BBQ Guys Don’t Go Anywhere Without Their Knives and Other Tips for Barbecuing

In the introduction to the epic book Peace, Love, and Barbecue, food critic Jeffrey Steingarten shares this advice, “Tips, we learn, are so much more important than recipes…”  After taking a six hour class from BBQ champion Dana “Big Papa” Hillis of Naples, Florida – I realized that is exactly what my takeaways were. Yes, there are some recipes posted down below, but actually they are more like methods and procedures – with a lot of wiggle room.  Barbecuing via smokers is a process and everyone puts their own spin on it.  So enjoy these recipes and tips that were shared with me, and please comment below on how you do it!  *Spoiler alert – Hillis’ approach is all about BBQ competitions, or in other words, winning a judge over at first bite; he uses a lot of butter and sugar!

Hillis brought some of his BBQ buddies to help out with the class. The guy in the top right is the pit master at The Wood Pile BBQ Shack in Clawson, Michigan. Below are the legendary Wolfe brothers from Orlando, Florida. Here is some of the wisdom they imparted:

“BBQ guys don’t go anywhere without their knives.”

“Learn your cooker, learn your hot-spots.”

“Each time you barbecue, write down what you do, then if you ‘hit it’ right, you’ve got it down on paper.”

“Use apple juice in spray bottle to keep meat moist while cooking.”

“If you are serious about BBQ, you need an internal probe to measure temperature –  internal temperature is the most important thing to know to tell if meat is done, especially steaks.”

Serving amounts needed:

1 meat – 6 oz. per person.

2 meats – 5 oz. per person

3 meats – 4 oz. per person

“Clean grill while it is still warm” – use scraper or wad of aluminum foil.

“Hollywood Cut  is a trick from the barbecue competition circuit, they discard every other bone so each remaining bone has double the meat and even pile loose meat in between ribs.”


Procedure for Smoker Ribs

Types of Ribs:

Country Style Beef Ribs

Baby backs

Spare Ribs

St. Louis Cut Ribs

Choose your preference

Pull skin off back so rub gets in – “When you take a bite you get a taste of the bottom of the rib as well as the top.”

Use piece of paper towel –  some people use pliers.

However, sometimes the skin is already off.

Use the 3 – 2 – 1 Method.

Usually, this means 3 hours of smoking,unwrapped at 225 degrees, followed by 2 hours of cooking wrapped in foil (with a little liquid, such as apple cider), followed by 1 hour of cooking unwrapped at a higher temperature, with a generous basting of barbecue sauce.

But – this is the way Hillis does it:

Indirect heat for about 3 hours –  between 230 degrees and 240 degrees.  Hillis feels like 234 degrees is the optimal temperature and usually for him, this three hour part is more like 2 1/2 hours. “When you start seeing bones pull back, they are ready to be pulled off.”  Then he slathers the meat side with butter or margarine, honey, and brown sugar. He wraps the ribs in foil, meat side down, and puts them back in the smoker. By the way, Hillis says all honey is not alike, “Clover honey is bland and o.k. for sauces, but orange blossom type honey seems to overpower the sauce flavor.” After a couple hours, take the ribs out, unwrap and let the internal temperature cool down to 140 degrees. Then wrap the ribs back up again and let them sit for an hour before serving.




1 (10 pound) bag jumbo chicken wings

16 oz. Italian Dressing -“Vinegar opens pores – definitely better if they are marinated”

1 cup BBQ rub

Put all ingredients in a zip lock bag(s) and marinade overnight.

Cook at 350 degrees indirect heat, turning them over once after 45 minutes and cook until they get to 195 internal temperature.

Hillis’s sauce for wings is Franks hot sauce mixed with honey and brown sugar – a departure from the usual Franks & butter.


Clean out the Refrigerator Stuffed Pork Loin

Trim the fat off of the pork loin, leaving about 1/2″ of fat on.  Filet it by slicing it open lengthwise being careful not to cut all the way through, so it opens up butterfly fashion.

Sprinkle w/rub – a generous amount – on both sides

On one side,  layer any or all of below:



Provolone cheese


Red bell peppers



Sun dried tomatoes


Season, close it, and tie it with butcher string using a mattress stitch – insert needle on side where just exited, then take to other side and insert again on that side, taking it to other side and repeat.  Sprinkle with more rub.

