Excuse me if I’m late to the party, but I just learned a new word: shigging.
It means stealing, or attempting to steal, someone’s barbecue secrets. The term seems to have come out of the BBQ competition circuit, but also works for joints and backyard pitmasters.
For example, my good friend Bryan Gooding, who won the chicken category at the Blues, Bandits & BBQ cook-off in Oak Cliff last year, won’t share his recipe.
But I watched him. And there’s vinegar — and ice cubes — in his brine.
And on tours, the Posse is almost always shigging. We’re constantly observing, and asking questions about smoking technique.
Some observers think shigging should be a felony, especially in Texas.
I put the practice in the same category as stealing signs in baseball. If you can do it from the dugout or the coaching boxes or the bases, it’s just part of the game. Go for it. But don’t get caught hiding out with binoculars somewhere beyond center field.
“What a great word,” said another friend, best-selling author Sam Gwynne, when I shared my new knowledge. “Also, a great art form since, as 10,000 sub-par bbq joints around the country attest, it ain’t easy to steal smoking secrets.”
Sam knows barbecue. He was part of the Texas Monthly team that discovered Snow’s, which the magazine declared to be the best joint in the state in 2008.
Aaron Franklin, the reigning king of Texas barbecue, seems to be well aware of the threat of shigging. It seems that every interview he gives — from Bon Appetit to the blogs — contains a slightly different description of his technique and cooking times.
Aaron, are you doing that on purpose?
Franklin just smiles.
Photo of Bryan Gooding by R.J. Hinkle