If you invest good money in a grill or smoker, it only makes sense to try and maximize the value that you get out of it. Of course, the first thing that many people think of when it comes to outdoor cooking is meat. But, your grill can offer far more opportunity than just that.
If you have open space on the grill, why not take advantage of that good heat as much as possible? In this article, we’ve covered 6 ways you can do just that. All of these things below (and yes, some may surprise you!) will help you not only maximize the use of your grill but also keep you from heating up the house when you don’t really need to.
Many people are hesitant to try and grill or smoke multiple large pieces of meat at the same time, especially if they are different types or cuts of meat. But, to make the most out of your grill when you have a lot to cook, don’t be intimated by doing this. It’s really not as hard as it may seem. It’s just a matter of timing and having a couple of digital meat thermometers on hand.
For more info on doing this properly and timing everything to finish together, check out our in-depth article on cooking multiple pieces of meat at the same time.
From this tip down, you’ll see that your grill or smoker is not reserved for only cooking meat. For example, vegetables take on an even more delicious level of flavor when cooked on the grill as well. Whether you grill them on a skewer or in a grill basket (for smaller pieces), you can impart that great char flavor you can only get from cooking on the grill.
Almost any vegetables will do well when cooked on the grill and can go right next to your main course on the grill grate. Make sure to read through our in-depth article for some specific things to keep in mind when grilling vegetables to ensure you end up with a good result.
If you are cooking a cut of meat slowly at lower temperatures in your grill or smoker, this is also a great opportunity to bake fresh bread alongside it. A grill is a perfect, closed environment to cook delicious bread. Plus, the grill smoke will add that mouth-watering extra touch of flavor to the crust.
Typically, depending on the heat level, a loaf of bread will take roughly 40 minutes on the grill to cook to a perfect golden brown with a crispy exterior. Keep in mind that because of the relatively long cooking time for bread, you won't want to do this next to fast-cooking items such as steaks or burgers.
Check out our in-depth article on baking bread on the grill for some tips to help ensure you end up with a perfectly cooked result.
Cooking fruit on your grill alongside your other items can provide a delicious treat to start your meal with or even add to it. For example, you can grill round pineapple slices or slices of watermelon for a minute or two on each side. Peaches or pears sliced in half lengthwise and grilled face down are two other great options. For an exotic option, you could even grill rambutan.
There are a ton of different fruits that will hold up well and cook nicely on the grill. Cooking fruit this way will bring out an extra level of rich sweetness.
A long-time popular side item for BBQ is beans. The good thing is, you don’t have to worry about cooking those separately on the stove. Just cook them on the grill alongside your slow-cooked meat.
All you have to do is fill a pan with some water, add your dry beans, and put that pan directly on the grill grate. The heat will get the water boiling and cook the beans right on the grill. This technique will usually do most if not all of the cooking for you. When cooking meat low and slow, you’ll find that the beans will probably be done and ready to use for a side dish when the main course is done. In some cases, the beans may need a bit more cooking than the meat but it shouldn’t be long.
Craving a grilled chicken pasta dish or grilled seafood with pasta? Just cook the pasta on the grill too! Similarly to cooking beans on the grill, just fill a pan up with water and set it directly on the grill grate, bring the water to a boil, add the pasta to the pan, and boil it for roughly 10 minutes (depending on the type of pasta).
Boiling pasta on the grill is also advantageous for the meat or fish that you may be grilling next to it. The boiling water adds more moisture to the cooking environment inside the grill, making the meat even more juicy and tender.
As you can see, a big part of getting the most value out of your grill is to utilize all of the space available to you. There are a ton of things that can actually be cooked on the grill alongside your main item that you may not have thought about before. Why have to keep going back and forth between your outdoor cooker and the kitchen when everything can be done in one place?
Try out some of the ways we mentioned above and/or get creative with other things you can cook in your grill or smoker to maximize what you get out of your outdoor cooking.
Have you tried any of the things we mentioned in this article? Do you know of some other ways that the value of your grill can be maximized? If so, leave a comment below. We want to hear from you!
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The summer is winding down and temperatures are starting to cool off in many parts of the country. But, there are still several more weeks of great outdoor cooking weather left (or months if you’re in the south). And, if you are in the market for a new grill and wondering when is the best time to buy a grill or smoker, you’ve come to the right place.
In this article, we’ve got the scoop on the best time to buy a BBQ grill, what to look for, and also when you should not try and buy one.
You can usually start to find pretty good prices on grills and smokers starting after the 4th of July. But, if you are really wanting to find the best deals, those are going to happen between September and November as the current “grilling season” is winding down.
This is usually when there won’t be a lot of people shopping for grills and local stores will be wanting to get rid of the remaining ones that they still have to make room for winter holiday inventory.
So, depending on where you’re located, you can snag a good grill at a great price and have a brand new cooker to use through the remainder of the year or store it away to use brand new at the start of the next season.
These late summer-early fall deals will usually apply to somewhat standard grills that are good for the average backyard-cooking enthusiast. If you are looking to level up your BBQ game with a more competition-worthy cooker straight from the manufacturer, you may not find as steep of discounts but it’s not impossible to get a good price.
Look for deals as a new model comes out. In many cases, when new models are released, the previous model can be found on sale on the company website.
