Matt Abdoo and Shane McBride went from haute cuisine to hot barbecuing – and never looked back.
The classically trained chefs who’d earned accolades at such upscale New York restaurants as Del Posto and Balthazar left the fine dining world, and in 2015, opened Pig Beach BBQ, a casual Brooklyn eatery focused on smoked meats, sides and signature sauces. The friends and business partners developed recipes and techniques inspired by, but not bound to, barbecue styles like Texas, Memphis, Kansas City and the Carolinas. Their style is New York City barbecue, a mix of offerings where flavor and creativity trumps everything else.
“New York City barbecue is just like New York City; it's an ever-changing microcosm,” McBride says. “There's no more of a melting pot than New York City. So that's what our barbecue is.”
Pig Beach BBQ recipe: Juicy pulled pork with tangy Hatch vinegar barbecue sauce
Their approach has resulted in a sort of Pig Beach BBQ empire. They opened a second location in Queens and have a third slated for West Palm Beach in Florida soon. They sell signature sauces and spice blends online and make appearances on morning shows and food TV. Now, they’re also authors. “The Pig Beach BBQ Cookbook: Smoked, Grilled, Roasted, and Sauced,” out now, has more than 50 recipes including ribs, brisket and pulled pork (or, as McBride calls them, “barbecue’s greatest hits”) as well as boundary-pushing dishes like beef rib gnocchi and pastramen (pork broth ramen with pastrami).
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While Abdoo and McBride had formal culinary training, they had to learn the fundamentals of barbecue. So, they dedicated a chapter in the book to barbecue basics to share their earned knowledge of smokers, tools and ingredients. Once people grasp the basics, they’ll be “feel a little bit more confident and have a better understanding to make the best barbecue they can possibly make with whatever device or apparatus they have to cook it on,” Abdoo says.
Grilling tips from the Pig Beach BBQ pitmasters
Buy the big box of aluminum foil
Wrapping ingredients is essential to locking in moisture and flavor, so ditch the smaller boxes of foil and cling wrap for the larger, heavy duty options. McBride recommends the 18- or 20-inch sizes, and says you can find them at restaurant supply stores, bulk retailers like Costco and online. “When you use that tiny cling wrap from the grocery store, it's hard to wrap a single pork chop with one of those so wrapping a brisket is impossible,” he says.
Use a digital thermometer
A good instant-read thermometer is “infinitely important,” Abdoo says. He cautions against relying on the gauges built into smokers and grills because they can’t measure temperatures inside the food. “It's the only way you're ever going to get an accurate read of when something's… raw or ready to be pulled off the cooker,” he says.
Layer your gloves
McBride says a good pair of cotton gloves are a must-have item for any barbecuer. They help protect your hands without making them slippery. Use them underneath a layer of latex gloves and “it's like having fireproof hands,” he says.
Use a chimney starter
“You don't want to be using chemicals to start your fires," McBride says. "The flavor is just not very good,” Abdoo says. Instead, invest in a chimney starter to get your charcoal going quickly.
Practice with cheaper cuts
Like anything, practice makes perfect in barbecue. But trial and error is a lot less expensive with pork shoulder than brisket, Abdoo says. “Pork shoulder and brisket have very similar fundamental cooking techniques within the barbecue world since they're large cuts,” he says. “If you undercooked or overcooked pork shoulder, it's a lot more forgiving than a brisket.”
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Grilling tips to improve your barbecue skills