My name is Howard Conyers. I am a South Carolina Whole Hog BBQ Pitmaster, rocket scientist, motivational speaker and cultural event curator/lecturer. I am also the host of PBS Digital’s newest food show, “Nourish.” I have had a lifelong obsession to understand the American South through food, culture, and science. Ask me anything about my two passions - rocket science and good Southern cooking!

A little more about me: I received my BS in Bioenvironmental Engineering from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, as well as my Ph.D in Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science from Duke University with a specialty in Aeroelasticity. I work as a Mechanical Engineer in rocket engine propulsion testing.

After becoming a well-known Hog BBQ Pitmaster, I appeared on the Cooking Channel’s “Man Fire Food” and was featured in several media outlets like Southern Living. And aside from rocket science and hog roasting, giving back to the community is a large part of my career. Ask me anything about that, too! Thank you for stopping by my AMA, Until Next Time, please watch and subscribe to Nourish at www.youtube.com/PBSNourish !

More about me: https://www.nola.com/food/index.ssf/2018/06/pbs_nourish_howard_conyers.html

Proof: https://twitter.com/NOLAnews/status/1014265529803165701

I'll get started at 2 p.m. (CST)

Comments: 83 • Responses: 30  • Date: 

justdoitguy4 karma

I've smoked ribs only a half-dozen times and they always turn out better than those I get from most BBQ restaurants. Am I just lucky?

NOLAnews9 karma

As an individual, you have the opportunity to give the ribs the most attention. A restaurant can't give you that level of detail and keep the ribs at a price point you can afford.

CaptainStank0562 karma

Fellow South Carolinian here, Have any relatives named Billy?

NOLAnews1 karma

No relatives name billy!

roaring_elbow2 karma

Hey Dr. Conyers, I was in CO a few weeks ago, and my buddy Modou was telling me about you and how kind you've been in sharing your kitchen expertise with him. Anyways, as a SC native, I've got to know, what are your favorite BBQ joints in SC?

NOLAnews2 karma

Small world, Modou is good people. I can learn a thing from Modou and you should have gotten him to prepare some biscuits and gravy. In SC, my favorite BBQ Joints are Hell's Half Acre, Rodney Scott's BBQ, Shuler's BBQ, Scott's BBQ, and From Home Team(specifically for chicken wings). Venture to Atlanta or Savannah, GA I only spend my money at B's Cracklin.

yUrM0mL0l1 karma

When I’m cooking my steak, the outside is crispy and sometimes burnt at 400 degrees cooking for 12 minutes, and the inside is still rare. How do I fix this?

NOLAnews2 karma

You should reduce the temperature of the grill. You are searing the steak when you get to this temperature.

TrapCzar1 karma

Thats how a steak is supposed to be. Rare=perfect steak, most top chefs even agree with this.

NOLAnews1 karma

It looks like the reddit AMA group is answering this question for me. Thanks for the help!!!!

Meathead19611 karma

You’re cooking a whole hog...just friends and family. When it’s done, what do you reach in and pull out of mr piggy that will most impress?

NOLAnews2 karma

My favorite part of the hog is the skin. After cooking the hog, we normally crisped the skin and it is like a potato chip with a little bit of fat. It is one of the greatest things you can get when cooking a hog. I did not crisp the skin on the video published as for a novice, one can quickly catch a pig on fire.

Meathead19611 karma

And I’m guessing just salt on the hog, nothing else? Or do you use other rub in addition?

NOLAnews1 karma

Sometimes, I stuff celery, garlic, and onions into the hams and shoulders. I try to let the natural flavors speak for themselves. The rest of my seasonings are in my sauce, but it just adds another dimension to eating.

NOLAnews1 karma

One of my favorite portions after cooking a whole hog, is the breaking of a piece of hog skin that have been crisped. I did not do that in this particular video but it is almost like eating a Pork Rind that is crunchy with a little bit of fat. I would not call it a cracklin because it is not fried, it is made all on the pit.

