Tips & Techniques

Barbecue, BBQ, Bar-Be-Que… no matter how it's spelled, barbecuing and grilling have come a long way from burgers and hot dogs on a summer afternoon.

Grills have become high tech and range from gas grills and smokers costing thousands of dollars to hibachis designed for one-time use on the beach and depending on the area of the country you live in, a barbecue can be as exotic as an Hawaiian Luau to Texas brisket cooked on an open pit to Carolina whole hog to a New England clambake featuring lobsters.

This section has some tips, techniques and ideas for enjoying outdoor cooking regardless of your level of expertise. It is by no means all-inclusive.

There are three basic ways to cook outdoors: direct heat (grilling), where the meat is grilled directly over hot coals or wood; indirect heat (covered cooking), where the meat is placed over a drip pan and coals or woods chunks are on the sides; and smoking, where the meat is placed on a rack next to smoldering wood chips (or in a cooking chamber with an offset firebox) and heated at a low temperature for several hours. Each method has its advantages.

Similar to the different cooking methods is the variety of cooking equipment available to the outdoor cook. The traditional open pit familiar to Texas and Carolina barbecues might be a little difficult in today's urban neighborhood but there are four cookers available with prices ranging from inexpensive to a month or two mortgage payments.

Portable, braziers, covered cookers and smokers are commercially available in most markets. Portable grills and tabletop Hibachi grills are best used as a source for hot coals when smoking or using indirect heat for cooking. They are useful on the beach but for serious outdoor cooking your money could be better invested in saving for a larger kettle-style grill.

Braziers are the traditional open stand-up type grill, some equipped with half covers and rotisseries. Prices range from $25 to about $150. A word of caution: buy the sturdiest model you can afford. Flimsy legs make for dangerous grilling.

What has become one of the more popular grills is the covered kettle manufactured by Weber. With the lid off, the kettle cooks like a traditional brazier. Using the lid creates an oven-like cooking grill. The lid, and its adjustable vents, also allows smoking meats with indirect heat. Kettle grills range in price from $50 to $350, depending on size and accessories.

Similar to the kettle grill is the gas grill, fueled by propane or natural gas. The gas is ignited and heats lava rocks which cook the food. Gas grills are popular because they are simple to use and require little time to get the grill ready for cooking. Prices range from $150 to over $2,000 for deluxe stainless steel models with sidecar burners, racks and work surfaces. A newer variation features “infrared” cooking where the burners heat a metal barrier to isolate the flame from the cooking grate. (Prior to the introduction of infrared grills many folks used ceramic tiles to produce a similar effect.)  

Smokers are becoming a trendy and popular cooking method. The meat is held on a rack at the top of the smoker and a heat source, either gas, electric or charcoal, is at the bottom. The heat warms wood chips or chunks and produces smoke. Water smokers have another rack to hold a tray of water (or other liquids and aromatics) between the heat and the food. Smoking is a slow process with temperatures inside the cooker rarely exceeding 200 to 225 degrees F. Smokers are available beginning at about $50. The “big brother” version of smokers have offset fireboxes where the fire is built and the heat and smoke is channeled into the cooking chamber.

Augmenting smokers is another variation: ceramic cookers such as the Grill Dome, Kamado Joe or Big Green Egg. These cookers are made of ceramic (or similar material) and hold their heat very well allowing for using less charwood. I have a Grill Dome Infinity that I primarily use for smoking. Unlike other cookers, ceramics don’t allow for two-zone cooking and the only way to keep the food isolated from direct heat is to use a ceramic plate as a baffle. Ceramic cookers are not inexpensive… prices range from $450 to over $1,000 depending on accessories and the cart/ table. Nor are ceramic cookers portable… small units weigh about 80 pounds while extra-large cookers weigh in at almost 300 pounds!

What To Burn?

Purists insist only hardwood – hickory, apple, maple, cherry or mesquite (among others) - should be used as the fuel for a true barbecue. Most backyard cooks use charcoal or lump charwood, it's easier to find, easier to burn and less expensive than the pricey hardwoods. Hardwood coals do impart a smoky flavor to the food but the same can be accomplished by adding wood chips or chunks to the charcoal.

