An Easy Trick for Properly Seasoning Your Meat, and Other Grilling Secrets From a BBQ Pro

After nearly two years of brutal lockdowns and border restrictions, we couldn’t be more excited for a summer of freedom. And with that means a slew of backyard BBQs. Perfectly charred meats and veggies, best enjoyed on balmy evenings and, ideally, barefoot and surrounded by a handful of your nearest and dearest.

So, in anticipation of the upcoming season, we thought we’d gather some tips and tricks for BBQing from one of the best grillers around, Craig Blondis, owner of Central BBQ, a restaurant institution in Memphis, Tennessee. Ahead, Blondis’s best ways to ensure you nail your next experience on the grill.

Carefully Select Your Meat

According to Blondis, the most important step in the process of preparing your meat is selecting it. “Starting with quality cuts of meats makes a difference in the finished product,” he says. “We use a loin back rib or what some people refer to as baby back ribs.”

If it’s ribs you too have chosen to grill, you’ll want to first rub them down with a spice blend and let the meat marinate for 12 to 24 hours in the fridge. Once you’re ready to start cooking them, you’ll then remove them from the fridge and wait until they get to room temperature again before starting the smoking process.

“Many people remove the membrane from the ribs before cooking,” says Blondis. “I prefer to leave it on during the cooking process and remove it after I have finished the smoking process.”

Be Sure to Properly Season Your Meat

“Much like meat selection, the selection of spices should be the same,” says Blondis. “Quality! Quality! Quality! You get out what you put in,” he says.

Again, if you’re cooking ribs, and you’re keen to have them be slow-smoked, Memphis-style, follow the recipe for Blondis’ award-winning rib rub, noting that it’s in parts, not exact measurements.

One-part ingredients

1 cumin

1 paprika

1 granulated garlic

1 granulated onion

1 chili powder

1 brown sugar

Two-part ingredients 

2 kosher salt

One-third part ingredients

1/3 cayenne pepper

1/3 black pepper

1/3 white pepper

Hand mix all the ingredients in a large bowl.

Determine Your Cook Time Ahead of Time

When BBQing, low and slow is the good rule of thumb, says Blondis. “Another good way to base cooking time is an hour and a half per pound [0.5 kg],” he adds.

“This is just a guide, cooking time may vary depending on what type of smoker you use. Offset or indirect heat smokers will tend to take a little longer than direct heat smokers.”

When smoking meat, it’s also important to know that meat only retains the smoke in the first third of the cooking process. Because of that, the use of wood as a smoke source after the first part of the cooking process isn’t necessary.

Some temperature and timing benchmarks:

107-121°C for whole shoulders with a 12-16 hour cook time.

121-135°C for ribs with a 4-6 hour cook time.

107-121°C for brisket 5-8 hours cook time.

Get Creative With Your BBQ

Another tip for BBQing is to think outside the box of the usual way to serve it and to get creative. In Memphis, you can try BBQ pizza (Elvis Presley was said to be a fan), BBQ spaghetti (pulled pork and marinara over spaghetti) and BBQ nachos, which even come in a vegan version with BBQed tofu topping the corn chips.

Don’t Forget About BBQ Sides and Appetisers

And finally, don’t forget about the sides and appetisers. Some appetisers to consider include fried chicken wings or a simple cheese platter, while sides that pair well with BBQ include baked beans, coleslaw, macaroni and cheese, potato salad, greens and cornbread.

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