Area Barbecue Experts Offer Tips for Summer Feasts
Summer might not arrive officially until June 21, but we’ve left the April showers behind and it’s time to fire up those grills and start cooking outside. With Memorial Day just around the corner, it might be time for a refresher course on how to get the most out of your grill. Luckily, Tom Caulfield, owner of Chubby’s Barbeque in Emmitsburg, and “Chili” Dave Rolls, manager of Mason-Dixon BBQ Services in Frederick and a competition barbecue pit-master, have decades of experience in front of grills and smokers.
Despite cooking all day at his restaurant, Caulfield says he grills nearly every night in the summertime, but don’t ask him to settle the age-old propaneversus- charcoal debate. He believes each has benefits. “I come down on the side of, they both taste good,” Caulfield says. “It really doesn’t make too much of a difference. Obviously, charcoal is more difficult. It’s more expensive—it does lend a different flavor.” Caulfield says some grillers using charcoal tend to overdo it, looking for flames instead of the steady heat from glowing coals.
He also recommends lump charcoal instead of briquettes. “So many people do it wrong,” he says. “They’ll spray lighter fluid to give additional flames, right on top of the grill, so you come off with a steak or burger that tastes like lighter fluid. People blow themselves up.” Caulfield uses propane when he grills because of its ease-of-use. “Being in the food business, I’m into getting my food, putting it on the barbecue and cooking it,” he says. “I’m not into prolonging the agony of waiting for something to eat.”
Unlike Caulfield, Rolls is firmly in the charcoal camp, citing a number of benefits. “It’s better flavor—You get a lot more out of it,” he says. “I think it’s more primal. You’re getting a lot more flavor into the meat.” Rolls believes charcoal is also more effective if you want to move from standard grilling to the low and- slow method of smoking, with a typical smoking session lasting about eight hours. Charcoal makes a smarter economic choice because of its longer burn times. “It’s low [heat], but its a lot of propane, where if you have charcoal it’s a lot easier,” he says.
For those who want to step up their game and try smoking, Rolls suggests smoking chicken, or using his three-two-one method for cooking ribs. First, indirect heat for three hours at 250 degrees, then wrap tightly in aluminum foil with some apple juice for two hours and finally glaze the ribs with sauce and cook for an additional hour. “It’s very simple but it works, especially if you have consistent temperatures,” he says.
Speaking of temperatures, Caulfield says a good thermometer is an invaluable tool for grilling or smoking, as well as knowing what temperatures to use. “Know your internal temperatures of what the meat should be constantly whether you’re using a pocket thermometer or a probe you have stuck in the meat,” he says. “… You cannot fool Mother Nature and chemistry by doing it your way.”
His other tip is also simple: Don’t over-salt your food, even while you might go crazy with other seasonings. “Pepper’s a different thing, but salt, it gets inside the meat and you’re just not going to be able to repair the damage,” he says. “But I’ve never tasted anything that I said, ‘Wow, this is too much
garlic.’” Rolls’ also has some simple advice for the backyard griller or smoker: Don’t panic, and let the grill or smoker do the work. “It’s barbecue, it’s not rocket science,” he says. “… When you put your meat on your smoker, your temperature is going to drop because of the temperature of the meat.People will go into emergency mode, throwing charcoal on it, turning the burners up. Take it easy. Give it 15 minutes, give it 10 minutes before we start messing with it.”
Along the same lines, Rolls says it’s vital to let your meat rest after it comes off the grill to allow the juices to recirculate. One of the main culprits of dry food is cutting it too early after it comes off heat. “Steaks, chicken, brisket, it all has to rest,” Rolls says. “Put ‘em on a plate and let them sit there for 20 minutes.” No matter whether you’re grilling or smoking, using gas or charcoal, both Caulfield and Rolls are in favor of just getting out there and doing it—they’re major fans of the pastime. “It’s a great hobby,”
Caulfield says. “It’s fun and a lot of people compete in their neighborhoods. It’s a big social activity and I’m all for that—and I’m also all for coming into Chubby’s and having me do it for them.” Rolls says he loves the camaraderie of competition barbecue, and turning new people onto cooking through the classes his company offers. “One of the cool things about barbecue guys, and I’ve been competing for over 10 years, we spread the gospel of barbecue. We love to get more people involved.”