Figuring the amount of charcoal one needs to achieve the proper temperature and degree of smokiness is an exercise in “guesstimation.” Different methods of cooking require more coals. For open grilling, a single layer of coals covering the bottom of the grill is usually sufficient. For kettle cooking, you need to start with about 30 coals for a three-pound roast. Add five to seven coals for each additional pound of meat. More pre-heated coals will need to be added every 40 minutes or so to keep the grill at the proper temperature. To increase the temperature in a covered kettle, open the bottom vents wider. To decrease the temperature, close the vents. (The top vent regulates the “smokiness” of the finished food while the bottom vents regulate temperature. Start the additional coals in a separate grill or chimney so they'll be ready when needed.)

Sauces, Mops, Rubs and Marinades

They are as many barbecue sauces as there are outdoor cooks, and each has his or her favorite sauce. Tomato-based sauces are the fare in the Deep South. Carolina cuisine calls for vinegar-based or mustard-based sauces. In Texas, thickened hot pepper sauce serves to complement the meat.

Dry rubs are a combination of spices and herbs rubbed onto the meat before cooking. Rubs usually include sugar, salt, peppercorns, cayenne pepper, dry mustard, chili powder and paprika. Many outdoor chefs believe salt should not be used as it dries the meat too much. Others eschew using sugar claiming it darkens the meat too much.


A combination of vegetables, herbs, spices and liquids such as vinegar, wine, lemon juice or soy sauce are used to add flavor to meats and tenderize the cut by breaking down the meat fibers. Beef should be marinated for several hours, ideally overnight. Marinate poultry for several hours. Fish rarely needs to marinate longer than 30 minutes.


Mops are a liquid spread over meats during cooking to add moisture to the meat and additional flavor during smoking. Traditional in the Carolinas, mops are made with vinegar and spices. Mops may also be warmed and served as a table sauce.

Broiling Beef

The secret of all good broiling is in a steady, even fire. Have an even bed of coals and spread them out over an area about 10 percent larger than the piece of beef you are going to cook. Sear the steak quickly then move it farther away from the heat to finish cooking more slowly.

Broiling Timetable

Although more of an approximation than a decree, this table will give backyard cooks a basis for timing grilling.

2-inch steak:

Very rare 14 to 18 minutes
Rare 18 to 25 minutes
Medium 25 to 32 minutes
Well done 30 to 45 minutes

2½-inch steak:

Very rare 20 to 27 minutes
Rare 25 to 35 minutes
Medium 35 to 40 minutes
Well done 45 to 60+ minutes


Very rare 8 minutes
Rare 9 minutes
Medium 12 minutes
Well done 15 to 18 minutes

1½-inch steak:

Very rare 8 to 10 minutes
Rare 10 to 12 minutes
Medium 13 to 15 minutes
Well done 15 to 20 minutes

Steak thicker than 3 inches should be cooked with a meat thermometer using the following temperature table:

Very rare 120° to 130°
Rare 125° to 135°
Medium 145° to 155°
Well done 160° to 170°


The following table gives approximate times for medium rare to medium.


Total Grilling Time, Uncovered

¾ inch

6 to 8 minutes

11 to 14 minutes

¾ inch

10 to 12 minutes

14 to 16 minutes

1 inch

13 to 15 minutes

¾ inch

10 to 12 minutes

15 to 18 minutes

¾ inch

8 to 9 minutes

16 to 18 minutes

¾ inch

13 to 16 minutes

17 to 21 minutes

½ inch

11 to 13 minutes

13 to 15 minutes

Slow Cooking, Barbecue Style

One of the true barbecue "secrets" is developing a heavy smoke and cooking meat at a low temperature allowing it to tenderize. One method is to use a water smoker but for those without a true smoker, a kettle grill or even a gas grill can be used.

Using a kettle grill:

Light 20 charcoal briquettes in a charcoal chimney or on one side of a 22-inch kettle grill. Let the charcoal burn 20 to 30 minutes until covered with a gray ash. Open the bottom vent slightly, spread briquettes on one side of bottom grate and cover with one cup of wood chips.

Place a drip pan in the middle of the bottom grate and add one cup water, one cup cider vinegar, one onion, quartered, and a head of smashed garlic.

