CALIFORNIA – The Golden State may be the top outdoor grilling destination this Labor Day weekend, but the state has nothing to offer like authentic Southern barbecue.
With vacation coming up, we reached out to someone with real barbecue chops for tips on how to sizzle a California backyard feast.
Rodney Scott is a legendary pitmaster in the southeast. He has been cooking whole pig barbecue over charcoal since he was 11 and learned his trade from his family at Scott’s Variety Store & Bar-BQ in Hemingway, SC
Scott is now a middle-aged married man with three sons three restaurants in the southeast which are a must for barbecue lovers.
He opened his first Rodney Scott’s BBQ on King Street in Charleston, SC., partnered with The Pihakis Restaurant Group in 2017, and it’s been a delicious ride ever since. In the same year, Bon Appétit named it one of the 50 best new restaurants; In 2018, Scott was named Best Chef: Southeast at the James Beard Foundation Awards.
Last September, the grill master starred in his own episode on the Netflix series “Chef’s Table”; this year he is a judge on the Food Network’s “BBQ Brawl: Flay vs. Symon”; and in March he published his first cookbook, “Rodney Scott’s Grill World: Every day is a good day“(Clarkson Potter; March 16, 2021).
The book is a compendium of special recipes and poignant essays on South Carolina food and traditions. It’s also an American success story that describes how a young pit master went from working for his father in the tobacco fields and smokehouse to making the sacrifices he made to expand his family’s business and then set up his own business in Charleston .
Scott’s BBQ restaurants serve ribs, chicken, and turkey on the menu, with classic side dishes like kale, coleslaw, and “Ella’s Banana Pudding,” a tribute to Scott’s mother. His barbecue style is “Carolina,” which is whole pork cooking.
“The whole pig is a difference that can be tasted, and the fact that we make it here is what sets us apart,” said Scott.
But the grill king is an easy man when it comes to gardening at home.
“My first port of call would be the hamburger or hot dog, then ribs,” he told Patch. “If I feel like it, it’s probably the ribeye steak and anything cooked over the fire.
“Believe it or not, my favorite weekends are pasta salad, chicken salad, or seafood salad, which is served cold with ribs,” he continued. “My next stop would be a hamburger and a hot dog in that order, both on the plate at the same time.”
But when planning a feast, “the first step is choosing your favorite protein,” said Scott. “Mine is steak, more precisely a ribeye cut with a bone. For fish I prefer fillet catfish or salmon, and for poultry I choose chicken legs because they are juicier and you get a nice crispy skin when cooked over a stone. Go with proteins that contain some fat for more flavor. “
Scott is a master at pit barbecue, which involves cooking in a hole in the ground. This method has evolved into above-ground pits, usually built with cinder blocks, with a grill about 2 feet above the fire.
“This method is the best because it comes slowly and slowly so that the food can really absorb that smoky taste,” explained Scott.
But many Californians use store-bought grills, and low and slow isn’t exactly a forte in the West.
“For people who don’t have the patience and want to grill quickly, I’d suggest a smaller protein like hamburgers, hot dogs, weenies, shrimp kebabs, and wings. They cook a lot faster and are super easy to add flavor, “explained Scott.
When it comes to seasoning, Scott recommends trying the flavors you choose before actually using them. Sometimes you need a rub, but sometimes a sprinkle is enough. Leave it to your taste buds.
“I always tell people to try the rub before you apply it so you can see if it’s too salty or too sweet, which helps you know how much to sprinkle or grate,” explained Scott . “If you want to tenderize your meat, be sure to marinate the protein at refrigerator temperature – that is, put it back in the refrigerator as long as possible before cooking it.”
For Seiten, Scott suggests picking what’s in season.
“Enjoy the last of the summer corn with some kale and maybe a grilled vegetable salad,” he said.
The biggest mistake Scott sees cooking over a fire is not being careful.
“A lot of people turn away from cooking and get distracted and burn the food. Focus on the food and it will be great,” he said.
According to Scott, the real secret to a good grill isn’t that complicated.
“Be prepared to have fun and enjoy your barbecue,” he said. “Enjoy the moment with family, friends and neighbors and serve it with confidence.”