Source: Outdoor Living Concepts
(*Note: The above image is an example of a previous sale that happened and does not reflect a current sale.)
Here are some easy tips to follow to ensure you get a good grill at a sale price you’ll be happy with:
If you are wanting to buy a BBQ grill but not wanting to spend the money on a new grill or smoker quite yet, look at buying a used grill. You can get some really great deals on these as well if you know when to look.
When it comes to used grills, the best time to buy one is during the peak “moving season”, which is during the summer months. This is the time when many people are moving and having big sales to offload the items they will not be taking with them. So, look out for moving sales in your area, check on Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist, or even local thrift stores. Chances are you can find a lightly used grill at a good price.
Make sure you have the capability while you are out looking to quickly pull up more information on grills you come across. Then you can check the original sale price, features, reviews, etc.
Source: Guardian Storage
Whether you are buying a new grill or a used grill, the asking price you see is probably not the lowest you could get it for. To get the best deal, don’t be afraid to negotiate. This is especially true for floor models in stores and at moving sales. In both of these situations, the seller needs these grills to go because they may not have somewhere to put them soon.
So, make a lower offer for the grill. The worst that can happen is the seller says no. Then you can negotiate with the seller until you find a number that you’re both happy with. But, chances are, you’ll score a great deal on a cooker.
Just like there is a certain time of the year that you’ll find the best prices on grills, there’s also a time you should not be trying to buy a grill if you want to get a deal. You’ll find the highest prices on grills and smokers from March through June.
As the demand for outdoor cookers goes up at the start of peak grilling season so will the prices. Then, they’ll likely stay fairly high until the end of the summer.
Sure, you’ll find a larger selection of grills and smokers during this time. But, if you are really wanting to find a deal, just do your research during this time. Then wait for prices to go down once you get into September.
Occasionally, there are good flash deals throughout the summer on grills. So, make sure you look at the weekly store deals regularly. You may be able to snag a great price on a grill even during peak season.
Source: Green Acres Outdoor Living
As you can see, if you are patient and wait until the end of grilling season, you can find some great deals on new grills. If you’re leaning towards a used grill, zero in on people who are moving and not planning on taking their grill with them. Either way, it’s definitely possible to get a good grill that will last you for a while without having to shell out a ton of money.
Have you snagged a good deal on a new grill recently? Recently seen any great deals online? Leave a comment below. We want to hear about it!
Once you get your new grill, if you are wanting to step up your grilling skills and impress your family and friends, check out our step-by-step virtual Championship Backyard Cooking Classes here at BBQ Champs Academy. You’ll learn directly from Champion Grillmaster and Pitmasters how to perfectly cook a variety of different backyard favorites.
Want to kick your outdoor cooking up to competition level? Get your All-Access pass now for our one-of-a-kind online, competition BBQ cooking classes with the pros. You’ll get all the insider smoking and grilling techniques broken down step-by-step, as well as competition-BBQ tips, and much more. You can start cooking competition-caliber meats today!
Make sure to also subscribe to our YouTube channel and get recaps of all the latest competition BBQ news, interviews with Champion Pitmasters and Grillmasters, and insider info straight from the source.
*Feature image courtesy of Forbes
If it is time to clean your grill or smoker, you may already be anticipating a battle against grease and carbon buildup. It may be tempting to reach for a concentrated grill cleaner solution at the store to help give you an advantage and shorten cleaning time.
But, some all-natural items will help you clean just as effectively (if not better) and allow you to avoid heavy toxins. The last thing you want when you go to cook your quality meats is a lingering smell or taste of chemicals.
In this article, we’ll break down some powerful natural grill cleaning options using things you probably already have around the house. Plus, how to make your own homemade grill cleaner to have on hand.
Keeping your cooker clean and ready to go for every use is not only safer when it comes to using your grill or smoker, but will also give you better tasting barbecue and extend the life of your cooker.
Using natural products will help ensure your food’s flavor isn’t tainted by harsh chemicals either. Some concentrated grill cleaners contain skin and respiratory irritants. That’s the last thing you want to be added to your meat or veggies on your cooker.
So, here are a few of the household items you can use to keep your grill spotless and help ensure you keep cooking great tasting food. All while knowing exactly what you’re cleaning your cooker with:
Source: Kitchen Guru Ideas
White vinegar is one of the best natural cleaners around. This is due, in large part, to the acetic acid in it. Due to its acidic nature, vinegar is effective in dissolving grease, carbon, dirt, and mineral deposits.
To use white vinegar on your grill, mix equal parts of vinegar and water in a spray bottle. Make sure the grill or smoker is cool and then spray the solution on, especially making sure to saturate the grates. Let the vinegar sit for 10 minutes to allow it to break down grease and grime.
You can then use a ball of aluminum foil, sprayed with more vinegar, to rub the grates and interior down. Vinegar is not dangerous to ingest so you don’t have to rinse the grates off if you don’t want to.
Baking soda can be used for much more than your favorite cookie recipe. Combine this neutral compound with vinegar and you’ve got a dynamic duo of natural cleaning. When you combine the two, the acid-based reaction causes the solution to bubble up and break down even tough grease and carbon.