Place the upper rack on the grill and place the meat above the drip pan. Cover the grill and use the vents to control the temperature by opening the upper and lower vents to increase the heat and closing them to reduce the temperature. The ideal temperature is 225 to 250 degrees F.

After 30 minutes of smoking, light another 10 to 15 briquettes in a charcoal chimney and add them when the temperature drops below 225. Add another handful of wood chips at the same time. About every hour, replenish the charcoal and wood chips to keep the temperature in range.

If cooking a brisket, wrap the meat in aluminum foil after four to five hours of cooking and continue cooking about two to three hours until the brisket registers 185 degrees F. in the center.

Using A Gas Grill:

While somewhat less work but also less effective for smoking, a gas grill can also be used.

Pre-heat the grill for 10 minutes using only one side of a two-burner grill. Take a large handful of wood chips and package them securely in heavy-duty aluminum foil. Poke several holes in the foil to allow smoke to escape. Remove the grill grate from the hot side of the grill and place the wood chip package atop the lava rocks or grill plate but not directly on the gas burner.

Close the lid and lower the temperature control to its lowest setting. Place the meat on the side of the grill away from the heat and cook until desired temperature is reached. Replace wood chip packet with new packet of chips every hour or so.

Smoking in a Kettle-Style Grill:

Smoking is easy to do and can be accomplished in a kettle-style grill using indirect heat and adding wood chips to banked coals.

Build the fire about 40 minutes before you plan to start cooking: Remove the cooking grate from a 22½-inch covered grill and build a pile of about 25 to 30 charcoal briquettes on one side of the fire grate; light them and let them burn down to a hot glow, covered with gray ash; leaving only one of the bottom air vents open, directly under the charcoal. Place an aluminum loaf pan filled two-thirds full of water across from the charcoal.

Spread the hot coals with a pair of long-handled tongs to make a bed for the wood chips or chunks; place a good handful or two chunks of wood directly on the hot coals. Replace the cooking grate on the grill and place the food over the pan of water, on the opposite side of the grill from the fire source. Cover the grill, with the top vents fully open and directly over the food.

Maintain a temperature of about 200 to 225 degrees F. If the temperature rises above 225 degrees, almost close the bottom vent, monitor the heat and open that vent again as the temperature drops.

When smoke-cooking food that takes more than an hour, you will need to add more charcoal to the fire to maintain heat. Start a supplemental bed of charcoal burning in a small grill or charcoal chimney nearby, about 30 to 40 minutes after you have started cooking. This will ensure a steady supply of hot coals. For a very long smoke-cooking period (six to eight hours), add three or four additional briquettes to the grill every 40 minutes or so.

Throughout the smoke-cooking process, watch for smoke escaping from the top vent. As it slows down or stops, add more wood to the fire. When adding extra wood or charcoal to the fire, work quickly with long-handled tongs: Each time you take the lid off the grill, it will add 10 to 15 minutes extra cooking time.

Plan on the following general cooking times for smoking: Briskets and Pork Butts: 1½ to two hours per pound; Spare Ribs: five to six hours; and Poultry: one hour per pound.

What Wood To Use

Wood smoke should be a complement to the meat, fish or poultry and not over-power it. Too much smoke makes meat taste bitter. Do not use softwoods such as pine or spruce for smoking. Hardwoods or fruitwoods produce aromatic smoke.

Alder: adds a light smoke flavor to pork and seafood.

Fruit (apple, cherry and peach): good for pork, turkey, chicken but too strong for fish.

Hickory and maple: traditional smoke for pork barbecue.

Mesquite: best used for ribs and other strong meats.

Herbs & spices: produce a more delicate flavor. Use fennel, bay leaves, tarragon or rosemary. Garlic cloves, orange peel, cinnamon and whole nutmeg may also be used.

Flavoring Wood

If you are smoking pork or chicken, add a generous amount of onion powder and garlic powder to the wood chips. The wood will release the flavors during the smoking.

How Hot Is The Grill?

There's an easy, albeit not very scientific, way to tell… use your hand!

Place your hand, palm side down, about five inches from the grill surface and count:

Six seconds: Low fire

Five seconds: Medium-low fire (Just right for covered cooking)

Three to four seconds: Medium fire

Two seconds: Medium-hot fire (Just about right for grilling)

One second: Very hot fire (Used only for searing meat)

Chicken breasts, for example, should cook over a medium fire, steak over a hot fire. For true barbecuing, low temperatures are the goal.

