Chicago is known for our food scene, and that extends to our festivals. The annual Windy City Smokeout (July 12 –14) brings some of the world’s best pitmasters to Chicago along with some of country music’s hottest stars for three days of live bands, beer, and top-notch barbecue.

We caught up with some of the acclaimed pitmasters you’ll find at Windy City Smokeout this summer to learn more about their craft and a few tricks of the trade.

Take a look Behind the Smoke with these barbecue legends. And check back soon to meet more pitmasters who are heading to Windy City Smokeout.

Sam Jones – Sam Jones BBQ

Hailing from North Carolina, Sam Jones is the third generation in his family to carry on the tradition of whole hog barbecue. “I was born into barbecue,” says Jones. And he does it well — he’s named one of the “Top Ten Pitmasters in South” by Southern Living Living and published his first cookbook on the topic, “Whole Hog BBQ: The Gospel of Carolina Barbecue,” this spring. He opened Sam Jones BBQ in Winterville, North Carolina in 2015, a modern restaurant with all the techniques of traditional barbecue. One taste, and you can tell that Jones is passionate about his barbecue and what it means in his family.

What makes Sam Jones BBQ special? “Our style is unique because it’s whole hog, woodfired,” says Jones. “And the main difference is we crisp the skin and then chop it up into the main dish, which most of the time the skin is the by-product.”

When asked what’s the one thing he always looks forward to when visiting Chicago, Jones says that he “always stops in to visit Bub City. It’s barbecue by day and country music by night. And I always find myself pretty happy there.” He also mentioned he is looking forward to hanging out with his friends at Windy City Smokeout.

Key tip for aspiring pitmasters:  “Slow down, take your time, and don’t be in a hurry.”

Favorite beer to pair with barbecue:  Carver (Sweet Potato Lager) by Full Steam Brewery

Elliott Moss – Buxton Hall

For his first trip to Chicago since 2001, Moss is most excited about experiencing Chicago’s barbecue scene and (of course) attending Windy City Smokeout. Another Chicago event he’s pretty excited about is Windy City Riot. “It’s going to be about 150 rollerbladers having a street contest all in the middle of the city, so I hope I can sneak away with a pair of rollerblades in hand.”

Tip for aspiring pitmasters: “Come prepared. Get some sleep. Something is always going to happen to interrupt your cooking time so always be prepared and allow some extra time.”
Favorite beer to pair with barbecue: Hoppin’ John (Lager Beer) from Fonta Flora in collaboration with Buxton Hall

Barry Sorkin – Smoque BBQ

Tip for aspiring pitmasters: “Keep it simple.”
Favorite beer to pair with barbecue: Scentinel (IPA) from Old Irving Brewing Co.

Charlie McKenna – Lillie’s Q

“We bring a nuance of using smoke as a flavoring agent, not as just the overpowering thing,” he says. “We’re here to make sure you to taste the meat, the rub, and the smoke and we’re bringing Carolina style that most people in Chicago haven’t seen before.”

Tip for aspiring pitmasters: “Learn whatever cooking apparatus you’re working on — whether it’s a grill, kettle, or smoker — learn how to control the heat and the fire of that source.”
Favorite beer to pair with barbecue: Sofie (Belgian-Style Farmhouse Ale) from Goose Island

Hungry yet? Get your tickets to Windy City Smokeout today.