Win the summer cookout season with these tips from the grilling experts

Do you love barbecue but don't necessarily have 10 to 12 hours to cook your meat over low temperatures? Some pitmasters share their secrets for great tasting barbecue that can be done in two hours or less.

WASHINGTON — Champion barbecue pitmaster Myron Mixon is known for his smoked meats that are cooked for 10 or 12 hours at low temperatures, but he also knows most people don’t have that much time to oversee a smoker.

“Not only do I want to have a great meal with my family, but I want to be able to enjoy my family and the company,” Mixon said. “I don’t want to be around a smoker or a pit for eight or nine hours while everyone else is in the pool, so I want to have something that’s quick and good.”

For most people, quick and good means burgers and dogs, but Mixon and his fellow pitmasters — who will be in D.C. this weekend for the National Capital Barbecue Battle — have plenty of suggestions for items that can be done in two hours or less.

Mixon suggested bacon-wrapped, sausage-stuffed pork tenderloin and grilled sweet corn dusted with Parmesan cheese.

Tuffy Stone, of Richmond, Virginia, has won the Jack Daniels’ World Championship three times and will be in D.C. competing and presenting at the event.

He said his current quick-prep favorites are grilled chicken wings with Alabama-style white sauce accompanied by grilled broccoli and asparagus.

“I love cooking barbecue,” Stone said. “But we have a salad with just about every meal at our house, so I love cooking vegetables, too.”

Stone said he knows people are busy, so in a cookbook he released earlier this year called “Cool Smoke: The Art of Great Barbecue,” he made sure to include some faster recipes along with his low-and-slow favorites.

But if you’re going to make his chicken recipe, he suggested making your brine and white barbecue sauce the day before your event.

“On the Fourth of July, when our family and friends come over, we’ve already done a lot of the work,” he said.

Stone’s brine starts off like chicken soup with carrots, onions, thyme, parsley and celery. He dissolves kosher salt and sugar into six quarts of water and adds whole peppercorns and combines the entire mixture before letting it sit in the refrigerator for a day.

On the day of the cookout, he strains the mixture, retains the liquid and then soaks the chicken wings in the liquid for two hours.

When it comes time to put the chicken on the grill, it only takes about 20 minutes before it’s ready.

The mayonnaise-based, white barbecue sauce is a finishing touch that gives the wings a nice sheen, Stone said.

“They’re savory, they’re tangy. It’s a nice addition to barbecued wings,” he said.

Heath Hall’s team from Alexandria’s Pork Barrel Barbecue is known for its sauces. They won the Barbecue Battle’s best sauce competition last year.

If you are using sauce, Hall said, it’s best to treat it as a condiment and only add it to meats at the end of the grilling process.

“We’ve all probably been to that picnic where someone is cooking chicken that winds up looking like a hockey puck,” he said.

But he said there’s nothing wrong with experimenting with multiple sauces whenever you fire up the grill.

“Give your folks that are coming to your barbecue a choice.”

The Pork Barrel Barbecue website has recipes for multiple sauces and rubs.

These days, Hall said he is using his grill to make pork for tacos al pastor.

His recipe involves using the top and bottom of a pineapple along with some wooden skewers to make a roasting platform for the meat.

Hall will be showing the audience the inner workings of his recipe at the Giant Fresh Ideas Stage on Saturday at 1:20 p.m.

If you’re interested in something like a marinated pork tenderloin, Mixon said it’s a good idea to ask your butcher about the availability of high-quality heritage pork — something like Smithfield’s DURoC brand — which is known for its high fat content and rich flavor.

Whether it’s beef, pork, poultry or veggies, Mixon said the most important thing to pulling off a good cookout is to be laser-focused on making great food for your family.

“Don’t take your eyes off the prize,” he said. “A lot of people think, ‘I can just throw this meat on and when it hits this temperature, it’s going to be done.’ Well, not necessarily. You might follow a recipe for a cake, and barbecue has recipes, too. You don’t just cook by the seat of your britches, or if you do, you’re not turning out great barbecue.”

Michael Fay of Springfield, Virginia, runs Aporkalypse Now. His team is the Barbecue Battle’s defending champion and knows people often have their heart set on learning to make slow-smoked brisket and ribs.

While it might not be something you do more than a couple times a year, keep this in mind: If your recipe said it will take 12 hours, it will take 12 hours. There’s no way around it.

“Don’t rush it, and don’t overthink it,” he said. “When your thermometer goes into the meat and it goes in like butter, you’re just about there.”

If you don’t have time for a long smoke, Fay suggested getting started with poultry, like he did.

He said he likes to grill a spatchcocked chicken or small turkey.

Spatchcocking is a technique used to flatten out the entire bird, so it can cook evenly. You need good kitchen shears to cut out the backbone and wishbone; demonstrations of the technique can be found on YouTube.

The bird will be done in under two hours, Fay said.

“Season it up really good, put it on the grill [and] let it sit there for 45 minutes or an hour. You flip it to the skin side, flip it back once more, then let it go until it’s about 165 degrees in the chicken breast and you’re good to go. It’s really simple. Chicken is the easiest thing to get started with.”

Along with cooking vegetables, like thick-cut broccoli with lemon favored by Stone, a hot grill provides a great heat source for baking.

Hall suggests using a cast-iron pan to make a stone-fruit crumble.

You will want to prep it before your guests arrive and put it on the grill while you’re eating dinner. By the time you’re done, the dessert will be ready to eat.

“One of the unique things we have is a pear, apple, bacon and nut crumble. It’s simple to make,” Hall said. “It goes great with vanilla ice cream.”


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