When it’s time to clean your cooker, put the grill grates in a large heavy-duty trash bag or plastic tub with a two-to-one mix of vinegar and baking soda. Leave the grates to sit overnight and then remove them from the solution and rinse off. If there’s any residue still left, a quick brush with a stainless-steel grill brush should easily remove it.
As you may have gathered by now, naturally acidic items do wonders for cleaning a grill. That is why both onions and lemons also make great options for natural grill cleaners, as they break down grease and food residue. Simply warm up your grill grates, cut an onion or lemon in half, hold it with tongs or a grill fork, and rub it cut side down over the grates.
If you have a lot of buildup on the grates, you can even dip the lemon in some salt to add a slightly abrasive surface. Only use salt if you’ve got a lot of buildup on the cooker’s surfaces. You never want to use anything abrasive directly on the grates or grill surface.
Yes, it's true, beer can help clean your grill or smoker. This is due to the carbonation and the fact that it is acidic with a low pH level. Pour half a bottle of beer over the grates and grease trap and then scrub them with aluminum foil, a stainless-steel grill brush, or a clean rag. Then pair the other half of that beer with your delicious barbecue.
Source: Root and Revel
Hot steam works wonders on cleaning a grill or smoker. It helps to loosen food residue and can make wiping down your grill grates much easier. Get your grill grates warm, safely remove them from your grill using high-heat grill gloves, and then rub a wet clean rag over the grates to utilize the steam cleaning.
Or, even better, a portable clothes steamer can make this even easier. There are even steam grill brushes available now as well, which have a steamer capability built into a handled grill brush.
You always want to remove the racks from the grill before steaming because the water can cause certain parts of your grill or smoker to rust. With a handheld steamer, you can direct the steam directly to the area that needs the most attention. Make sure to dry the racks off immediately after steaming.
This all-purpose natural grill cleaner recipe combines three powerful household items and makes the perfect cleaner to use on the grates, grill/grease pan, lid interior, and more.
All-Purpose Homemade Grill Cleaner Recipe
1 tablespoon of baking soda
1 tablespoon of distilled white vinegar
1 tablespoon of Sal Suds (or similar natural/biodegradable cleaner)
1 ball or sheet of aluminum foil
2 tablespoons of avocado oil spray (or similar high-heat oil)
Instructions for use:
As you can see, it can be very easy to clean your grill or smoker naturally using household items that pack a punch. You’ll end up with better results, without harsh chemicals, and protect the delicious flavor of your cooking. A homemade grill cleaner will also end up saving you money in the long run.
Combine the natural ingredients/items we covered above with the tips we cover in our grill cleaning article and keep your cooker spotless and ready to go!
Do you have a favorite natural grill cleaning method? Know of another homemade grill cleaner recipe? Leave a comment below. We want to hear from you!
Make sure to also check out our YouTube channel for the insider info, tips, and BBQ news straight from the pros. Click “Subscribe” to see all the latest from BBQ Champs Academy!
This year has flown by and the holidays are fast approaching. Chances are you might still have family or friends that are asking you what you want for Christmas. They may know you love cooking barbecue but are they actually going to get you something you need and will use?
As an outdoor cooking fan, you know what you like and what would come in handy. So, you may already have most of the essential accessories you need for every cooking session. You want things that will help you become the pitmaster or grillmaster you aim to be. But, when they ask, it may be hard to pinpoint something to tell them. That’s why we’ve put together this great list of unique BBQ gift ideas you can share.
Check out the list below for some handy gifts for BBQ lovers, along with some things you may not have even thought of:
When you want great tasting barbecue, much of that additional flavor comes down to using high-quality ingredients in your homemade rubs and barbecue sauce. So maybe you’ve got your own recipes down pat (and written down like mentioned above) and you know which ingredients you use a lot of. Or maybe you’re ready to try a new recipe. Why not share what you need with your loved one. A package of those ingredients, fresh and/or high quality, will be very useful.
If you’re not opting for homemade, maybe you have a favorite premade seasoning mix or rub, or one you’ve been eyeing to try. Go ahead and ask for that as a gift. It will be great to have it on hand when you’re ready to get cooking next.
Source: B & B Charcoal
Some of the best BBQ smoker gifts will be things that you know will come in handy. Whether you like to use wood chips, chunks, or pellets, you know that good wood is a great way to impart that delicious smoky flavor onto your food. You also know, as a serious outdoor cooker, you’ll be going through a lot of it.
What better gift than an assortment of different types of your favorite hardwood to cook with, from Hickory to Applewood and anything in between. You can play “mad scientist” and try out different wood and meat combinations and have plenty on hand.
One thing you may not think of for yourself when it comes to things you need for your outdoor cooking is a good quality notebook or journal. But this can be a very useful and important tool. Serious pitmasters and grillmasters, especially when they are first trying new techniques or recipes, write everything down.
So, why not have your own BBQ journal. You could even go for a good leather-bound one, which you know will hold up, and have it personalized on the outside. Use it to store all of your homemade barbecue sauce or rub recipes and more.
Ask any serious outdoor cooking expert and chances are, one of their most valued accessories is quality knives. This is especially true when it comes to a boning knife, which is great for trimming your meats.
The good thing is, you don’t have to spend a ton of money to find high-quality outdoor cooking knives. Many of the top brands sell the knives individually or in sets.
