A benevolent cousin recently re-ignited my passion for barbecue (not that the flame needed much stoking) by gifting me an electric smoker.
Since then, most of my weekends have been spent prepping and smoking pork shoulders and ribs - even chicken that turns out pretty well - while keeping my trusty charcoal grill fired up for burgers and hot dogs.
During this time, I've experimented with different seasonings and rubs and have gone to a few new (to me) barbecue joints because, well, I'm hooked.
As such, it felt appropriate to share some thoughts for those like-minded smoked-meats enthusiasts out there.
Cookin' at home: Apply a generous dose of Strawberry's Bar-B-Que Seasoning to your ribs and you'll have family and friends fighting for the last bone. Strawberry's has an incredibly popular restaurant in Holcomb, in the Missouri Bootheel.
Something novel: They're like hamburgers, only better. That's probably the best way to describe pork burgers. Several meat markets carry these grill-ready delights, including Woods Smoked Meats in Bowling Green.
Beer and BBQ: The choices for suds-and-sauce pairings in Missouri are numerous, but there's something especially refreshing about a cold, brewed-in-Kansas-City Boulevard Unfiltered Wheat while waiting for and enjoying the fruits of your smoky labor.
Pull up a chair: While talking about Missouri barbecue during a recent presentation, folks in the audience encouraged me to try CoMo Smoke and Fire in Columbia. I wasn't disappointed. Their savory pulled pork was well complemented by creamy macaroni.
An unhidden gem: Folks who follow me on Twitter and Instagram are aware of my love for Danna's Bar-B-Que and Burger Shop in Branson. Consider it a bonus if you show up on "Try a Rib" Tuesday.
A great event: Q in the Lou features some of the St. Louis area's top barbecue joints, live music, cold drinks and in 2016, a celebrity sighting - Moe Cason from Ponderosa Barbecue in Des Moines, Iowa. You might recognize him as the "certified, smokified" guy from Little Caesar's Pizza commercials.
So those are my thoughts. Now if you'll excuse me, it's lunchtime. There's a pulled-pork sandwich somewhere ... and it's waiting to be eaten.