Chef’s Secrets: How to Make the Perfect Barbecue

By Chef Marcus Webster

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Everyone loves BBQs and the secret is usually in the marinade.

First of all, who doesn’t like a great barbecues in the backyard, on the beach, block party or just going to your favorite joint down the street? It is one concept that people look for when traveling or shopping at a new mall.  This question always comes up–where is the closest barbecue restaurant?

Growing up in the south, it seemed like it was on every other block, from the small “mom & pop” spot to the larger family-style places that made barbecue famous throughout the country. In Kansas City, Missouri, it was Gates that was quite known for their sauce, brisket, St. Louis-style ribs and hot links.

Can you tell by now I love to barbecue? It is a skill on its own and I also love to “slow” smoke meat as well. The difference is when you barbecue on a grill or a smoker, the heat source can be directly or indirectly under your meat depending on exactly what you are cooking.

Take for instance a whole or half chicken.  You would want your charcoal, wood or both directly underneath the meat at about 300 degrees. This will allow you to sear the skin while getting ample smoke flavor naturally with the wood. This will be the same with tri-tip, which you can cook at a lower temp while getting that sear without overcooking. You can actually control the heat by setting your direct heat source to either side or even in the middle of your grill and meats on either side. This will give you more heating control over-all.

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Tri-tip can usually be smoked or barbecued at a lower temperature.

Now, if you are smoking brisket, it can usually take 12 to 14 hours.  With indirect heat and a side chamber smoker, use wood and charcoal in a separate smoke chamber and maintain a 275-degree heat throughout your smoker. Look at your gauge constantly to maintain that level but it is all worth the wait. For a brisket, you want to pull it at 190 degrees. That is the point to where the connective tissue is fully tenderized but can only be achieved successfully using a slow smoke method.

Pork or beef ribs, on the other hand, will take less time. But “falling off the bone” kind of tenderness is what you are looking for, so again, be patient. I assure you that kind of tenderness is really worth waiting for.

All meats in my mind need a great rub.  I also use a wet source for keeping the product moist while grilling or smoking. Chili powder, granulated garlic, cumin, onion powder, cayenne pepper, kosher salt, black pepper, brown sugar and even ground coffee are all incredible on meat.

Orange juice, apple juice, pineapple juice, rum, brandy and whiskey all work wonders on meat. My favorite, however, is Worcestershire sauce. It is just the Southern way of doing things and great with a touch of brown sugar to use for basting the meat.

Next week, I will share some rubs and marinades based on recipes I have developed, used and have come to love over the past 20 years.

Happy smoking and barbecuing!

Chef Marcus Webster has been a professional chef for over 20 years, starting as a private chef before becoming a corporate chef at the Thousand Oaks-based Auctions in Motion. He is currently the executive chef for NAWLINZ Bistro in downtown Oxnard and Conejo Valley Catering, the catering arm of NAWLINZ Bistro.   


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