5 Steps to Becoming a Backyard Barbecue Master

Kelsey Brown
Chef Daniel Wright of Pontiac barbecue and bourbon bar in Cincinnati is on a mission: to get cooks out of the kitchen and into the backyard this summer. Here, he shares five steps to transforming barbecue neophytes into full-fledged smoker superstars.

Cincinnati chef Daniel Wright is not only a hot dog whisperer at his flagship restaurant Senate; at Pontiac barbecue and bourbon bar, he's a genius with smoked meat. This summer, he's on a mission: to get more cooks out of the kitchen and into the backyard. Here, he shares five steps to transforming barbecue neophytes into full-fledged smoker superstars.

1. Choose your woods wisely. Fruity woods, like cherry and apple, and heartier woods, like mesquite and hickory, work well with pork. When smoking beef and poultry, stick with oak, hickory or mesquite.

2. Massage your meat. For beef, we are salt and coarse pepper purists: This simple rub before smoking allows the wood to create the bold flavor. But when it comes to pork and poultry, go nuts: mix a little sugar, salt and a few of your favorite spices, and rub it in. We're big fans of cumin, paprika, dry mustard and chili powder.

3. Spritz, spritz, spritz. After about two hours of smoking, spray your meat once an hour with a little apple cider or cider vinegar. This will keep your meat moist.

4. Wrap it up. After about six hours of smoking, your brisket or pork shoulder will have taken on a good amount of smoke—enough to leave a beautiful smoke ring without overpowering the meat. Try wrapping the meat in butcher paper at that point and returning it to the smoker for the remainder of the cook time. Smaller, thinner cuts like ribs can ride it out naked.

5. Slather on sauce. When it comes to sauces, everyone has an opinion, based on where they're from. I think a well-balanced sauce needs a bit of heat, a little sweetness and a good touch of acidity. I suggest experimenting until you've got it right. A little molasses, ketchup, cider vinegar and a pinch of dry rub usually do the trick. Combine that with a properly smoked piece of meat and you've got magic.

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