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Low, slow and on the road: Brooklyn's premiere pit master tests against the best

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Andrew Warren / TV Media
Shannon Ambrosio hosts "Big Bad BBQ Brawl"

Shannon Ambrosio hosts "Big Bad BBQ Brawl"

Competitive barbecue is kind of an oxymoron, in my estimation. A pit master's mantra is "low and slow," and any barbecue enthusiast knows that that's the key to meaty perfection. Competitions, though, conjure up images of speed -- of intensity. Try going down that path with a smoker, though, and you're just asking for a whole lot of trouble.

Shannon Ambrosio is the pit master at Brooklyn's Come 'N Get It, a northeast eatery with a strong Southern influence. Ambrosio traveled the South in his younger days to learn as much as he could about the art of Southern barbecue, and over the years he's blended those classic techniques with his own brand of modern Brooklyn-style cooking. But how does his cuisine measure up to that of the South's best pit masters? If Cooking Channel's "Big Bad BBQ Brawl" is any indication, it measures up pretty darned well.

Season 2 of the series premiered last week, and continues on Tuesday evenings. In this week's episode, airing Tuesday, May 9, Ambrosio gambles that his barbecue burger can beat one of Las Vegas's local favorites in a head-to-head culinary brawl. The Brooklyn chef swings by another restaurant that's reinventing classic Southern barbecue, Pot Liquor BBQ, where he throws down with the restaurant's chef to find out whose burger is best.

After Vegas, it's time to hit the road again. The next few weeks find Ambrosio making "Oklahoma tenderloin" (smoked bologna) in Tulsa, smoking sausages in Phoenix, and throwing down over steak and eggs in Memphis.

At every stop, a panel of judges decides on the winner between the northern chef's creations and the local favorite's fare, but even an Ambrosio win is a small victory for the South: after all, he learned the barbecue art from the best Southern pit masters years ago.

When it comes to a barbecue competition, it isn't so much a race against time: it's a race for the best taste. "Big Bad BBQ Brawl" airs Tuesdays on Cooking Channel.