When you are mastering how to cook a brisket, one thing you’ll learn is the importance of injecting the meat and how it can help get a delicious and juicy final result. So, if you are going to inject meat, you need the right tools. You want a good quality stainless steel meat injector that holds 2 ounces or more to do the job properly.
It won’t take long to learn that another very handy barbecuing accessory is good heat resistant gloves. Whether you are grabbing your chimney starter or moving meats around on your grill or in the smoker, gloves that are resistant to high temperatures will be extremely useful. Make sure the ones you are looking at have a non-slip exterior while still allowing your fingers full dexterity.
Another handy item to have when you start smoking big meats, like a brisket, is a high-quality cooler. With it, you’ll have plenty of room, in an insulated space, to hold your meat at temperature and let it rest. Some great high-quality options even have storage compartments built-in along with a fold-out cutting board.
Barometric pressure, air temperatures, wind speed, and direction all play a big factor in your outdoor cooking. Having a handheld wireless weather station can give you everything you need to know in one glance. Thus, allowing you to be proactive and make vent adjustments, fuel source adjustments, etc and maintain temperatures without fighting against the elements.
We’re coming into the start of winter, but cold weather doesn’t have to deter you from cooking some great-tasting meat. One thing that can definitely help if you are wanting to barbecue or smoke in cold weather is an insulated welding or smoker blanket. These heavy blankets that wrap the exterior of your cooker help keep it warm and dry, helping you maintain proper internal temperatures even in winter weather.
The blankets will still provide enough airflow while protecting your smoker from the cold elements without catching fire.
We may be a little biased, but we believe that our tell-all online BBQ cooking classes with our Pitmasters and Grillmasters here at BBQ Champs Academy make one of the best BBQ gifts you could ask for. What better way to learn how to master your grill or smoker and cook like the Champions do than to learn straight from them. With our classes, you’ll learn everything you need to know, step-by-step, plus tons of insider tips and tricks.
Just tell your family or friends that you want one of our BBQ Champs Academy gift cards. Then you’ll have the freedom to select exactly which outdoor cooking pro you want to learn from, specifically which meats you want to master, or even our All Access Pass.
Source: Green Mountain Grills
We’ll round out our list with a big one that would probably be one of any outdoor cookers favorite BBQ gifts. If you have been looking to really elevate your outdoor cooking game, why not up the ante with a new smoker? A perfect example would be if you’ve adapted your kettle grill to work as a smoker. Having a proper smoker, whether it is a pellet smoker, an offset smoker, or another type, can enable you to cook some great tasting barbecue like never before.
Check out our blog post on the different types of smokers to help you determine which kind might be the right fit for you.
Can you think of some other unique gifts for BBQ lovers? What’s something you hope you’ll find under the tree to use during your next outdoor cooking session? Let us know below. We want to hear from you!
Check out our YouTube channel for the latest videos and insider info. Make sure to hit that subscribe button so you’ll stay up to date on all the latest from BBQ Champs Academy!
When it comes to barbecue, there is a science to making great-tasting meat and a lot of different techniques involved. You’ll also find tons of different tips, tricks, competition BBQ secrets and hear varying opinions from different BBQ pitmasters of what works best.
But, there are definitely some clear dos and don’ts. As well as some common smoking, barbecuing, and grilling myths that you may have heard and need some clearing up. In this article, we’ll break down and debunk some common barbecue myths with the help of our Champion pitmasters. Let’s take a look:
Surprisingly, there are still people (and quite a few books) that recommend you soak your wood chips or chunks for several hours before smoking. The theory behind it is that it will keep the wood from burning up quickly.
This is a myth for several reasons. The first one should be pretty obvious if you really think about it. Wood chips and chunks float. Even after soaking them for a few hours. Boats are often made of wood, because wood floats. By soaking your wood before smoking, you will actually mainly produce a bunch of steam at first which will reduce the temperature of your fire and you won’t be imparting any extra flavor.
Another main reason you should not soak your wood first is that it will negatively affect the quality of your smoke. For best results, you want thin blue smoke. To get blue smoke you need dry wood, a hot fire, and plenty of oxygen. So, don’t worry about your wood catching fire, let it burn and get that blue smoke rolling.
You may have heard from someone that if you let your meat rest in a marinade longer before cooking that it will taste better. This is entirely not true. Marinades simply cannot penetrate into the meat further than about ⅛” therefore making them primarily a surface treatment.
Meat is naturally already packed full of about 75% water. So, there isn’t much room for any more liquid. Plus, many marinades are oil-based, so there’s no way the oil can get past the water in the meat. The outside of the meat will absorb the flavor of the marinade and if there is sugar present it can help create the nice exterior bark.
The exception is if it’s mainly salt, in which case it would actually be a brine. Salt does react chemically and electrically with the water in the meat and can penetrate down into the meat itself.
So, skip wasting time by marinating overnight and enjoy the delicious flavor of the meat itself.
There are still plenty of chicken recipes that say that the chicken is done cooking when you slice or stab it and the juices run clear and not pink. Following this thinking could actually result in extremely overcooked meat or meat so undercooked it’ll make you sick.
The “clear juices” rule may have been true a long time ago, but with today’s environmental factors, differing levels of acidity in meat, pre-slaughter environment and factors you can’t go by the juices. Or even just by looking at the meat and bone color.
