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SOBEWFF: Master Griller Chris Lilly Shares Barbecue Tips, Recipe for Sauce

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All photos by Valeria Nekhim
Chris Lilly's unbelievably tender beef brisket.
The only problem with Chris Lilly's beef brisket is that from here on in -- all others will pale in comparison. Tender and expertly seasoned, the succulent meat was all anyone wanted to talk about during the question and answer session following yesterday's barbecue seminar. Titled "Mapping the Saucy South", the Ritz-Carlton held event teamed a pitmaster (Lilly),with a master sommelier, Eric Hemer.

As executive chef and partner at Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q restaurants in Decatur, Alabama, Lilly and his team have multiple championship wins under their aprons. The barbecue legend is known for his signature style of slow cooking over low heat (considered the purist way which leads to an unmatched tender and smoky taste) and then giving the meat a quick sear.

Lilly has been participating in the SOBEWFF since its inception, and we were thrilled to try his chicken breast, beef brisket and pulled pork shoulder (from Creekstone Farms), as well as six homemade barbecue sauces with roots in different Southern states. Lilly introduced every sauce with a history lesson pertaining to its origin, while Hemer explained why each one was complimented by his wine selection. Let's just say theres no doubt why he's one of only 135 sommeliers in North America with a master designation.

See also: All our coverage of South Beach Wine & Food Festival


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Each of Chris Lilly's BBQ sauces pairs with wine chosen by Eric Hemer
While eating, dipping and drinking, we got schooled in the art of pairing barbecue with wine and how to grill the Lilly way. Below are some tips straight from the experts' mouths during the tasty hour-long crash course. And if you want to make Lilly's Kansas City-style barbecue sauce, we've included the recipe below.

Eric Hemer's advice for pairing barbecue with wine.

  1. Spicy sauces don't play nicely with wines that have lots of tannins. The reason being they tend to lend the wine a metallic taste.
  2. You don't need to spend a lot of money on wine for barbecue because the flavors are so strong. You can easily find something in the $15-$30 price range.
  3. If you're looking for a wine that goes with most types of barbecued meats and sauces, chose a soft, easy red wine like a Côtes du Rhône, a Châteauneuf-du-Pape, or a a Pinot Noir.

Chris Lilly's barbecue advice.

  1. Use a charcoal grill when barbecuing outdoors. Charcoal gives the best flavor to the meat, and the aromas and the smells of food cooked over charcoal are amazing.
  2. Do all your pre-prep early. Have everything done in advance except for the grilling so you can have plenty of time to spend with your friends and family.
  3. Use a two-zone fire. You want one side of the grill to be hot and one side of the grill to not be hot. This way you can shift your food on the grill to keep it from burning, or move it over and keep it warm while you're finishing other food. It gives you more versatility on the grill to have different temperatures on your grilling surface.
  4. Don't overcook the food. This is the most common mistake people make, so you really want to get an internal thermometer so you can be sure to pull-out the meat when it's done.
  5. Garlic, salt and black pepper make the perfect dry rub for brisket. If you want to get fancy you can add paprika or chili powder. You can also take a little beef bouillon and crush that up to add to your dry rub.

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Pitmaster Chris Lilly at the SOBEWFF 's BBQ seminar
Lilly's cookbook Fire Smoke: A Pitmaster's Secrets comes out May 6, but in the meantime, here's his recipe for Kansas City-style Barbecue sauce:

  • 1 cup distilled white vinegar
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons Heinz Ketchup
  • 3/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon molasses
  • 1 tablespoon chill powder
  • 1 & 3/4 teaspoons Kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 & 1/4 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon liquid smoke
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Combine all the sauce ingredients in a medium sauce pan and blend well. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer over medium-low heat for 10 to 15 minutes. Allow the sauce to cool, then transfer to a tightly covered jar or plastic container. Store refrigerated for up to two weeks. Makes 2 cups.

Follow Valeria Nekhim on Twitter @ValeriaNekhim

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