When he launched the website AmazingRibs.com in 2005, Meathead Goldwyn did so to advertise his website development capabilities. The subject matter was a hobby, ignited when he and his neighbor, a butcher, challenged each other to a rib smoking throw down – and Goldwyn realized he had no idea how to do it.
“I didn’t know how to cook ribs,” said Goldwyn, a Brookfield resident who has since written a best-selling book about smoking and grilling and is known worldwide through his website. “I logged onto Amazon and I couldn’t find a book about it, so I decided to build a barbecue website.”
He named it AmazingRibs.com because the URL started with an “A” – an old phonebook listing strategy – “And then it just grew,” he said.
Later this year, Meathead will be inducted into the Barbecue Hall of Fame, one of three people selected in 2021 by the American Royal Association, which runs the American Royal World Series of Barbecue, where the induction will take place Sept. 18 at the Kansas Speedway in Kansas City.
“While I accept this honor, I share it with thousands of other folks who have come before me and have furthered the art and practice of barbecue,” Goldwyn wrote on his website announcing his call to the hall. “This is such a great honor, that I will be pondering its significance for years to come.”
He goes into the Hall of Fame alongside restaurateurs Ollie Gates and Rodney Scott and legendary barbecue figures Arthur Bryant, whose restaurant remains a Kansas City institution, and Lyttle Bridges Cabaniss, considered to be the first female barbecue entrepreneur in North Carolina, who worked until she was 80 and died in 2008 at the age of 91.
Goldwyn, 72, is just the second Hall of Fame inductee from the Chicago area, the other being James Lemons, founder of Lem’s Bar-B-Q on Chicago’s South Side.
There are just 24 living members of the Hall of Fame and 13 “legacy” inductees who were chosen posthumously.
Many of the Hall of Famers are competition pitmasters, many of whom parlayed that notoriety into restaurants or careers on TV.
Goldwyn owes his Hall of Fame status to that “hobby” website he built 16 years ago to learn about the art and science of grilling and smoking meat over open fire. He views himself, his website and the team of experts he’s surrounded himself with as barbecue educators, explaining the science of grilling and smoking in simple terms – he was the first to explain “the stall” and complete the science behind the smoke ring, according to his Hall of Fame induction bio.
Goldwyn and his team also relish dispelling grilling and smoking myths, like soaking wood chips before using them for smoking, bringing meat up to room temperature before cooking and the value of getting classic grill marks on steaks.
AmazingRibs.com draws millions of visitors from around the globe, and that was especially true during the pandemic.
In a phone interview last week, Goldwyn told the Landmark that his website drew nine million visitors in the past 12 months, viewing 25 million pages. The website itself is a vibrant business, with 17,000 people paying $24 a year to be part of the Pitmaster Club, where members exchange ideas, have access to exclusive recipes, discounts on products and more.
“It’s the largest barbecue association in the world,” Goldwyn said, adding that the Pitmaster subscription model has become the website’s No. 1 revenue stream and has an 87-percent renewal rate. “Membership is the future.”
In 2016, Goldwyn published “Meathead: The Science of Great Barbecue and Grilling,” which has since sold more than 200,000 copies, made the New York Times bestseller list and was named one of the “100 Best Cookbooks of All Time” by Southern Living magazine.
Goldwyn said he’s working on a new book and has published three “deep dive” e-books (with two more in production) on specific grilling/barbecue topics. He’s also got a line of three bottled barbecue rubs that ought to be coming out soon and will be available in hardware stores and other retailers that sell grilling products.
He’s also weighing his options for what is usually a high holiday in the Goldwyn household – the July 4 family cookout in his Brookfield backyard. Last year’s got scrapped by the pandemic, but this year could be different.
“I’m not sure what’s going to happen this year,” said Goldwyn, who added he and his wife of 45 years did recently enjoy dinner in a restaurant for the first time in 14 months, at Hemmingway’s, an old-school French bistro in Oak Park.
“We couldn’t stop laughing and smiling, being back in a restaurant we adore,” he said.