09/23/15 9:56am

BBQ Smoke and Mirrors, Wendy’s Style

Wendy's BBQ saucemaster laughs at your desire to know his secret.

Yesterday afternoon I was doing some virtual trail running in the gym when the above commercial for Wendy’s BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich came on. Even with the sound down I got the joke. When asked to divulge the recipe for his “secret sauce” the presumably Southern pitmaster and his assistant refuse to give up the goods laughing off the request.

The subsequent glamour shots of “our hickory smoked pulled pork” and a BBQ poutine of sorts looked so good that I couldn’t get them out of my head. I envisioned Wendy’s very own sauce bespattered, real deal pitmaster whipping up this pulled pork, a veritable Ed Mitchell of fast food. As a certified Kansas City Barbeque Society judge who’s been around BBQ pits and smokers of various and sundry sizes and configurations, including a stainless steel number whose firebox resembles a miniature bank vault, I know  this is nonsense. But Wendy’s and its ad agency are selling a fantasy, one that I clearly bought into as evidenced by my choice of a late night dinner.

Is this the best fast-food BBQ out there?

Is this the best fast-food BBQ out there?

It was probably the best pulled pork sandwich I have ever had in a corporate fast-food restaurant. Given that the last one I had was a hot mess served by White Castle, that’s not such a great achievement. As part of its BBQ gimmick Wendy’s is offering three sauces: smoky, sweet, and spicy. I went with the smoky. Someone at HQ did their homework on this sandwich. It’s served on a brioche bun and topped with a decent slaw. The meat itself was discernible as separate pieces some bearing a pink that usually comes from smoke, that appear to have been pulled. Even though it was barely warmed over, it’s the closest thing I’ve had to BBQ in a commercial fast-food setting. The BBQ cheese fries, which I ordered with spicy sauce paled in comparison.

When I got home I went to Youtube and watched the commercial again. That’s when I learned that the saucy pit master has two more associates in Wendy’s BBQ trinity: a mustachioed “smoke master,” and a knife and steel wielding “hip master.” The latter  is a furry faced culinary badass who seems to be a cross between Aaron Franklin and a hipster butcher.

The three are part of a Crack the Masters game wherein the viewer tries to get the pitmaster to reveal their BBQ secret. My favorite was the hipster pitmaster. His secret: “We use hickory smoked pork shoulder but it’s wagyu pork raised in the misty highlands near Kobe japan but only one shoulder’s available per year and I’m the one who gets it hashtag #blessed #trustfund namaste.” Clearly someone at Wendy’s is not only pulling pork, but the viewer’s leg. Last time I checked there was no such thing as wagyu pork.

Much like Sriracha barbecue has clearly entered the culinary mainstream. I’ll leave it to the scholars to decide whether it ever left. And I’ll leave you with a few words of advice. Unless you’re really hard up for pulled pork, skip the Wendy’s BBQ sandwich and save up some money for a trip to North Carolina. Go to Bum’s or Allen & Son’s. Guaranteed your BBQ will it come out almost as fast and be far tastier than the stuff at Wendy’s.

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