The only trusted way to tell if your chicken is done is to go by the internal temperature using a good meat thermometer. Cook until internal temperature reaches no less than 160 degrees in the breast and 175 degrees in the thigh.
The phrase “if you’re lookin you ain’t cookin” was actually created by Weber Grills in 1952 as a catchy slogan to promote the use of lids on their grills. This is one of the most common barbecue myths. Even though you may still hear people say that opening the lid to your grill or smoker increases cooking time, it’s been scientifically proven that this phrase isn’t much more than a catchy slogan.
Yes, it is true that when you open the cooker the internal temperature of the cooker may decrease slightly but there is actually very little, if any, decrease of the internal temperature of the meat. Your meat will continue to cook by conduction at a steadily increasing internal temperature. So don’t fear, if you want to open your cooker to baste or rotate your meat you’ll be fine.
For some outdoor cookers, their goal when smoking meat is to achieve the perfect smoke ring, the pink band on the outer rim of the meat just below the crust. It is a common myth that the smoke ring means the meat is perfectly flavored. It is NOT all about the smoke ring.
A smoke ring indeed looks great, but it doesn’t actually have much to do with the smoky flavor of the meat. The pink ring is the result of a chemical reaction between the gasses in the smoke and protein molecules in meat when the meat is cooked “low and slow.” You might be able to see the smoke ring but you can’t taste it.
To really get a nice flavor to the meat, focus less on achieving a perfect smoke ring and more on starting with good quality meat and cooking it patiently at consistent temperatures with that nice thin blue smoke.
These are just a few of the most common barbecue myths that are heard these days. To help ensure you’re cooking great tasting meat it’s important to make sure you have good quality meat, some tried and true techniques, are adequately prepared ahead of time and have plenty of patience.
Have you recently had experience with any of these myths? Have you busted any other barbecue myths yourself? Leave a comment below and tell us about it. We want to hear from you!
The valuable information above, as well as competition-winning tips and tricks, is the kind of bbq education you’ll get from our champion Pitmasters and Grillmasters here at BBQ Champs Academy. We can help you take your smoking, barbecuing, and grilling to new levels like never before. Join our first-of-its-kind tell-all online barbecue school and learn the best techniques and secrets straight from the champions. Check out the all-access pass today!
One thing many Americans can agree on is that the taste of good BBQ is a favorite staple. But, depending on where in the U.S. you’re eating it, the flavors may taste very different than your neighbors’ a state away. At the start of the 20th century, with the rise of more and more BBQ restaurants, the pitmasters within different regions each started crafting their own unique barbecue identity. From different types of wood for the fire, different cuts of meat, and different sauces and rubs.
There are now a large number of distinct regional barbecue styles throughout the U.S. Each with its own unique flavor profile based on some of the popular local ingredients and taste preferences. Some are a tangier mustard-based flavor, while some offer a brown sugar sweetness.
Let’s take a look at some of the most well-known regional barbecue styles in America and how they all taste a little different:
Often referred to as the “world’s barbecue capital”, it’s clear the Kansas City knows how to cook barbecue and does it for a large array of meats. Barbecue has been prevalent in the area since the early 1900s. All because of a man named Henry Perry who was serving up barbecue with his secret dry rub from an inner-city pit near the Garment District.
That dry rub tradition still continues today in Kansas City. Meats including beef and pork ribs, chicken, pulled pork, brisket, and sausage are all cooked over hickory wood and dry-rubbed. You’ll also find a large variety of sauces available on the side. But, most sauce recipes in the area include tomato and molasses to create a thick, tangy and sweet sauce.
One barbecue item Kansas City has become known for is burnt ends. These charred tips of beef brisket are a popular staple on barbecue restaurant menus throughout the city.
Some may argue that St. Louis could hold its own as the “barbecue capital” since residents consume more barbecue in this city per capita than anywhere else in the country.
One clear distinction of St. Louis barbecue is pitmasters prefer to grill then sauce versus dry rub and smoke. The barbecue sauce is somewhat similar to Kansas City in that it is a sweeter tomato-based sauce. You’ll most often find it served as a thick sauce, but it can also be found in thinner varieties or sometimes with a tangier and spicier flavor.
St. Louis is known for its pork spare ribs that are trimmed perfectly neat and clean. But don’t think the trimmings go to waste. These are cooked and popularly served as “rib tips”. You’ll also find thin-cut pork shoulder steak that is either seared and smoked or simmered in a slow cooker with plenty of sauce.
When people think of barbecue in Tennessee, the first thought is often Memphis-style barbecue. This is no surprise, especially when many people will argue that Memphis pork ribs put up a good fight against St. Louis ribs. The difference is that Memphis-style barbecue is slow-cooked in a pit with a paprika-based dry rub versus a wet sauce. Although you will often find a thinner, vinegar and tomato-based sauce served on the side.
Throughout Tennessee, you’ll find great-tasting barbecue and pork is definitely a favorite. You’ll find ribs, chopped pork, and pulled pork. In Eastern Tennessee, whole hog cooking is a favorite alongside a thick, tomato-based sweet and spicy barbecue sauce.
Source: Memphis Dry Rub Ribs From Serious Eats
One thing is for sure, Texans know how to smoke a brisket. Texas is home to great beef cuts of world-famous Texas steer, thus great barbecue beef brisket and beef short ribs. It is also where you’ll find four distinct regional barbecue styles: Central, East, West, and South.
