The season’s best advice, products and recipes from pros who know
It’s been a decade of explosive growth in the world of American barbecue. More and more Utahns are getting into the art of smoking and grilling—not just ribs and brisket but also foods such as trout and oysters. Folks are flocking to barbecue blogs, classes and competitions, and there are more products being created for barbecue enthusiasts. And, as can be seen by diners ordering brisket, ribs, sausage and chicken at any given barbecue joint on any given lunch or dinner hour, a growing number of us love the great taste of barbecue.
For this issue of Devour, we’ve asked a group of local experts for their pro tips to help you hone your barbecue skills. From competitors to bloggers to sauce and rub creators, we’ve got inspiration aplenty in the following pages to keep you at the top of your game.
Smoke Ain’t No Joke barbecue team
An avid outdoor cook for most of his life, Anthony Lujan went from outdoor barbecuing with friends and family to competitive barbecue cooking in 2015. His first competition was the BBQ Pitstop Backyard Challenge, in which he took third place overall for his chicken and ribs. Later that same year, Lujan entered a second competition, Smokin Up, and took first place in the rib category.
“In 2016, I decided to take a risk and enter the pro category,” Lujan says. “At this level, entries from all four categories are a requirement—chicken, ribs, pork and brisket. Presentation and appearance are also heavily weighed. Most participants create teams and enter with their partners at this level due to increased expectations and difficulty. The key to great barbecue is the prep before you cook. If you take the time to trim and remove unnecessary fats and unneeded meat, you will end up with a great product.” Lujan and his team have entered 15 competitions so far, with various placements and wins.
Currently, they use Big Daddy Hill sauces in all their competitions. Bourbon Blues is Lujan’s favorite as it “has a very nice, sweet flavor and also adds great color to the end product,” he says. “But you can’t go wrong with any of them.”
Lujan considers rubs a key ingredient in barbecue, and he particularly likes the Meat Church line (The Ocho, $64, MeatChurch.com). He uses sauces only for an extra layer of flavor at the end.
Smoke Ain’t No Joke
Creator of Hey Grill, Hey
Bulloch got the cooking bug when she was young, as her family owned a small restaurant in Southern Utah that catered to tourists. Fast forward to today, and Bulloch’s recipes are all over the internet. In 2015, Bulloch launched her website, Hey Grill, Hey, and it quickly gained a following—so much so that her husband quit his day job as a CPA and they now run their family barbecue business together.
“My favorite thing is recipe development,” Bulloch says. “In the beginning, as a freelancer, I read everything I could about barbecue, I was cooking recipes five days a week … it became something I was passionate about. I started to get confident in creating recipes that people could make at home and decided to start my own site.”
Bulloch dabbles in competitive barbecue, but she likes to explore too much to fit inside the competition box. She enjoys trying new techniques and putting new flavors together, so, to her, home cooking is more appealing.
For newbies, she recommends her first viral recipe, The Best Sweet Rub, saying it goes on everything. The rub—made with dark brown sugar, salt, pepper, smoked paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, ground mustard and cayenne pepper—along with the slow-cooking process create a dark bark on the outside of the meat, making it almost look burnt, but it’s actually caramelized and full of flavor.
“A good rub will allow the meat to stand on its own,” Bulloch says. “And now, more than ever, grilling and barbecue are super accessible. There are so many resources available. I write for people who are looking for something outside of burgers.”
Traeger Grills director of marketing
Ward got into barbecuing at an early age. His father cooked on a propane grill, he says, which caused meats to be burnt on the outside and raw on the inside. After many failed attempts, Ward took over for his father at around 10 years old and quickly developed a passion for barbecue. After college, he sold software for a time but was quickly drawn back to his barbecue roots. In 2007, he started competitive barbecuing and took seventh place (out of nine) in his first attempt, losing to a team of Boy Scouts.
“It was a very humble beginning, but there was something about that first contest that gave me a competitive outlet,” Ward says. “I also developed some great friendships.” He went on to own three Whiskey Bent BBQ Supply stores and later was offered a chance to be a pro-team member for Traeger Grills. Two years ago, he joined Traeger full-time.
Ward has cooked in more than 110 contests across 28 states, has won eight state championships and has been on the Food Network show Chopped, but he just really loves to bring people together with barbecue.
“Brisket is my favorite thing to barbecue. For me, if people say they don’t like brisket, they are either vegan or they have not eaten a good brisket,” Ward says. “My go-to product is the Traeger Prime Rib Rub [$9.99 for 9.25 ounces]. It just elevates proteins,” noting that he even puts it on side items.
“I always say the rub, the sauce and the smoke should never overpower the protein,” Ward adds.
1215 Wilmington Ave., SLC
Snider Bros. Meats
Snider Bros. Meats has been family owned and operated for six generations. A.C. Snider got his start in Texas but left the Lone Star State in the 1920s to operate butcher shops in Washington and Oregon. His sons went on to operate meat shops in Southern California until one of them, Grandpa Charlie, settled in Utah in the ’70s, ostensibly to retire.
