Those puny food trucks shelling out organic lunches to everybody from uptown all the way to Coney Island ain't got nothin' on the 18-wheel, 80-foot behemoth of a grill that's parked at the North end of Union Square all day today. That beautiful monstrosity would be the "Ultimate Smoker and Grill," an almost 20-year-old portable food cooker designed by Trace "Rib Whisperer" Arnold. Every summer for the past three years, Arnold and his grill have road tripped around the country handing out free sausage and ribs to hungry barbecue lovers as part of the Cross-Country Cookout, sponsored by the HISTORY Channel, because, well, barbecue is the cornerstone of American history, duh.
Growing up on a dude ranch in Texas, the (self-proclaimed) Rib Whisperer studied the rugged culinary art of grilling and smoking meats. He told me that it was sometime around his 20s when he began whispering sweet nothings to the ribs while dry rubbing them because all the "cussing and yelling" wasn't getting through. Arnold's "Ultimate Smoker and Grill" is a spectacle, sure; plus, the whole thing is basically a traveling, interactive advertisement for HISTORY's premier shows like American Pickers, Swamp People and Biker Battleground. But when it comes to the food—slow-cooked, seasoned and sauced sausages and ribs—Arnold is completely serious.
As a chef, Arnold is in control and precise. He and three other sous chefs man the grill, which can hold up to 2,000 pounds of meat and serve about three to four thousand people a day. He has spent decades mastering his techniques and perfecting the ingredients he uses. When asked if he has any tips for fans wanting to grill to his caliber at home, he simply says, "Yeah, easy, go to my website and buy my signature dry rub." The rub he refers to is his "3 Stacks Sweet & Sassy Rib Rub," created for his restaurant, 3 Stacks Smoke & Tap House in Frisco, Texas, where Arnold works full-time; manning the world's largest grill and smoker is just his summer gig.
Today Arnold is serving up two types of sausages: HISTORY Hickory Smoked and Jalapeño Cheddar. The former is sweet, smoky, and rich, a classic sausage for any casual barbecue fan. But the latter, the Jalapeño Cheddar, is definitely the standout. It's spicy, but with a mild enough kick even the faint of heart can enjoy. And the center, with gooey, melted cheddar cheese dipping out is utterly gluttonous and mouthwatering.
Arnold and his truck will be at the North end of Union Square at 17th Street and Park Avenue South until 6 p.m. this evening handing out free sausages.