North America’s Top 10 BBQ Experts

North America's
Top 10
BBQ Experts

Your favorite chefs reveal
their best-kept secrets and
what fuels their fire!

Get to know some of North America's top pitmasters
and what inspires their award-winning BBQ. Learn
how to take your grilling to the next level and achieve
the best BBQ, every time.

Start sizzling, summer is around the corner!

 

Aaron Franklin is widely regarded as one of the most influential pitmasters in the U.S. He received the James Beard Foundation Award for Best Chef: Southwest in 2015. His popular and critically lauded restaurant Franklin Barbecue was awarded Texas Monthly's coveted Best Barbecue Joint in Texas, and Bon Appetit’s Best Barbecue Joint in America.

Aaron is also the co-author of the New York Times bestselling book Franklin Barbecue: A Meat-Smoking Manifesto, and Franklin Steak. In addition, you can find him on PBS as the host of his show BBQ with Franklin.

Aaron’s interest in barbecue started with the backyard cookouts that he and his wife and business partner, Stacy, would throw. They had no idea what they were getting themselves into when they opened up a small barbecue trailer on the side of an Austin, Texas interstate in 2009.

Today, crowds stand in line for hours for a taste of his mouth-watering brisket. Franklin Barbecue has been celebrated by everyone from Jimmy Kimmel to Anthony Bourdain to President Obama.

Question 1

If you could choose a dish that most represents you, what would it be and why?

A perfectly grilled bavette steak! Quick and easy, this is a common meal at home. A bavette is a lean and inexpensive small steak from the sirloin that has nice grain and takes to natural fire very well. Paired with some grilled veggies and some type of grain, I'd say this represents my style of cooking and lack of time available to spend making dinner. All my favorite things balled into one quick meal that's cooked outside, with a cold beverage, on a HOT patio!

Question 2

What inspires your cooking or keeps you passionate about your work?

Unfortunately, I don’t get to cook as much as I used to, but, I’m quite passionate about the endless quest to perfect the BBQ at Franklin. I'm there every day, looking at everything, looking at the food throughout lunch, talking to the cooks, raising an eyebrow at the fires. I’m always trying to troubleshoot and dissect every minute of every day's cook and how to translate that into real-time to all the cooks involved in the 24 hours a day cooking process. It’s really all the guests that come through that I get most of my inspiration from.

Question 3

Which ingredient, technique, or tool could you never do without when grilling?

HA! Tongs? No really, good salt and lemons! I can't cook anything without those two little unicorns!

Question 4

If you could share one cooking tip with your fans, what would it be?

Just try! Don't be intimidated by cooking something that seems hard! Think about it, make a plan, and practice!!!

Maddie & Kiki, Canada's favorite female grill experts, have fed thousands of barbecue-loving fans across Canada and beyond.

These charcoal-grilling sisters have a blast showcasing their love for barbecue cookery during TV appearances, at live on-stage grilling demonstrations, and on their social channels. They write, produce, and curate their TV segments, from dazzling set decor to mouth-watering recipes. Their vivacity and enthusiasm for food shine through to their audiences.

When they aren't traveling to TV stations across Canada, you can catch Maddie & Kiki at the Grill Studio, their cutting-edge barbecue facility located in Port Hope, Ontario. The unique BBQ-specific space is where they teach private classes, shoot their brand-new YouTube series, and host special events. It has been lovingly nicknamed "The Graceland of Canadian BBQ" as it is a must-visit space for tourists and barbecue enthusiasts.

With an online following of over 20k, Maddie & Kiki are on a mission to influence more women of all ages to master the art of the outdoor cookery.

Question 1

If you could choose a dish that most represents you, what would it be and why?

Our homemade rosemary and cured-olive focaccia bread baked on a charcoal grill. Fact: One of life’s most delicious smells is fresh bread. Add the aroma of charcoal and wood to that scent and it's literally enough to make your knees buckle in pure BBQ ecstasy!

Question 2

What inspires your cooking or keeps you passionate about your work?

