Published in


Photo by Malidate Van on Pexels

Netflix Teaches How to Create Unforgettable Cue (BBQ)

While displaying the work of world-class pitmasters.

Barbecue: one of the last arts in the high-volume circuit since the earliest days of human civilization. It first began during the time of Homo Erectus, the first known humans possessing modern human-like body proportions. Since then, we started using dry rubs, wet rubs, specific temperatures, different grilling methods, various animals, and certain cuts to acquire a truly fantastic piece of meat. What defines a truly fantastic piece of meat? Melissa Cookston says it’s…

“a piece of meat that you taste all the way through your mouth: from the front until it hits you with a bit of kick in the back.”

Two Netflix Series, America’s Barbecue Showdown and Chef’s Table Barbecue, instruct others on how to create the flavorsome barbecue Melissa mentioned. Any person viewing these mouth drooling television series automatically raise their barbecue skills. How exactly does this happen without ever touching a grill? The answer… world-class culinary artists.

Chef’s Table Barbecue

Lennox Hastie

Lennox Hastie, the owner of a restaurant in Australia called Firedoor, piqued my interest the most out of four chefs in the series. In his restaurant, he uses nothing but a fire to cook. No gas. No electricity. Just flame.

Lennox ages his beef like wine. Chefs never spend the amount of time aging their beef Lennox does, if they even age it at all.

“It can only be dry-aged for about 30 days. Some extremists take it to 90 days. Lennox ages his beef for 200 days.”- Pat Nourse, Creative Director of Melbourne Food & Wine.

Letting it age past the 200-day mark does nothing for it. He bastes the meat with fat which allows him to get a lot more out of the aging process.

Lennox also says…

“people’s preconceptions of fire are masculine, strong, big, intense, but it can also be soft, delicate, with subtle nuances of flavor. Nobody views fire as being used for fine dining.”

Now, at Firedoor in Sydney, the community flocks toward his ember injected experience.

Lennox also uses fire to cook vegetables (including a salad) and caviar. He really wants to see how great a salad may taste and reaches for what he calls an almost “not of this world” level with his fire-heated caviar. Only the best of the best reach for those types of heights.

Photo by Magdalena Smolnicka on Unsplash

Rodney Scott

Rodney Scott cooks whole-hog barbecue in South Carolina. As one of the last people doing this kind of barbecue, he burns wood which he cuts himself down into coals and then shovels the coals into his pits. He and his employees only subject the hams and shoulders to high temperatures. The rest is low and slow. Fat drips off the shoulders and comes back into the hog through the smoke. This creates the fatty and smokey flavor found in Rodney’s dishes.

Rodney’s mother always used to know the mild piece of meat to give him as a kid. Now, he enjoys more flavorful and spicy sauces. At Rodney Scott’s BBQ restaurants, Rodney and his staff combine this rarely found style of cooking with bewitching sauce recipes to create an unforgettable meal.

“Rodney realizes all the elements he works with have to be in balance and hes (he has) figured out how to balance them.”- Lolis Eric Elie speaking about Rodney’s sauces, Writer & Founding Member of the Southern Foodways Alliance

Fairly recently, within the past 10 years, he received a nomination for a highly regarded cooking competition in Chicago. Martha Stewart and the other big names in cooking participated. Out of all who attended from the southeast region of the United States, Rodney took home the prize for the best barbecue.

The American BBQ Showdown

Now we get into a slightly different aspect of barbecue: barbecue competition. Easily my personal favorite between the two series, The American BBQ Showdown, brings together multiple BBQ personalities to compete against one another for the title of America’s best pitmaster.

The competition includes two remarkable judges in Kevin Bludso and the previously quoted Melissa Cookston. Also hosting the show, Lyric Lewis and Floor is Lava host Rutledge Wood. Melissa gained the judging keys by winning seven world barbecue competitions and Kevin got him by appearing on several barbecue shows and owning several barbecue-style restaurants.

Throughout the entirety of the series, every form of barbecue imaginable gets put to the test. Early style cooking in the dirt, making soups with grill meat, sandwiches, different cultural tools, roasting less frequently cooked animals, cooking in teams, and utilization of specific ingredients flood throughout this series. If the contestants make it through to the last rounds, they truly know how to work their way around a piece of meat.

