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CEDAR GROVE - Since the dawn of time, man has employed the art of smoking to enhance the flavor of meat.
And while the time honored craft has become all but obsolete as cooking methods have evolved, Bullitt Countians have ready access to the unique flavor of genuine wood-smoked barbeque, thanks to Charles Ray.
Ray, who has spent nearly a decade perfecting his smoking techniques catering numerous events, now has his own restaurant off Cedar Grove Road.
Backwoods Smoke and Grill on Buffalo Run Road is, as Ray put it, "Where the hog meets the log."
Though the restaurant only recently opened, Ray has already received high praise for his food.Every entree prepared at Backwoods Smoke and Grill, from their pork ribs and beef brisket to their pulled pork and chicken wings, is slow cooked in an 18-foot smoker.
Besides the six to eight hours Ray typically spends smoking every piece of meat served at his restaurant, the secret to what makes Backwoods Smoke and Grill's meat so tender and savory is the wood he burns in his smoker.
It's the subtle flavor of cherry wood that compliments Backwoods Smoke and Grill's barbeque with a slightly sweet taste.
Ray said there are many imitators who try to pass grill-fired meat off as smoked barbeque, but his is the only barbeque in Bullitt County that is actually smoked.
"It's not like cooking on a grill or in the oven," he said. "It's a taste all its own."
Ray said folks who try his genuine wood-smoked barbeque instantly taste the difference.
The smoking process, he said, adds a flavor all its own.
"A lot of restaurants grill their meat and they call it smoked, but it's not," he said. "You can definitely taste the difference."
And unlike other barbeque restaurants, Backwoods Smoke and Grill's meat is seasoned with dry rub, not sauce.
"We don't put sauce on any of our meat because the smoker adds so much flavor," he said. "Ninety percent of people put sauce on their meat because it doesn't taste right. Our meat doesn't need any sauce."
For those who like their meat wet, Backwoods Smoke and Grill offers a wide range of barbeque and hot sauces.
Ray said he takes pride in his barbeque, adding that it was the taste of smoked barbeque that first drew him to the art of smoking.
After purchasing his own smoker almost ten years ago, Ray began experimenting with different combinations of hard woods and meats before he determined that smoking cherry wood provided the best flavor.
While Ray has been smoking for years, selling homemade pork barbeque out of his truck in addition to catering, it wasn't until a few months ago that he considered opening his own restaurant.
For more than 30 years Ray worked as a truck mechanic. That was until he was diagnosed with cancer earlier this year.
No longer able to work on trucks full-time, the life-long Bullitt County resident decided to put his passion for smoking to good use.
Five months after he set to work remodeling the space Backwoods Smoke and Grill currently occupies near the Cedar Grove Industrial Park, the restaurant officially opened just before Christmas.
As all of Backwoods Smoke and Grill's pork and beef entrees are smoked, smoked meats are incorporated in the restaurant's chili, soup beans, green beans and signature smoked beans.
"There's a little smoked meat in everything," Ray said.
In addition to their massive puled pork, pork loin and beef brisket sandwiches, Backwoods Smoke and Grill also offers one-of-a-kind entrees like smoked bologna and smoked meatloaf.
They also have a wide variety of sides, including potato salad, cole slaw, maccaroni and cheese, french fries and salads.
Backwoods Smoke and Grill's entire menu is available for dine-in or carry out and they deliver to the Cedar Grove Industrial Park.
The restaurant also offers catering for parties of any size with advance notice.
Located just off Interstate 65 exit 116 at 300 Buffalo Run Road, Backwoods Smoke and Grill is open seven days a week 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
For more information, call (502) 376-0246.