Each other. We are sisters by chance, best friends by choice...most days, when we aren't fighting over who gets to pull the pork shoulder bone from a batch of pulled pork! Our love of cooking together is what keeps us passionate about our work. The decision to quit our day jobs to pursue our BBQ dreams was a journey that we knew we could only embark on if we could do it together. We made this life-changing decision after determining that we wanted to inspire more women to explore the art of outdoor cookery.

Question 3

Which ingredient, technique, or tool could you never do without when grilling?

Our hands! We're talkin’ squeaky clean, bare hands touching, squeezing, mixing, and tearing the food in all of the dishes we create. We feel it is so important to connect with the food you eat by getting right in there with it; feeling the textures, the wetness, the smoothness of the food. When mixing a batch of homemade small-batch sausage, we feel it’s almost impossible to truly know if all of the ingredients are thoroughly combined until your fingers take a deep dive into the mixture to see for themselves!

Question 4

If you could share one cooking tip with your fans, what would it be?

When the recipe says add 2 cloves of garlic, always add three more. Garlic was made to be used in fives, it’s a scientific rule, and if you share this tip at a dinner party and someone tries to question this logic, just tell ‘em that Maddie & Kiki said so!

AKA the BBQ Guru, Max Lavoie is a proud father and accomplished entrepreneur.

Growing up in his parent's hardware store, Max dedicated himself to the family business, cultivating a passion for barbecue in his spare time.

Several years later, Max found himself making BBQ his number 1 focus, winning many food championships including 1st place for Best Sauce in Memphis (2014), 1st place for Choix du Chef in France (2016), and 1st place for Product Innovation with his all-in-1 BBQ accessory in Dallas, Texas (2019). Max was recently named the World Food Championships' #TasteOfCanada2020 winner in the Burger category for Quebec.

Max is also the author of BBQ au Max and was featured on multiple TV shows, radio stations, and more. In 2015 Max became a co-host on the French TV show Oui Chef BBQ!, and created his own web series documenting his experience with 'La Team' at the American Royal World Series of BBQ.

Question 1

If you could choose a dish that most represents you, what would it be and why?

A stuffed burger! You can switch it up, add avocado, shrimp, salsa picante. There are so many choices of ingredients that can either make it ‘edgy’ or fancy. There's always room for creativity with a burger.

Question 2

What inspires your cooking or keeps you passionate about your work?

People. My team is awesome, my customers are great and so are my suppliers. Working in this industry is amazing. The enthusiasm, love and energy that comes from our fans fuel us and energize us to keep doing more.

Question 3

Which ingredient, technique, or tool could you never do without when grilling?

Ingredients: Spices! I NEED my spices. I could cook a rock as long as I had the right spices.
Technique: Knowing how to control the fire or source of energy.
Tool: An instant thermometer.

Question 4

If you could share one cooking tip with your fans, what would it be?

Don't stress. Use the best ingredients and the right tools, and your BBQ game will be outstanding, every time!

Meathead, AKA the Barbecue Whisperer, is the founder of one of the world's most popular outdoor cooking websites AmazingRibs.com.

Author of New York Times Best Seller Meathead - The Science of Great Barbecue and Grilling that was named as one of the 100 Best Cookbooks of All Time by Southern Living magazine.

In a previous life, Meathead was a syndicated wine critic for The Washington Post and Chicago Tribune. He has taught at Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration and Le Cordon Bleu in Chicago.

Meathead has also judged food, wine, beer, and spirits from all around the world, and was recently nominated for the Barbecue Hall of Fame.

Question 1

If you could choose a dish that most represents you, what would it be and why?

Welllllll, my website is named AmazingRibs.com, so the recipe that most represents me is a no-brainer. We launched in 2005 with just one recipe, “Last Meal Ribs,” the ribs you would want to eat on death row for your last meal. But I’ve gotta tell you, our “Close to Katz’s Pastrami” may be the most exciting recipe in that everyone who tries it raves over about it. Why? When you pile it on rye and take your first bite, you can't help but doing what Meg Ryan did in Katz's Deli in New York in the movie.

Question 2

What inspires your cooking or keeps you passionate about your work?

There are three main motivations: I love to eat, I love to cook, and I love the challenge of being creative. I actually did my Masters in Art at The School of The Art Institute of Chicago, so thinking in a creative sense is great fun. I love to break outside the box, to cross the streams, and use Asian ingredients in traditional Italian recipes. That’s why they call it Culinary Arts.