Central Texas barbecue is the most well-known Texas-style. This style involves smoking beef brisket over oak (or sometimes pecan) and hardly using any barbecue sauce. The meat flavor speaks for itself and is often just seasoned with salt and pepper and sliced. You’ll also find a lot of sausage making due to German immigrant influences.
East Texas is an area that prefers the flavor imparted by hickory wood and often slathers the meat with a tangy, tomato-based barbecue sauce. You’ll mainly find chopped beef and pork as the favorite cuts for East Texas BBQ.
West Texas is where you’ll find more of the cowboy style of barbecuing that is done over an open fire and direct heat.
Finally, South Texas style is based on the barbacoa traditions, taken from Mexico, where slow-cooking is done in a covered pit.
North Carolina offers two distinct regional barbecue styles of great-tasting flavor. In Eastern North Carolina, you’ll find that whole hog smoking over hickory wood is the preferred method. The meat is then mopped with a spicy vinegar-based sauce made from vinegar, salt, and red pepper before being chopped.
In Western North Carolina is where the style often referred to as “Lexington style” comes from. This barbecue style revolves around pork shoulder that is smoked to let the skin caramelize and form a crispy layer, then sliced or chopped. The preferred sauce is the vinegar-based sauce from Eastern Carolina but with tomato and brown sugar added.
South Carolina barbecue is another style that revolves around whole hog cooking, but extra slow and over low temperatures. But, there are several distinct barbecue sauce flavor profiles you’ll find throughout the state.
One of the most popular being a sauce referred to as “Carolina Gold”. South Carolina makes up the first of the states within the “Mustard Belt” of barbecue sauce. Carolina Gold sauce came from German Immigrant influences and is a pungent mustard-based sauce with brown sugar and vinegar.
In contrast to that sauce, in the Pee Dee region of the state, you’ll find a vinegar-based sauce very similar to Eastern North Carolina. Then, in the Midlands and Low Country areas of South Carolina, you’ll find a mustard-tinged bright red sauce that is sweeter and tangier.
Source: Carolina Gold BBQ Sauce From Self Proclaimed Foodie
Georgia is usually not one of the first places that is thought of when you say barbecue, but it is definitely still the home to some great tasting meat. Throughout the state, chopped smoked pork is the most prevalent cut you’ll find.
You’ll often find the pork served with a thin, savory barbecue sauce that has more tomato than the Carolina sauces. But, with Georgia also being included in the “Mustard Belt” of barbecue sauce, you’ll also find a tangy, mustard-based sauce similar to Carolina Gold available.
Another popular staple at Georgia BBQ restaurants is Brunswick Stew, which is a delicious mix of corn, chopped smoked pork, and potatoes.
Alabama is home to some great southern barbecue. Local pitmasters in Alabama also prefer the flavor of hickory smoke and cook an abundance of smoked pork shoulder and barbecue chicken.
One thing that Alabama style barbecue has become famous for is a sauce known as “Alabama White Sauce”. This is a Northern Alabama mayo-based white sauce with vinegar and black pepper that was invented in 1925 at Decatur’s Big Bob Gibson BBQ restaurant.
But, throughout the rest of the state, you’ll find some very different flavor profiles of barbecue sauces. The “Mustard Belt” reaches into the Tuscaloosa area where you’ll find a spicy, mustard and vinegar-based sauce as well as in Southeast Alabama where you’ll find a mustard sauce similar to Carolina Gold. In the Birmingham area, you’ll find a sweet and spicy tomato-based sauce.
Chicago is another area that may not be on the top of your mind when it comes to barbecue but is definitely not one to be dismissed. Barbecue in Chicago picked up in the mid-20th century with a surge of Mississippi Delta natives to the city’s Southside.
Chicago-style barbecue offers ribs, rib tips, and spicy sausage known as hot links smoked over hickory for shorter periods. This makes the rib meat stay a little thicker and stick to the bone. If you ask a local Chicago barbecue lover, chances are they definitely don’t like soft meat falling off the bone. It’s a texture thing. You’ll also find the meat doused in a sweet, tomato-based sauce.
One defining characteristic of Chicago barbecue is that it is cooked in what are known as “aquarium smokers”. These are large, rectangle smokers with plexiglass construction so that pitmasters can visually keep an eye on the meat without opening the smoker.
Source: Eater Chicago
Kentucky barbecue varies wildly from county to county across the state. Throughout the Eastern part of the state, the barbecue is mainly pork based with things like chopped or pulled pork shoulder and pork steaks smoked over hickory. In this part of Kentucky, you’ll also find sauce flavors that are similar to North Carolina.
In Owensboro and throughout Western Kentucky is where you’ll find an abundance of mutton, meat from mature sheep, being served. You’ll find pulled or chopped mutton as well as what is known as burgoo. This is a hearty stew of roasted mutton and a variety of other meats. The barbecue sauce throughout this region is a Worchestire-heavy sauce with allspice. Eastern Kentucky also uses this sauce or a more vinegar-based sauce.
As you can see, there are many different regional barbecue styles and flavors throughout the U.S. You may even have a favorite that you prefer. The good thing is, with the number of BBQ restaurants and pitmasters around the country now, you can get each of these styles without having to travel too far.
