Five steps to becoming a true pitmaster


(BPT) - When the skies are blue and the sun is hot, some people hit the pool, drive to the nearest beach, kick back with a book on their deck, or fire up the grill.

If you’re one of those people who sees every summer day as an opportunity for grilling, or if you have your smoker going at the same time your neighbors are running their snow blower, you’re probably ready to take it to the next level.

How do you go from being an enthusiast to grilling and smoking meat like the best pitmasters? Here are five important steps to consider:

1. Use only the best quality ingredients. The best pitmasters and chefs will tell you that no matter your level of experience, if you don’t have great ingredients you can’t make a great meal. It’s that simple. This is as true in fine French cooking as it is in barbecue. As the winner of Food Network’s “Chopped: Grill Masters,” Pitmaster Ernest Servantes insists on using high-quality, flavorful fresh pork products from Smithfield(R) to get that pork that is tender and juicy every time.

2. Find the right chips. When smoking fresh meat, the combination of charcoal and wood chips can take your flavor to the next level. Pecan, red oak, hickory, apple or mesquite woods all have their unique attributes and flavors. One isn’t better than the other. It’s more a matter of your personal style. Take the time to experiment and learn what kind of wood works best for your signature meats and taste preferences.

3. Keep the rub simple. Once you have an amazing rack of ribs or perfectly marbled pork shoulder or butt, the question is how to season them. People often get carried away, adding too many spices that ultimately overpower the taste of the meat. If you’re cooking with a high-quality cut of meat, a simple rub will often yield the best results. For instance, a recipe for Cactus Jack Texas Spare Ribs uses a rub made up of salt, pepper, chili powder, granulated garlic and onions — just enough to bring out the true flavor of the ribs without being overpowering.

“Cactus Jack” Texas Spareribs

Recipe by Chef Ernest Servantes for Smithfield

Cactus Jack Rub

2 racks Smithfield(R) Pork Spareribs

1/4 cup kosher salt

1/4 cup cracked black pepper

1 tablespoon granulated garlic

1 tablespoon granulated onion

1 teaspoon chili powder

1 teaspoon seasoned salt

Ribs

Oak or Pecan wood for smoking

1 cup apple juice, in a spray bottle

Rattle Snake BBQ Sauce

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1/2 cup diced yellow onion

2 tablespoons minced fresh jalapeño

1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic

1/4 cup ketchup

1/4 cup Kingsford(R) Original Smoked Hickory BBQ Sauce

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

1/4 cup pepper-style soda

2 tablespoons molasses

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

Kosher salt and cracked black pepper

  1. For “Cactus Jack” Rub, combine salt, pepper, garlic, onion, chili powder and seasoned salt in small bowl; mix well. Season ribs on all sides; cover and refrigerate overnight or for at least two hours.
  2. Heat smoker or grill for indirect cooking at 250°F.; add wood for smoking. Place ribs, meaty side up, and smoke for 2 1/2 hours, spraying with apple juice every 30 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, for Rattle Snake BBQ Sauce, heat oil in heavy saucepan over high. Sauté onion, jalapeño and garlic until tender. Stir in remaining ingredients except salt and pepper, bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until reduced in volume by 1/3. Remove from heat, season to taste with salt and pepper.
  4. Remove ribs from smoker; wrap each rack in heavy-duty aluminum foil. Return to smoker, meaty side down, for an additional two hours until internal temperature reaches 190°F to 200°F.
  5. Remove ribs from foil, place back on smoker and brush with Rattle Snake BBQ Sauce; cook for about 20 minutes. Serve with additional BBQ sauce on the side.

Makes: Two to four servings

Prep time: 15 minutes plus 24 hours stand time

Cook time: Five hours 15 minutes

4. Explore the world. There are many regional barbecue styles in the U.S.: Kansas City, Texas, Memphis and the list goes on. At a time when people are more adventurous in their culinary tastes than ever, try branching out from your normal go-to style and infuse some international flavors into your grilling. For instance, one recipe for Honey Soy Grilled Pork Chops Korean BBQ Sauce combines a medley of Asian flavors, teriyaki marinade, soy sauce and rice wine vinegar with an unmistakable barbecue kick.

Honey Soy Grilled Pork Chops Korean BBQ Sauce

Recipe by Chef Ernest Servantes for Smithfield

Honey Soy Grilled Pork Chops

6 to 8 (4-oz.) Smithfield(R) Boneless Center Cut Pork Chops

1 cup KC Masterpiece(R) Honey Teriyaki Marinade

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 to 2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon white or rice wine vinegar

Korean BBQ Sauce

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 cup water

2 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons sriracha sauce

4 teaspoons brown sugar

2 teaspoons minced ginger

2 teaspoons KC Masterpiece BBQ Sauce

  1. Sprinkle both sides of the pork chops with salt and pepper and place in a large resealable food storage bag. Whisk together honey teriyaki marinade, oil, soy sauce and vinegar; mix well. Pour over pork chops; seal the bag and let stand 1 hour.
  2. For Korean BBQ Sauce, heat oil in small saucepan on medium; fry garlic until it begins to turn color. Stir in water, soy sauce, sriracha sauce, brown sugar, ginger and BBQ sauce. Bring to a simmer; reduce heat and cook for 10 minutes or until it becomes thick.
  3. Heat charcoal or gas grill to medium. Remove pork chops from marinade (discard marinade) grill for three minutes or until the pork chop easily releases from the grill. Flip chops and continue to cook for three more minutes until internal temperature reaches 145°F to 160°F.
  4. Baste each pork chop with Korean BBQ Sauce, grill one minute on each side. Let chops stand for three minutes before serving.

Makes: Six to eight servings

Prep Time: 10 minutes plus one hour marinade time

Cook Time: 18 minutes

5. It’s all about practice. Like a perfect golf swing, grilling or smoking the perfect rack of ribs or pork butt takes time and practice. Invite your friends or family over to practice your grilling or smoking of the best barbecue you ever had and remember that behind each one of those to-die-for bites were practice sessions to perfect your craft. So keep at it!

Now that you’re feeling inspired, why wait? Call up your friends, get out the grill or smoker, and be sure to have plenty of quality Smithfield Fresh Pork on hand! Because once those ribs and chops come off the grill, people are going to want more.