Black Powder Smokehouse Keeps Piedmont Triad Traditions Alive

Barbecue business is a big part of history and tradition in North Carolina, but for some barbecue joints, history is a big part of the business, too. That’s the case for Black Powder Smokehouse in Jamestown. There, pitmaster Keith “Big Brisket” Henning combined a historic gas station with the Piedmont Triad’s heritage to create a home for his barbecue aspirations.

In this episode of The Low & Slow Barbecue Show, I spoke with Keith about his “artisan barbecue” business. Listen and find out how an Indiana native came to the Carolinas to forge a career in the restaurant business and then build a barbecue empire that includes two locations and full-service catering.

Keep reading for highlights from our conversation, including Keith’s explanation for “artisan barbecue” and what inspired him to turn an abandoned service station into a smokehouse. Don’t miss Keith’s recipe for Black Powder Smokehouse macaroni and cheese at the end.

First, the most important details, what is Black Powder Smokehouse?

Outdoor seating at Black Powder Smokehouse in Jamestown.
Once an abandoned Hughes Oil service station, Black Powder Smokehouse in Jamestown, NC, is now a cozy restaurant. Photo from Black Powder Smokehouse Instagram page.

What is Black Powder Smokehouse?

Black Powder Smokehouse is a Piedmont Triad barbecue brand with restaurant locations in Jamestown and Asheboro. Menu items vary between the locations but expect both to be anchored in smoked meats.

Daily and weekly specials rotate, but you can always find meats carved to order, sandwiches, homestyle sides, homemade desserts, and options for kids.  Online ordering is available, here.

The serving line at Black Powder Smokehouse.
“The Meat Show” where the Black Powder team chops, carves and slices every menu item to order. Photo from the Black Powder Instagram page.

The Asheboro location is larger, with about 160 seats inside a historic building at 516 South Fayetteville Street. The Jamestown location is more cozy with about 70 seats on 302 East Main Street. Asheboro offers a full bar, while Jamestown only serves beer and wine.

“There are some differences, but it’s the same when you come in,” Keith says. “It’s the meat show. We’ve got the chopping blocks right there, and we’re slicing, chopping, or carving. We want to keep it as fresh as possible when you walk in the door.

“You’re interacting with the staff, going down the line. Everything is made in-house,” he continues. “We just want to create an environment where you want to bring your family, where you want to hang out for a while. It’s just a cozy atmosphere where it almost feels like you are eating at home.”

Both locations are open Tuesday-Saturday 11 a.m.-8 p.m. and closed Sunday and Monday.

Black Powder Smokehouse Catering

Black Powder Smokehouse’s full-service catering allows Keith’s team to take care of everything – from setup to clean up. Catering services are ideal for corporate events, weddings, parties, and other get-togethers.

The Black Powder catering menu offers bulk meats, sides, and desserts in various sizes – perfect for small groups or large crowds. Box lunches offer all-in-one options for events of 12 people or more, while smoked wing party packs and slider packs include additional options. On-site service, pick up, and drop-off options are all available.

Click here to request catering for your next event. You can also call (336) 324-4501 for more catering information or to place an order.

Who is Pitmaster Keith Henning?

“I’m originally from Indiana, which isn’t really nothing for this barbecue,” he says during our podcast. “But I’ve been in North Carolina now for 24-25 years and just really caught the bug being here.

“I remember my dad cooking on the old Weber kettle for the longest time. That’s all he ever had, but he had about a hundred different set-ups for that kettle,” he continues. “That really got me interested in barbecue.”

Keith studied Culinary Technology at Wake Tech Community College. From there, he entered the professional chef ranks with time spent as Executive Chef/Food Services Director at Wyndham Hotels and Resorts in Charlotte. His career includes similar roles with Aramark and the Center for Creative Leadership.

“I came up through the country clubs and resorts and really got into barbecue right around 2016 or so,” he says, adding working as a chef for nearly 26 years prepared him for owning a restaurant. “Barbecue is so precise when it comes to your temperatures and watching your smoker and letting stuff not get out of control. … Just being in a kitchen for so long really helped me pay more attention to detail.”

All that experience flavors Keith’s specialized approach, especially when he regularly competes as a finalist in the N.C. Restaurant and Lodging Association’s Chef’s Showdown.

“I like to take classics and really put a different spin on it,” he explains. “It’s taking the simple things that we’ve all grown up on and just putting a little bit of effort into it, a different twist on it, making it, as my daughter would say, a little more bougie.”