Question 3

Which ingredient, technique, or tool could you never do without when grilling?

Digital thermometers. Cooking is all about harnessing heat and to do that, you need good thermometers. Cooking without good digital thermometers is like driving without a speedometer. You need one for your fridge, one for your grill/smoker/oven and one for the food. Invest in good thermometers. They're inexpensive, fast, and accurate. They will pay for themselves. Nothing will improve your cooking more.

Question 4

If you could share one cooking tip with your fans, what would it be?

Learn about 2-zone cooking and reverse sear for anything more than 1” thick. Set up your grill with only one hot side. You'll do most of the cooking with the lid down on the side that isn’t hot, gently roasting the food with warm convection airflow. High heat shrinks muscle fibers that squeeze out moisture, you want to cook your food gently. After the interior temp is close to where you want it, move it to the hot side and lift the lid. Now you can cook the surface, flipping often so the high heat does not penetrate. There are some fascinating physics and chemistry going on.

As a four-time world barbecue champion, Myron Mixon is the winningest man in barbecue. He’s the chief cook of the Jack’s Old South Competition Bar-B-Que Team, the Mayor of Unadilla, GA, and Chef/Partner of Myron Mixon’s Pitmaster BBQ in Old Town Alexander, VA, and Miami, FL.

On TV, Myron is the Executive Producer and host of BBQ Rules, host of Smoked, and star of two other hit shows, BBQ Pitmasters and BBQ Pitwars, on Discovery's Destination America and Cooking Channel.

Myron’s also the author of the New York Times bestselling cookbooks Smokin’ with Myron Mixon, Everyday Barbecue, Myron Mixon’s BBQ Rules, and BBQ&A with Myron Mixon.

In addition to books, Myron has his own line of products including sauces and barbecue rubs, knives and grill tools.

Question 1

If you could choose a dish that most represents you, what would it be and why?

I would have to say that the BBQ dish that most represents me is the whole hog. It’s big, thick, and tricky to get perfect tenderness, but I've won 4 BBQ World Championships cooking ‘em.

Question 2

What inspires your cooking or keeps you passionate about your work?

My inspiration for barbecuing started with my dad, Jack Mixon, who taught me from an early age how to smoke meats to perfection and to take pride in that skill. He's gone, so it’s my turn to inspire my sons to be the best they can.

Question 3

Which ingredient, technique, or tool could you never do without when grilling?

Every meat has a perfect internal temperature when it reaches doneness. To make sure I don’t undercook or overcook my proteins, I always use a meat thermometer to make sure my barbecue is perfect.

Question 4

If you could share one cooking tip with your fans, what would it be?

The best tip I can give on smokin’ and grillin’ is fire management. Whatever temperature you're cooking at, keep it consistent. Don't fluctuate. It throws off your recipe timeline and it’s not helping the meat when you're bouncing the grill temp up and down.

Paul Sidoriak is a grill master who loves everything about outdoor cooking, grilling, and barbecue. His website GrillingMontana.com is a showcase of his culinary successes and failures on the grill, and a place where he reviews various grills and outdoor cooking products.

Paul is also the author of two cookbooks, including his most recent project The Flippin’ Awesome Backyard Griddle Cookbook, the first comprehensive book dedicated to one of the fastest-growing outdoor cooking devices; the griddle grill.

Paul uses his grills as a blank canvas, a creative place to make delicious foods. His dishes are lighthearted and whimsical, taking full advantage of what's in season whenever possible.

Paul grills year-round at his home in western Montana, regardless of whether Mother Nature decides to cooperate.

Question 1

If you could choose a dish that most represents you, what would it be and why?

A dish that most represents me would be something like Paella. I suffer from what I call ‘Ben & Jerry's syndrome.’ I'm constantly seeking out different tastes, textures, and mouth feels. I get bored when a dish can’t hold my attention. Paella does all of that. It's steeped in tradition and is made both to bring people together and to be shared.

Question 2

What inspires your cooking or keeps you passionate about your work?

