Auburn's grillmasters share tips of the trade

When you?re cooking outside, it?s all about flavor and temperature
By: Krissi Khokhobashvili, Journal features editor
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It’s the season to fire up the grill, but what if you’ve never tried your hand at that great American tradition? This Fourth of July, Auburn’s grill pros offer some tips for people new to the world of charcoal, gas and smoke.

1. Gas or charcoal?
Ah, the question that has started many a debate. Really, though it’s all about your taste and time preference. George Miller, who owns Flying Pig BBQ in Downtown Auburn, grills at home with lump mesquite charcoal.

“You cook with gas indoors, you cook with wood or charcoal outdoors,” said Miller, who sometimes adds chunks of hickory to his charcoal.

Brendon Sullivan, owner of Bam Dazy BBQ in North Auburn, prefers gas when he grills.

“I use my Weber gas grill at home,” he said. “Not charcoal. I get enough of that during the day at the restaurant. I like to do things easy when I get home.”

Both use professional smokers at their restaurants, slow-cooking meat for hours until they come out smoked to perfection.

2. Start slow
First time on the grill? Try tri-tip, Miller suggested.

“The only thing you can do wrong with a tri-tip is to cut it with the grain,” he said. “Then it gets stringy and hard to chew. If you cut it across the grain, it’s going to be nice and tender and easy to eat.”

Once you’ve got tri-tip down, try hamburgers and hot dogs, then work your way up to chicken.

“Chicken is not for beginners,” Miller cautioned, “unless you’re OK with burning a bunch.”

3. To turn or not to turn?
A good rule of thumb for backyard grilling, Miller said, is “If you’re looking, you’re not cooking.” Opening the top of a grill to flip the meat lets out the heat, so he advises flipping just a couple of times.

Sullivan said he’ll turn the meat a couple of times while it grills, and in the case of chicken he cooks it low and slow, letting it cook for about an hour. He always cooks with the bone in and skin on, he said, because those hold moisture in.

4. Temperature is key
Both grillers said that when it comes to grilling, the temperature tells all.

When cooking tri-tip, Miller advised, pull it off the grill when it reaches 130 degrees, then wrap it in aluminum foil and let it sit for a while, because it’ll continue to cook off the grill. Chicken should reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees at its thickest part, he said.

“Whether you’re smoking or grilling, low and slow or hot and fast, temperatures in your meat are the most important thing,” Sullivan said. “You could have a $1,000 grill and the best piece of meat you can possibly buy … and if you don’t have your temperatures right you can cook that thing hot and fast and end up having a piece of shoe leather.”

Reach Krissi Khokhobashvili at Follow her on Twitter, @AuburnJournalAE.


Basic rub

Meghan Sullivan of Bam Dazy BBQ said this recipe will add great flavor to any type of meat

1 cup garlic salt

1 cup kosher salt

1 cup brown sugar

2 tablespoons chili powder

2 teaspoons cayenne pepper

2 tablespoons paprika


Poultry brine
George Miller of Flying Pig BBQ recommends that all poultry, pork and wild game be brined to add flavor to the lean meat.

1 cup salt

1 cup sugar

1 quart apple cider vinegar

2 quarts water

1 tablespoon each ground or rubbed sage, whole allspice berries, whole black peppercorns and juniper berries

Combine ingredients, bring to a boil and pour over 3 or 4 quarts of ice. Set the meat in there overnight. Smaller things, like chicken parts, can be effectively brined in an hour and a half.


Beef ribs with classic barbecue sauce
For those without a grill, Chef Laura Kenny recommends roasting ribs in the oven.

“The oven provides the ‘all-around’ cooking that you can't achieve on the stovetop,” Kenny said. 

Recipe from “The Art of Real Food”

Serves four

Two racks four-bone beef ribs

2 tablespoons olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

One bottle dark beer

Preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit

Season ribs with oil, salt and pepper. Place in a large baking dish, add beer and cover with foil. Roast two to three hours, until tender. Remove foil and brush ribs with barbecue sauce. Increase oven temperature to 350 degrees and roast one hour. Let rest at least 30 minutes before slicing and serving.


Classic barbecue sauce
Makes 3 cups

Recipe by Carol Arnold

2 tablespoons grapeseed oil

One medium onion, finely chopped

Three or four large ripe tomatoes, finely diced (skin removed)

½ cup red wine vinegar

½ cup brown sugar, packed

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon pepper

Heat oil in a 3-quart pan over medium heat. Add onions; cook, stirring often, until soft, about 10 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, vinegar, brown sugar, Worcestershire, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until thickened, about one hour. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking. When cool, cover and refrigerate. Keeps in refrigerator up to two weeks.