Care to be a bit more accurate with the temperature estimates? Place an oven thermometer on the grill surface, away from the heated side, close the cover and let the grill heat for 15 minutes.

How to Roast Chiles

Place peppers in a cast iron pan over low heat or hold the peppers directly over a gas flame with tongs. Turn the peppers as the skin blisters until blackened on all sides. Take care that the flesh doesn't burn. Place charred peppers in a paper bag to steam for 10 to 15 minutes. When cool, remove skins.

When Are Ribs Done?

Try to pull the meat from the bones. It should come off easily. The internal temperature of the ribs on the thick end should be 165 degrees. When ribs are cooked, the meat will pull back about 1/4 to 1/2 inch from the end of the bones.

Country-Style Ribs

Country Style ribs are not ribs at all; they are from the loin and come from the end of the loin closest to the pig's shoulder. The meat is leaner than spare rib. Season like spare ribs and cook until the internal temperature is 165 degrees.

Baby Back Ribs (Loin Ribs)

More expensive than spare ribs and with less meat. Baby Back racks average from 1 1/4 to 2 1/2 pounds.

Pork back ribs - also called baby back ribs - are cut from the blade and center section of the loin and are known for the "finger meat" between the rib bones. Back ribs are a favorite because they're meaty and are easy to handle. Plan one pound per hungry person when purchasing pork back ribs, which generally weigh between 1 1/2 and 1 3/4 pounds per rack.

Spareribs, which come from the belly or side of the hog, are the least meaty of all pork ribs, but they spare nothing in taste (St. Louis-style ribs are spareribs with the brisket removed). Plan on one pound per serving. Both back ribs and spareribs are the preferred ribs for restaurants and rib "joints."

The meatiest of ribs are country style. Cut from the rib end of the loin, these pork ribs offer more meat than bone and can be eaten with knife and fork. A half pound of country-style ribs satisfies most appetites.

Pork ribs are purchased in slabs, consisting of about 15 bones in each slab. A rack is a slab cut in half (six to eight bones). Ribs come in four categories, defined by the location on the hog's rib cage they are cut from:

Country Style: these are more like pork chops and not considered a true rib. At the opposite end of loin backs. Sold in pieces.

Loin Back: this is the cut closest to the spine where the tenderloin is located. Short and very curved bones. Sold in slabs or racks and usually weigh two pounds or less (1 3/4 to two pounds a slab). (The Baby Back is simply a loin back off a hog under 85 pounds when dressed. Baby Back slabs usually weigh 1 3/4 pounds or less.)

Spare Ribs: more of the middle and lower section of the ribcage. Spares have flat oval bones. Largest of the rib categories and usually have an extra piece of meat on the underside of the rib, called the brisket, or tip, which is trimmed off prior to cooking. Usually weighs three pounds or less.

St. Louis Cut: this is a cut of ribs that is the border area between the loin and the spare.

Which is best to cook? Spares are for feeding the masses and the loin backs are better for small dinners or picnics Figure on providing a full slab for heavy eaters and a rack for normal appetites.

Although prices vary seasonally and geographically, you should not have to pay more than $6 to $7 a slab for loins, $6 for spares, and $6 to $7 a slab for St. Louis.

Pork Loin Country-Style Ribs: Country Style Ribs are prepared from the blade end of the loin and include no less than three and no more than six ribs.

Pork Loin Back Ribs (also referred to as Canadian Back Ribs and Baby Back Ribs): originate from the blade and center section of the loin. Back ribs contain meat between the ribs called finger meat, and have at least eight ribs.

Pork Spare Ribs: Spare Ribs are the intact rib section removed from the belly with or without the brisket removed. Spare Ribs slabs have at least eleven ribs.

Brisket Bone (Rib Tip): Rib tips are small, meaty pieces that have been cut from Spare Ribs during the trimming process when making a St. Louis Rib.

Pork Spareribs St. Louis Style: St. Louis Style Ribs originate from pork spareribs and are prepared by removing the brisket bone.

Kansas City Style or Barbecue Cut (Colorado Style or South Side Cut): a spare rib which has had the hard bone removed.

