Chasing BBQ: Kentucky, Illinois, and St. Louis Recipe Favorites


Chief Yummy Officer
Savory Spice Shop

Tags: Black Dip Chasing BBQ Mutton

The second-to-last leg of founder Mike Johnston’s Chasing BBQ journey had him stopping at BBQ joints throughout Kentucky, Illinois, and St. Louis. It turned out to be a tour of Midwest barbecue with a little bit of the South thrown in. We spent time in the Savory Spice test kitchen recreating some of Mike’s favorite proteins and sides from these regions. We made a few things we’ve never tried before, including Kentucky mutton and burgoo stew. We got messy making sticky-sweet St. Louis style ribs. And we stumbled upon some Midwest-inspired sides like hash brown casserole and cinnamon apple baked beans. A lot of the dishes, though new to us, felt familiar and nostalgic…like visiting grandma’s house.

Here are some of my favorite recipes from this region:

Smoked Mutton Shoulder
I had never tried mutton until this summer, when Mike smoked both a leg and a shoulder to recreate his Kentucky BBQ experience. Mutton (a mature sheep older than 1 year) is unique to Kentucky barbecue. Cooked low and slow in a smoker, it develops a great bark on the outside and stays moist and tender on the inside. You can smoke lamb shoulder using this method, but if you can track down some mutton it’s worth a try.

Black Dip BBQ Sauce
Kentucky is home to a unique Worcestershire inspired BBQ sauce they call “black dip”. This thin sauce is typically served with chopped mutton or pork. Our new small batch Black Dip BBQ Sauce is a nod to the Kentucky classic. It’s a must for mutton, but it’s also great with chicken and pork, as a dipping sauce for pot stickers or steak sandwiches, as a seasoning for stir-fry, or as a way to punch up the flavor in any kind of broth. 

Kentucky Burgoo with Cornmeal Drop Biscuits
There is no one way to make Kentucky’s burgoo stew; every town, BBQ joint, or family has their own recipe. The common denominator for the stew is using lots of different kinds of meat. We used a mix of leftover barbecued meats—brisket, pork, mutton, chicken—for our version. It reminds me of a classic Midwest stew, and it’s just perfect served with cornmeal biscuits for dunking.

Grandma Johnston’s Cole Slaw
Mike spent the summers of his youth at Grandma’s house in Southern Illinois. This is the addictively sweet, finely shredded cole slaw she used to serve the family during those visits. It’s perfect for pulled pork sandwiches. I love it on a barbecue plate to help balance out the rich, savory meats.

Cinnamon Apple Baked Beans
Baked beans are on the menus of most BBQ joints and it seems like each joint gives their beans a little twist. Mike fell in love with the unique cinnamon sugar baked beans at Smoki O’s in St. Louis. Our attempt to recreate those flavors led us to this version with tart apples, sharp cinnamon, and our sweet vanilla bean sugar. It tastes a little like apple pie filling got mixed with baked beans on your barbecue plate.

If you have favorite barbecue dishes that use Savory Spice products, please submit your recipes to our test kitchen so we can share them with our Savory friends and family.

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