Famous BBQ Pitmasters Reveal BEST Tips & Tricks for Beginners

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We spent the weekend in St. Louis at a barbecue festival called “Q in the Lou” where we met up with the best bbq pitmasters to talk dry rubs, drum smokers and quality meats. These famous bbq pitmasters revealed their best tips and tricks for beginner barbecuers, smokers and grillers. Time to turn up the tasty!

John David Wheeler – Memphis Barbecue Company

Joey: So I know you’ve been doing this a long time. Can you share a tip or trick for that backyard griller who’s just getting started smoking or grilling?

John: Know your pit, know your hotspots, know how it cooks, know what temperature it is. Just because the thermometer on top of the barrel says 250 degrees the grate may only be 200 degrees. So, get another thermometer and check the temps. Also hit your temps. If you’re cooking a Boston Butt and you want it 190 degrees, make sure it’s 190 degrees inside. Pull it, wrap it and let it rest. But hit your temps and know your temps.

Smoked BBQ Ribs
Smoked BBQ Ribs

Jeff Stehney – Joe’s KC Bar-B-Que

Joey: A lot of our viewers are first time barbecuers, smokers and grillers who are just starting out in their backyard, getting ready to fire up the grill for the first or second time. Can you share with us a few tips or tricks?

Jeff: I think the dry rub and the spices are the most important thing. I think you don’t want to use too much smoke on your food and you want to have a really good dry rub. To me, dry rubs are what makes Kansas City barbecue unique and a little bit different from Texas barbecue. Texans like to brag that they use just salt and pepper. I think we’ve got a little more culinary ability here in Kansas City, so we’re actually not challenged by those other spices. So we put all the right blends on all of our different meats and I think that’s the most important thing. And don’t over smoke your food. The smokiest food doesn’t win and the smokiest food doesn’t taste best.

Joe's KC Bar-B-Que Dry Rub for Ribs
Joe’s KC Bar-B-Que Dry Rub for Ribs

Mike Emerson

Pappy’s Smokehouse

Mike: Don’t wear flip flops around the grill. I appreciate you guys being at Q in the Lou, you’ve been able to spread the barbecue gospel!

Mike Johnson – Sugarfire Smokehouse

Mike: I’ve been cooking on drum smokers lately. Gateway Drum makes them locally. I love those because they’re so easy to put charcoal in. It’s really easy to control the temperature, which for me is one of the hardest parts about barbecue. It’s so easy to just open up the air vents and let it coast the whole time. I’d say the easiest thing is to start with really good meat, good light seasoning and good salt. I use a lot of Maldon sea salt, which is a flaky salt that I think is delicious. There’s no special secret. There’s no big injection. It’s just using quality meat.

Joey: That’s one of our sayings. Make it either choice or prime or don’t waste your time. When it comes to buying quality meats, I say friends don’t let friends eat select meat!

Brad Orrison – The Shed BBQ & Blue’s Joint

Brad: The best way to start out is find somebody else in the neighborhood or one of your friends that likes to barbecue. Y’all get together and find somebody that’s like, “Oh, I tried this with the chicken thighs or I tried this with the steak.” Because there’s always people out there that have a different type of grill. The best thing is to get out there and get started. And every time you throw another handful of a charcoal on the grill, always get another beer. The other one is a clean grill, somewhere to sit with some music, and family and friends.

Smoked Hog
Brad Orrison – Smoked Hog

Craig Verhage – Ubon’s Barbecue

Craig: The main thing is don’t be scared to do it and don’t be scared to make mistakes. I mean, that’s how you learn with anything in life is by making a mistake. But you really develop what you like and really cooking is time and temperature. Whether it’s a big cut of meat or a whole hog – it’s all about temperature, how long you cook it and the way you like it to be served. Some people like a steak done, some people like it rare. Develop your own thing and do your own thing, but don’t be scared to do it.

Smoked Alligator
Criag Verhage – Smoked Alligator

Jason Ganahl – QCue BBQ

Joey: A lot of our audience is just getting started around the pit or smoker. When you think back to when you got started in this business, can you share a tip or trick to help them turn up the tasty in their backyard?

Jason: This is the tip or trick I have for you: Cold beer-crack it open. Get some friends of yours around the pit and just enjoy where the time takes you. It’s not just about the food, it’s about hanging out. It’s about developing great memories, great friendships, and then enjoying a meal together. That’s what it’s all about!

Smoked BBQ Chicken
Smoked BBQ Chicken

We’ve had an incredible weekend here at Q in the Lou talking to these famous bbq pitmasters! We’ve sampled tremendous barbecue from across the entire country from some truly talented pitmasters. If you like our video, please give us a thumbs up, like or even better- subscribe to our channel, Red Meat Lover, for future updates. And if you want to eat great barbecue, go check out some of these incredible bbq pitmasters, either online or in person at your hometown. I’ll see you guys next time! 


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