14 Barbecue and Grilling Secrets From America's Barbecue Champions

Shutterstock

14 Barbecue and Grilling Secrets From America's Barbecue Champions

Keep reading to find out everything you didn’t know about barbecue and grilling from experts across the country
14 Barbecue and Grilling Secrets From America's Barbecue Champions

Shutterstock

14 Barbecue and Grilling Secrets From America's Barbecue Champions

14 Barbecue and Grilling Secrets From America's Barbecue Champions

14 Barbecue and Grilling Secrets From America's Barbecue Champions

Shutterstock

The smell of smoking meats, the heat from the grill, it’s what summers and good weather are made for. Don’t let the good vibes at your next cookout be ruined by charred chicken, a crust of burnt barbecue sauce coating your otherwise tender ribs, or dry, tasteless pulled pork. 

We love grilling and smoking meats as much as the next cook, but all that time cooking indoors doesn’t necessarily prepare you for cooking on a grill. Sure, it seems simple enough, and we love the easy cleanup after cooking our whole meal al fresco, but there are things experts know that take your backyard cooking from experimental to downright delicious.

To help us achieve Pitmaster-level good food, we asked some experts what they think the most important secrets are to making great food on the grill. Our experts weighed in with tips ranging from how to shop for ingredients to their favorite tools to use to how to prep your meat for success every time.

This year before you fire up the girl, consider reading through these expert tips from America’s barbecue champions, chefs, and grilling experts so that your day cooking outside turns out perfectly cooked ribs, steaks, burgers, pork shoulder, and more.

Admir Alibasic, Executive Chef at Ben & Jack’s Steak House, NYC

Admir Alibasic, Executive Chef at Ben & Jack’s Steak House, NYC

Shutterstock

Secret: You Can Barbecue More Than Beef

“Grilling and barbecuing isn't just made for chunks of beef… heck, you can pretty much put anything on a grill. For a refreshing summer appetizer, try grilling oysters on the half shell with a lemon, white wine, and garlic sauce added during grilling.”

Click here for the Ultimate Guide to Grilling Fruits and Vegetables.

Adam Perry Lang, Chef-Owner of Daisy May’s BBQ USA, NYC

Adam Perry Lang, Chef-Owner of Daisy May’s BBQ USA, NYC

Shutterstock

Secret: Having the Right Tools

“A couple of often overlooked aspects of grilling that are really important to the quality of your overall grilling experience are, A) having a professional, restaurant quality set of tongs and, B) not shopping around for a high-quality charcoal (if you're on a charcoal grill). Having a professional set of tongs is really all you need for great grilling because you won't need many other tools or gadgets. A good, hard wood charcoal is always great to use for grilling; royal oak is a personal favorite.”

Click here for 10 Grilling Tools Everyone Should Own.

Andy Husbands, Jack Daniels World BBQ Champion (iQUE team)

Andy Husbands, Jack Daniels World BBQ Champion (iQUE team)

Shutterstock

Secret: Avoid Flame-Ups

Always lightly oil your food. That “flame up” you see when heavily oiled is simply oil burning and imparts a bitter flavor on your food. This can be a problem with marinades; make sure you pat them dry. — Andy Husbands, iQUE team

Click here for 9 Things You Should Never Do When Grilling.

BBQ Masters at Maverick Housewares

BBQ Masters at Maverick Housewares

Shutterstock

Secret: Keep It Clean

The barbecue experts at Maverick Housewares, who make quality barbecue accessories, say, “After using a wire brush, always clean your grill with a towel to make sure there are no leftover strands of wire that have come loose from the brush. Those wires can stick to food and become dangerous of ingested.”

Click here for How to Clean Your Grill in 8 Simple Steps.

Chris Lilly, World Champion Pitmaster, Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q, Decatur, Alabama

Chris Lilly, World Champion Pitmaster, Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q, Decatur, Alabama

Shutterstock

Secret: Quality Meat

“The two most important elements of great barbecue are a quality cut of meat and proper grilling technique,” said World Champion Pitmaster Chris Lilly of Big Bob Gibson’s Bar-B-Q in Alabama. “For example with steak, you want nice marbling for flavor, but should avoid a piece of beef that appears wet. Technique and seasoning vary based on what you’re grilling, but regardless I always use charcoal, you just can’t beat the flavor of food over the charcoal grill. With steak I use Kingsford Professional Briquettes; they’re designed specifically for high-heat and a consistent burn, perfect for searing a steak.”

Click here to find out How to Shop for Meat.

Evan LeRoy, Award-Winning Pitmaster at Freedmen’s, Austin

Evan LeRoy, Award-Winning Pitmaster at Freedmen’s, Austin

Shutterstock

Secret: Don't Be Shy With the Salt

“When searing or smoking a large piece of meat, don't be afraid to over-season the outside of the meat. Large cuts need a generous coating to help develop a crust and season the meat all the way to the center. Plus, some will naturally fall off during the cooking process.”

Click here for 19 Mistakes to Avoid at Your Next Cookout.

Francis Derby, Executive Chef at Cannibal, NYC

Francis Derby, Executive Chef at Cannibal, NYC

Shutterstock

Secret: Marinating Meat in Yogurt or Buttermilk

Chef Francis Derby, executive chef at The Cannibal in NYC described as “a butcher’s restaurant,” says marinating meat in yogurt or buttermilk before grilling helps to tenderize tougher cuts of meat.

Click here for 9 Ways to Make Cheap Steak Tender and Delicious.