Instead, he opened a meat shop in Ogden in 1983 and a second shop in Holladay in 1992. Snider Bros. is still family owned (although the Ogden store closed in 2010), and grandson Will Wilson runs the store with his wife, Amy, and their oldest son, Jake.
“We have been selling smokers for the past 13 years,” Wilson says.
He’s excited to see so many people getting into backyard barbecue, noting that barbecuing transcends every demographic. “You don’t have to spend a lot of money to start barbecuing,” he says.
Snider Bros. Meat carries a plethora of barbecue products, from competition rubs to sauces. “Rubs come in two varieties: Some are just for beef and are savory, not sweet. Others are for poultry or pork and tend to be sweeter,” Wilson says. His go-to for brisket is the Oakridge Black Ops Brisket Rub ($11.95, 6 ounces). “The blended spices and sugars produce a really good bark,” he says.
For poultry, he likes the Money Rub ($12.99, 14 ounces), which pairs well with the great smoky flavor of Blues Hog BBQ Sauce ($5.95, 16 ounces).
6245 S. Highland Drive
Big Daddy Hill’s BBQ Sauce
Hailing from North Carolina, Lee Hill grew up around barbecue and developed a love for it. Making sauces was not part of his career plan per se, but 10 years ago, his life changed. Hill’s daughter, Jeannie, was born with cerebral palsy, and the family moved to Utah for medical care. Hill began making sauces on the side for extra money to cover therapies. Now in its fourth year, and the family operates the business full-time.
“I started selling my sauces at the local farmers market,” Hill says. Now, things have taken off. They are expanding into catering, serving barbecue at the Downtown Farmers Market, and they hire veterans to work for them.
Big Daddy Hill’s sauces include 10 regular flavors and, throughout the year, they introduce flavor options for special occasions. Hill creates his recipes based on flavors he grew up eating as well as from places he traveled to while in the military. Currently, the biggest seller is the Sweet and Tangy, ($6.99, 15 ounces) his original sauce. According to Hill, it’s a versatile sauce that’s a must-have in your pantry. “This sauce is the mother of all sauces, as we call it in the barbecue world,” he says. “It is great on all proteins.” You can spice it up by adding your own hot sauce to it.
Cottonwood Spice and Tea Co.
Growing up in a Vermont country inn shaped Toner’s culinary life. Her parents owned a bed & breakfast, where her mother taught her all about healthy comfort foods. After moving to Utah nine years ago, Toner found there were not many affordable meal-prep/delivery services around. She began developing a menu for the month and cooking certain parts of each meal, then she’s provided detailed instructions on how to prepare the rest. She would make the main course, the bread and the salad dressing and have it delivered until her client list climbed to more than 20 families. During this time, Toner was creating seasonings and spice blends she put together to enhance her recipes. That lead her to selling them on Etsy. After having success on that platform, Toner started selling her blends at the Wheeler Farm Farmers Market. Now selling 20 different spice blends, Toner still includes a recipe card with each blend.
“My Westward Ho BBQ blend has 12 ingredients,” she says ($9.99, 3 ounces). “It is tangy as opposed to smoky, because I go more for the North Carolina style.” You can use the blend to make your own barbecue sauce, she notes. It has apple cider vinegar powder in it, which gives it a bit of a pucker. “It is even great in rice,” she says.
2157 E. 2100 South, Ste. B, SLC
Johnson has always enjoyed cooking. As he has traveled around the country, he’s tried all the barbecue he could find. Eating in different regions inspired him to learn about barbecue but he soon realized he lacked the knowledge on how to buy the right products and how to use them. “I have found that most people who are buying smokers in Utah are buying their first family’s smoker. They don’t have a grandfather to teach them how to barbecue right,” Johnson says. “I have had some mentors who have taught me some things when I was just starting out. So, after dabbling in the barbecue arena for a few months, we realized it was bigger than we thought. Our business model is to be the pro shop of barbecue.”
Johnson started competing in barbecue after opening his first store in 2012. He and his team, Utah BBQ Co., compete together and have won several championships around the country. But their main focus is still helping folks go from barbecue zero to hero. They send customers home with a step-by-step guide on how to barbecue along with the necessary products.
“We recommend the Pork Star rub ($12.99, 12.6 ounces) to folks for pork,” Johnson says. “People always report back on how great it is.”
For sauce, Blues Hog is their top seller. They also sell all types of smokers.
“Barbecue can really fit in any budget,” he says.
865 W. State Road, Lehi, 801-341-7171
1131 Utah Highway 193, Layton,
Smoking the Competition
By Heather L. King
Barbecue is in the blood of identical twins Rod and Roger Livingston, the founders of R&R Barbeque. By the end of 2018, the brothers will have opened of a total of eight R&R locations up and down the Wasatch Front. It’s a dream few restaurateurs can hope to attain in a lifetime, and the Livingston brothers have accomplished it in just five years.