Kosmicblade1 karma

Can you confirm that brain surgery is in fact NOT rocket science?

NOLAnews2 karma

To do brain surgery you have to be really smart as well. They have a lot in common with the need for due diligence, as a bad decision could be death.

Kosmicblade2 karma

Aww, now I feel bad for wasting your time. Maybe I can repay you by making you laugh.

NOLAnews2 karma

Don't feel bad, It is just the reality.

silveraith1 karma

Can we use rocket fuel for a BBQ?

NOLAnews1 karma

We can use rocket fuel for shipping BBQ around the globe... Definitely not for cooking though!

Okie-Doke1 karma

I was going to place your show on my watchlist in PBS Passport, but I don’t see it in there (I support the UNC-TV station, if that makes any difference). Is it simply YouTube right now? Looking forward to watching it.

NOLAnews2 karma

Thank you. The show is simply youtube right now at www.youtube.com/PBSNourish . Are you affiliated with Duke or UNC by chance?

Okie-Doke1 karma

Not really, but the company I work with is based in the Joint School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering in Greensboro, which is a joint effort of UNC Greensboro and North Carolina A&T.

I’m really looking forward to watching your show later today!

NOLAnews2 karma

As an Aggie alum in Engineering, this makes me feel good. I have yet to go in this new building!

Okie-Doke1 karma

I saw that! Small world, and if you can up my pull pork game, you’ve got an instant supporter for life.

I guess I do have a real question now. Is there a particular legend or pitmaster that inspires you from a culinary aspect or have you gathered your own tastes and preferences on your own? Personally, I always seem to fall back on the methods pioneered by Big Bob Gibson that I adopted wholesale from a book by Chris Lilly. They’ve never led me astray, but I’m always up for different outlooks.

NOLAnews1 karma

The pitmaster legends that I look up to for flavors, all come from my community who shared with the community the flavors we love back in South Carolina. If I had to say to pitmasters I look up and respect in industry, it Rodney Scott of Rodney's Scott BBQ(Charleston, SC) and Bryan Furman(B's Cracklin-Atlanta, GA). These are two pitmasters, you should look up. I am trying to get to North Carolina this year to try Grady's.

Theurbanalchemist1 karma

What’s your approach to buying and grilling steaks (preferred cut and thickness from butcher, grill used, wood, etc) and if I may ask, how much have you/would you spend for your dream BBQ pit/set up?

NOLAnews1 karma

As far as steaks, I like a good ribeye. I prefer to get it from a local grocery store or butcher. I generally do not buy meat from a big box store. If I could spend what I want on a dream bbq/pit I would probably spend no more than $10,000. My costs would be lower because I would at least have to design it, if I don't build it myself. I am sort of frugal.

LOWLIGHT771 karma

Well it's not exactly brain surgery, right?

NOLAnews1 karma

No, but both are hard . They both have serious implications..

GaVaAlLaTnLa_home1 karma

What kind of SC BBQ do you like?

NOLAnews2 karma

SC BBQ is whole hog bbq were I am from. That is what I like because that is what I consider to be bbq. All of other cuts of meat, i consider to be grilled.

NOLAnews1 karma

I like a vinegar/mustard/tomato based sauce.

ImOnRedditAndStuff1 karma

What's the biggest hurdle you have to overcome in getting smoked meats into space?

NOLAnews2 karma

I don't work in the Food Lab at Johnson SPace Center to get smoked meats into space but it is a process. The food lab at JSC have shipped bbq into space. One of the ways to make it possible is to get an astronaut to ask for it as a favorite item.

hooklineandsinkers1 karma

Pork butt rub recipe? BBQ temp? Butt temp when done? If you BBQ in space, where does the smoke go?

NOLAnews2 karma

In regards to pork rub, I would suggest between 5 to 7 ingredients. I like to say a mixture of salt, black pepper, garlic, coriander, basil, paprika, and cayenne. I don't use a thermometer when I cook butts but I would say an internal temperature about 190°F

Noxxul1 karma

Can you convince whoever is doing the graphic design for your show to change the logo? All I see is Nou rish and it's driving me insane.