John Bracamonte, Pitmaster and Co-Owner of Brazen BBQ, San Diego

John Bracamonte, Pitmaster and Co-Owner of Brazen BBQ, San Diego

Shutterstock

Secret: A Great Rub

“The key to great barbecue starts with the rub. It’s what gives your meat a beautiful, tasty, smoky bark that is the signature of good real barbecue. My secret is coating the meat with a liberal amount of rub an hour before cooking and [leaving] it out so it comes to room temperature. For added flavor, I add a layer of brown sugar during the last hour of cooking and let that caramelize over the top!”

Click here for the 15 Ingredients That You Should Always Have on Hand for Your Barbecue.

John Currence, Chef–Owner of City Grocery Group, Oxford, Mississippi

John Currence, Chef–Owner of City Grocery Group, Oxford, Mississippi

Shutterstock

Secret: Choose Your Charcoal Wisely

As one of Mississippi’s most celebrated cooks and the owner of the only whole hog open pit BBQ in Mississippi, Currence is considered an expert on authentic Mississippi barbecue. According to Currence, one of the biggest mistakes you can make is using the wrong charcoal: “Whenever possible use actual whole wood lump charcoal. ‘Briquettes’ are usually full of trash and chemicals that can impart a bitter flavor to your food.” In addition, he says, once you have your charcoal lit, “Be patient and let your charcoal burn down to coals before cooking.”

Click here to find out how charcoal is made.

John Enright, Executive Chef at Laura’s Lean Beef

John Enright, Executive Chef at Laura’s Lean Beef

Shutterstock

Secret: Use the 3-4 Point Method for Burgers

Flipping your burgers often is actually a good thing according to John Enright, executive chef at Laura’s Lean Beef, a company focused on raising cows without hormones or antibiotics so that home cooks can enjoy a healthier product, says cook your burgers for 3 minutes on each side, flipping a total of 4 times. Grilling your patty until your burger’s interior temperature is 145 degrees F.

Click here for How to Make Restaurant-Quality Burgers at Your Backyard Barbecue.

John Rivers, Owner–Founder of 4 Rivers Smokehouse, Florida

John Rivers, Owner–Founder of 4 Rivers Smokehouse, Florida

Shutterstock

Secret: Let It Rest

“For best results, allow your grilled meat to sit covered or ‘rest’ at room temperature for 10 to 20 minutes after removing from the grill. This allows the juices to recollect and settle into the meat and produced a more succulent result. For larger cuts of meat such as brisket or a pork shoulder or butt, wrap the cooked meat in cellophane and place in a cooler with the lid closed for at least an hour and up to three to assure best results. You can tell with when a rib is done by how much the meat pulls back from the ends of the rib bone on both sides of the rib. This happens as the moisture is cooked out of the rib and the meat naturally pulls back or constricts to create a concentration of flavor and moisture. Depending on the type or size of rib, a half to a full inch of exposed bone is your target. If you've kept your meat low and cooked it slow, then you should have a nice dark color on the outside of what will be a moist rib.”

Click here for Mistakes to Avoid When Cooking and Cutting Meat.

Levi Goode, Owner of the Goode Company's Armadillo Palace, Houston

Levi Goode, Owner of the Goode Company's Armadillo Palace, Houston

Shutterstock

Secret: Consistent Temperature

Levi Goode, owner of Goode Co., a legend in Texas BBQ for more than 40 years says, low, steady heat will produce the best product: evenly cooked and moist. He suggests maintaining 200 to 225 degrees F in the pit. If possible, add water pan under meat. Also important is to avoid opening the door/lid any more than you need to.

Click here for our Rib Bible: Everything You Need to Know to Make Perfect Barbecued Ribs.

Melissa Cookston, Winningest Woman in Barbecue

Melissa Cookston, Winningest Woman in Barbecue

Shutterstock

Secret: Gas Grills Can Make Good Food, Too

Melissa Cookston, author of two cookbooks, including Smokin’ Hot in the South: New Grilling Recipes from the Winningest Woman in Barbecue, points out that, “Barbecuing and grilling are not interchangeable. Gas grills are convenient and, if used properly, can produce great food.”

“My grill grates are cleaned before and after every cook. Proper grilling requires a clean, heated grate. Always oil your grates before placing your food on them, using an old towel and a small container of high-heat-threshold oil, such as peanut oil. Using tongs, dip the dowel in the oil and lightly brush the grates. This will help keep foods from sticking and forming buildup on your grates but also will aid in getting professional-looking grill marks.”

Click here for 10 Tips for Smoked Ribs From Pitmaster Melissa Cookston.

Tuffy Stone, Pitmaster (Winner of 36 Grand Championships and Three World Championship Grand Championships)

Tuffy Stone, Pitmaster (Winner of 36 Grand Championships and Three World Championship Grand Championships)

Shutterstock

Secret: Use a Two-Zone Heat Setup

Tuffy Stone is the winningest competition barbecue Pitmaster, and has competed in over 150 barbecue competitions during his career, giving him a little clout when it comes to know his way around the barbecue pit. According to Stone, “The best way to cook barbecue on a grill is to set it up with two zones. For a charcoal grill, place lit hot coals on one half of the bottom of the grill to create one area that is hot to cook over direct heat and one area that is cooler to cook on. Meats can be started on the hotter side to caramelize and give color to the meat, and then moved over to the side without coals to continue cooking indirect method. This same technique can also be achieved on a gas grill by turning off one of the burners.”

Click here for 4 Things You Didn’t Know About Smoking Ribs.