, the new Food Network show in which chef Michael Symon
judges food battles between supposed rivals, aired its St. Louis barbecue segment last night. The contest, filmed here in September, pitted the ribs from local favorites Pappy's Smokehouse
and 17th Street Bar & Grill
against each other.
Before we delve into the battle -- the result of which I managed not to discover between filming and broadcast -- a brief geography lesson for Symon or whoever fed him this line. Pappy's and 17th Street are not "only a few miles away" from each other. The closest location of 17th Street, in O'Fallon, Illinois, is roughly seventeen miles from Pappy's. Not that far, really, but not "only a few miles."
OK. That bit of pedantry settled, let's delve into Battle Rib. (Spoilers ahead, if you haven't yet seen the episode.)
I hadn't watched Food Feud
s before this episode. I was impressed -- especially relative to most other Food Network shows. The producers kept the hyperbole and staged trash-talking to a bare minimum. Instead, Symon led viewers into the kitchens of both restaurants for an actual -- gasp! -- discussion on how each prepares its ribs.
Local barbecue aficionados likely know the basic differences between the two baby-back rib preparations that Symon described. Mike Mills
of 17th Street uses a more traditional dry rub and bastes the ribs in his signature sauce, a 100-year-old recipe, while the Pappy's team of Mike Emerson
and Skip Steele
employ a herb-heavy rub but serve the sauce on the side (though a glaze of brown sugar, balsamic vinegar and water is added).
The two restaurants also use slightly different smoking methods: 17th Street smokes its ribs for roughly six hours at 210 degrees, while Pappy's favors a temperature of 225 for four and a half to five hours. Symon observed that the shorter, higher-temperature smoking gives Pappy's ribs a stronger smoke flavor, which seemed to impact his decision on the best rib.
After a brief meeting with the St. Louis BBQ Society
to discuss how to judge ribs, Symon gathered Mills, Emerson and Steele and fans of both restaurants underneath the Arch to declare the winner. He gave 17th Street the edge for its rub, Pappy's for its sauce.
The overall winner? 17th Street, which Symon described as "possibly the best bite of rib I've ever had in my pork-loving life."
If you missed last night's episode, it will air again at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, November 27; 10 p.m. on Sunday, December 5; and 1 a.m. on Monday, December 6.