Pitmaster Chris Lilly is a man who knows how to barbecue, and  he has plenty of BBQ tips for you. Lilly is the head chef at Big Bob Gibson’s Bar-B-Q in Decatur, Al., a winner of national and international barbecue competitions and a national spokesperson for Kingsford Charcoal. If you need a BBQ expert, you’ve come to the right place. “You can do fantastic barbecuing on anything as long as you understand the principles,” Lilly says. These are Chris Lilly’s BBQ tips, in his own words.

Organization is important
Get everything together so you don’t have to run back and forth to the house. Have everything organized by the time your guests get there.

Build a two-zone fire
I love to build a two-zone fire, which means charcoal on one side and open area on the other side. You can grill your burgers and dogs and everything on the hot side, then shift them over to the indirect side to keep them warm until all your food gets done. Sometimes that means two grills, depending on how big your grill is. Personally, I like to start with competition charcoal to get a hot flame quick and then add a (Kingsford) blue bag, if I’m going to be grilling for a long period of time.

Know which cuts go where
Thin cuts (like burgers) can go directly over the fire. Large cuts (like brisket and pork shoulder) you want to go shift to indirect heat. You want to put the grill top on so they bake all the way through while you get that great smoky, charred flavor from the charcoal.

Control the air
Typically your vent on bottom lets the airflow in. You want to keep that open when you’re doing direct grilling. More airflow means the hotter the fire. If you’re doing dogs and burgers, you want a hot fire. The less airflow, the colder your fire will burn. With any grill, you want a tight seal, to control the in-flow and out-flow of air.

If you’re looking, it ain’t cooking
People are so concerned with what is happening on the grill and what the food is doing that they open and shut the grill too much. We’re talking about items where they need to keep it closed – larger cuts, ribs, pork tenderloin, where you cook indirect heat away from the fire. Shut it down. You want to trap the internal moisture from the meat inside the cooking chamber. You want that moist heat. If I’m cooking pork tenderloins on indirect heat the cooker lid stays on and it’s going to stay on for an hour before I even peak in there to see what the meat is doing.

Moisture is good
The more food you put in a Weber grill, the better. It keeps a high humidity in the cooking chamber, which keeps food moist. If you cook on a Weber, consider adding a water pan to add moisture. Throw some spices in the water for flavor.

Buy the right amount of food
If you have a bunch of guys coming over for ribs, I want to count on four to six ribs per person. You can figure on 12 bones per slab. You can feed two to three people per slab, if that’s the main course. If it’s just appetizers, about two to three bones per person. If you’re doing large cuts, like a whole pork butt, and you’re doing that cook all day, an eight pound pork butt is going to yield 50 percent, so you’re going to get about four pounds of meat out of an eight-pound pork butt. Four pounds will get you about six sandwiches per pound. You’ll get about 24 sandwiches out of that pork butt. Count on about a half a pound per person. You can count on about one-third of a pound if it’s guys and girls and less than that if it’s kids.

Don’t serve large cuts immediately
You want to let all large cuts of meat rest before you cut them open. Even smaller cuts like steaks and things. You want time for the internal juices within the meat to redistribute so they’ll stay in the meat. You’re going to appreciate it. You cut a steak right off the grill, the juices pour out, you’re losing flavor; you’re losing moisture.

Grill chicken wings over indirect heat
I like to marinate my chicken wings and go straight from the marinade out of the GLAD bag and onto the charcoal grill. Typically when I do chicken wings I like to go indirect heat. You’re not going to char and burn the skin before the inside gets ready. Put them away from the heat, shut the top on the grill with chicken wings or any large cuts.

How to tell when a whole chicken is done
You can tell a chicken is done when you start to twist the leg and feel the joint between the leg and the thigh roll.

Get your guests involved. Let them do some grilling as well, so you can sit back and chill. Everyone wants to get dirty and hands-on, especially when you’ve got the charcoal grill fired up in the backyard.

Be creative
Get crazy in your backyard. It’s not just burgers. It’s not just hot dogs. Get the shrimp out, all your skewers, your calamari. Grilled pickles, grilled cucumbers, grilled onions. Push the limits. What do you have in your refrigerator? I guarantee you can cook it outside over charcoal with more flavor than you can in the oven.

Lilly is the author of Big Bob Gibson’s BBQ Book: Recipes and Secrets from a Legendary Barbecue Joint.

Photos courtesy of Meathead from http://amazingribs.com


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