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The nation’s top pitmasters gather in Charleston this month for the Holy Smokes BBQ Festival

The nation’s top pitmasters gather in Charleston this month for the Holy Smokes BBQ Festival
November 2021

Guests can enjoy all-you-can-eat barbecue prepared three ways: classic, Texas, and "New School"

Beyond Brisket: In addition to traditional pulled pork and ribs, guests can expect a diverse lineup of meats and internationally inspired flavors. 

Barbecue aficionados come together for the Holy Smokes BBQ Festival on November 13, where 20 of the nation’s top pitmasters will offer all-you-can-eat meaty marvels.

The brainchild of Aaron Siegel and Taylor Garrigan of Home Team BBQ, Anthony DiBernardo of Swig & Swine, and Robert Moss, the contributing barbecue editor for Southern Living, Holy Smokes will be held at The Bend in North Charleston and is expected to bring in 4,000 guests. Proceeds benefit the Shawn Jenkins Children’s Hospital and Hogs for the Cause, the nation’s leading funding source for children with pediatric brain cancer and their families.

According to Moss, the idea to host a large-scale barbecue event in Charleston has been marinating for a number of years. Multiple local pitmasters had previously participated in annual Hogs for the Cause events held in New Orleans. “Everyone knew out of the gate we wanted to work with them, because they’re doing such good work,” says Moss. “But we also really wanted to highlight the barbecue scene in the Lowcountry area and celebrate larger traditions.”

Unlike other food events where the cooking is done elsewhere, pits will be fired up on-site, explains Moss. “It’s slow, lots of sitting around and chatting. Historically barbecue has been a way of bringing people together and is meant to be shared with a very big crowd.”

(Left) Community Spirit: Guests can sample all-you-can-eat offerings from three villages of pitmasters, each  preparing a unique style of barbecue, including classic, Texas, and “New School.” (Right) Meat Masters: Holy Smokes co-founders Aaron Siegel and Taylor Garrigan of Home Team BBQ, offering classic ‘cue since 2006.

Embodying the collaborative nature of barbecue, pitmasters are organized into three “villages” by preparation style—classic, Texas, and “New School.” For classic ’cue, pitmasters cook the entire animal, applying direct heat and shoveling coals underneath for hours. “Whole hog is the original form of barbecue eaten here in the 19th century,” says Moss. “Each pitmaster cooks a little differently. Sam Jones, for instance, when he’s done cooking the meat, he pulls it out, chops it up super fine with pieces of the skin, then dresses it with sauce. At Rodney Scott’s, they mop their pigs on the pit and cook it all night butterflied skin side up, then flip it at the very end with a dressing of a spicy vinegar sauce.”

While whole hog has direct heat but no fire, Texas-style is characterized by burning oak logs to give the meat a smoky flavor, popularized by the rise in brisket as a marketable cut of meat in the ’60s. The final village, “New School,” highlights the evolving modern barbecue scene where pitmasters are merging flavors from around the world, says Moss. “So much good creativity is happening, and this is a way to highlight where barbecue is going.”

On the Roster

Renowned pitmasters from across the country are expected to participate, including:

  • Matt Horn from Horn Barbecue in California
  • Billy Durney from Hometown BBQ in New York
  • Carey Bringle from Peg Leg Porker in Tennessee
  • Jonathan and Justin Fox from Fox Bros in Georgia
  • Cody Sperry from HooDoo Brown in Connecticut
  • Madison Ruckel from Mama Jean’s in Virginia

November 13, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The Bend, 3775 Azalea Drive, North Charleston

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