Riblets: from the loin or spare ribs, generated by straightening the loin or cutting down a loin or spare rib. Will vary in size and weight.

Cooking Pork Ribs

The two most critical points of cooking any type of barbecue are time and temperature. This is how I prepare ribs for competition: Get the grill up to a warm temperature of about 180 degrees F. Bring the ribs to room temperature.

Remove the back membrane (silverskin) by twisting and bending the slab like an accordion, and then placing the slab on a flat surface and carefully separating the bone from the membrane using a table knife.

Trim the two end bones off each tip leaving a 12-bone slab.

Rub a light coating of yellow mustard (or Italian salad dressing and Worcestershire Sauce) on both sides of the ribs. Sprinkle a dry rub on both sides of the slab. Make sure there is no unseasoned meat exposed. Leave the rub on about an hour before putting the slabs in the smoker. Always put the slab bone side to the fire.

Cooking Time

It should take about six hours at 200 degrees F. or five hours at 225 degrees or four hours at 250 degrees. Never cook ribs higher than 250 degrees. All you are doing at that temperature is grilling and you cannot successfully grill any cut of rib except for Country Style Ribs.

After one hour of smoking, baste the ribs. After two hours of smoking, wrap each slab in heavy-duty aluminum foil. Be careful not to punch holes in foil. This is the steaming process, which is the secret part that makes the ribs so tender. To further tenderize the meat, pour a one-quarter cup of marinade or citrus liquid (orange, apple or pineapple juice works best) into the foil over the meat, before carefully sealing the top of the foil. Wrap tightly but watch for holes in the foil. Double or triple wrap, if necessary. Cook in foil another two hours, at the lower temperatures or 1 1/2 hours if cooking at 250 degrees.

At the appropriate time, remove the foil and place the slabs back on the grill to finish the cooking and firm up the ribs. About 30 minutes before serving baste with a mixture of two cups of barbecue sauce, one-quarter cup honey and one tablespoon rub.

When the ribs are done, take them off the grill and let cool for about 10 minutes. Just before serving, lightly dust the slabs with rub. Cut into three or four bone sections.

Ribs can be frozen after the initial cooking and before saucing. Cool and double wrap in plastic wrap and aluminum foil before freezing. To cook frozen ribs, remove from freezer and let thaw for two hours. Remove plastic wrap, rewrap in foil and heat in 220 degree oven for 45 minutes.

Another Variation On The Brisket Theme

One barbecue enthusiast, who has also won numerous cook-off competitions, has this advice for smoking brisket:

Start with a good rub that's strong on garlic and pepper but don't season the meat until about three hours into the smoking process. Smoke the brisket over a combination of charcoal, oak, cherry and hickory for at least eight to 10 hours at 225 degrees until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F. then wrap the brisket in foil and cook at 300 degrees until the internal temperature is 205 degrees. After cooking, keep brisket in an insulated cooler for several hours until ready to serve. Slice and top with sweet, tangy barbecue sauce.

Once you've won a ribbon in a category, don't change the sauce, marinade or rub recipe but concentrate on the other aspects of winning: tenderness and appearance.

Shoulder Cooking Hints

Select a whole pork shoulder - the picnic ham and the Boston butt - and trim all visible fat and skin. Coat generously with dry rub. Place in plastic bag and refrigerate 24 hours.

Preheat grill/smoker to a temperature of 200 to 225 degrees. Bring the pork to room temperature and smoke intensely for four hours. After five hours on the grill, remove the shoulder and place in foil pan, add 1/2 cup basting liquid and cover with heavy-duty foil. Return to grill and cook for another eight to nine hours at between 225 and 250 degrees.

After about 14 hours, remove shoulder from heat and let sit for about two hours in a warm environment (such as an ice chest without ice). Remove foil and let sit for another 10 minutes. Pull meat into chunks and strips and serve on buns with sauce on the side. A 15-pound shoulder will feed 20 to 25 guests.

