Legendary pitmaster Rodney Scott has tips for home barbecue

Todd A. Price
Southern Kitchen
Pitmaster Rodney Scott seasons his award-winning pork.

Few pitmasters are more celebrated than Rodney Scott. Raised in South Carolina, he has restaurants in Charleston, Birmingham and Atlanta. In 2018, Scott became only the second pitmaster to win a prestigious James Beard Award.

Scott's motto is "every day is a good day," and he means it. The man is serious about barbecue, but more than anything he wants everyone to be happy. That's why he offered these tips on how to smoke meat at home like an award-winning pitmaster.

Equipment

Rodney Scott mops ribs for an outdoor festival.

Scott said don't go overboard with your rig. Think about how much room you have and how many people you will cook for, and don't buy more than you need.

"If you're just got two to three people on a small budget, I recommend a little metal grill," he said. "If you're more into it and entertain more, then I would step up to a ceramic grill like the Big Green Egg."

The ceramic grills, he said, are easy to set up for indirect heat and add a heavy smoke flavor.

Fuel, smoke

Legendary pitmaster Rodney Scott has restaurants in Charleston, Atlanta and Birmingham.

If you have hardwood like oak, pecan or hickory to burn into coal, Scott said that's the best, since it adds mild smoke.

"If you're just using store-bought coals, I recommend wood lump," Scott said.

To add smoke flavor to charcoal, scatter one or two pieces of wood over hot coals. More than that might give the meat a bitter flavor.

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"The bitterness is that blue smoke that you see burning off a lot of wood when it started to burn," he said.

For meats that could stand strong smoke flavor, like a pork shoulder, you can replenish the wood. Otherwise, a few pieces at the start are enough. Scott recommends white oak chips for the best flavor.

Safety

Rodney Scott works the pit at his Rodney's Scott BBQ.

You're literally playing with fire, so Scott said to keep safety in mind. Avoid cross-contamination of raw proteins. Be careful how you handle the food. And keep the grill away from the house.

"It doesn't hurt to have a fire extinguisher close by, because — believe it or not — even chickens can flare up. I've seen it," he said.

But Scott's main advice is to cook with confidence.

"Don't worry about your neighbor's opinion. Don't worry about your buddy's opinion," he said. "Have fun."

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