Tuesday, June 26, 2012


Some people insist on a lot of fancy equipment to make great barbecue, but they’re wrong. I should know: Since I entered my first barbecue contest in 1981, I have won more awards than I can count (maybe more than 625 of them), and when I compete, I use a $6,000.00 custom-designed cooker. But to make competition-worthy barbecue at home, you need only a basic kettle grill, a chimney starter and a cooking thermometer.

When I started competing, I didn’t want to share my secrets. At 2 a.m., I’d be at my pit with a penlight in my mouth to hide my work. But other competitors would wake up to watch. Now I conduct master classes, and I don’t win as many contests because my students beat me. I continue to compete because I love great barbecue: slow-cooked, tender, moist and packed with intense flavors. One student, Andrew Fischel, convinced me to help him open RUB (Righteous Urban Barbecue) in New York City in 2005. We’re not the only ones who love great barbecue.

Whether you’re a pro or a beginner, the technique is the same: low and slow. Compared to grilling, which means cooking quickly over high heat (400° to 450°), barbecuing takes four times as long and almost half the heat (anything below 250°).

Choose your fuel wisely. If you are new to barbecuing, use plain charcoal briquettes, because they burn more consistently and evenly than hardwood lump charcoal, which comes in many different sizes. I start the fire with 50 briquettes—and I am so fussy as to actually count them. Light them in the chimney starter, not with kerosene, or else your meat will taste only of fuel.
The cardinal rule of barbecue: Don’t peek into the cooker unless you have to. Open the lid only to turn the meat, baste it or add more fuel.

Grandma Kirk's Baked Beans

2 pounds dried navy beans, soaked overnight in cold water and drained

1 onion, coarsely chopped

1 garlic clove, minced

3/4 cup light molasses or sorghum syrup

3/4 cup light brown sugar

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1/4 teaspoon dry mustard

1/2 pound slab bacon in one piece

Burnt Ends
Barbecued Brisket and Burnt EndsPut the beans in a large enameled cast-iron casserole and add enough water to cover by 1/2 inch. Bring to a simmer and cook until the skins on the beans curl up when you blow on them, about 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 300°. Stir the onion, garlic, molasses, brown sugar, soy sauce, salt, Worcestershire and mustard into the beans, then nestle in the bacon. Cover and bake for 3 hours, until the beans are tender, stirring occasionally and adding water as needed to cover the beans by 1/2 inch.
Stir in the Burnt Ends (if using), then bake the beans uncovered about 1 1/2 hours longer, until richly browned on top. Remove the bacon piece, chop into cubes and return to the beans before serving.
The baked beans can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.

Barbecued Brisket and Burnt Ends


2 cups beef broth or low-sodium consommé

1/2 cup cider vinegar

1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce

4 garlic cloves, smashed

1/4 cup grated onion

1 bay leaf

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper


1/4 cup Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons pickle juice (from a jar of dill pickles)

1 tablespoon dark brown sugar

1/2 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

3/4 teaspoon hot sauce


2 tablespoons granulated sugar

2 tablespoons light brown sugar

2 tablespoons smoked sweet paprika

2 tablespoons garlic salt

1 1/2 teaspoons onion salt

1 1/2 teaspoons pure chile powder

1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground pepper

1 teaspoon celery seeds

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/4 teaspoon dried thyme

1/8 teaspoon dried oregano

One 9-pound whole packer beef brisket, fat trimmed to 1/4 inch

Light 50 charcoal briquettes using a chimney. Run the wand of a thermometer through a cork and use the cork to plug one of the air vents in the grill lid. Leave the remaining lid vents open and adjust the lower vents as needed (if the fire gets too hot, close the vents; too cold, open them).

Combine the ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Simmer over low heat for 10 minutes. Strain, cool and transfer to a spray bottle.

Mix the slather ingredients in a bowl. In another bowl, combine the rub ingredients.

Put the brisket on a large rimmed baking sheet and coat it with the slather. Sprinkle the rub all over the brisket.

When the coals are hot, push them to one side of the grill and set a drip pan half-filled with water on the other side. Using tongs, transfer 4 of the hot coals to the chimney to light an additional 25 briquettes. Set the brisket on the grill grate over the drip pan, fat side up, with the widest end facing the coals. Cover and cook for about 5 hours, maintaining a steady temperature inside the grill of 250° to 275° (add more lit coals, 25 at a time, every hour or so, as needed). Spray the brisket with the mop every hour.

After 5 hours, carefully flip the brisket and rotate it 180° so the opposite end is now facing the coals. Cover, then cook for 2 hours, spraying every hour with the mop and adding more hot coals to the grill as necessary.

Flip the brisket and rotate it 90°. Spray with the mop again, cover and cook for 1 1/2 hours. Flip the brisket a final time and rotate it 180°. Spray with the mop, cover and cook for about 1 hour longer, or until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part registers 185°.

To make the Burnt Ends, transfer the brisket to a carving board and cut off the point, slicing through the layer of fat that separates it from the brisket. Return the point to the grill. Spray it with the mop, cover and cook for 1 hour, or until the meat is almost black on the outside.

Transfer the point to the carving board and let rest for 15 minutes. Slice into cubes and serve, or save for making. Thinly slice the brisket against the grain. Serve with Kansas City-Style Barbecue Sauce on the side.

Kansas City-Style Barbecue Sauce

3 cups ketchup

2/3 cup dark brown sugar

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup white wine vinegar

1/2 cup tomato paste

2 tablespoons yellow mustard

2 tablespoons pure chile powder

1 tablespoon freshly ground pepper

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon granulated onion powder

1 teaspoon granulated garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

In a medium saucepan, combine all of the ingredients and bring to a boil over moderate heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer the sauce for 30 minutes, stirring often to prevent scorching.


  1. sounds absolutely DELICIOUS paul! before i got a barrel smoker, i cooked a bunch of briskets on my kettle grill with great results (not "paul kirk great", but great for a mortal=-). thanks for sharing the insight and recipes =-)