Ron Johnson, aka “Smokin’ Jarhead” is a former marine, now offering some of the best barbecue I’ve ever eaten, and absolutely some of the very best barbecue you can find in the Washington, DC area.
A couple months ago, I bought three Full Racks of Ribs ($24) from Ron, and he delivered them to my front door, where they were waiting when I got home. Between me and my son, one of them didn’t survive the evening; the second didn’t last the week, and the third is still in my freezer, waiting for Matt to come home from college in a couple of days – the ribs freeze, reheat, and are 90% as good even after being frozen and reheated – all the more reason to stock up.
Ron doesn’t have a brick and mortar location, and he doesn’t have a “food truck” in the traditional sense of the word; he has this huge smoker that he puts on a trailer, and brings over to catered functions anywhere in the DMV – extra delivery charges begin after 40 miles, which easily covers all of DC and the Maryland and Virginia suburbs.
Ron will smoke anything from ribs, to brisket, to pulled pork, and just about anything else, and he’ll bring the food to your door with a minimum order. Let me emphasize again: These are as good as any ribs I’ve ever had in the DC area, and that includes places like Johnny Boy’s, Buz & Ned’s, Chubby’s, and The Pit Stop – in other words, the Best of the Best.
It’s unusual for me to be raving about a place that doesn’t have a brick and mortar shop, but I did the same thing about Pupatella, eventually going on to declare them the best pizza in the area, which they were for a time – it’s the same thing with Smokin’ Jarhead: Just because there’s no storefront means nothing when he’ll bring your order to your door for you. If you’re having a Memorial Day cookout, or a 4th of July barbecue, or any other type of house party, he’ll arrive at your house with his smoker in tow, and everything will be cooked right there – no grocery store, no cooking, no cleanup – everything is done for you, and his prices are rock-bottom low.
I really don’t know what else to say: On short notice – one, perhaps two days, you can have the best barbecue in the area delivered right to your home. Call on a Tuesday for a Friday delivery, and the ribs will be waiting on your doorstep when you get home from a long week at work (this is exactly what I did; I’ve never actually met Ron – I paid him through PayPal, and the ribs were on my front porch when I got home the next day). If you’re having guests over for a party, get him and his smoker over there too. I recommended this to one of our members once, who has since turned into a repeat customer, and this is a quote from him:
Ron continues to blow me away with the quality of his smoked meats. Ron dropped off a sizable rack of pork ribs two days before the Super Bowl. As usual, Ron was a perfect gentleman towards my mother and stuck around for a few brief moments to discuss what he’s been up to, interesting things he’s been smoking (Ron, you have *got* to let us know when we can taste your smoked oysters). After he left, we stuck the foil-wrapped ribs in the fridge. We were saving these for the SB after all. I followed the reheating instructions on AmazingRibs.com, which has you wrap the ribs in two sheets of aluminum foil, drizzle about 2oz of chicken stock on the ribs and then seal the foil sheets. Roast in a 225 degree oven with the rack you’re cooking on positioned in the upper-middle section of the oven. Heat until ribs measure 155 degrees in the center with an instant-read meat thermometer.
The ribs turned out perfectly this way, as if they had just come hot off the smoker. The smoke flavor was there in full force, and the ribs had a gentle, but solid bite to them. Not falling off the bone, but a real meaty sink-your-teeth sensation that still provided the distinctive melt-in-your-mouth texture that only expert Pitmasters can do. I expected the texture of the bark to suffer a bit from reheating, and it did, but only a bit and it certainly isn’t any fault of Ron’s. The bark still provided a solid punch of smoke that good bark should. I’ll experiment in the future with different reheating methods to preserve the crunch of the bark. Ron had graciously accepted my request of a dry rub applied to the ribs instead of sauce. P.S.: Ron, I’m not sure what your normal procedure is vis-a-vis dry rubs vs sauce, but I got the impression from the spot-on seasoning and flavor profile that the dry rub is your normal method. If I’m wrong, please correct me!
Overall it was a hearty and immensely satisfying meal that had me and my party guests chowing down to the very last scraps of meat on the bones. I continue to recommend Ron for anyone in the area looking for expert barbeque by an expert Pitmaster.
All you need to do is write Ron on his Facebook page or contact him via his business card (below), and tell him what your needs are, regardless of the size of your order. He’ll give you a quote that’s reasonable enough that you’ll wonder why you waited so long to do this. Ron should be in constant demand, and have a two-month backlog – that is how good his product is.
Here are some facts about his meats: As a rule, he uses inexpensive cuts because the true flavor comes from his dry rub and the smoking process, but he will use whatever meats you request, so if you have a favorite butcher who makes a special cut of ribeye, or a favorite fishmonger who sells wonderful oysters, (I’m making an assumption here) he’ll go there, purchase them, and smoke them for you – either at your premises or at his, followed by a delivery or drop-off. Things like hams, chickens, sausages, and turkeys are no problem, and he’ll be more than happy to cater to vegetarians as well – the smoker has obviously seen meats in it before, so it would be impossible to keep kosher-vegan, but that’s about it in terms of limitations. Some more factual information from Ron himself:
I make up my own rub with a variety of spices, such as garlic powder, smoked paprika, salt, allspice,chili powder, Cayenne, and brown sugar.(I can’t give all the ingredients, I’m hoping to start selling it next year).After I rub the ribs I wrap them in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
For ribs I use a combination of hickory and cherry or Apple wood. For those you had I used hickory and cherry. I cook the ribs for a total of 8 hours at 225 degrees, smoke for 4-5 hours. Then I wrap them in aluminum foil with beer (usually Yuengling; don’t need anything dark like a stout) it’s more for tenderizing than for taste.
My delivery area is the immediate DMV, anything outside of 40 miles there is a small added charge. For catering and/or large orders I will need a 2-week notice. The best way to see where I am or get in touch with me is through my Facebook Business Page or my email – I try to reply to all emails within 24 hours or less: firstname.lastname@example.org
The only other thing I want to emphasize is that supporting Smokin’ Jarhead will be supporting a former Marine who was placed in harm’s way to help defend our country – if you’re looking to support our nation’s veterans, then getting your event catered by Smokin’ Jarhead is a win-win for all involved.
One last thing: This is Ron’s full-time job; not some hobby he does on the side. He’s a professional in every sense of the word, and will bend over backwards so that you’re happy. If you trust me as a food critic, I’m happy to put my reputation on the line by recommending Ron Johnson – it will be one of the safest things I’ve done. Support this great man – email him him right now while it’s on your mind, even if you’re not ready to place an order.
Look at this smoker!
And what emerges from that smoker? Have a look:
I’m proud to have a chance to support our country’s veterans like Ron Johnson, but you can rest assured that if I didn’t believe in his product, I wouldn’t be writing this review, which is obviously a rave – that’s why I included the pictures, so you can see for yourselves that I’m not just, erm, blowing smoke.
Here’s Ron’s business card – I urge you to give him a try, even if it’s just for a single rack of ribs (get dry rub – there are pictures on his Facebook page of pre-sauced ribs, and I got my order of sauce on the side so I could use exactly how much I wanted, when I wanted. It’s really good sauce, too, but you don’t want your ribs pre-sauced – whatever he uses in his rub is fantastic).
If you need an ice-breaker, tell him you’re a friend of mine.
One final word: It’s not too late to remember Operation Honor Our Heroes this Memorial Day weekend – they *desperately* need both money and volunteers), Contact Christi-Ana Crews (my personal assistant) and help however you can. *Please read that post*!