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Tailgate and BBQ Basics. How to Light the Grill and Cook Meats.

Chef Dan Catanio , On March 26, 2023

Ultimate Guide to Being a Grill Master.

In this tailgate bbq recipe I cook assorted meats that include pork chops, chicken leg quarts and beef shank.

Cooking Tools Needed for BBQ Tailgate Recipe

  • Grill, BBQ or Smoker

  • Mesquite charcoal (self-lighting)

  • Tongs

  • Brush

  • Aluminum spoon

  • Lighter

  • Mixing bowl

  • Meat thermometer

BBQ Tailgate Recipe Ingredients

Serves four

Cooking Video for this BBQ Tailgate Recipe

Cooking Directions for this BBQ Tailgate Recipe

    Prep your meats

  • For the tougher but affordable pieces of meat like beef shank and center cut pork chops place them in a mixing bowl completely submerged in the brine solution. Brining the meats injects moisture and flavor breaking down the tough tissue making them ideal for placing them on the bbq. Brine for 6-8 hours

  • Since chicken thigh has rich fat content I will use the marinade to inject a southwest flavor in my meat. Place the chicken thigh and leg quarts in a bag with classic marinade of choice to inject flavor in the meat. Allow the chicken to marinade for a few hours.

  • Light the BBQ

  • Pour 5lbs of the self-igniting mesquite charcoal into the bottom of the grill. Using a bbq lighter hold the lighter up to one of the charcoals until the flame lights

  • Allow the bbq to heat. When you see the charcoal turning white the charcoal has reached its heat potential.

  • When the charcoal turns white use a shovel or long spoon to push the charcoal to one side of the grill. Half of the grill should be hot (this is the side of the grill you will use to cook your meat) while the other side of the grill should be used to store meat when it is cooked.

    Grill the meats

  • Now that the charcoal is distributed as desired place the grill over the bbq.

  • Take your pork chops and beef shank out of the brine solution, remove the chicken quarts from the marinade and lay your meats on the hot side of the grill.

  • Cover with the lid and close the holes so the smoke does not escape the bbq. As the mesquite charcoal burns smoke will be released and it will smoke your meats also.

  • Every several minutes lift the lid and brush the leftover marinade over the meats to keep them nice and moist during cooking.

  • Turn your meats over after 15 minutes and keep cooking.

  • Using your meat thermometer poke the thickest part of the meat to check for temperature. Pork is ready when the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees.

  • When meat reaches desired temperature move it to the cool side of the grill (the side that has no charcoal underneath it). Serve from there.

Types of BBQ’s

BBQ’s vary in size and capability but the most distinct differentiator of a bbq is what type of fuel it requires to cook meats. In this bbq tailgate recipe I was using a charcoal to fuel the flame. The most common types are:

  • Regular bbq pit where you can use charcoal or wood. This type of bbq is used in this recipe. These are usually cheaper and quite versatile. The smoke that fire wood omits can also smoke your meats while they coo over an open flame. These require a bit more craftsmanship and know-how to not burn the heck out of your meat.

  • Gas or propane bbq where the flame is fueled by a tank attached to usually the bottom of the unit. This type of bbq gives you more control over your heat setting, however the nozzles that eject the flame can get clogged by burnt pieces of meat falling from the top of the grill. Scrub these out regularly to maintain an even flame.

  • Electric BBQs have the benefits of gas in that they burn clean and are appropriate for indoor use (more safe) or in small spaces.

  • Pellet BBQs use compressed wood pellets as fuel and are a combination of wood-fired and gas BBQs. They are popular for smoking and grilling and are known for their temperature control and ease of use.

Tailgate BBQ Charcoal Notes

Charcoal is made from heating wood or other organic materials in the absence of oxygen, and condensing the byproduct into charcoal bits. Therefore, charcoal is a type of wood that can come from fruit trees like applewood and cherry or from trees like oak and hickory. For the tailgate recipe above I used self-igniter mesquite charcoal, however here are some other types of charcoal that can be used:

    Trees that produce charcoal

  • Mesquite & Hickory: Mesquite and Hickory are types of trees that produces a strong, smoky flavor. This type of charcoal is widely available and can be used in any type of charcoal grill or smoker.

  • Oak: Oak is another hardwood that is commonly used in BBQ. Oak charcoal produces a milder smoke flavor than mesquite, but still adds a nice smoky taste to your food.

  • Applewood & Cherrywood: Applewood and cherrywood are fruitwoods that produces a sweet, fruity smoke flavor. Applewood charcoal is a good choice for smoking poultry, pork, and seafood.

  • Lump charcoal: If you prefer a more natural charcoal without any added flavor, lump charcoal made from natural hardwood is a good option. It burns hot and clean, and is great for searing steaks and other meats.

  • Types of charcoal and alternatives

  • Self-igniter charcoal: this type of charcoal was already doused in lighter fluid so it will ignite with a simple lighter and no added liquid.

  • Charcoal + lighter fluid: this type of charcoal will need an accelerant to be lit .

  • An alternative to charcoal include blocks of wood: Each of the trees used to produce charcoal can be used to make a bbq. Almond leaves a bit less ash and burn cleaner than oak.

Chef Dan Catanio

A Culinary Institute of America graduate from the 1990s, Chef Dan began his career as a saucier at the Waldorf Astoria in Manhattan under the Hilton Corporation. Over the years, he has held key positions such as Corporate Executive Chef Director at 5-star restaurants, country clubs, and Indian Casino Resorts.