Learning the BBQ favorites

The summer is upon us, and grills and smokers all over the DMV are heating up as well. For the series “Fired Up with Jake and John,” WTOP’s Mike Jakaitis and John Domen talk with some of the region’s best pitmasters about their methods, with the goal of helping you level up your barbecue game.

The basics you’ll find at any barbecue joint — in no particular order — are: brisket, ribs, pork butt and chicken.

It’s always a tough choice when it comes to ordering.

However, it may be a smart idea to find out what is the chef’s favorite thing to eat and then place your order.

We asked some of the region’s top barbecue pitmasters what they like to make when they are cooking at home. You may be surprised many of them don’t like to spend all day in the backyard.

Kyle Norris owns Big Kyle Barbecue in Leesburg, Virginia. He used to work as a contractor and was a backyard chef himself and used to cooking for large crowds. Norris has 16 brothers and sisters, and his wife has 11.

“I built this smoke pit in my backyard and started loading chickens on it and I was like, ‘You know what? I can probably put a hog in here,’ and I ended up putting a hog in there and that was my first notion of this is what I like to do.”

Norris said the hog was perfectly cooked and that’s when he realized he had a future in barbecue.

Out of all of the things he throws on the pit, he said there’s one piece of meat that always hits the sweet spot in his stomach: spare ribs.

“I like the St. Louis (type of rib). I’m not a big baby-back fan but a lot of people are.”

Fernando Gonzales of 2Fifty Texas BBQ in Riverdale, Maryland, likes to do ribs too, and that’s how he learned how to barbecue because it was pretty much the most decent meat cut he could find in his native El Salvador. Still, he said he wasn’t a natural at barbecue when he started.

“I burned a few, I learned a lot,” he said.

But to this day, ribs are still the favorite thing he likes to make for himself.

“If you know the basics of barbecue, you can still provide a great slab of ribs,” he said.


Fired Up with Jake and John


Rob Sonderman of the Federalist Pig doesn’t like to do long cooks at home so he prefers cooking baby back ribs at home for this reason.

“They cook up faster than spare ribs,” he said. “I like serving spare ribs because I prefer those over baby back ribs, but baby back ribs cook in about half or two-thirds the time.”

Another thing Sonderman likes to make at home is a nice juicy porterhouse steak.

“Smoke on indirect heat for 45 minutes so it comes up to temperature slowly, and then I flash it on the grill, sort of a reverse sear method,” Sonderman said.

When asked about his favorite thing he likes to cook in his backyard, Norris said with a laugh: “I don’t like to smoke anything when I’m home.”

Norris said the fire pit in his backyard has not been used for a few years.

“When I go home, I prefer not to cook because I spend a lot of time on the smoker. I spend a lot of time here.”


Listen and subscribe to the “Fired Up with Jake and John” podcast on Podcast One


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