New Cookbooks From Two N.C. Barbecue Experts


For North Carolina barbecue fans, 2019 has brought two worthy additions for their cookbook collection: “Whole Hog BBQ,” by Sam Jones and “Southern Smoke” by Matthew Register. 

Fans of “A Chef’s Life” may recognize Jones who appeared in season four’s cabbage episode sharing the secrets to the Skylight Inn’s coleslaw. Jones’ grandfather started the Skylight Inn in Ayden, N.C., about 20 miles from where Vivian grew up in Kinston. Sam Jones learned his craft at the Skylight Inn but opened his own restaurant, Sam Jones BBQ, in Greenville, N.C. Jones’ cookbook shares his family’s multi-generational wisdom when it comes to cooking whole hogs over a wood fire and shares a more complete picture of the Jones’ family lore. “I thought I would bring something different to the table,” Jones said about writing the book. “This is not somebody else trying to tell the story for me.”  

While Matthew Register hasn’t appeared on “A Chef’s Life,” he is certainly worth knowing as part of the next generation of North Carolina barbecue men. About five years ago, Register started Southern Smoke BBQ in Garland, N.C., about 65 miles southwest of Kinston. (The restaurant is only open Thursdays and Fridays and the line starts way before doors open at 11:30 a.m.; Register also has a food truck and a vibrant catering business.) This former real estate developer turned restaurateur is a self-described “cookbook nerd” whose love of old cookbooks inspires the restaurant’s evolving menu of modern sides and earned him some press from Food + Wine magazine. Of course, Register reveled in the opportunity to write a cookbook. Once his editor decided the book should be named after the restaurant, Register said the book’s scope became clear: the recipes had to be what his customers had enjoyed. “I didn’t want it to be something we didn’t serve at the restaurant or at a catered event,” Register explained. And so, Register’s book reflects beyond North Carolina with smoked Boston Butts and chicken quarters, but also Memphis dry-rub ribs, shrimp and grits, and Delta tamales. Plus, he shared recipes for those sides, including squash and rice pudding, bbq potatoes and brown butter creamed corn. 

Both men were nice enough to share a recipe from their cookbooks: Sam’s Barbecue Baked Beans and Matthew’s Brown Butter Creamed Corn. Either dish is one that anyone would be proud to make for their next summer get-together. 

*Don’t miss the chance to meet Jones in person and get a signed cookbook. He has book events in Chicago, Hawaii, Nashville. Get more details HERE.

Sam Jones’ Barbecue Baked Beans

From “Whole Hog BBQ: The Gospel of Carolina Barbecue with Recipes from Skylight Inn and Sam Jones BBQ” by Sam Jones & Daniel Vaughn, Ten Speed Press, a division of Penguin Random House, Inc., 2019.

1/2 pound (80/20) ground beef

1/4 bell pepper, cut into 1/4 inch dice 

1/2 small red onion, cut into 1/4 inch dice 

2 (15-ounce) cans pork and beans, drained

1 cup sweet barbecue sauce

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

In a large pan over medium-high heat, brown the ground beef with the bell pepper and onion. Cook the beef all the way through while stirring to break the beef into chunks. The onion and pepper should be wilted. Drain the fat off the beef once it’s done.

Pour the beef mixture into a 9-by-13-inch baking dish or a Dutch oven. Add the beans and barbecue sauce and mix well. Bake uncovered for 40 minutes. Serve immediately.

Yield: 8 to 10 servings

Matthew Register’s Brown Butter Creamed Corn

½ cup (1 stick) salted butter
8 ears fresh corn
1 ¼ cups heavy cream
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
2 tablespoons sugar
½ tablespoon freshly ground black pepper

In a 4-quart pot over medium heat, melt the butter and then brown it. The butter will go through distinct stages, foaming and turning from lemon yellow to tan. Finally, it will turn brown and give off a nutty aroma. At this point, remove it from the heat and set it aside (it’s a good idea to refrigerate it to top the cooking process, if you can).

Cut the corn kernels from the cobs with a small paring knife and collect them in a large mixing bowl. Once the kernels have been removed, use the back of the knife blade and scrape along along the cob to get the milky liquid out of the cob and into the mixing bowl. Set the bowl aside. You can discard all the cobs at this point except one. Cut the reserved cob in half to use like a soup bone. 

Transfer the cob halves to a small pot and add the heavy cream. Cook over medium heat until the cream begins to slowly boil, about 4 minutes. Immediately remove from the heat and set aside. 

Place the pot with the brown butter back on the stove over medium heat. If the butter solidified in the fridge, melt it again, then add the garlic, cut corn, basil, sugar, and pepper and stir until well combined. Cook for 1 minute. 

Remove the corncob halves from the heavy cream and slowly add the cream to the corn mixture. Stir until the mixture is uniform and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook for 30 minutes, stirring periodically to prevent burning. The mixture will begin to thicken and become creamy as it cooks. 

Yield: 4 servings