While their competitive natures and entrepreneurial spirits are surely drivers of their success as Utah restaurateurs, it’s also true that barbecue has simply always been a part of their lives.
Growing up in a family of butchers, Rod and Roger would often visit relatives in the South who thrived on slow-smoking pork butts at family get togethers. Later, as the brothers traveled for various business interests, they would make sure to eat at all the noteworthy barbecue joints that crossed their paths around the United States.
In the early ’90s, each of the twins bought smokers to start experimenting with the art and science of barbecue and eventually entered their first barbecue competition together in 2009.
After working out their recipes and rubs and devising a system where each was responsible for certain turn ins, R&R Barbeque began claiming local, regional and national barbecue competition awards. They hit the big time in 2011 when they were the highest nationally ranked competitive barbecue team from Utah on the Kansas City Barbeque Society circuit.
Using those award-winning proteins as their starting point, R&R Barbeque launched onto Salt Lake City’s restaurant scene in April 2013 with a menu of smoky chicken, fall-off-the-bone ribs, meaty brisket and juicy pulled pork, as well as a signature burger. Sides such as freshly battered fried okra with a Cajun kick and red beans and rice dotted with meaty slices of sausage also hit the mark. Hush puppies with jalapeno, coleslaw, baked beans and potato salad round out the options. Daily specials, like Taco Tuesday’s brisket taco with spicy aioli, are also available.
“What really amazes us is the following we’ve created,” they says of their fast-paced success. “We have people that every time they come into town, this is the first place they stop. We’ve met people from all over the world. Our local customers are the ones that really make us believe we are doing something right. We have some we see at least once a week or more, and many have really become our good friends.”
Although R&R Barbeque is no longer a staple on the competitive barbecue scene, Roger and Rod enjoy sharing their knowledge about smoked meats by teaching classes several times a year in addition to simply talking to customers every day.
To them, barbecue is a social event, and there’s no better time to talk about barbecue than while feeding a hungry crowd.
You’ll find R&R in Salt Lake, South Jordan, Lehi, Farmington and the Vivint Smart Home Arena. Look for new locations in Pleasant Grove, North Salt Lake and Spanish Fork.
CHEF Martin Earl
By Heather L. King
If you’ve ever been a customer of Starbucks, The Olive Garden or Tim Hortons, you’ve experienced the food-safety benefits that American Fork-based ThermoWorks products provide.
Founder Randy Owen launched ThermoWorks in 1997 to provide professional time and temperature tools such as thermometers, sensors, handheld instruments, loggers, controllers and calibration gear to restaurants, commercial chefs, food service professionals, manufacturers and home cooks.
With regular features in national magazines and appearances on America’s Test Kitchen, Today, Alton Brown’s Good Eats, The Early Show and other food programs over the years, chefs of every caliber began to clamor for the highly accurate and fast professional thermometers.
In the past several years, ThermoWorks has enjoyed newfound success fueled by rising demand from non-professional home cooks who now make up two thirds of ThermoWorks customers around the world.
The company’s most popular product, the Thermopen, is available in two styles—the classic and Mk4—that show temperature readings accurate within .7 degrees Fahrenheit in 2-3 seconds. The Thermopen comes in 10 colors to match any kitchen décor and color coordinates with other ThermoWorks products.
ThermoWorks culinary editor and chef Martin Earl explains that when it comes to using temperature correctly, “knowledge is power, and a good thermometer gives you the knowledge you need to get the results you want!” Here, he shares some of his favorite temperature tips to make your grilling and cooking experiences world-class.
Don’t cook your chicken to 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Pull your chicken off the grill at 160 degrees and let carryover do the rest. “Pasteurization of the meat is a function of time and temperature, and while you need 165 degrees to kill any bacteria instantly, keeping your chicken at 160 for 16.9 seconds will do exactly the same thing. You get chicken that is juicier and it’s still safe to eat,” he says.
For that same piece of chicken, Earl recommends pounding those chicken breasts. “That weird shape with a thick bulge and a thin tail will only lead to uneven cooking, so pound the breasts to a nearly even thickness before tossing them on the grill. Plus, they’ll cook faster,” he says.
Use a leave-in probe thermometer with your breads. Lean-dough breads are done when the internal temperature reaches 190–210 degrees while rich doughs are done between 180–190 degrees.
Accuracy matters in candy making. “When sugar is cooking on your stove, you need up-to-the-second accurate temperature measurements to know when you get to the right concentration,” he says. “Use a thermometer with thin geometry that won’t encourage crystal growth, unlike grandma’s big metal fin thermometer.” When frying foods, clip a digital thermometer to the side of your pot to know exactly when you get to 375 degrees to fry up hand-cut fries to serve alongside your favorite grilled meats.
741 E. 930 South, American Fork