Odeens BBQ may be Ridgefield's best kept secret. Tucked away at the Ridgefield Golf Course on Ridgebury Road, the catering company and restaurant is owned and operated by Marshall Odeen and John Lloyd, a pair who became good friends while bonding over barbeque.
We sat down with John to understand what makes good BBQ, and you may be surprised to learn you don't need an expensive grill or fancy cooking technique to end up with a delicious platter of tender, smoked meat — the secret ingredient is, believe it or not, patience.
Taking all kinds of influences from Europe, the Mediterranean, and Africa, Odeens prides themselves on using "primitive equipment" to create incredible, unique, and theatrical food.
John explains the essence of classic southern style BBQ is slow smoking "humble cuts of meat" and transforming them into "deeply flavored, luscious prizes." This requires "a lot of planning and patience," he states. "It doesn't require any kind of exotic or sophisticated equipment."
In fact, you can learn how to smoke meat on a rusty Weber grill or $50 gas grill like he did. John also notes you need to be mindful of the food as it's cooking, which includes the circulation of the smoke, relative humidity outside, the quality of wood (if you're using a wood grill), as well as the quality of meat.
"Most importantly, perhaps, is the timing of when you want to eat," he affirms, stating it can easily take 12 hours to produce a fantastic cut of BBQ. "When you get it right, for even the most die-hard, committed carnivores, it makes for an unforgettable meal."
Getting more into the meat (ha) of things, John emphasizes that not only do you not need an expensive grill or smoker, you don't need an expensive cut of meat either. In fact, his favorite type of meat to smoke is pork shoulder, one of the cheapest cuts of meat you can get.
"When you put the right rub on (his personal recommendation is a simple salt and pepper) and give it time at the right temperature, that pork shoulder transforms into this bubbling mound of meat jelly," he illustrates. He continues to paint the picture of being able to pull the meat apart with your fingertips — "it literally slides off the bone," he adds, when it's slow-cooked to perfection, that is, making it the ultimate melt-in-your-mouth food.
Once this "perfect and inviting cut of BBQ" is ready, John states all that's left to do is pair it with a great vegetable or salad, giving us a delectable visual of a carrot that's just been cooked on the embers of a grill, covered with a dusting of ashes.
John also divulges into the art of open-fire cooking — or cooking in its primitive method —where he really learned the interplay of smoke and distance to the fire. "It's amazing the sophisticated meal you can get with just fire," he said.
Odeens partners with several local organic farms with rural ingredients, which definitely adds to the taste and exquisiteness of the meals served. From The Hickories Farm to Henny Penny Farm, they try and get "lesser known vegetables" like multicolored beets and Japanese yams to add textural difference, color, and something "a little more interesting" to their plates. After all, we eat largely with our eyes.
To sum up the art of smoked meat, here are the three Odeens-approved rules to ensure you get the more flavorful and tender smoked meat:
- Get the cheap cut of meat (like pork shoulder)
- Use a simple rub like salt and pepper
- Cook it slow