There is a “no smoking” sign on the front door of Nuttin Butt Good BBQ in Marion, but the sign doesn’t apply to the meat cooking outside.
Gale Cooper of Marion had to stop working as a welder in 2004 because of back and knee problems. When he got tired of not working, he decided to turn his interest in barbecue into a business. It began with catering and recently expanded to include the restaurant at 708 N. Cedar St.
“I like to see people happy with what I cook,” said the Kansas City Barbecue Society certified judge.
Barbecuing takes patience, Cooper said. Brisket and pork butt can take as long as 10 hours to cook, in addition to time-consuming preparation. Ribs take between four and five hours.
“I started out on what they call a little bullet smoker,” he said.
Now he uses a smoker that can smoke as much as 165 pounds of pork butt — which actually refers to the top of the shoulder — at a time.
There are several factors that contribute to good barbecue, Cooper said. If a cook uses the right wood to smoke the meat, salt and pepper can be enough to make good barbecue. Cooper said he uses a combination of hickory and oak most of the time. Sometimes he also uses apple or cherry when smoking chicken.
The right blend of spices applied to the meat — called a rub — also contributes to the flavor of the barbecue. Through trial and error, Cooper has perfected his own rub made with a mixture of 16 spices.
Finally, the right time and temperature for cooking play a major role. Cooper’s smoker includes a system that keeps the temperatures relatively constant.
Ribs are the most unforgiving meat as far as timing goes. Ribs have a narrow range between being undercooked and overdone, Cooper said.
“The hardest part of making good barbecue is preparation,” he said.
He uses a brand of barbecue sauce called Head Country in the restaurant. The sauce covers a middle ground between thick, sweet Kansas City style and thinner, vinegar-based Carolina style. He described it as thinner than Kansas City style but still sweet.
The sauce is a little different than most people are used to, but it is popular in Oklahoma and Texas, Cooper said. He leaves it entirely up to his customers to decide how much sauce to use.
“I don’t sauce any meat before the customer gets it,” he said. “I like to let my meat do the talking.”
Nuttin Butt Good BBQ is open 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. For more information, call (620) 382-5769.