produce too, but the simpler, brown crusted bark from the hogs at Scott’s-Parker was more rustic, more primal and appealed to the carnivore in me. And the picked over hog by the counter didn’t bother me one bit.
Old time bbq in its most basic form can only be improved upon so much. I don’t have enough time or patience to write about all of the special “tips” and “tricks” teams have invented in an effort to stand out in the world of competition barbecue. No harm done in those, but many of these, I feel, take away from the more primal aspects of old-fashioned bbq. In an effort to make the bbq so perfect, something new altogether has been created. Muffin tin chicken and ribs that are perfectly rectangular are a couple of examples. OK I get it-food is an art-form. But at there also comes a point that we can reach, where the essence of a thing is lost in the translation. I enjoy aspects of both competition bbq and the kind of old-fashioned, less-fussy, no frills barbecue that can be found at places such as Scott’s-Parker Bar-B-Q. And yet there is an obvious elitism present among bbq competitors and even some judges. “You won’t find barbecue in a restaurant as good as competition bbq. It’s impossible,” is a common assertion. So many have declared it for so long and it has become so commonplace, that it has now been elevated to a level of greater bbq law. Barbecue competition has developed its own bbq culture. But team pit-masters might learn a thing or two from some urban hole-in-the-wall bbq shops and rural country bbq shacks alike. Likewise, bbq restaurants could learn from competition ‘que. For example, some restaurants are still using charcoal fluid-something most teams have (thankfully) moved away from. I’d like to see more comradery between teams and restaurants. A sharing of knowledge as bbq teams often do with each other. I believe the following four statements are true. Some of the best bbq I’ve had has been from bbq competitions. Some of the worst bbq I’ve had has been from bbq competitions. Some of the best bbq I’ve had has been from bbq joints, food trucks and roadside pits. Some of the worst bbq I’ve had has been from bbq joints, food trucks and roadside pits. All of that said, I say without shame that the whole hog barbecue I enjoyed from Scott’s-Parker Bar-B-Q is some of the best I’ve put in my mouth-competition or otherwise.
Equally as enjoyable as the flavor and texture of the whole hog meat at Scott’s-Parker Bar-B-Q, is the experience. Once I ordered my sandwich, the young man behind the counter put on a glove and asked, “Which part do you want your meat from?” I didn’t hesitate, “A little from all over the hog, if you don’t mind. And don’t be afraid to top it with some of that bark.” A huge pit room in the back smokes multiple hogs, but another cinder block pit behind the counter to the left held a fully smoked pig, ready for service.
As requested, well-smoked, succulent meat was pulled from various places all over the hog. Best of all, the meat literally went from the hog, straight to my bun. Placed on a bed of slaw, it was topped with a thin vinegar sauce, designed to compliment the smoked pork, not overpower it. Since both whole hog bbq and thin vinegar sauces are popular in eastern North Carolina, one might say that the bbq at Scott’s-Parker is similar in style, only the sauce isn’t mixed throughout the meat and the meat is not shredded with “bear claws.” The Tennessee way of serving pork is to allow the smoked meat to shine without permeating it with mixed in sauce. Also, pulled meat maintains some integrity for a naturally moister meat sandwich-something that may be compromised by shredding. My sandwich at Scott’s-Parker Bar-B-Q was everything that I’ve come to love in a bbq sandwich. And remember that golden brown bark I asked for? I surley got my request. But most of the time when bbq contains some of the bark (as any real bbq sandwich should), bits are mixed throughout the meat for a nice contrast in texture between the tender white meat and the smoky, savory bits of crust. In this case, a large piece of bark was pulled right off the hog and plopped right onto my sandwich. I thought such a large piece was going to be chewy, but not at all. Instead I enjoyed got a wonderfully crispy, smoky bite with every mouthful.
Of all of my years of barbecue indulgences, my hog-to-bun bbq sandwich at Scott’s-Parker Bar-B-Q is at the top of my list as one of my all-time favorite barbecue experiences.
See my Quick-Fire Guide below, including photos of Scott’s-Parker Bar-B-Q. Also, check out full reviews and Quick-Fire Guides of other bbq restaurants from my BBQ Guide. Comments are welcome.
Here are a few notes about the ‘que:
Tenderness-I requested meat from various parts of the hog. The meat was perfectly juicy and tender, not tough, dry or mushy. I was able to easily squeeze juices from a piece of meat.
Smoke-The meat had full and delicious smoke flavor, which can be difficult to achieve while keeping a whole hog moist at the same time.
Sauce-A thin vinegar sauce complimented the pork-allowed the pork to shine.
Slaw-tangy, crunchy. Vinegar seemed to be it’s only dressing. Again, the simplicity of the condiments on the bbq sandwich are able to support and highlight the smoked pork.
Thanks for visiting my Memphis bbq blog! Tim Shirley