Blue Smoke's Kenny Callaghan Discusses the New Blue Smoke Location and the Secret to Great Wings

William Brinson
Yesterday we talked with Blue Smoke executive chef Kenny Callaghan about his favorite barbecue spots; the difference between barbecue in Kansas City, Memphis, and Texas; and how not to overcook your ribs. Today, Kenny talks about his chicken wings, the new Blue Smoke location in Battery Park City, and the insane success of the Big Apple BBQ Block Party.

What should a good backyard grillmaster look for in his or her meat while at the butcher?

The best meat for barbecue has a good amount of marbleization and fat content. You don't want to smoke something like venison loin; it's just way too lean of a meat. If you're at the butcher shop and you're looking at two racks of St. Louis ribs, you want to grab the one that has more marbleization and fat because you're cooking at a low temperature for such a long period time that you need that fat to kind of baste the meat as it's cooking.

Blue Smoke is also known for its chicken wings. What's the secret to making really tasty wings?

A lot of people do straight-up Buffalo wings and I didn't want to do that, so I started smoking them. First I brine them in an apple-cider brine, which gives them a nice sweetness and saltiness. From there, I let them sit in a dry rub for several hours. Then I put them in a smoker for about 2½ hours. After that, I fry them up and serve them with my chipotle-honey barbecue sauce and blue cheese dressing, which is made with real Maytag blue cheese. It's a really good homemade dressing.

Everything we do here is homemade; I never open any cans. Most barbecue joints around the country are opening up No. 10 cans of beans and just adding sugar or bacon or whatever. Here, we're soaking all of our beans. We're baking eight different kinds of bread every day. So we do things a little differently here than other places.

Are you planning to open any new barbecue restaurants?

In December, we are going to open another Blue Smoke in Battery Park City.

Why there?

I think it's an area that's underserved. The new Freedom Towers are going up right across the street, there are a whole lot of new residential buildings in the area, and there's not really a ton of restaurants down there. We found a good spot in the Goldman Sachs building. It's similar in size to the current Blue Smoke, maybe a little smaller. There isn't going to be a Jazz Standard in the new restaurant, so it's only going to be one level, maybe 22 bar seats and 140 seats in the dining room and outdoor patio. It's going to be a decently sized space. We still haven't determined the menu; we're definitely going to have our main barbecue highlights, but we're also going to try to mix it up a little bit.

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