In West Tennessee, whole hog barbecue is a dying art, but pitmaster Pat Martin is working to change the story. How We Eat visits Martin's Bar-B-Que Joint in Nashville this week to learn about the smokey tradition, how it differs from other barbecue methods around the country, and what Martin and his team are doing to preserve the practice.
The tenets of whole hog barbecue are fairly straightforward, but difficult to pull off without proper training or guidance: enormous pigs, around 170 pounds apiece, are cooked low and slow at nearly 200 degrees, in an above-ground masonry pit. Working on such a large scale, and under occasionally quite tough conditions, has kept younger generations from picking up the trade. In an effort to keep the West Tennessee tradition alive, Martin has begun passing on his barbecue knowledge to apprentices in an informal program at his restaurant, in the hopes that tender, whole hog pork will always be available. "If you're gonna grow, you can't cook every hog,” Martin says. “You gotta pass that on." Watch the video above to learn more.