The average grilling enthusiast usually doesn’t own nine grills and smokers. But when that enthusiast is 78-time grand champion pitmaster Jim Johnson, a small army of grilling equipment seems standard.
Johnson jokes he’s often greeted with, “What came off the smoker today?”
After the Memphis, Tennessee, native retired from the competition barbecue circuit, he settled in McCutchanville with his wife, Becky, an Evansville native. The Johnson remain international instructors for the Kansas City Barbeque Society and frequently travel the country teaching and judging competitions.
The Tri-State reaps the rewards of Johnson’s residency in the River City. In his retirement, he makes it a habit to share his wisdom by using a Big Green Egg to teach cooking classes at Thyme in the Kitchen. No matter if he’s teaching a group how to smoke fall-off-the-bone ribs mix a heavenly onion dip, or recreate his famous baked beans to perfection, pragmatism is king.
“Everybody makes things too difficult. In two hours, I can teach you to be as good as I am,” he says. “For me to teach a recipe, it must be five ingredients or less. It can’t get any easier or simpler than the way I do it.”
Johnson is a member of the West Side Nut Club and often cooks for its events. He and Becky sell top-of-the-line kitchen equipment on their website and parlayed their love of playing with spice combinations into their own line of seasonings and rubs. The dry version of Becky Sue’s BBQ Rub was voted “Best Rub” in 2021 by readers of Barbecue News magazine. Despite their acclaim for mouthwatering barbecue, the couple eat it sparingly. That said, Johnson doesn’t hold back on his love of grilling.
“I don’t really eat barbecue often, but there’s nobody who loves cooking barbecue as much as I do,” he says.
The Johnsons enjoy grilling out on Friday nights with friends, including WEHT-TV meteorologist Joe Bird. Their specialty? Smash burgers.
WHAT CAME OFF THE SMOKER TODAY?