For John Lewis and his father, John Lewis, Sr., barbecue is a family affair. The pair have been working for years to perfect the wood-fired barbecue pits that Lewis uses at his restaurants, including the forthcoming Lewis Barbecue in Charleston, slated for later this year. Their company, Austin Smoke Works, now sells the hand-built smoker to barbecue-obsessed home cooks. Here, Lewis shares seven secrets for pulling off a perfect summer barbecue at home.
1. Pick pork. Start barbecuing with pork butt, the most forgiving cut of meat, for slow cooking. The meat almost always turns out juicy and is a lower price per pound than other cuts, so it’s perfect for honing your barbecue skills and feeding a crowd inexpensively.
2. Invest in a good thermometer. Keeping a steady temperature is paramount for meats that take hours to cook, but unfortunately, the typical store-bought offset smoker is equipped with a cheap and unreliable temperature gauge. To ensure a controlled temperature, replace the gauge with a heavy-duty pit thermometer (I prefer Tel-Tru) and place it on the cooking grate level so you can read the temperature where the meat is actually located. (Remember: heat rises to the top of the cooker, so the gauge will read 25-50 degrees hotter than where the meat is.)