For many, learning how to cook great barbecue is a journey that spans years and even decades — often including cooking a lot of bad barbecue along the way. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a pit master right there in your backyard to coach you through each cook to achieve perfectly tender, juicy meat every single time?
Kentuckian Chris Sussman is here to help with his new book, The Four Fundamentals of Smoking: Pit Master Secrets to Making Incredible BBQ at Home by Chris Sussman (2021, Page Street Publishing, Co.).
During his own barbecue journey, Sussman discovered that four fundamental principles have the most impact on whether the meat comes out tasting succulent, tender and pleasantly smoky, or dry, rubbery and bland. These are: 1) building the right fire with the right fuel; 2) controlling humidity to infuse smoke flavor throughout the meat; 3) managing the ideal “barbecue zone” temperature range; and 4) recognizing the visual and touch cues that indicate when the meat is ready to pull from the smoker.
The book is packed with photographs, tutorials, pro tips, helpful reference charts and a complete illustrated tutorial, as well as 50 simple yet unique recipes. They include: North Carolina-Style Pulled Pork, Pork Belly Burnt Ends Sichuan-Style, “No Wrap” Smoked Beef Short Ribs, Habanero and Mango-Glazed Chicken Wings and more.
Zesty Lemon and Garlic Spatchcock Chicken
Suggested wood: apple, pecan or hickory
One 4-5-pound whole chicken
10 cloves garlic, minced
4 chiles, sliced thin
One 3-inch piece of ginger, grated
1 cup olive oil
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon salt
6 sprigs thyme
2 lemons, sliced into 1/4-inch rounds
Take chicken out of packaging, pat it dry with paper towels. Next place chicken on a cutting board with legs pointing toward you, breast side down. Use kitchen shears to remove the backbone by cutting along the backbone on both sides. Reserve the backbone for stock if you like. Flip chicken over so the breast is facing up toward you and use your hands to press down firmly, breaking the sternum and flattening the chicken like an open book.
Mix the garlic, chiles, ginger, olive oil, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, sugar, fish sauce and salt in a bowl. Place the chicken in a large resealable bag with the thyme and lemons. Pour in the marinade. Place the chicken in the fridge to marinate for 8-12 hours.
Take chicken out of marinade, discard marinade and let chicken come up to room temperature while you prepare the smoker.
Preheat cooker to 350°F. If you’re using a kamado or bullet grill, add a handful of wood chips to the charcoal; with a pellet grill, simply preheat the cooker, as the pellets will take care of the smoky flavor. Cook chicken for 1 hour, then start checking the internal temperature of the chicken to see if the internal temperature of the breast measures 165°F. If the chicken is not done yet, cook another 20 minutes, then check the temperature again.
Once the chicken has reached an internal temperature of 165°F, remove it from the smoker and let it rest 10 minutes before carving and serving.
Grilled Chicken With Adobo and Sazón FROM AMERICA’S TEST KITCHEN, JULY/AUGUST 2021 COOK’S ILLUSTRATED
This juicy, intensely flavored chicken gets its punch from two dried seasonings
from the Puerto Rican pantry:
adobo, a blend made from granulated garlic, salt, black
pepper and oregano; and
sazón, a mixture that includes all the ingredients of adobo as well as achiote, dried onion, cumin and more herbs.
Adobo and Sazón:
4 teaspoons granulated garlic
2-1/2 teaspoons commercial sazón
1 teaspoon table salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
One 4- to 4-1/2-pound whole chicken, giblets discarded
5 tablespoons distilled white vinegar, divided
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
6 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon table salt
One 13-by-9-inch disposable aluminum roasting pan
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 teaspoon pepper
Adobo and Sazón: Combine all ingredients in bowl.
Chicken: Place chicken
breast side down on cutting board. With kitchen shears, cut through bones on either side of backbone. Reserve backbone. With knife, cut through breastbone to split chicken in half.
Working with half of chicken, slice through skin connecting leg quarter to breast, cutting close to leg quarter to ensure skin completely covers breast and rib meat. Leave split breast whole, tuck wing behind back. Flip leg quarter, remove and discard any rib bone connected to thigh bone. Repeat with second half of chicken. Place one leg quarter skin side up on cutting board. With knife, make three slashes: one across thigh, one across joint, one across drumstick (each slash reaching bone).
Flip leg quarter and make one more diagonal slash across back of drumstick. Repeat with second leg quarter.
Toss chicken (including backbone) with 1 tablespoon vinegar and 1 tablespoon oil in large bowl, using your hands to loosen skin from meat. Sprinkle Adobo-Sazón mixture over chicken. Toss with hands, rub mixture all over chicken, into slashes and under skin. Cover, refrigerate chicken at least 3 hours or up to 24 hours.
Charcoal grill: Open bottom vent completely. Light large chimney starter filled with charcoal briquettes (6 quarts). When top coals are partially covered with ash, pour evenly over half of grill. Set cooking grate in place, cover, open lid vent completely. Heat grill until hot — 5 minutes.
Gas grill: Turn all burners to high; cover; heat grill until hot, — 15 minutes. Turn primary burner to medium, turn other burner(s) to low. (Adjust primary burner as needed to maintain grill temperature between 400°F and 425°F.)
While grill heats, place garlic on cutting board and sprinkle with salt. Mash to paste with side of knife. Transfer garlic paste to disposable pan. Add cilantro, pepper, remaining 1/4 cup vinegar and remaining 1/4 cup oil; mix to form paste.
Clean and oil cooking grate. Place chicken (plus backbone) on cooler side of grill, skin side up. Cover and cook until underside of chicken is lightly browned, 15-20 minutes.
Flip chicken; cover; continue to cook on cooler side of grill until thickest part of breast registers 150°F, 15-20 minutes longer. While chicken cooks, place disposable pan with paste on hotter side of grill and heat until liquid begins to simmer and garlic begins to cook, 2-3 minutes; remove pan from grill.
Transfer chicken to hotter side of grill, skin side down, cook (covered if using gas) until skin is well browned, 2-3 minutes.
As chicken browns, place disposable pan on cooler side of grill. Flip chicken and cook until breasts register 155°F and leg quarters register 175°F, 2-3 minutes
As chicken reaches temperature, transfer to disposable pan. Once all chicken is the pan, cover with foil and slide to hotter side of grill.
Cook until marinade is sizzling, 3-4 minutes. Let stand off heat for 10 minutes.
Cut each breast in half crosswise through the bone. Cut leg quarters through joint to separate thigh and drumstick.
Place chicken, including backbone, on serving platter. Pour marinade from disposable pan into serving bowl.
Serve, pass marinade separately. Serves four-six.