If the time-honored tradition of Southern barbecue had a face, it would be Rodney Scott’s. The opening of Rodney Scott’s BBQ Charleston in 2016 has permanently propelled the storied pitmaster out of small-town obscurity to the national spotlight. Like the “slow and low” method he applies to smoking whole hogs, his rise to widespread fame didn’t happen overnight.
To prepare his barbecue, Scott first fires a blend of oak, hickory and pecan hardwood coals to a searing glow. For a full 12 hours, the butterflied whole hogs are smoked on pits, belly-down, then flipped and cooked for a while longer. They get a liberal dousing of seasonings and a good mopping of Scott’s special vinegar-pepper sauce, which infuses the meat with his signature flavor. When it’s all soaked in and the meat pulls easily away from the bone, it’s time to eat.
At age 11, Scott cooked his first pig on the site of his family’s convenience store in the rural Pee Dee town of Hemingway. On homemade pits, whole hogs were cooked and the smoked meat sold one day a week to hungry crowds drawn by the tantalizing aromas. Eventually, the barbecue operation became the family’s main business and Scott took the helm. With a team of helpers, he sourced wood from trees neighbors and friends needed to clear from their property. He fired the wood for the smokers in 5-foot burn barrels made from scrap metal.
Accepting a 2010 invitation to prepare pig for the Charleston Wine + Food Festival was a turning point in his career and resulted in invitations to cook in places as far away as Belize and Australia. Opening his own restaurant in Charleston in 2016 has widened the scope of Scott’s influence on South Carolina’s food scene and helped him snag the title “Chef of the Year” from Eater Charleston in 2017 and placed him squarely on the James Beard Award finalist list for Best Chef: Southeast in 2018.