Barbecuing for Labor Day? Tennessee Pitmaster Todd Beaird says these three things are the most important

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Barbecuing for Labor Day? Tennessee Pitmaster Todd Beaird says these three things are the most important


Good BBQ supposedly only comes around once in a Blue Moon, but not if you’re Pitmaster, Todd Beaird, the BBQ-loving owner of Blue Moon BBQ in Lebanon, TN (Nashville area).


Blue Moon BBQ takes the finest and freshest cuts of meat and slow cooks them over hickory wood for 14 hours every day. Wrapped in their secret rub, hand prepared and finished in award-winning sauce (but only if you like!) and paired with a hearty side of smoked beans, mac N cheese, cut fries, or house made chips, they’re sure to satisfy even the biggest appetites for authentic BBQ.

Fueling a growing obsession with BBQ, we were excited to ask Todd some questions.

Let’s start off with sauce – some people say the sauce makes the meat, is this true?

No. If you smoke meat correctly it doesn’t need any sauce. A sauce should enhance the flavor, not create the flavor. BBQ sauce is personal, so we serve our meat without sauce so customers can add our made from scratch sauces however they like, if they like.

How did you place in BBQ competitions?

Over the years, we’d won first place on all our meats—pork ribs, beef, and chicken. Once the restaurant was up and running and catering filled our weekends, we realized it took a lot of time away from the restaurant on weekends so we haven’t competed much since 2012, except to briefly do a few because a friend wanted me to introduce him to the world of competitive BBQ, and I was happy to be his mentor.

What are your most popular dishes?

Definitely our brisket plate, and also our smoked chicken.

Can you share your “secret” recipe BBQ rub?

There’s no recipe – I like to use my senses and do it by sight and smell, making a big batch every week, here’s what’s in it:

  • Salt & pepper
  • Paprika
  • Sugar (white and brown)
  • Granulated garlic
  • Ground cayenne pepper

Mix all the spices together until it feels and smells right. You can buy our special blend in the restaurant too.

How did Blue Moon get started?

I worked at Cracker Barrel restaurant through high school and college in the 90s while pursuing an IT degree. I loved the restaurant business, especially working in the test kitchen! The only part I didn’t love back then was working late nights and weekends.

With an IT degree in hand, I went on to work full time for almost 20 years in the insurance industry. During this time, my brother-in-law started participating in BBQ competitions as a hobby, and he did really well. So well he turned it into a sideline catering business. People loved his BBQ and were constantly telling him he needed to open a restaurant, but he didn’t have any restaurant experience so he brushed the comments off—for a while.

Eventually, turned his weekend hobby into a full-time job and opened his first restaurant in 2009. I was still working full time, but I helped out whenever I could. The past few years I was at my job were miserable, and I just wanted out. I didn’t have a plan or any idea what was next. During this time, my brother-in-law expanded to open a second location, and just two weeks before he was supposed to open the doors for business, I walked into work and was handed a severance package.

The first thing I did post pink-slip is got my real estate license and started flipping houses. A few years later, my brother-in-law asked me to run the second location, and it was an easy decision. A few months into running the second location, we realized we had a different vision for the business, so I ended up buying the second location so he could focus on his first restaurant.

What’s your best advice for people looking to start a BBQ restaurant?

Be prepared for a lot of long days and hard work. The first few years are going to be tough—no matter how good your food is. Do a few basic things with your food, and do them well. Get really good at customer service and treat people how you’d like to be treated.

What advice do you have for grill masters and pitmasters at home?

I get asked this a lot, here are the most important things to know:

1. Consistent low temperature. Whatever you’re cooking on, you need to get it to a consistent low temperature. Cooking time is roughly 90 minutes per pound of meat at 225 Fahrenheit.

2. Patience. You need to leave the meat alone and let it do its thing. The most common mistake grillers make is fussing with their meat, constantly opening up the grill to check on it. Leave it alone and trust the process.

3. Keep it simple and stick to the basics.

Of course, you can leave it to the professionals, we’re happy to grill for you!

A big BBQ thanks to Todd Beaird for sharing what goes into amazing BBQ! If you love their Fooda pop-up experience, you’ll love their laid back sit-down restaurant too.