BBQ guru Steven Raichlen on how to cook for a crowd.
Known to many as the "professor of barbecue," Steven Raichlen has penned more than 20 books on the subject and has found a way to grill almost any kind of food imaginable, from pizza to pound cake. His immersion course into all things grilled, the so-called BBQ University at the Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., was spun off into a popular PBS television series that is taped on location on the hotel grounds. The idea of BBQ U., he says, is to "get smoky and sweaty over the grill in the morning, golf in the afternoon, and dine under chandeliers in the evening." The four-day course at the Greenbrier -- which runs up to $2,350 per person, including meals and lodging -- is the ultimate fantasy camp for barbecue enthusiasts. With the company barbecue season upon us, we asked him to share a few of his lessons.
What dishes are the biggest crowd pleasers?
It's pretty tough to go wrong with smoked brisket or baby back ribs.
What are the cardinal rules of good grilling?
Turn, don't stab: Use tongs, not a fork. Give it a rest: Let steaks rest a few minutes before serving to allow the meat and juices to relax. And of course, there's my grill master's mantra: Keep it hot, keep it clean, and keep it lubricated.
Can we assume you don't know a lot of vegetarians?
My books are full of vegetarian entree recipes, such as tandoori peppers in Barbecue Bible and bean stuffed onions in BBQ USA. And everyone loves desserts like my s'mores and cinnamon grilled peaches.
How can we keep the kiddies occupied?
Children love the hot dogs stuffed with cheese and chilies in How to Grill.
Do you have a dish or two that's a cinch to make but looks impressive?
Drunken steak in BBQ USA is exceedingly easy, and any of my beer-can chicken recipes will make eyes pop, jaws drop, and mouths water.
How do you make grilling for a large group easier?
Smokers tend to hold a lot of food, and large cuts of meat are easy to slice and serve to a crowd. It also helps to have several large grills. I personally own 30.
What are some common miscues?
There's a color-blindness that prevents people, generally men, from recognizing the difference between cooked and burned. Use an instant-read meat thermometer. Don't overcrowd your grill. I never put food on more than two-thirds of the surface. Don't apply sugary barbecue sauces too early. They burn before the meat is cooked.
What should we serve to our oenophile pals?
Beer is the obvious choice, but wine elevates a barbecue and gives it elegance. Sweeter whites, like Rieslings or Gewuerztraminers, are well suited to big, smoky flavors. In reds, go with Cabernet or Zinfandel.
What should we do if we accidentally burn everything?
Scrape off the really burned part, douse it with extra virgin olive oil and chopped herbs, and say, "That's how they do it in Tuscany."