Perfect Pork Chops

Grill chops over direct heat, placing directly over hot coals. Cover with the grill hood. Turn chops once and cook to medium doneness. Check for medium doneness by touching the center of the chops with tongs - if done perfectly, there should be a slight give. Correctly cooked chops may have a slight hint of pink in the center. Total cooking time depends on the thickness of the chop: 3/4-inch chop for six to eight minutes, one-inch chop for eight to 10 minutes and 1 1/2-inch chop for 12 to 16 minutes. Grill to an internal temperature of 150 degrees F.

Perfect Pork Roast

Cook pork roast over indirect heat, placing roast on the grill rack away from the coals (coals should be banked on the opposite side of grill or all around the perimeter). Baste with reserved marinade. Cook until the internal temperature reaches 145 to 150 degrees F; about 20 minutes per pound.

Marinating Meat

Many recipes call for marinating meat for several hours or more. Place the meat in either a Tupperware® or similar plastic container with a sealable lid. Turn the container over and expose the other side of the meat to the marinade about every hour or so. Another method is placing the meat and marinade in a plastic bag.


There are two types of brisket at the store or butcher shop… trimmed and untrimmed. For slow smoking, use the untrimmed brisket. During the four to 12 hours of cooking, the fat, when placed on top, will drip over the meat and help keep it moist. This will retain the juices and flavor of the meat. When cooking is done, the fat can be trimmed off. After cooking, a brisket will weigh about 50 percent of the uncooked weight.

Remove the dry-rubbed brisket from the refrigerator and allow the meat to stand at room temperature for an hour before smoking.

When smoking the meat, place the fat side up at 225 degrees F. for three to four hours. Then tightly wrap the meat in aluminum foil and return to the smoker for an additional four hours at 250 degrees. For more smoke flavor, cook longer before covering. When finished, unwrap and serve with barbecue sauce.

Cooking a brisket is a long-term relationship. Producing a better brisket requires eight to 18 hours at consistent temperature with minimal smoke exposure. Cooking temperatures in the 200 to 215 degree range are most likely to bring a brisket to its optimum potential.

Build a proper bed of coal by burning down sufficient wood or charcoal to bring the whole grill up to 350 degrees, and then shut down the air intake to reduce the temperature down to 225 degrees. Put on the briskets, fat side up and close the lid. Check in 20 minutes to see if the temperature has stabilized around 210 degrees.

How often you need to check the grill depends on the grill. If you are working with a small kettle grill, you may need to replenish the coals and move the brisket frequently. If you have properly heated and stoked a massive iron sidewinder, it may maintain its temperature for four hours and will require less frequent, if any, turning. Ceramic cookers are known to hold their temperature for 12 to 18 hours.

More About Brisket

To prepare barbecue brisket in a kettle grill or some other cooker that wasn't exactly designed for long smokes, first learn your equipment. You need to be able to maintain a temperature of 200 degrees to 220 degrees for at least three hours. With a traditional brisket smoke, you start with about 10 pounds of meat and cook it down by half. With this process you should start with about a four-pound trimmed brisket, called a flat cut. Prepare the brisket the night before you plan to cook it. Rub it down with a good rub and then place it in a large container. Pour a marinade over the brisket, cover and refrigerate overnight. Since this brisket won't be smoking for a long time, add a tablespoon or two of liquid smoke to the marinade to add an extra smoke flavor.

The next day, about six hours before you plan to serve, take the brisket out of the refrigerator and let it sit at room temperature for about 45 minutes. During this time get the smoker, or whatever you are using, ready. You need a temperature between 200 and 220 degrees. Remove the brisket from the marinade and allow it to drain. Add a little more rub and then put it in the smoker for about three hours. After three hours remove the brisket from the smoker. Wrap it tightly in aluminum foil and, if the smoker still has a good temperature, return the brisket to the smoker. If you don't think the temperature is going to last, put the brisket in the oven at 225 degrees for two hours. After two hours, the brisket should be cooked all the way through and tender. When the brisket is done, remove it from the smoker or oven and let it sit for 15 minutes. Remove any fat and carve it against the grain into thin slices.

Barbecue Brisket

To prepare an eight- to 10-pound brisket for barbecue, combine your favorite rub with equal amounts of fajita seasoning. Do not trim any fat off the brisket.