Cook fat side down in 300 degrees indirect heat for 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Let internal temperature get to between 130 to 140 degrees. Hillis says 135 best, but don’t let it go past 145.


Eight Minute Grilled Rib Eye Steak

Meat is graded as prime, choice, or select.

Hillis uses choice and cuts the steaks 1″ thick.

Give the steaks a “salt bath” – salt very heavy with coarse sea salt, leave on for 15 minutes, then wash the salt off. This opens the pores of the meat and allows seasoning in.

Spray grate with Pam spray.

Heat grill up as high as it can go, cook 2 minutes, turn 90 degrees and cook 2 minutes, flip over and cook 2 minutes, turn 90 degrees and cook 2 more minutes. (Close the lid each time you turn or flip the steak.)

Each time you turn or flip steak, move to the other side of the grill, quickly “cleaning” the now empty part of the grate with balled up aluminum foil, before closing lid. This ensures those really nice cross hatch grill marks.

If you wish to grill a 1 inch pork chops, Hillis  sprinkles them with with McCormick Brown Sugar Bourbon Grill Mates Seasoning and Montreal Steak Seasoning, then uses this method to cook to internal temperature of 135 – pink in the middle.


Smoked Beef Brisket

When buying a brisket, look for piece of meat with lots of white streaks.

Cut fat off to ¼ inch on bottom.

Put rub on, and let sit in refrigerator for a few hours.


3 parts ground black pepper

3 parts diamond crystal salt

1 part garlic powder

Then, place in smoker -fat side down at 230 degrees. Leave it in there until the internal temperature reaches 170. This could take up to 9 hours. There is a period, called the “stall”, where the temperature seems to hover somewhere between 145 and 160 degrees. Just be patient, keep the temperature constant, and wait.

Once it reaches 170 (a lot of websites say 165) take it out – it will look almost black on the outside – spray it with a bit of apple juice and double wrap it in butcher paper.

Place it back in the smoker at 275 (again – a lot of websites have a different take – like temperature still at 230 degrees) and allow the internal temperature to come up to 198 degrees.

Then take it out. The temperature will raise up 10 degrees after you pull it out of the smoker. Let it rest for an hour and allow the temperature comes down to 202 degrees. Then hold it until ready to serve by keeping it in the butcher paper, wrapping it in a towel and placing it in a cooler. (Restaurants usually bring the temperature down to 170 degrees and then hold it in a warming oven or hot box.)

Bottom line – the above is a suggested procedure – make it your own and keep data on your trials.



Stuffed Peppers

Use the sweet small “snacking” peppers and/or jalapeños.

While wearing gloves, cut in half, leaving stem on, and scoop out seeds and membranes.

Place the peppers in a foil pan, place in indirect heat, and allow them to cook until softened.

Then mix together:

2 (8 oz.) packages cream cheese

1 pound sausage – browned and oil drained off

A bit of BBQ rub seasoning


Stuff each pepper with the cream cheese mixture and sprinkle shredded cheddar cheese on top.

Return to the indirect heat and cook until cheese is melted and bubbly.


Tater Tot Bombs


Tater tots

bacon – cut each slice into thirds

american cheese – cut each slice into thirds


Wrap each tot with a piece of cheese, then a piece of bacon, and secure with tooth pick.

Place each tot in foil pan.

Cover with brown sugar.

Cook 250 or above, until bacon gets crispy.

Drizzle with BBQ sauce before serving.


Grilled Veggies

“Vegetarian is an old Native American term for ‘Poor Hunter’ ”

In a foil pan, place slower cooking vegetables on bottom and top, faster cooking in the middle.

Use any or all of the following:

Green beans






Yellow squash

Add butter through out.


Cook about 3 hours at 300 degrees.


Baked Corn


1 package Jiffy Corn Bread Mix

1 (15 oz.) can creamed corn

1 (15 oz.) can regular corn, drained

1 stick butter, melted

1 cup sour cream

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper


Mix all ingredients together and place in foil pan.

In regular oven bake 350 degrees for 45 minutes

In smoker  – done when firm



Use Dutch baker pots (can buy liners – otherwise cleanup is so hard) or use foil pans in indirect heat.


Cherry Dump Cake


1 can cherry pie filling

1 can crushed pineapple

1 package white cake mix

1 stick melted butter


Dump pie filling and pineapple in pot. Sprinkle cake mix on top and drizzle melted butter on top.