Three things; markets, cookers, and travel. I love having the opportunity to go to the market with maybe a protein or vegetable in mind and returning home with something that has limited availability - often seasonal, fresh, and completely different than my original plan.

The same can be said for cookers. There are so many fun ways to cook outside that at times I enjoy the process as much as the result. I will roast meats in a barrel cooker, simply because I appreciate how basic and quiet it is, or I'll use a pellet grill with smart functions that allow me to monitor and adjust temperatures remotely, from somewhere like my favorite fishing hole. Recently I've learned to appreciate a good gas grill and how it can be both a powerful and effective cooker, especially when the weather here in western Montana chooses not to cooperate.

Travel fuels my creativity by introducing me to local markets and foods. My experiences change the way I view certain foods; Hatch chilies in Bainbridge Island, oysters along the Gulf Shores, pizza in New Haven, cheddar cheese in Vermont, and poke on the big island.

Question 3

Which ingredient, technique, or tool could you never do without when grilling?

I'm addicted to tongs! If I were a culinary superhero, I'd probably have tongs for hands. When I cook outside, they become an extension of me.

I've also become a huge fan of salt in the past few years. Living in Montana gives me access to some unbelievable meats. Often the biggest compliment you can give to the animal, farmer, and butcher is to let the meat speak for itself. A good quality salt bought for pre-cooking, dry brining, or to use on occasion when finishing, makes meat sing with flavor.

Question 4

If you could share one cooking tip with your fans, what would it be?

People put way too much pressure on themselves when it comes to outdoor cooking. A positive attitude is the most important ingredient you can incorporate into your dish.

When I cook for a gathering, most of the time it’s all about bringing people together, it’s the camaraderie, the conversation, and the companionship that truly make the meal. If I season my food with a smile and a positive attitude, the positivity becomes contagious and makes for a special event.

Celebrity Chef Robert Rainford is a Canadian chef, author and television host, appearing on stations including Food Network Canada, Discovery Home, and The Asian Food Channel. Robert was also the host of the wildly popular Food Network TV show, License to Grill.

Born in the parish of Saint Andrew, Jamaica, Chef Robert Rainford moved to Canada and enrolled in culinary school in 1994. He began a professional career shortly thereafter in which he honed his skills at some of the City of Toronto's finest restaurants. His professional career has now culminated in his becoming the Chef Ambassador to Centennial College.

Although Robert is a classically trained chef, he is best known as a connoisseur of the grill and for the unveiling of his signature “Rainford Method” in his new book Rob Rainford’s Born to Grill.

For Rob, grilling is about entertaining. It's about spending time with friends and family and sharing precious moments together.

Question 1

If you could choose a dish that most represents you, what would it be and why?

A classic surf and turf is the meal that represents me the best. Grilled beef tenderloin with a lobster tail served with potato roti and grilled asparagus. I'd finish that dish off with a duo of sauces such as red wine and beurre blanc.

Question 2

What inspires your cooking or keeps you passionate about your work?

What keeps me inspired and passionate is the sheer joy of producing high quality meals for my family. My wife and daughters are the recipients of most of my home cooked meals, and that gives me the biggest rush. In my professional work, knowing the joy and comfort I give to my guests gives me a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction that's second to none.

Question 3

Which ingredient, technique, or tool could you never do without when grilling?

My internal temperature probes are the tools I can’t go without anymore. I don’t need to worry about internal temperatures, I get my medium-rare every time.

Question 4

If you could share one cooking tip with your fans, what would it be?

When BBQ'ing or gas grilling, always give yourself an ‘out’ by having a two-tiered heat approach. This advice has saved quite a few backyard parties. Too many people try to grill on high and forget to have a cooler zone to gently finish items off.

Steven Raichlen is the author of The Brisket Chronicles, Project Fire, Project Smoke, The Barbecue Bible, How to Grill, and the New York Times bestselling Barbecue! Bible® cookbook series.

His TV shows include the public television series Project Smoke and Project Fire, Primal Grill, Barbecue University, Steven Raichlen Grills Italy, and the French-language series Les Incontournables de BBQ and Le Maitre du Grill.

