Suzi's Blog

Virgil’s Hickory Pit Baked Beans


July is National Baked Beans Month. And you thought Congress never did anything.

Virgil’s is the landmark barbecue joint in Times Square in New York City. First authentic Southern barbecue in the city. Founded in 1994, the firm has just published its first cookbook. And the first recipe I went to is this one for baked beans. I’ve consumed pork, beef, and chicken at Virgil’s for two decades, but every time I had the beans.

Do you have a dish that you just have to have at some restaurant? A dish that you can nearly almost taste in your mouth right now?

That’s me and Virgils’s beans.

I met Executive Chef and author Neal Corman and asked him about the beans. He said there is a double secret to why they are so exceptionally good. First, they are prepared with a sizable chunk of smoked meat. Second, when they are cooked at Virgil’s they are taken out of the pot, spread out on a sheet and put into their smoker — the same one doing 1000 pounds of meat a day — to just pick up some more smoke overtones for a little while.

The recipe below calls for 6 cups of baked beans. There are two ways to do this. The first is to start with navy beans, soak them overnight, and then cook them next day. The easier way is to use canned baked beans. Yes, canned baked beans. Plain is fine, mesquite or other flavors are your option. Is one path better than another here? With what happens using Virgil’s ingredients and techniques, I don’t think it matters a hill of beans. Using the canned beans is easier for sure and saves time. You cannot be spontaneous if you have to soak overnight.

Depending how you do your beans, what canned beans you use, what barbecue sauce you employ — all those factors will make your beans a tad different from someone else’s. You can be sure, though, that you’ll want to make this dish over and over again, enjoying the differences that arise. It’s heresy, I know, but you can think of each batch of beans as your own private vintage.

The difference here is you get to swallow, not spit.

Virgil’s Hickory Pit Baked Beans

Yield: serves 8 people


  • ¾ cup beef broth
  • ½ cup mild barbecue sauce of your choosing
  • ¼ cup molasses
  • 2 tablespoons yellow mustard [or mustard of your choice, another pathway]
  • ¼ cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon barbecue dry rub [see Virgil’s book for an example]
  • ¾ teaspoon liquid smoke
  • ⅓ pound smoked beef brisket [with as much bark as possible]
  • 4 tablespoons finely diced yellow onions
  • 2 tablespoons finely diced green bell peppers
  • 6 cups baked beans


Combine all the ingredients in a large saucepot. Stir until thoroughly blended.

Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 45 minutes. Serve piping hot.

If you have a smoker working away, do try Virgil’s technique and give the beans a tour of the inside of your smoker for a few minutes.

Source: Virgil’s Barbecue Road Trip Cookbook by Neal Corman with Chris Peterson

Photo Information Canon T2i, EFS 60 mm Macro Lens, F/5.6 for 1/100th second at ISO‑2000




Best Baked Beans Period

When our friends Cynthia and Robert asked if we could come to dinner, Suzen automatically said yes. And I was so happy.

Robert is gentleman, with a talent for sangria. Cynthia is an exceptional party cook. Everything, and I mean everything, at her meals is wonderful. This Saturday there were spiced cashews on the first table. And dessert featured her chocolate pecan pie — she’s an Oklahoma woman — and a fresh mango trifle. I, uh, was planning on getting a third dip of that delightful trifle, but I noticed Suzen noticing me. And saying it was “fruit” was only going to draw hell. Besides I’d already had dessert with the main meal.

While everything Cynthia serves seems perfect, these baked beans were astonishing. They “dominated” the plate. There were ribs and chicken and slaw, but Lord there were these beans. All the table conversations shifted from golf, politics and Arizona real estate to these beans.

In a phrase, these are the best beans I have ever had. They are sweet, intense, with a balanced flavor. There’s just the right amount of each ingredient. It clearly represents lots of tries and a passion for bean perfection.

Here is the recipe from Cynthia. And to give full credit, the recipe is credited to Paula Deen from the Food Network.

food network. There are tradeoffs in life. Flavor versus healthiness is one of them.

On this night, I voted for flavor.

Cynthia used very thick strips of high quality bacon, and not super lean. The bacon fat was certainly a contributor to the overall flavor. Look for “up-scale” cans of pork and beans, a “good” mustard and other quality ingredients. It’ll pay off.

[Oh, I am going to get that mango trifle recipe!]

Best Baked Beans Period

Yield: 6 servings


  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 16-ounce cans pork and beans
  • 3 tablespoons prepared yellow mustard
  • ¼ cup maple syrup
  • ¼ cup light brown sugar
  • 4 tablespoons ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • ½ pound bacon strips, cut into ½-inch pieces


In a Dutch oven, mix the onion, pork and beans, mustard, maple syrup, light brown sugar, ketchup and lemon juice. Top with the bacon pieces. Bake, covered, for 45-60 minutes.

In the picture above, the Dutch oven was replaced by a glass baking dish. And, “topping” with bacon can be an art form. You can give  the dish a apple-pie-style basket weave. In that case, bring the beans to the table for all to see.


Sources: Paula Deen