Perfecting some of these particular regional styles and other BBQ techniques are just some of what you’ll learn in our first-of-its-kind online BBQ cooking school here at BBQ Champs Academy. You can even try your hand at some great championship backyard recipes using regional influences. Our world-champion pitmasters and grillmasters will have you cooking mouth-watering barbecue in no time.
Do you have a favorite regional barbecue style? Do you know of another style or secret “local favorite”? Leave a comment below. We want to hear from you!
Within the last six years, American-style barbecue has exploded across Australia. Not just with the number of backyard cookers, but specifically when it comes to competition BBQ.
“Low and slow” barbecue cooking techniques, synonymous with American barbecue, are being shared throughout the country and attracting many fans. Just like in the U.S., more and more BBQ competitions are popping up and becoming a hobby for the whole family. Nick Cooper, of Australian barbecue team Scotch & Smoke BBQ, is just as much a fan of the way barbecue brings people together as he is the competition. “There’s the competition side of it but it’s also like going away camping with all mates, but you but cook barbecue, get some beers and we turn it into a family adventure as well because my wife and daughter come along too,” Cooper told the Australia Daily Telegraph.
There are now over 400 competition BBQ teams throughout Australia. There were just 20 teams less than five years ago. Barbecue smoker manufacturer Hark Smokers of Australia has seen sales of competition-grade smokers increase at least 25% year over year for the last five years. These numbers are clear indicators that American-style BBQ has cemented its place in the hearts of many Australian’s and doesn’t seem to be stopping anytime soon. Michael Willcocks, co-founder of BadAss BBQ, a Sydney-based competition barbecue team can attest to that. "I've always been fond of outdoor cooking and once the competition scene launched in Australia I thought, 'I have to be a part of this'," Willcocks said.
As interest in American-style barbecue began to really take hold across Australia and more and more backyard cookers were wanting to get into the competitive side of BBQ, the Australasian Barbecue Association (ABA) was formed in 2014. The Association sanctions and promotes BBQ competitions throughout Australia and New Zealand.
In its first year, the ABA saw 20 teams participate in competitions throughout both countries. In 2019, that number skyrocketed to nearly 400 teams. Teams now have the opportunity to compete in an Australia National Championship based on aggregate points accrued across the regional series of competitions known as the Australian Barbeques Galore Championship Series.
Some of Australia’s biggest BBQ competition events and now drawing a hundred teams and thousands of spectators. Including the Buffalo Trace Australian Barbecue Wars and the two-day BBQ and music festivals known as Meatstock.
There are now also several BBQ competitions throughout Australia that are sanctioned by the Kansas City Barbeque Society (KCBS). Like the Northeast BeerBQ Festival in Bundalong this month.
As the growth of BBQ continues to explode across Australia, we’re also seeing more and more American World Champion BBQ pitmasters and grillmasters traveling down under. Not only to participate as judges in local BBQ competitions but also to share their knowledge and techniques.
One example of these great pitmasters who have made the trip, and is thoroughly impressed with the fledgling barbecue scene in Australia, is Big Moe Cason of Ponderosa BBQ and the US reality TV show, BBQ Pitmaster. “Australia is embracing all sorts of styles from the US including the seasoning, design of the smokers, cuts of meat yet still creating their own flavors by using native woods like Ironbark,” he said. “It is where the US was 15 years ago, which is a massive accomplishment considering how long the US has had this style of barbecue”.
There has also been an influx of Australian competition BBQ teams making the trip to the US to compete in BBQ competitions throughout the country. For example, the World Championship BBQ Cooking Contest at the Memphis In May International Festival saw several Australian teams competing. Including Smoking Jokers Australia who took home 2nd place in the Serve Turkey Turkey Smoke category. Also, Australian entrant Grant Coleman and his BBQ team surprised many seasoned U.S. BBQ pitmasters at the renowned 2018 Houston Livestock Show’s World’s Championship Bar-B-Que Contest when he finished runner-up in the coveted brisket division. His win marked the first time in history in a major US barbecue competition that a non-US resident finished as a top-ten finalist. Let alone win a major trophy.
Source: ABC News Australia
For Aussies’ today, the competition bug has bitten and you can smell American-style BBQ brisket and pork shoulder in the air throughout Australia. The growth and popularity of American-style competition BBQ have exploded across the country over the last several years and continues to trend upward. Even in backyards throughout Australia, American-style BBQ is becoming a favorite.
So, don’t tell your Aussie’ friend to “throw another shrimp on the barbie” (and FYI, they don’t really say that and they are actually called prawns in Australia). There are hundreds of Australians today who can hold their own alongside some of the great American World-Champion BBQ pitmasters. What is more important is the love of great American barbecue being shared between countries.
Have you seen some of these Australian teams in action at U.S. events? Or maybe even traveled to Australia and tried American-style BBQ? Leave a comment below. We want to hear about it!
Learn the same “low and slow” cooking techniques that these BBQ-loving Australians are using to sweep the competitions. Join World-class BBQ pitmasters and grillmasters in our first-of-its-kind online BBQ cooking classes at BBQ Champs Academy. Built for everyone from competition-caliber BBQ enthusiasts to the backyard cooker.
