The Basics of AWESOME BBQ

The Basics of AWESOME BBQ

I really love it when I see someone bite into a pulled pork sammy or a slice of brisket that I cooked and they just close their eyes and smile!



The Basics of AWESOME BBQ RibsEveryone you talk to has their own “special” way of doing things. Those “ways” can vary GREATLY from person to person and even more from region to region but one thing is clear,

The basics of Awesome BBQ are essential.


BBQ is truly an American creation. Eastern North Carolina has a way that’s unique to them and is as different from Memphis as Texas is from Kansas City!
So who’s right? They all are. If you like it then it’s Awesome BBQ!
If you’re willing to invest the time and follow some simple basics then you can cook Awesome BBQ too.
There are some basics to follow and that’s what I’ll show you here.

Let’s define BBQ as cooking at low temps for long periods of time…”Low and Slow.”
Grilling is cooking at high temps for short periods of time.

There are many stories about how BBQ got started. My favorite is this;
The slaves were given the throw-away cuts of meat that their owners considered trash. They had to make due and found ways to make it awesome, and they did!!!!
The equipment you might use is probably better than what they used…if you know how to use it.

Basic #1. Learn Your Equipment

You don’t have to spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars to cook awesome BBQ!

I started on a kettle style grill. It was inexpensive and cooked great food.

The Weber Kettle is an EXCELLENT grill!

I learned how to cook low and slow on it by lighting a few chunks of charcoal and placing them on the edge of a bunch of unlit charcoal and bits of smoke wood all pushed against the one edge of the cooker. They would smolder and “light” the rest of the charcoal very slowly resulting in a very long cook time at lower temps. I would put the meat on the opposite side of the grill from the coals. This works on any cooker including gas. Just light the burner on one end with the food at the other.

You might hear some refer to this charcoal lighting technique as “The Minion Method”

This is a Weber Smoky Mountain. Arguably the best smoker for it’s price anywhere. These smokers have a long history of championship wins.Weber Smoky Mountain cutaway
You can see how they work in the cut out view. It’s pretty simple, charcoal basket on the bottom, then a water pan, then 2 cooking racks.They come in 2 sizes 18-1/2″ and 22-1/2″ and are extremely efficient.

Weber Smoky Mountain








The Basics of AWESOME BBQ Mini Bullet SmokerA couple of years ago I built this little smoker called a Mini Bullet for around $60 and I recommend it if you live in an apartment or just want a small cooker. This little guy is a BEAST!!!

I have successfully cooked 2 full slabs of spares at a time, 20lbs of pork shoulder and a huge brisket with no problems at all.





I also have a Competitor from Backwoods Smoker
Backwoods Smokers are water smokers. I believe they are, dollar for dollar (mine was around $5000), the BEST smokers you can buy.

The fire pit is in the bottom door and is totally separated from the cooking chamber by a large water pan. The smoke and heat travel up the insulated sides and into the cooking chamber from the top. Then down, through the food and out the exhaust port in the bottom back. Pretty ingenious!!

Whatever equipment you have…Weber Kettle, Big Ugly Drum, WSM, Green Egg or some cement blocks and plywood… Know how to make it work.


Basic #2 Charcoal

I ALWAYS use a Chimney Starter to light charcoal. I don’t like the flavor of petrochemicals (starter fluid) in my food.

The subject of charcoal is a pretty hot topic among BBQ enthusiasts. I personally have used lump charcoal for many years now. I prefer it over briquettes because they produce far less ash. I use Royal Oak because it is available nearly everywhere and doesn’t cost much. I’ve used other brands with similar results and for me, that’s what counts.

When I cook on my Mini Bullet I use briquettes because I can fit more of them in it. It is a Weber Smokey Joe after all!

There are a few other reasons not to use briquettes which include the fillers they use. To get more info on this topic check out The Sweet Home‘s side by side review. The Naked Whiz is the go-to site for all things charcoal, check it out!

Basic #3 Smoke Wood

Let it be known that my over-all preference for smoke wood is apple. I use it for everything.

Hickory is a great wood for smoking but is it the right wood every time? Not necessarily! Hickory is great for pork but I prefer mesquite for my brisket. Pecan is a great wood for fish. Grape vines make good smoke too!!

To soak or not to soak? I don’t find it necessary to soak my wood chips if I smoking in a sealed cooker as flare ups really haven’t ever been a problem for me. When I cook indirectly on a grill where I’ll be taking the lid off the grill to turn or rotate the food then yes I’ll soak in water for a few hours first. I rarely use wood as a fuel source for cooking unless it’s on the grill. I get too much smoke and end up with bitter, over smoked food.

Here is a chart that covers a wide variety of smoking wood.

Basic #4 Rubs and sauces

This is where the magic happens!! Rubs personalize your BBQ. This is how you make it yours!

You’ll have to do some trial and error to get your perfect rub but look, even the mistakes are delicious!

I shot a video a few years ago making this rub. Here it is. The recipe is below!

