BBQ tips from a Canadian pitmaster

August 11 2015

Barbecue is a favourite food during the summer months - and many customers enjoy the sticky sweet flame-grilled foods throughout the year.

And, while cooking meat over a fire is a relatively simple task, getting truly delicious results takes a skilled hand. Nobody knows this better than Mike Callaghan. As the pitmaster for Team Canada BBQ, Mr Callaghan has earned a variety of prestigious awards. He even won the award for world's best BBQ sauce at last year's Memphis in May, an annual competition in Tennessee that hosts 250 teams.

Mr Callaghan recently spoke with the Globe and Mail to discuss what makes the best barbecue.

He says that one common mistake he sees people making is that they don't use a rub on the meat.

"People don't rub. One of the biggest things about treating and seasoning your meat is, the night before we pull the skins off the back of the ribs, our pork, our steak and everything else, we put a seasoning directly on the meat," he says.

He recommends using a dry rub rather than a wet. "You taste the pork better. And it's less adulterated than when you put a sauce on it." However, he admits that when he cooks for judges, he always uses a wet rub, noting that competitions are different than normal eating. "When you're serving a judge, it's one bite you're after. You have to be extra-sweet, you have to be extra-spicy. You can't be waiting for things to develop."

He says that his favourite meat to cook right now is steaks on charcoal. "That's what we call caveman style," he says.

"You do this thing called reverse sear for steak," he adds. This means getting the charcoal up to about 800 or 900 degrees and put the steak right on the coals for just a couple of minutes on each side. "It sears the meat beautifully," he explains.

When asked about the debate between gas and charcoal, Mr Callaghan admits that propane is convenient. "But if you want high-quality food, you're getting the charcoal out," he says.

Another common mistake, he says, is boiling ribs as it leads to the meat being bland and flavourless.

"You boil rice, not ribs. Why would people want to boil their meat before putting it on a grill? You just wash all the flavour out," he says, adding that he cooks ribs for five and a half hours at 220 degrees.

Of course, a good barbecue sauce is essential and Mr Callaghan's recommendation for a delicious sauce is: "A lot of maple syrup and a lot of whisky."