There are some paths in life you can undertake lightly.
Like macramé or crocheting, dip a toe in the water and see whether or not you like it.
Other paths are a lifetime commitment, like buying a bird from Parrot Mountain. Once you’ve gone down the path, it’s nearly impossible to get back out.
Such is the search for great barbecue. It is a mission. A quest. A holy thing.
I met a man once, deep in the wilds of Alabama, who plied his trade selling pulled pork to the faithful.
The concrete building – maybe a garage in a former life – was painted white and decorated with an artist’s renderings of the ingredients for a good Brunswick stew.
It would have taken an adventurer with a fairly open mind to walk into this place to eat without a strong recommendation from a close friend or a reliable preacher.
I had such a recommendation.
We didn’t become friends, this shaman and I, but we did discuss a few of the finer commandments of pulled pork.
It is an art and a science. It is about the interconnectivity of wood and smoke and tangy and spicy and sweet.
Anyone can cook barbecue. You take meat and sauce and apply heat and time and you will have barbecue.
But good barbecue? Leave that to the artists, to the geniuses, to the mad scientists with too much passion and too much pork to do anything else with their lives.
What is Tennessee style BBQ?
Throughout the United States, there’s a variety of styles when it comes to good BBQ. But if you want the best BBQ joints, head to the South.
Tennessee BBQ is slow cooked, usually over hickory wood. Most commonly we think of brisket and pulled pork that has a smoky flavor.
If it’s Memphis-style, the popular selections will be pork ribs and pulled pork that can be either “wet” or “dry”.
In Pigeon Forge, you’ll find a variety of BBQ with influences from West Tennessee, Middle Tennessee and even a few that honor our cousins in the Carolinas.
Sides often include green beans, potato salad, rolls or macaroni and cheese.
Whether you want to find the best ribs, beef brisket, burnt ends or pork shoulder, you have many options in Pigeon Forge.
Now, remember, we’re working with geographical limitations here. If you want to go into downtown Gatlinburg, we love Hungry Bear BBQ, Bennett’s Pit Bar-B-Que and Delauder’s BBQ.
So who has the best BBQ in Pigeon Forge? Here are the best places to get your barbecue on.
5. Corky’s Ribs
We here at TheSmokies.com are welcoming. We carry no regional bias. If anyone wants to step inside the arena and test their skills, their mettle, then we are happy to let our taste buds oblige.
North Carolina vinegar-based sauce, South Carolina mustard-base, we will entertain all who are worthy. So it is with that spirit we welcome this entry from West Tennessee.
Corky’s Ribs is a chain, but all of their meats are slowly cooked over hickory and charcoal.
Corky’s offers ribs that come either wet (with BBQ sauce), dry (with dry spices) or muddy, the best of both worlds. You can get a half rack or full rack of ribs.
The Memphis-style BBQ chain also offers pulled pork, pulled chicken, smoked sausage, beef brisket and smoked turkey.
For anyone in your party who does not love the smoked meats, they offer burgers, sandwiches, a catfish fillet and chicken tenders.
It’s a safe bet with plenty of variety, so it’s hard to go wrong here.
For some of our favorite sides, try the fried okra, corn on the cob, potato salad, french fries, baked potatoes, onion rings and creamy mac and cheese.
If you’re feeding a family, try the Smokehouse Feast, which feeds 5-6 people.
4. Puckett’s Grocery and Restaurant
Puckett’s roots stretch back to a 1950s grocery store in tiny Leipers Fork, southwest of Nashville.
With locations throughout Tennessee, Puckett’s offers a wide variety of Tennessee favorites that go beyond just good barbecue.
In the 1990s, a grocery-store man wanted to branch out into the restaurant and music venue game.
His goal was one family location. He sold all of his Piggly Wiggly supermarkets and purchased Puckett’s.
From there, it’s the typical story of a man who goes from running Piggly Wigglies to cooking them up over cherry wood and serving them to people coming to hear live bands.
Puckett’s offers Memphis-style ribs, country fried steak, smoked meatloaf and fried chicken.
Most of the barbecue is served in a Memphis dry rub dubbed Low and Slow and perfectly smoked over cherry wood. I recommend it with a little coleslaw for that true Memphis style.
Plus, you can get a taste of true Southern hospitality with friendly staff and live music on select nights.
This is something of an upset.
Calhoun’s is generally considered the king of East Tennessee barbecue. And it is. This isn’t a criticism or anything unpleasant about Calhoun’s, but high praise to the No. 1 spot on the list.
Calhoun’s offers hickory-smoked pulled pork that is a culinary staple in the region. I’m surprised the governor hasn’t declared that it is its own food group.
Also, if not everyone in your party is up for barbecue, this is an excellent option because everything on the menu is good.
You can get good pulled pork and everyone else will be just as happy with their meal, even if they are philistines.
Calhoun’s is located along the main Parkway in Pigeon Forge.
2. Boss Hogg’s BBQ Shack
Boss Hogg’s is a local favorite that is worth the drive to enjoy this barbecue favorite. Travel down Wears Valley road to enjoy quality food in a good atmosphere.
Boss Hogg’s specializes in smoked meats like brisket and pulled pork.
Get the BBQ Pork Sandwich for lunch or one of their famous dinner plates if you’re visiting after 4.
Dinner plates include the BBQ Pork Plate, Smoked Beef Brisket Plate, Large Rib Plate and more.
They also offer chicken and dumplings and country fried steak.
Sides include classics such as rolls, potato salad and mac and cheese.
1. Preacher’s Smokehouse (Sevierville)
We are crossing county lines with this upset, but everyone knows that the best BBQ is often found in a hidden gem.
This local BBQ restaurant, Preacher’s Smokehouse, serves exquisite barbecue made with an artist’s touch and the loving hand of a benevolent God.
Quite literally, in fact, as Preacher’s is run by an honest-to-goodness man of the Lord.
Preacher’s doesn’t have a website, just a Facebook page where they post videos narrated by the owner himself.
Be warned though, if you find yourself watching these videos from some far flung place, they may create such a powerful hankering that you’ll find yourself making the pilgrimage to Pittman Center Road to convene with your fellow converts.
It’s simply one of the best in the region.
“Sauce or no sauce, it’s good either way.” And the people said, “Amen.”
Preacher’s is closed on select dates, so be sure to plan ahead.
Who do you think has the best barbeque in Pigeon Forge or near the Great Smoky Mountains National Park? Let us know in the comments.