Here it is:

¼ cup granulated garlic

¼ cup course ground black pepper

½ cup paprika

¾ cup kosher salt

¾ cup sugar

¼ cup finely ground coffee

cayenne pepper to taste

As you can see, it’s pretty simple but it gives the meat the perfect flavor for me! Experiment with various seasonings and find one that suits you!

Sauces also give a lot of individuality to your food. Now, I’m going to say this and keep in mind that we’re a sauce company…If you smoke the meat right then you don’t need sauce!!! Yup, I said it! Sauce is always a bonus for me. I LOVE the meat without it but often use some as a dipping sauce just for kicks!!

There are literally THOUSANDS of sauces out there! Every BBQ joint has their own special sauce. Here’s a basic BBQ sauce recipe you can use as a starting point;

    • 1 1/2 cups ketchup
    • 6 tablespoons cider vinegar
    • 1/2 cup water
    • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
    • 2 tablespoons butter
    • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
    • 2 tablespoon sugar
    • 1 teaspoon paprika
    • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
    • 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
    • juice of one lemon
Combine all ingredients in a large saucepan. Mix and heat, without boiling for 5 to 10 minutes.

This one is from Peace, Love, & Barbecue: Recipes, Secrets, Tall Tales, and Outright Lies from the Legends of Barbecue

Big Bob Gibson’s Hickory-Smoked Chicken

1 cup mayonnaise

1 cup apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 1/2 tablespoons cracked black pepper

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, finely ground

1/4 teaspoon cayenne

1 whole chicken, cut in half

Finely ground kosher salt and ground black pepper

1/2 cup vegetable oil

To prepare the sauce: Combine all the first six ingredients in a large bowl and mix thoroughly. Place in an airtight container or bottle and refrigerate until you’re ready to use. Keeps up to 4 days.

To prepare the chicken: Wash the chicken and season it liberally with salt and pepper. Smoke over hot coals and hickory wood at 300 to 350 degrees for 3 to 4 hours or until the internal temperature reaches 170 degrees. Halfway through the smoking process, baste the chicken with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper once more.

After you take the chicken off the pit, immediately place it in the bowl of white sauce, turning the chicken to coat evenly. Place the chicken on a cake rack and allow it to rest for a few minutes prior to serving. Discard any sauce that you’ve used for coating chicken.

Serves 2 to 4.

Basic #5 cooker and meat temperature

Depending on what you’re cooking, 225* -250* is about right for low and slow cooking. The internal temp of the meat is what you want to monitor. You’ll need a BBQ thermometer.

Internal meat temp is important. I cook brisket and pulled pork until it’s 190*-195* internal no matter how long it takes.

I hear people say all the time “Dude, I smoked this for 18 HOURS!!!” Great! What’s the internal temp? If the brisket only made it to 185* then you can floss with it!

Pork butt and brisket are big slabs of relatively solid meat as opposed to a large turkey which is hollow inside.

Ribs, chicken, loin, brisket, Boston butt or any of the other cuts of meat have different “done” temps.

Pork loin for example is done at 145*

This is info taken directly from

Safe Minimum Cooking Temperatures

Use this chart and a food thermometer to ensure that meat, poultry, seafood, and other cooked foods reach a safe minimum internal temperature.

Remember, you can’t tell whether meat is safely cooked by looking at it. Any cooked, uncured red meats – including pork – can be pink, even when the meat has reached a safe internal temperature.

Why the Rest Time is Important

After you remove meat from a grill, oven, or other heat source, allow it to rest for the specified amount of time. During the rest time, its temperature remains constant or continues to rise, which destroys harmful germs

CategoryFoodTemperature (°F) Rest Time
Ground Meat & Meat MixturesBeef, Pork, Veal, Lamb160None
Turkey, Chicken165None
Fresh Beef, Veal, LambSteaks, roasts, chops1453 minutes
PoultryChicken & Turkey, whole165None
Poultry breasts, roasts165None
Poultry thighs, legs, wings165None
Duck & Goose165None
Stuffing (cooked alone or in bird)165None
Pork and HamFresh pork1453 minutes
Fresh ham (raw)1453 minutes
Precooked ham (to reheat)140None
Eggs & Egg DishesEggsCook until yolk and white are firmNone
Egg dishes160None
Leftovers & CasserolesLeftovers165None
SeafoodFin Fish145 or cook until flesh is opaque and separates easily with a fork.None
Shrimp, lobster, and crabsCook until flesh is pearly and opaque.None
Clams, oysters, and musselsCook until shells open during cooking.None
ScallopsCook until flesh is milky white or opaque and firm.None

Basic #6 Meat prep

I do the most prep on brisket and ribs. Here is a short video I did prepping ribs.

Brisket is the most labor intensive prep I do. It is all fat trimming. I trim fat on a brisket to less than a quarter inch all around. There is a fat side and a meat side. On the meat side there is a large plug of fat. I cut it out. Some guys cut all the fat off because there is plenty inside to keep the meat moist. I don’t. I just trim to under a quarter inch, season it and smoke it.

Here is a video I did for pulled pork.

So if you will follow The Basics of Awesome BBQ you’ll have great food every time!

Thank you for coming!




Posted in Food, Grilling and Smoking.