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.
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.