UPDATE: Since this article was originally written, we have encountered the COVID-19 pandemic. Please make sure to follow the links to each competition's website to check for any changes in format or dates due to the pandemic.
Whether you are in the Southeast or Pacific Northwest and anywhere in between, BBQ is a favorite staple. Outdoor cooking and entertaining has become American traditions all across the country. Combine great tasting barbecue (and often great whiskey and beer) with live music, competition, and other outdoor activities, and it’s a great time you don’t want to miss. At these BBQ festivals and competitions, you’ll also often have the opportunity to see some of the top BBQ pitmasters and grillmasters in action up close and personal. Maybe even try your hand at some competition cooking.
Thousands of people flock to these events all over the country throughout the year. Each part of the country offers BBQ events that vary a little in features and types of BBQ. But one thing is true. Every single one will offer the opportunity to try more types and forms of great BBQ than you could probably comfortably eat.
Let’s take a look at some of the best BBQ festivals & competitions you’ll want to check out in 2020. In date order:
February 27-29, 2020
Source: Houston Press
Any true BBQ aficionado knows one yearly event that is definitely a must-visit, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo World's Championship Bar-B-Que Contest. Started in 1974, this 3-day world-class caliber competition brings in over 250 pitmaster teams. Most of the BBQ team tents are invitation-only, but festival-goers can enjoy several public venues, like The Garden, Rockin' Bar-B-Que Saloon, and the Chuck Wagon.
In the Chuck Wagon, visitors can pick up their complimentary sliced brisket plate with chips and beans so you can still taste some great competition BBQ. Plus, the festival features a carnival with wild rides and fun games. Also, the Miller Lite Garden Stage features some of the best and up-and-coming artists in Texas country. Enjoy more live and DJ music in The Rockin' Bar-B-Que Saloon which has an outside patio as well.
June 27-28th, 2020
Source: Washington Times
What better place to bring together all of the country’s top BBQ pitmasters, grillmasters, and outdoor cooking experts than right on Pennsylvania Avenue in our nation’s capital? The Giant® National Capital Barbecue Battle is one of the year’s biggest BBQ cooking competitions and food & music festival, sanctioned by the Kansas City Barbecue Society (KCBS). For the past 27 years, this event has also raised millions of dollars for area charities.
This family-friendly event draws tens of thousands of people and allows the opportunity to watch some of the best World Champion Pitmasters go head-to-head to become Grand Champion. The Battle includes multiple competition categories, like the “Perdue Sizzlin’ Chicken Contest”, “True Aussie Lamb Contest”, and the “National Pork Barbecue Championship”. Enjoy live music from greats like The Spindoctors (a 2019 headliner for the event) and some of the best BBQ you can taste.
Held in the beautiful Adirondacks at the popular summer getaway, Lake Placid, NY, the I Love BBQ & Music Festival is just that. A combination of great outdoor cooking and great music. You can also enjoy a large motorcycle parade to celebrate the Independence Day holiday.
This three-day festival offers great live entertainment as well as a large BBQ cooking competition also sanctioned by the KCBS. The competition includes traditional categories like Best New Strip Ribeye Steak or Best Chicken, but also unique categories like Fatty or Desert. Watch some great BBQ pitmasters in action, or take part in the competition yourself, and enjoy the delicious food and fun that the festival has on offer.
If you love BBQ, there is no doubt that the immersive American Royal World Series of Barbecue, Kansas City’s biggest party, should be on your bucket list. The 4-day event is held at the Kansas Speedway and, as another of the longest-running BBQ festivals, is going on its 41st year. This is also the world’s largest barbecue competition, drawing over 500 BBQ teams from all over the world and over 50,000 spectators. Competitors vie for the opportunity to be crowned Grand Champion in the Invitational Competition, Open Competition, Sides Competition, and Kids Que.
This festival and competition offer something for everyone with incredible live music, rodeo and equine events, vendors from all over the country, kid’s events and activities, and of course delicious food.
October 24th, 2020
Source: The Barbecue Festival
Going on its 37th year, The Barbecue Festival, a one-day event held in Lexington, NC, is sure to offer great BBQ and a great event. This event centers around one type of popular BBQ: “Lexington style”. A tangy, vinegar-based sauce, slightly sweetened and reddened with ketchup.
Showcasing some of the best BBQ in the world, The Barbecue Festival, features over 200 food and arts & crafts vendors, seven entertainment stages, live music and entertainment, an antique car show, racing pigs, and even pigtail fries.
These are just a few of the best festivals and BBQ competitions happening throughout the year across America. Check out these events for a guaranteed great time, try some world-class BBQ, and even possibly have the opportunity to learn some great tips and tricks from some of the world’s best BBQ pitmasters and grillmasters.
Have you been to any of these great competitions or festivals? Or some other great ones that we didn’t include? Leave a comment below. We want to hear from you!
Don’t worry, you don’t have to wait until one of these competitions or festivals to learn some great pitmaster techniques from some of these barbecue experts. Here at BBQ Champs Academy, these are the types of things you’ll learn up close and personal from top award-winning BBQ pitmasters and grillmasters in our online bbq cooking school. Everything from how to make sure you have everything you will need ready beforehand to how to select the best beef for barbecue. Check out our all-access passes and individual classes for more information on our online BBQ classes.