Coat the brisket in Worcestershire Sauce. Then rub generously, covering brisket top to bottom and all sides. Place in freezer bag or plastic wear, add marinade and marinate, refrigerated, for 24 hours. Smoke for three hours at 210 to 225 degrees, and then cook another hour per pound or until internal temperature reaches 165 to 170 degrees. Remove from the grill and allow to cool. Before storing, trim all visible fat off brisket. Freeze or refrigerate until ready to serve.

When ready to use, defrost and wrap brisket in foil, place in 250 degree oven or back on grill for an hour. Slice across the grain, or chop, and add barbecue sauce.

Cleaning And Slicing A Cooked Brisket

Once the brisket has finished cooking, remove the outer layer of fat. Locate the fat side and the broader lean side (bottom) of the brisket. There is also an inner fat layer dividing the two halves. Start at the back or the large end of the brisket and separate it with a knife. Follow the fat layer with the knife while lifting the fat side up. Once there are two slabs of brisket, one lean and flat and the other fatty and enlarged, take a knife and slowly remove any visible fat. Keep the knife flat and shave the fat off.

Once the brisket has been cleaned, place the trimmed "fat side" on top of the trimmed "lean side" and slice against the grains of the meat.


Pork Spare Ribs

Many barbecue enthusiasts believe small pork spare ribs make a better smoked barbecue. Wash the ribs with white vinegar and water to remove any residue and unwanted odors. Season with dry rub, wrap with foil or plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Smoke the ribs at 225 degrees on the top rack or away from the heat source with the meat side up. Baste hourly for approximately four to 4 1/2 hours.

Smoked Ham

Heavily smoke a ham for at least eight hours at 230 degrees. If less smoke flavor is desired, wrap the ham with foil after four hours and then cook for the additional four hours. If the ham is precooked, only smoke for four hours.

Jumbo Shrimp with Bacon

Get the largest fresh shrimp or prawns available (U-8 or U-12). Shell and devein but leave the tails on. Take one slice of bacon and wrap the shrimp, securing with toothpicks. Season with barbecue sauce and a little garlic powder. Place the shrimp on side of the grill away from the fire. Smoke for about 25 to 25 minutes at 200 to 225 degrees. Mop with garlic butter and serve hot.


Lay aluminum foil on the grill. Place oysters on the foil. Smoke for one hour at 230 degrees.

Roasted Corn

Select fresh corn on the cob. Without removing the husk, peel it back to expose the corn and gently remove the silk. Take some olive oil and lightly coat the corn. Sprinkle the corn with a light coating of Cajun spice. Replace the husk and secure top with heavy string. Place corn on a medium to hot grill for 25 to 35 minutes, turning frequently, until the husk is slightly burned.

Barbecue & Grilling Tips


Rib Eye Steak

1 inch


1 inch

Tenderloin Steak

Top Loin, boneless

1 inch

Top Round Steak (marinated)

1 inch

Top Sirloin Steak, boneless

1 inch

Hamburger Patties (165°)

¾ inch

Make an investment in high-quality knives and cookware, it will make cooking a pleasure instead of a chore.


The terms "barbecuing" and "grilling" are often used interchangeably, but the techniques are quite different. In its strictest sense, barbecuing is a process of slow-cooking over or near live coals at a low temperature of less than 225 degrees. Grilling is quick-cooking food (such as hamburgers and steaks) over a high temperature. Whichever technique you use here are some tips.


Leave all of the fat on the meat while barbecuing, it will moisten and baste the meat. When cooking is complete, remove the fat before serving. Even if you use charcoal or gas to cook, the addition of a little wood or a handful of herbs (such as rosemary) produce fragrant smoke that gives wonderful flavor.


For quick-grilling, use small chips of wood along with charcoal, adding them just before cooking, after the charcoal has burned down to glowing red coals. If you use a gas grill, wrap the chips in aluminum foil poked with holes to keep the ashes from the clogging the gas jets.


Clean your smoker and grill regularly. Not only the smoker and grill surface need to be cleaned, but also the inside lid and body cavity. Use a wire brush on the grates and a scraper on the solid parts of the equipment. Remove all coals and any liquids accumulated in the smoker or grill.


Wood-burning smokers provide the best means of controlling heat. The best means of controlling the heat is using the adjustment on the air intake located on the fire box. Allow the air outlet to remain open so the meat does not become excessively smoky.