Founder of Barbecue University at the Broadmoor resort in Colorado Springs, Raichlen has lectured on the history of barbecue at institutions as diverse as Harvard, the Library of Congress, and the Smithsonian.

Raichlen has won 5 James Beard Awards, 3 IACP Awards, and in 2016, he was inducted into the Barbecue Hall of Fame.

He and his wife, Barbara, live in Miami and Martha’s Vineyard.

Question 1

If you could choose a dish that most represents you, what would it be and why?

Caveman T-bone. It's certainly primal (you throw a red hunk of meat on blazing embers—no grill grate needed—and char it exactly as our forebears did hundreds of thousands of years ago). My readers know my passion for the history of barbecue. It's dramatic—people’s eyes pop and jaws drop when they see the process, and it produces a smoky char you just can’t achieve with conventional grilling.

I like to serve it with a pan fry of jalapeños, cilantro, and garlic. Robust flavors for a gutsy steak. It’s hard to imagine a more invigorating slab of meat.

Question 2

What inspires your cooking or keeps you passionate about your work?

First, my work takes place at the intersection of food, history, and culture—not to mention, literature, geography, chemistry, physics, etc. — all subjects I’m most passionate about. I love languages and travel. Barbecue has taken me to more than 70 countries on 6 continents.

Second, my work is also incredibly varied. From solitary writing in my office (or more accurately, on an Adirondack chair by the pool, I'm lucky to be able to go to the office in shorts!), hard traveling in the field for research, and working with a crew that’s more like family to make TV shows. A lot of my job description is to cook barbecue and eat barbecue—and get paid for it! How cool is that?

Third, I get to meet interesting people who are passionate about what they do, and share my passion for live fire, cooking with millions of readers and viewers.

Question 3

Which ingredient, technique, or tool could you never do without when grilling?

Ingredients: Extra virgin olive oil. I use it for marinating, basting, drizzling, and serving—it's the lifeblood of my grilling.

Technique: Ember-grilling (also known as cavemanning). There’s nothing like charring food right on the embers to intensify flavor and add wow power.

Tool: A simple set of long-handled, spring-loaded tongs. Use them for turning, scraping, cleaning, testing for doneness. I even designed a pair with a flashlight built-in so you can see what you're grilling. They're called Tumatongs.

Question 4

If you could share one cooking tip with your fans, what would it be?

Keep it hot. Keep it clean. Keep it lubricated! Start with a hot grill grate, clean it with a stiff wire brush, and oil it well before adding the food. That, and learn to control the fire, not have it control you.

Known as the ‘Godfather of the Grill,’ Ted Reader's charm and fearless culinary spirit have led him to become an award-winning chef, author, food-entertainer, product developer/innovator and professor.

Ted's culinary adventure began at George Brown College Chef School in Toronto which to date has paved the way for his dynamic career.

Ted is the author of twenty-one cookbooks including award-winning Napoleon's Everyday Gourmet Burgers, Beerlicious: The Art of Grillin’ and Chillin’, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Smoking, and Taste Canada’s 2014 Gold Medal Winner; Gastro Grilling.

Ted's passion for all things smoked and grilled is extremely contagious! You'll often find him spreading the gospel of BBQ at live cooking demonstrations, TV appearances, and on the radio to audiences that keep salivating for more!

Question 1

If you could choose a dish that most represents you, what would it be and why?

I would say a juicy, mouth-watering, chin dripping, t-shirt ruining Cheeseburger. That would be me.

Question 2

What inspires your cooking or keeps you passionate about your work?

Life is inspirational as is all the food in the universe. I love it. The smell, the touch, the look and the taste of food. It is the driving force behind my love of cooking and especially Barbecue.

Question 3

Which ingredient, technique, or tool could you never do without when grilling?

From an ingredient perspective, salt is key for me in the kitchen. As for tools, I love my tongs and I can't live without when I cook. Short 9-inch-long tongs to be exact, followed by my Thermapen thermometer, and lastly, a handmade spatula that I use for flipping burgers and other tasty eats.

Question 4

If you could share one cooking tip with your fans, what would it be?

#DFIU: Don't F It Up! But on a more serious note; patience is key to all you cook, whether it be in a smoker or on a grill or working with a stove. Patience will give you great results.

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