How You Become a Pitmaster

1. Experiment and Create What Speaks to You

Plain and simple; the true Pitmasters experiment and add their story to their cooking. Rasheed from The American Barbecue Showdown made a lot of Jamaican style dishes. Lennox’s purely natural and delicate cooking shows every time he makes a dish. It makes them feel so accomplished and when you cook your cue does the same for you.

2. View Fire as an Instrument for Fine Dining

This one stems completely from Hastie, but none the less it sets him apart so well from the rest. Lennox has been known to say grill marks (even just cooking on your gas grill at home), mean a sign of horrible failure. While unheard of, he even grills caviar on top of seaweed. Think about the fire the way Lennox thinks about it. Wrap it in banana leaves, place seaweed underneath your food, etc. to present a work of heavenly taste and out of this world aesthetic.

3. Keep a Constant Temperature on Your Pit

Melissa Cookston harps so much on this throughout the competition, it seems impossible not to receive this message. A constant temperature gives your meat the right solidity and consistency.

4. Look for the Best Ingredients and Respect Them

The top of the line ingredients plays a tremendous part in differentiating your cooking from the rest. Take out of your head the saying “ingredients don’t matter.” It takes so much work, time, and effort for nature and farmers to create one simple vegetable. Respect all that everyone did to make that little vegetable a reality. Go to small local farmers rather than grocery stores and find out what they spray on their produce, what they feed their animals, etc. Even a chemical spray may mean loss of flavor or a chicken eating a worm rather than cornmeal affects its taste. Study what makes for the best ingredients and apply that knowledge to your visits.

5. Challenge Yourself with Uncharted Territory

In The American Barbecue Showdown, the competitors faced creating all different styles of barbecue. Not one challenger went without facing at least one foreign ingredient or style of cooking. It made them panic and/or think for a long time about how to complete a certain challenge. Imagine if you experimented with trying every style of cooking and ingredient performed on The American Barbecue Showdown. I’m willing to bet there sits a decent chance you end up on the next season if you do the same thoroughly.

6. Work Hard and Build a Pit

The harder you work, the more you appreciate what you mold. Building different types of pits allow you to experience why grills and stoves don’t exactly cut it when it comes to the highest quality taste.

7. Know Your Foods by Studying

Rasheed, despite never experiencing any BBQ competitions beforehand, knew how to cook each ingredient for the best result partially through reading cooking books as a child. It definitely allowed him to set himself apart from the rest of the pack.

Photo by Johnathan Macedo on Unsplash

8. Don’t get too Overconfident in Your Cooking

With both James aka “Grubs” and Sylvie from The American Barbecue Showdown, their overconfidence in a specific style of cooking ended up shooting themselves in the foot. For Sylvie, she thought she invented the rib and for “Grubs” he thought he knew exactly how to cook exotic animals such as an iguana.

9. You Learn the Rookie Mistakes

Several times in the show Melissa Cookston mentions competitors making “rookie mistakes.” An example of this occurred when Tina and Ashley put the whole hog on the pit bareback with nothing encompassing it to allow them to rotate it to its’ other side. Oops!

10. Be Ready for the Unexpected

Almost every challenge in The American Barbecue Showdown, if not every one, contained a mid-smoke challenge. Most were not ready for this, despite the fact it happened practically every challenge… Even if you cook from home, adversity occurs. Facing that adversity causes you to improve as a chef.

11. Eat with Your Eyes

People eat with their eyes. If something looks appealing, the person is more apt to enjoy it. Rasheed even made purple colored potatoes. Boy, I want to try some of that and I know you do too!

12. Know Your Ratios

While personally, I can’t say exactly at what temperature your meat should cook for how long, it’s definitely something that needs practice and honing to memorize. Cooked equals time times temperature. Specifics change for different parts of the meat as well as for the type of meat.

Photo by Bao Menglong on Unsplash

13. When to Place a Dry Rub and a Wet Rub

The purpose of a dry rub is to create a flavorful crust. Wet rub ribs contain some of the same seasonings as the dry rub, but it has a liquid base like vinegar or oil. It is important to know when a dry rub or a wet rub might be better suited for a particular type of meat. For example, wet goes better on pork ribs where a dry rub tastes better on beef.

14. Performing Multiple Tasks Simultaneously

The best chefs know how to plan, prep, and prioritize all the dishes they make at the same time. If you practice making various types of meat while cooking various and multiple sides, you will learn how to properly plan, prep, and prioritize.



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store