If you're barbecuing chicken or turkey and find the smoke flavor too intense, here is a simple remedy. Smoke does not penetrate water. If the meat is basted frequently and moisture is maintained on the outside, then the amount of smoke flavoring will be reduced.


Take a small amount of cooking oil and use a bristle brush to lightly coat the surface of the grill. This reduces most sticking.


The top of a smoker's fire box is an excellent location for a pot of beans, coffee pot or any other item needing to be heated or cooked.

An Instant Read Thermometer

Most recipes give an internal temperature for optimum cooking. If the smoker or grill only has a "Warm - Medium - Hot" scale, insert a meat thermometer into the exhaust outlet and add about 10 degrees to determine the approximate temperature at the grill's cooking surface. When the cooking is nearly complete, use an instant reading thermometer to check the temperature. I use a Thermapen… it’s expensive but well worth the investment.

Can You Take the Heat?

Just as names of chiles vary, so do characteristics. Aside from the type of chile, heat levels are affected by age and location on the bush, soil and watering.


Good knives are essential… buy the best you can afford. Visit cook stores and feel the knife in your hand, feel its weight and balance. Find a knife that is comfortable for your hand. Along with a few goods knives - a chef's knife, a paring knife, a boning knife and a serrated bread knife - invest in a sharpening steel. Use it every time you use your knife and you'll rarely need to have them professionally sharpened.


Don't throw your knives into a kitchen drawer, you'll damage the edge. Either make or buy a separator for your drawer or purchase a knife block.


Quality cookware is expensive, but a lifetime investment. Try to buy cookware that can go from the stove-top to the broiler, cookware that has heat-proof handles and is small enough to fit into your oven. Avoid cookware that has wooden or plastic handles, it can never be used in the oven.


Another investment for your kitchen is a quality heavy-weight wooden cutting board and acrylic boards for chicken, meat and fish. Use a different board for each to avoid cross contamination. Wash acrylic boards in hot soapy water after each use. Treat your wooden board with a bleach solution and mineral oil weekly.


Wooden spoons and spatulas are ideal for stirring and mixing but don't leave wooden utensils in sauces, they'll pick up the flavors. Be sure they're dry before storing and never soak them in soapy water.


Have metal ladles in various sizes – 1/2 cup, one cup and two cup, it makes it easier to transfer stock into sauté pans.


A small electric coffee grinder makes an excellent spice mill to grind fresh pepper and other spices just don't use it for coffee after grinding spices. Alternately, fresh spices can be cracked by rocking the side of a chef's knife over the spices.


Suggested Uses

Heart-shaped, 3" x 5" with smooth, deep green skin and thick flesh.

Used roasted and peeled. Has a thick, meaty texture and a mild to hot, deep, rich chile flavor.

¾" x 2" with dark-green, smooth skin, thick juicy flesh and a rounded tip. Medium hot to hot; removing ribs and seeds takes out most of the heat, leaving a crisp, sweet, chile flavor.

Use in salsas, pickled for nachos, or in any dish where you want a hit of fresh chile. May substitute serranos.

½" x 2" with medium-green, smooth skin, thin flesh and a blunt end. Sharper taste than jalapeños; the heat is gradual and sharp.

Most popular for fresh salsas; also popular in Thai cuisine.

1" x 4" with light-green skin and a tapered end. Mild and sweet; doesn't need to be roasted but can be, very carefully.

Perfect for sautéing. A good replacement for sweet green bell peppers.

Adds depth to sauces on meats and oily fish. There is no substitute.

Dried poblano, wrinkled and deep burgundy in color. Medium heat; chocolate, rich flavor.

Main chile in mole, other sauces and chili. Often ground as chile powder.

Dried and smoked jalapeño; brown in color and wrinkled. They vary in size from 1/8" x ¾" to ½" x 2". Available dried or canned in abodo sauce. Deep, smoky flavor; medium to hot heat.

Reconstitute and add to sauce or chili.

¼" x 3" with smooth, light- to medium-red skin, brittle. Very hot.

Use in table sauce such as sambal or harissa.

1997 - 2012, Cape Cod Barbecue






(Scotch Bonnet)

1" x 1" with orange, green or yellow skin and flesh. Most fiery of all chilies; intense heat with a complex, fruity flavor.