Black Powder Smokehouse Pitmaster Keith Henning adds oak to a smoker.
Keith “Big Brisket” Henning loads the Black Powder smoker with oak, which he says burns consistently over time. Photo from the Black Powder Instagram page.

Henning on the Hardwood

Before entering culinary school Keith attended Catawba College. From 1992-1996, he played basketball for the Indians, scoring 1,142 points in 100 games. He’s among 50 players in Catawba’s 1,000-point club. Keith still holds Catawba College records for three-point shooting percentage in a game (5-5), in a season (45-90 in 1994-95), and in a career (118-259 from 1992-96).

Barbecue Bug Bites “Big Brisket”

After spending years working as a chef and food services director, Keith says he realized he was spending less time preparing food.

“You move up and you actually cook less. You start doing more administrative things and ordering,” he says. “I got to know a few guys and we started doing barbecue competitions, and from there, I just really got the bug.”

That’s when things escalated.

“People knew my background, so they started asking us to do catering – weddings and things like that,” he continues. “We did some fundraisers for the church, and the next thing you know I got to know one of my partners, who actually owned the filling station. I started talking to him, and he thought it would be a great idea to have this type of restaurant in the community.”

That filling station, formerly the home of Hughes Oil in Jamestown, sat empty since it closed in the 1990s. Living about 2 miles from the building and in the area almost 20 years, Keith says he drove past it many times.

“It was abandoned. It was falling down,” he says. “We always thought it would be an incredible place for something to be there, we just didn’t know what. When I saw it, I didn’t even know I wanted to have a barbecue place.”

Preserving History of Jamestown

Built between 1919 and 1920, the old filling station was once the only place in town to find fuel, soda, candy, or other conveniences.

“It was important to Jamestown,” Keith says. “The Hughes family was extremely well-known … so when we started to convert it, we wanted to keep the history of the building.”

Still, it wasn’t originally built to house a restaurant. Adding a kitchen, grease traps and other necessities required work.

“When we started construction, the town went nuts. They thought we were tearing it down,” Keith says. “We got hate mail. Then once we started to see the progress, they said, ‘Oh, this is awesome. Keep doing what you’re doing.’ Everybody has embraced us as much as they can in the four years we’ve been open.”

Renovation work on an empty Hughes Oil service station.
Closed in the 1990s, the Hughes Oil station sat empty until Black Powder Smokehouse brought new life. Photo courtesy Black Powder Smokehouse Instagram.

The finished product retains the original building’s character. For instance, the roof is covered in original tiles made in Greensboro 100 years ago.

“It was important for us to keep pieces like that,” Keith says. “Even though we were changing the whole footprint of it and the structure, it still kept some of that history to the building.”

Likewise, the name of Keith’s business, reflects the region’s heritage.

“Jamestown has a strong tradition in long rifle makers back into the 1800s,” he says. “There’s actually several of the rifles around town and lots of collectors. Where the restaurant is was known as Flint Hill, which is where they used to mine the flint for the long rifles.

“We wanted to tie into the local history and all of those that came before us that made Jamestown,” he continues. “That’s how we came up with Black Powder.”

What is ‘Artisan Barbecue?’

“I was a little hesitant to add the ‘artisan’ when we first started,” Keith says. “It’s kind of high-falutin. A lot of times, you think that just means you have to pay more for it.

“If you look at the definition, it’s a product or things that are made in small numbers – small batches in traditional methods,” he continues. “I couldn’t have thought of a better descriptor than what we do as artisan. We cook a certain amount during the day and when it’s gone, it’s gone. We use wood and fire, and you can’t get more traditional than how we cook barbecue.”

Artisan doesn’t just refer to the food. Keith says Black Powder Smokehouse puts a focus on providing a level of service that isn’t always easy to find.

“A lot of times people remember how friendly the staff is,” he says. “We put a lot of pride in hiring good people. We have awesome people and we just want you to feel welcome.

“We want you to have great food, but it’s the total experience,” he continues. “You can have great food and terrible service – you’re always going to remember the terrible service. I would rather people come in and say, ‘Man that’s the most awesome thing that we’ve done all day. It was good food and a good experience.’”

Back to the Black Powder Pits

Now operating two Black Powder Smokehouse locations and a full-service catering business, Keith hasn’t let go of the reason he started his own restaurant.

“I still cook quite a bit, and that’s by choice,” he says. “I’ve got great people, guys that have been with me since the get-go. I was in there side-by-side with them from the beginning, so it’s easy for me to go in and cook.