NOLAnews2 karma

I will pass this message to them. However, I am sure they are doing this because of branding.

Onepopcornman1 karma

Which are you better at cooking BBQ or doing Rocket Science?

NOLAnews4 karma

I tend to believe I am pretty good at both. However, what I also realize that for the latter, it takes a diverse team to be really successful at rocket science. Each time I cook bbq or solve a rocket science type problem, I take it as an opportunity to improve my craft. As a bonus, I am tested when I cooked BBQ as I travel all over to cook. When you do such, your cooking process, equipment, and materials may not always be the same. As the cook now known as a pitmaster, you have to figure out how to deliver the same high quality product. For example in Denver, the boiling water temperature is lower due to altitudes, so that will impact cooking bbq, just as much as cooking a cake. In my mind, being a rocket science makes my ability to cook bbq better as I think about things from an engineer's perspective even though I was taught as traditionalist.

Gromky1 karma

Are any of the commercial BBQ sauces decent in your opinion? I generally prefer a dry rub on most things, but wife prefers wet and I don't always want to make my own.

As a general rule, she's more of a KC style person (definitely not towards the heavy vinegar/mustard styles).

NOLAnews3 karma

Yes, BBQ sauces really boils down to personal preferences. These preferences are generally created in the household where one is raised. I grew up on heavy vinegar/mustard/tomato based styles in South Carolina that are not sweet. However, I never heard of Alabama white sauce, but it great on chicken in my opinion. I love a good rub but sauce can add another dimension to the palate. Don't knock any of the commercial sauces until you try them on various things. Various sauces taste better on different meats.

thenewavenger51 karma

Don't you get irritated when people use the phrase ' it's not rocket science' for things which aren't complicated enough. And why?

NOLAnews2 karma

I don't get bothered by this statement any more. It is more humorous to me because I really get to see complex problems. People have the right to say anything they like as long as they are not demeaning to other human beings.

NDaveT1 karma

Ever use lilac wood for smoking meat? I had to cut down a large lilac tree and now I have a bunch of wood I need to use for something.

NOLAnews2 karma

I never used Lilac. I only used hardwoods like oak, hickory, and occassionally pecan. On occasions I will experiment with fruit woods when grilling.

TheTrueLordHumungous1 karma

I know about the recent news from Germany on the topic (they still have more tests before the will definitively say it doesn't work) but what are your thoughts on the EM drive?

NOLAnews3 karma

This is not my area of expertise so I rather not answer any further. I work with liquid engines.

austraeoh1 karma

What are some problems you deal with in testing new rocket engines? What are your success stories?

NOLAnews4 karma

Testing rockets is complex because of the environment of dealing with cryogenic propellants at various pressures. Every test is a success because ultimately you test so you don't have failures when astronauts fly.

OathOfFeanor1 karma

Some people like their brisket super fatty.

Personally I hate the slimy fat. I just want their fatty brisket to be on the shelf above my lean brisket in the smoker so that all their liquid fat flavor drips down onto my brisket without leaving me any chewy parts.

Which do you prefer? What style do you prepare, or do you make either depending on demand?

NOLAnews2 karma

I like a little fatty brisket. I am still learning about how to eat to good brisket as I just really start eating briskets less than 5 years ago, no more than 10. Brisket was not big in SC where I am from. If I was eating beef, I was eating a steak or beef stew.

RoboNinjaPirate1 karma

Whats your favorite BBQ Place in the Triad?

(I grew up in Kernersville, and I miss good Lexington Style BBQ. Nothing good in Charlotte)

NOLAnews1 karma

I never ate bbq in the 336, when I was in school. I just stayed away from BBQ as I only wanted whole hog. In order to get that I would have had to go to Eastern NC.

TehBestMuffinman1 karma

When are you going to bbq with a rocket jet?

NOLAnews2 karma

probably never as a traditionalist. Also, bbq is low and slow, while rockets are hot and fast!