Some people insist on a lot of fancy equipment to make great barbecue, but they’re wrong. I should know: Since I entered my first barbecue contest in 1981, I have won more awards than I can count (maybe more than 400 of them), and when I compete, I use an $18,000 custom-designed cooker. But to make competition-worthy barbecue at home, you need only a basic kettle grill, a chimney starter and a cooking thermometer.
When I started competing, I didn’t want to share my secrets. At 2 a.m., I’d be at my pit with a penlight in my mouth to hide my work. But other competitors would wake up to watch. Now I conduct master classes, and I don’t win as many contests because my students beat me. I continue to compete because I love great barbecue: slow-cooked, tender, moist and packed with intense flavors. One student, Andrew Fischel, convinced me to help him open RUB (Righteous Urban Barbecue) in New York City in 2005. This summer we’ll open a second branch of RUB in the Rio casino in Las Vegas. We’re not the only ones who love great barbecue.
Whether you’re a pro or a beginner, the technique is the same: low and slow. Compared to grilling, which means cooking quickly over high heat (400° to 450°), barbecuing takes four times as long and almost half the heat (anything below 250°).