Hankerin’ for some real deep Southern-style barbecue pork heaven? You can bet you’ll end up with a chin covered in sticky sauce when you stop by Scott’s. Although it now has been a few years since I first visited, the experience will last for a lifetime. Did I mention their chicken and brisket – phenomenal!
Several years ago, you could have been excused if you drove past Scott’s Bar-B-Que. Its jumbly lettered sign sat on an old, repurposed gas station and country store at a crossroads in the hamlet of Hemingway, SC. Go there today, and you would be hard-pressed to miss it.
When I write about the South I look not solely through a lens of regional pride and affluence but also through the eyes of spirited men and women who quietly fight each day to preserve what is unique about our life in the South. The heart of community remains in the lives of everyday people who live and work amongst us, worship in small white clapboard churches, and hardscrabble men and women who labor to bring us our rich culinary traditions. From these humble beginnings, Rodney Scott rose to become the winner of the James Beard Award for Best Chef, Southeast.
In 2018 Rodney became the winner of the James Beard Award for Best Chef, Southeast! His motto is “Every day is a good day.”
Barbecue stirs Southern passions like no other food and it’s been going on for a mighty long time. Folks argue about which is better, beef or pork, whole hog or shoulders, and what exactly is the right sauce. Just ask Rodney Scott, pitmaster at Scott’s Variety Store and Bar-B-Que located north of Charleston in Hemingway, SC.
Mind Your Manners While at Scott’s
They’re serious about manners here, too. There’s a big sign on the wall that says: PLEASE READ. You must have on a shirt, shoes, and no drop down pants, or you will be asked to leave! Thank you. The Manager
Scott’s Bar-B-Que: South Carolina’s Best
“Knowing when to flip the pigs,” he said, “is key. Some char is good – just not too much. Gotta cook ’em low and slow.” Working with a long-handled mop, I watched him drench the pigs in a vinegar sauce with lots of pepper, red pepper, and salt.
What I Saw
I arrived about 10 a.m. on a Saturday morning in July just as a muffler-less rusted old pickup down-shifted in front of me onto Cow Head Road headed for Scott’s. The main building has a tin roof with wooden walls for the main structure. Old yard dogs loll in the parking lot with one eye open to see what’s going on. Rickety time-worn shopping carts line the porch stacked with watermelons and cantaloupes from a nearby farm. Church pews serve as seats for all who come here to visit with neighbors and friends, catch up on a little gossip, and leave with foam clam shells stuffed with pulled pork and hush-puppies.
Scott’s is said to be some of the most lip-smackin’ good barbecue in all of Dixie and Rodney will tell you himself that it’s made with “a whole lotta love.” You won’t see gas or charcoal at this roadside shack, just pigs, wood, and smoke.
A Little History
The Scotts opened the place in 1972, using cooking methods passed down through generations. Pit-master Rodney Scott slow-smokes whole hogs overnight with hardwood coals made from hickory, pecan, and oak logs that he hand-selects each day. As they smoke, the butterflied pigs are continuously basted with a vinegar-peppery mop. He actually uses a long-handled mop. This gives the pork its fantastic, signature flavors. When they come off the pit, the meat is hand-pulled by Mrs. Scottt herself, then fed to the crowd that packs the joint daily.
Rodney and his men cut and chop their own wood, reduce it to coals in a burn barrel, and use it to cook the hogs on massive cinder-block pits, mopping them over and over again with the perfect peppery vinegar sauce.
Rodney cooked his first hog at 11 years old and the fire has never gone out!
Now you may visit Scott’s Bar-B- Que at 1011 King Street in historic Charleston. From humble beginnings, Rodney’s fame has risen high and his celebrity just keeps growing!
Here it is folks – Rodney Scott’s Barbecue Sauce Secrets.
Slather this on a pulled pork sandwich and use it to make an old fashioned creamy coleslaw to get an indulgent rich sandwich. I often mix Carolina Vinegar Based BQ Sauce with mayonnaise and just a pinch of sugar to make coleslaw dressing.
Tips from Rodney: He wouldn’t give away all his secrets but he did share a few tips for making your own sauce. “Don’t be afraid to go a little citrusy in your sauce. “He slices lemons into rounds and drips them into simmering vinegar to add another acidic note with a bit of fruitiness. Also, the lemon juice tenderizes pork. “Lemons help break down any toughness in the meat,” he says. Just strain the lemons out before you bottle the sauce or use it.”
Rodney’s Carolina BBQ Sauce
Yields: 8 cups or 1/2 gallon
8 cups distilled white vinegar
1 whole lemon, thinly sliced, seeds removed
1/4 cup ground black pepper
2 1/2 tablespoons cayenne pepper
1/2 tablespoons dried red pepper flakes
1 cup white sugar
Pour the vinegar into a small pot, and warm it over medium heat. When the vinegar reaches 15o degrees, about 5 minutes, add the lemon slices and continue to cook until the lemons are slightly translucent about 10 minutes.
Whisk in the black pepper, cayenne pepper, red pepper flakes, and sugar. Continue to cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes until the sugar is completely dissolved, and the sauce reaches 190 degrees.
Remove from the heat and allow to completely cool before using.
Serve or store once cooled.