If 2020 has taught us anything, it is that the little things matter. Food doesn’t need to be complicated to taste good. And few things exemplify this principal more than barbeque, where it is the quality of the ingredients and the patience of the technique that make all the difference. This focus on fundamentals and the simple love of cooking form the cornerstones of Smoked, a barbeque joint on Jefferson Highway owned by the husband-and-wife team of Steve and Maureen Mock.
For Steve, who grew up in rural Kansas, barbeque is a labor of love. The mornings come early and there are no shortcuts. “I’ve done this kind of cooking pretty much my whole life,” says Steve, who quit his nine-to-five to open Smoked. “It what we did growing up. You guys boil seafood down here, and we smoke barbecue up there.”
While Steve is from Kansas, he describes his style as more aligned with Texas. The emphasis is on simplicity – let quality meat, basic rubs and woodsmoke do the talking. “Growing up, we always had really good fresh beef, pork and chicken. Cooking wasn’t about doctoring it up; it was about starting with good meat, seasonings and wood,” Steve said.
Steve sticks exclusively with oak, whose mild flavor works across a range of proteins. Start with his brisket, seasoned with a simple rub of coarse black pepper, Kosher salt and a little chipotle pepper. He brings it right to the point where the fat barely holds it together and it collapses with the edge of a fork, melting like butter in your mouth. His baby back ribs are best ordered by the rack so you can behold the reddish mahogany hue of its bark, seasoned with chili and onion powder, granulated garlic, salt and unprocessed turbinado sugar, which imparts notes of molasses.
The rubs for the protein are seasoning enough, but lest you feel something is missing you can choose from an array of homemade sauces, including a vinegar-based one that pairs well with the pulled pork. “I make five different sauces in-house,” Steve said, knowing that locals here like a lot of choices. “People are welcome to put them on, but I don’t. I only use dry rubs on the meat.”
Sides include a creamy, mustard and pickle infused potato salad, a traditional sweet and creamy coleslaw, and baked beans studded with lagniappe-y bits of smoked morsels. Desserts include banana pudding and peach cobbler.
Smoked recently relocated a few blocks down from its original location. It is still on Jefferson Highway, but now it is nestled alongside My Brothers Bar (imagine some good synergy there…) with a larger space that offers more seating. In these COVID days, BBQ makes for a quick and easy to-go option, but the new location offers more inside seating for those inclined to say.
As always with BBQ, it is best to order ahead to ensure you get what you seek. When they run out for the day, they are done, and favorites like burnt ends go fast. Smoked is also available to cater events. Recent customers include the New Orleans Saints. “That was a great experience,” Steve said.
Smoked, 6901 Jefferson Hwy., Harahan, 577-0199, SmokedbySteve.com.
ABOUT THE CHEF
Smoked is Maureen and Steve Mock’s first foray into the restaurant business. Prior to Smoked, Steve worked for UPS and also as a contractor who built custom homes. One could argue that is a more useful skill than culinary school as it enabled him to basically build out their entire first location. Maureen was in medical sales prior but also brings catering experience, an especially useful angle for barbecue. “It can be pretty stressful for a husband and wife who have never been in this business, but we love what we do,” Steve said. “It’s been a great ride so far.”