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Handsome Devil Dishes Up Ribs & Literature

ed and noelle randolph

Though traditionally a Southern specialty, barbecue is being reinvented in New York by Ed and Noelle Randolph. Owners of Handsome Devil, the couple has been serving up popular recipes in the Hudson Valley since 2012.

Their unique location and flavors have led them to multiple awards from the Food Network, Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest, the NYC Beer, Bourbon & BBQ Festival and more. Their most recent venture? Sharing their story.

Ed and Noelle, who live in Newburgh, New York, have been writing best-selling cookbooks since 2019, teaching readers about the different kinds of barbecue, insider cooking secrets and recipes for success. Their third cookbook, Hot and Fast BBQ on Your Traeger Grill: A Pitmaster’s Secrets on Doubling the Flavor in Half the Time, will be available on May 10.

We chatted with the pitmasters to hear more about their path into barbecue, cooking recommendations and their upcoming book.

hot and fast bbq book cover

Did you have any experience in the food industry before getting into barbecue?

Ed: Growing up, my mom was a waitress for a number of years and she said there’s no way my son’s going to be working in the food world because he’s going to work 100 hours to make $100. So I went off to college and then to corporate America but I always enjoyed cooking. It was a passion of mine.

When we finally had our daughters, we’d tell them to follow their dreams. And I started to think, you’re not following your own dream. So we started to cook and it just kind of took off. Barbecue became our niche because it’s really lacking in our area. We spent all of 2011 traveling around the US, trying the barbecue from Mississippi to the Carolinas to Texas, learning everything and learning the right way to do it. We wanted to bring that back up here to the Hudson Valley.

Why barbecue, specifically?

Ed: I love a challenge. When we make barbecue, every day we’re dealing with a different kind of meat, a different animal, a different wood, different weather environments. We have to make sure that every slice tastes the same. A lot of people think barbecue is basic – throw it on the grill and it’ll be done in a couple hours – but the reality is there’s a lot of science and technology that goes into it.

How did you come up with the name “Handsome Devil”?

Ed: Our daughter came up with the name of the company. As we were getting ready to start the brand, we didn’t know what to name it. I was leaving for my job in the city one morning, and she was at the top of the stairs and said “Daddy, have a good day. You’re a handsome devil,” and I was like, she just named the company – a five-year-old just named our company.

Noelle, have you been a part of the business from Day 1 as well?

Noelle: Yes and no. I came into play in 2012 at a barbecue show and from there I had my hand in it a little bit. In the beginning, he was developing the craft and the recipes, and I was on the other end taking care of vending, staffing and all that stuff. It wasn’t until a couple of years ago, when we wrote our first cookbook, that I got to experience true barbecue because we traveled all over the country. That’s when I really got a passion for it.

Ed: Noelle was a teacher, prior. She has a nutrition degree, so it allowed me to bounce off a lot of ideas that I had. 100% of the items that we serve here are made in house, and the recipes are created by Noelle and myself. It’s all homemade food, quality products, and I couldn’t do it without her.

Has the Hudson Valley influenced your barbecue?

Ed: For the longest time, barbecue was regionally specific. If you wanted to make a brisket, you had to be in Texas. Now, barbecue has shown that it can be regionalized, but you’ve got to embrace your local environment and community in your flavor profile. We don’t have post oak wood in New York, but we have a ton of red oak, applewood and cherrywood. This makes our barbecue a bit different from what somebody serves in Austin, but it can run toe to toe with it.

Last year we were asked to cook barbecue in Austin and they asked us where we were from. We said “New York,” and they said, “Great, the pizza guys are here.” We were like, “No, we’re here to make barbecue!” We did our thing and left heads held high.

rack of ribs

What motivated you to write books?

Ed: We had a friend in the barbecue competition world who was writing cookbooks. He introduced us to his publisher at a competition that we did really well at. We also did the concessions and vending, so the publisher asked: “These guys over here are making one or two racks of ribs for the entire weekend, while you guys are making 600 racks. How can you compete?” We told him how we work and our quality, and he said they’d want us to write a book. In our minds, we always wanted to write a book.

Noelle: We traveled so much and ate barbecue everywhere, literally all over the country. One day we were sitting on a beach, and thought: What if we write a book about all of our food experiences throughout the year? So when the publisher wanted us to do a regional cookbook, we already had the idea in mind. We actually toured like 60 barbecue restaurants in three months.

Ed: We also wanted to do a book that was not just a cookbook, but a book that told the stories of the pitmasters. You have somebody who has been in it for four generations, and another gentleman who used to be the bodyguard for the Olsen twins during Full House. The publisher said they needed it done in three months, so we threw the kids in the car and spent the summer driving through Mississippi, the Carolinas and Texas. Our photographer did the same thing, so our families got to hang out and tour all these different cities together.

Noelle: Our publisher was impressed that we were able to get it done, so they asked us to do a second book. This one focused on a specific type of smoker and all the applications that you can use it for. We got that book done in 2020.

Ed: Happy to say that both remained in the top 10 on Amazon barbecue cookbooks for 26 weeks. They just recently asked us to write another one. This time the premise is hot and fast. As much as barbecue is slow and low, not everyone has that much time. So we give you recipes that show how you can make barbecue dishes in half the time.

What’s your favorite barbecue food?

Noelle: For me, it’s our turkey. It’s slow smoked and unlike any turkey you’ve ever had. We actually did the recipe for the Memphis in May World Barbecue Competition last year and placed top 20. Top 20 in the world for a turkey is pretty good.

Ed: For me, it’d be our sausage. I think it’s one of the best sausages out there on the market.

What is your most popular barbecue recipe?

Noelle: Brisket by far. There’s no other brisket in the area that can run with ours. It’s always our top seller.

Ed: We go through about 2,000 lbs a week. It’s a labor of love, being able to manage the fire and watching it cook. It’s about making a consistent product from slice one to slice 101. Every customer gets the same quality.

Have you changed up your recipes a lot over the years?

Noelle: They’ve been pretty consistent. The only thing I would say is new is our sides. We used to just do a couple of sides, but with the restaurant we have a few more. We developed a lot of those over COVID, as well as our desserts.

slicing brisket

What is the barbecue tool that every cook should have?

Noelle: A good thermometer. In the beginning, it’s very important to know the temperature of your meats so you know when to wrap them and when to let them rest.

Is there a secret to good barbecue?

Noelle: Knowing the temperature. Time and temperature are super important. If you run the smoker too hot, you’re going to end up with a dry, overcooked product in a short amount of time. If you run it too low, you’re going to be there forever.

Ed: You have to be more of an arsonist than a chef. Managing your fire, understanding how things cook and trusting your gut. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, because you will.

What about a good sauce?

Ed: I’m old school, so if I’m going to have pork, I need that Carolina, vinegary, spicy ketchup flavor in there. If I’m going to have ribs, I’ll slather them with molasses, brown sugar and make them glisten.

Any advice for small business owners just getting on their feet?

Ed: I’ll offer some words of wisdom I received from a friend of mine: “Don’t let somebody tell you how to cook your shit. If you want to make something, make it your way. Stick to what you do.”

Noelle: Not everybody is going to love your food. At the end of the day, as long as you like it, that’s all that matters.

Pre-order their third cookbook here.


Mia Salas

Mia Salas is a freelance writer and soon-to-be graduate of Princeton University. She has written stories about parenting, lifestyle and books. She has also interned with Meta, where she'll be joining post-graduation as a full-time Content Designer. In her free time she writes fiction, bakes sweet treats and helps run her family's small bagel business in NJ.


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