“But then again, it’s also easy for me to step out if there’s something that I have to do … to step up to the catering side if there’s a big event, or just help out where I need to,” he says. “We’ve just had great people that are really an intricate part of the team that allow me to do pretty much whatever I need to do for that day.”

Serious Smoke in the House

When Black Powder Smokehouse is cooking, pitmasters are using some of the best equipment.

“In Jamestown, we have the Myron Mixon. It’s a big H2O-1K. It can cook a ton of meat,” he says. “In Asheboro, we have an Oyler. It’s a big wood-fired rotisserie.

“It’s what we wanted to have in Jamestown, we just didn’t have the space for it,” he says of the Oyler. “They’re big, and they take up a lot of space. But mixing the two has been awesome – I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”

Apple City BBQ and Jon G’s Barbecue are among other North Carolina barbecue businesses relying on Oylers.

“It took some getting used to, but it’s a great smoker,” he says. “I was on the phone with Jon G a couple of times when we first got it. We would have some issues and he gave me some great advice.

“That’s one of the great things about the barbecue community. I can pick up the phone and call any of those guys, and there’s no secrets,” he continues. “’It’s hey do this or do that. This is what has been working for me.’ That’s been awesome.”

Black Powder relies on “99% oak” to fuel the fires.

“I feel like it gives you a nice consistent flavor over time. It doesn’t over-power, but it just gives you good heat,” Keith says. “It’s also what is most readily available in the area.”

What is Black Powder Smokehouse’s most popular menu item?

Smoked brisket being sliced on a cutting board.
Sliced brisket photo from Black Powder Smokehouse Instagram.

“The brisket is what we sell the most of,” Big Brisket says. “I think it is what we pride ourselves on the most because for a long time in North Carolina, brisket didn’t exist. This is pork country.

“Over the last five to seven years, you’ve really seen the brisket start to come in and people cooking Texas-style brisket where it’s sliced,” he says. “When you first had brisket in North Carolina, it was cooked to death, shredded up, put on a sandwich, and sauced. But now people know how to cook it.”

However, when you take the pitmaster out of his restaurant, what’s his North Carolina barbecue of choice?

“I have become a fan of Lexington Barbecue,” Keith says. “Nathan (Monk) is an awesome person, and just knowing the family history with his Grandpa starting the business and his Dad being in the business, and now he’s in the business.

“I’ve gotten to know him a little bit and when I figured out what to order when I got there, that’s probably one of my favorite barbecue places,” he continues. “That’s more traditional North Carolina-style barbecue.”

And what does he order in one of the state’s famous places for of Lexington-style sauce and dip?

“I’m not a big fan of the super chopped up barbecue,” Keith says. “I do either a coarse chopped or sliced, and I don’t know if it’s because I know Nathan, but he likes it like that. I definitely get more of the outside brown – that’s where the flavor is.”

Speaking of flavor … get more of the Black Powder flavor in our conversation with Keith Henning here. Meanwhile, his recipe for macaroni and cheese will bring a touch of Black Powder into your home.

Black Powder Smokehouse Best Macaroni & Cheese

Black Powder Smokehouse macaroni and cheese with ingredients.
Black Powder Smokehouse Best Macaroni and Cheese ready to go into the oven, prepared by Chigger Willard. Photo by Chigger Willard.


  • 4 cups cooked pasta – chilled.
  • 2 cups cheese – use your favorite or blend several.
  • 1 cup heavy cream.
  • 1 cup evaporated milk.
  • Salt and pepper to taste.
  • Optional
    • 1 Tbsp melted butter.
    • 1/4 cup cracker or bread crumbs


  • 1. Mix pasta, salt and pepper, and 1.5 cup of cheese together in a greased casserole dish.
  • 2. Mix heavy cream and evaporated milk. Pour over pasta.
  • 3. Top the pasta with remaining cheese.
  • 4. Cover with foil and bake at 325 for 20-25 min.
  • 5. Remove foil, top with cracker crumbs (optional), and bake till golden brown.

About the Author

Low & Slow Barbecue Show Host Michael "Chigger" Willard overlooking the Linville Gorge from Table Rock.

Smoked meat, barbecue enthusiast, news journalist, and sports radio broadcaster Michael “Chigger” Willard collects a storybook of life captured through the lens of people he encounters. With a perspective seasoned by small town life in the Deep South, he dedicates conversations to uncovering savory nuggets of information, light-hearted moments of humor, and revealing glimpses of humanity.

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