Bake 350 degrees for 45 minutes in oven or in dutch oven with coals on bottom, coals on top.


Peach Cobbler


1 stick butter, melted

1 cup sugar

1 cup self-rising flour

1 cup buttermilk

1 (29 oz.)  can peaches ( or any canned or fresh fruit)


Put the melted butter in the bottom of a pan.

In a bowl, mix together sugar, self-rising flour and butter milk.  Put the flour mixture on top of melted butter.

Then put canned peaches on top with a little bit of the juice.

The “crust” will rise to the top as it cooks.

Bake 350 degrees for 45 minutes in oven or in dutch oven with coals on bottom, coals on top.


Butternut Squash Stuffed Pork Loin with Braised Red Cabbage


Every autumn, I seemed to be obsessed with butternut squash.  I don’t think I’m alone because I keep getting notices from Pinterest that a pin I got from Simply Recipes on cutting butternut squash has been repinned about a hundred times. People out there must be cutting up oodles of butternut squash! With that in mind, I came up with this fall dinner dish that is full of seasonal flavors. It’s just as scrumptious as it is colorful! Enjoy!



For the meat and rub:

1 to 2 pound pork loin

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 garlic cloves, minced or put through a press

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage

3 pieces of cooking twine, each about 5 inches long


For the stuffing:

1 small butternut squash

1 tablespoon olive oil

sprinkle of salt

sprinkle of pepper

1/2 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, and cubed

2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage

1 tablespoon dried cranberries

1 clove garlic, minced or put through a press

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper


For the braised red cabbage:

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 onion, peeled and sliced

1 carrot, peeled and sliced

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 medium red cabbage, cored and shredded

1 Granny Smith Apple, peeled and cubed

Juice of 1 orange (about 1/2 cup)

1/4 cup red vinegar

1 bay leaf

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1 pinch ground cloves




Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cut the ends off of the squash and use a vegetable peeler to remove the skin. Cut the squash in half length wise and scoop out the seeds. Then cut each squash half again, separating the “bowl” from the top part. Cut both “bowls” and both top parts into 1/2 inch wide lengthwise strips.  Then cut the strips into square cubes. Place on a foil covered baking sheet, toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil and sprinkle with salt & pepper. Bake 20 minutes to give the squash pieces a head start on getting tender once they are part of the tenderloin stuffing.

While the squash is partially baking, prepare the tenderloin and stuffing. Trim fat away from the tenderloin and “butterfly” it by cutting it down the middle lengthwise, but not going all the way through to keeping it in one piece. Set aside.

To prepare rub for the tenderloin, place 2 tablespoons olive oil,  garlic, kosher salt, pepper, and 2 tablespoons sage in a bowl and mix well. Set aside.

When the butternut squash has baked for 2o minutes place a heaping cup of it in a bowl. Add the 1/2 diced apple, 2 tablespoons sage, cranberries, salt, pepper, and garlic. Gently mix. Save the remaining squash for another use. ( For a link to a great autumn salad featuring butternut squash click HERE )

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Open the butterflied pork loin up, and place the butternut squash mixture inside. Fold it back together, and use the 3 cooking twine pieces to tie the roast together. Take the rub paste and gently smear the outside of the pork loin. Make sure to get both the top and bottom covered. If any stuffing falls out during any part of this process, just tuck it back in. Place the pork loin on a foil covered baking sheet and place in the 350 degree oven. Bake for 1 hour or until a cooking thermometer inserted into the meat reads 160 degrees. Since this recipe calls for a 1 to 2 pound roast, that should be enough baking time. But – if you use a larger piece of meat such as 3 pounds – you will want to allot at least an hour and a half baking time.

While the pork loin is baking, prepare the braised red cabbage. Place the 2 tablespoons olive oil, onions, and carrot in a pan and saute over medium heat 5 to 7 minutes until vegetables are tender. Add the garlic and saute for 30 seconds more. Then add the cabbage, apple cubes, orange juice, vinegar, salt, pepper, bay leaf, and ground cloves. Cook for about 20 to 30 minutes over medium low heat until the apples are tender when pierced with a fork. Keep warm until ready to serve.

After removing from the oven, allow the pork loin to sit for 10 minutes. Then gently cut the cooking twine and remove from the roast. Using a serrated knife, cut the tenderloin into 1 inch slices.

Put about 3/4 cup of the braised red cabbage on each serving plate. Top with slices of the stuffed pork tenderloin.



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