Sunday 15 September 2019

Mouth-watering barbecue recipes by Christian Stevenson, aka DJ BBQ


Baby back ribs. Photo: © David Loftus
Baby back ribs. Photo: © David Loftus
Fire Food: Smacked ribeye. Photo: © David Loftus
Fire Food: The Ultimate BBQ Cookbook by DJ BBQ (Quadrille, £15) photography © David Loftus
Alabama white sauce chicken. Photo: © David Loftus

Get all fired up for summer with these mouth-watering barbecue recipes by Christian Stevenson, aka DJ BBQ.

The Perfect Steak - Smacked Ribeye

Yup, that's correct. You read it right. The perfect steak. So, what makes steak taste so great? First off it is the cow. A grass-fed cow is going to taste different to one that's been grain-fed. I also prefer an animal that has lived a longer life: give me a 10-15-year-old dairy cow and I'm in heaven. We can go all super geek on this, so let's get on with the perfect steak. My favourite cut is the ribeye, on the bone or off. The sweetest meat is next to the bone, but you get a more complete caramelisation with the bone removed - it's your steak so it's your call!

Serves 1-4

BBQ set-up: Half and half technique. If you have a grill with upper levels or one that can be raised up and down, get it set up - you will have greater control


1kg (2lb 4oz) aged ribeye, on or off the bone, at room temperature

Sea salt and black pepper


1. Get yourself a super-thick cut of ribeye, about 7.5cm (3 inches) thick would be perfect. 'Too thick!' I hear you yell. Well, hold your horses, cowboy, we are getting there. First, make sure it's at room temperature. If you are cooking the ribeye with the bone, skip the next step.

2. Place the meat on a sturdy surface (I normally place a chopping board on the floor), then, with the back of a good-size frying pan (skillet), smack that thing! Give it a good wallop, then flip it over and do it again. Get that steak to around 4-5cm (1ƒ-2 inches). By doing this, you are creating more surface area. Next, take a sharp knife and lightly cut into the meat, aiming for the fat. If there's a good chunk of fat on the outside, then make a ladder of slices about 1cm (ƒinch) apart. Get a pinch of salt and season.

3. Get a good heat rocking on your BBQ. Place the steak over the direct heat and begin to create that crust. The fats will start to break down and these are going to flavour the meat. I'm not big on grill marks - I just want a perfectly cooked steak - so move that steak around as it cooks. Once it has a good sear on it, flip it over. Again, move it around. Once you have a sear on the flip side, you need to work the perimeter.

4. If you have a ribeye with a bone, you will need to cook the steak bone-side down for a minute or two, depending on the steak, maybe even longer. You'll need to hold it in place with the tongs if it won't stand up on its own. If it does, damn, you got yourself a pretty big steak.

5. Once you have a good sear all around the edge of the steak, move it away from the intense heat - to the upper grills or the indirect side. That intense heat is there to help you create that crust on the outside. You want to achieve that beautiful Maillard reaction without going too far so it is bitter and burnt.

6. If it looks like it's burning or there are flare-ups, move it away and keep it on the indirect heat. You can always put it back again when the flames have cut back. I keep moving my steak from direct heat to indirect heat until it's perfect. One of the great myths about cooking steak is that you only turn it once.

7. How do you know when it's perfect? Well, you can use a temperature probe in the thickest part of the steak. I like my ribeye to be medium-rare (50-55°C/122-131°F). That way the fats break down and flavour the meat. You can pull the steak off at 48-49°C (118-120°F) and it will still go up in temperature as it's resting. Or, you can poke the steak. See below!

8. Once the steak is done, hit it with some freshly cracked pepper and rest on a board. I don't put pepper on at the beginning as it can burn and go acrid. Slice, season with salt, and serve.

9. Congrats! You are awesome! That's what your friends, family and stomach will say.

* Rare, medium or well-done? Here's a great technique for cooking your steak the way you like it. Hold out your hand, palm up, then touch your index finger and thumb together. With the index finger of your other hand, gently poke the fleshy pocket between the bottom of the thumb and your wrist. This is how a rare steak will feel when you prod it.

Touch the thumb and the middle finger together, and press the same spot again and this is how a medium-rare steak will feel. Touch the thumb and your third finger together, and that fleshy bit under your thumb will feel like a rad steak cooked to medium. Thumb to pinky feels like a well-done steak.

Baby Back ribs with Szechuan Mopping Sauce

Baby back ribs. Photo: © David Loftus

Get in my belly! I love digging into a rack of baby backs. Sweet, succulent, juicy meat. The rib muscles near the baby back don't do much work so are super tender. But, because they are smaller, they can dry out if you aren't careful. The key is slow and low love and slatherings of the mopping sauce. The best place to find Szechuan pepper is online or in a supermarket with a good world food section.

Serves 4

BBQ set-up: Offset firebox or proper smoker (or lonely island technique). Seasoned fruit wood chunks


2 racks of baby back ribs For the rub:

2 tbsp smoked paprika

1 tsp ground allspice

1 tbsp garlic granules

1 tbsp sea salt

1 tsp crushed Szechuan peppercorns

1 tsp mild chilli powder

1 tsp dried oregano

1 tsp dried thyme

1 tsp English mustard powder For the mopping sauce:

250ml cider vinegar

250ml water

100ml apple juice

1 tbsp Szechuan peppercorns

1 tbsp of the rub


1. Get your ribs out the fridge an hour before the cook so that they reach room temperature. Putting cold ribs into a smoker only brings the cooker's temperature down and you battle to bring it back up.

2. Get your smoker to 110°C (230°F) and put some lovely seasoned sweet wood on the coals (more help on this can be found in the book, see

3. The membrane! There are a couple of schools of thought on the membrane. I always used to remove it, as I wanted to penetrate the meat with as much flavour as possible from the rub and mopping sauce. But over the last couple of years, I've been leaving the membrane on as it can help to keep the meat moist and juicy, and also goof-proof your cooking. The last thing you want is a dry rib. The membrane usually flakes off near the end of the cook anyway. It's really your call. You can deal with it before the cook or before you eat.

4. Put the rub ingredients in a bowl. Mix well. Reserve a couple of tablespoonfuls for the mopping sauce and the garnish, then sprinkle and rub the tasty concoction all over your baby backs.

5. Get your baby backs into the cooker, rib side down on the indirect heat, and slow-cook for at least an hour. You want the wood smoke to oxidise with the rub and meat to start creating a bark. After about 1-1ƒ hours, you'll see that the fat and connective tissue will start to break down. Your ribs should go from looking dry to a bit oily as the fats start to render. If your ribs haven't hit that sweet spot after 1ƒ hours, increase the temperature by about 8-10°C (15-20°F) until you get there.

6. After the fat has rendered, you need to mop. Get that mopping sauce made. Mix the vinegar, water, apple juice, Szechuan peppercorns (whole) and reserved tablespoon of rub, and mix together in a metal bowl. I like to place the bowl inside the smoker so it heats up and all the flavours fuse together. Plus, it adds moisture to the cook. Don't baste until the fat has rendered, but once it has, baste those ribs every 30 minutes, but make sure you don't let the hot air out any more than you have to. You need that chemical reaction to happen where the fat and connective tissues break down. If you are looking, it ain't cooking.

7. When the ribs are ready, you want to see a mahogany colour from the oxidation of the meat and - the most important thing - the meat dance. Basically, a wobble or bend in the ribs. When the ribs are raw, they will be very loose and bendy, then, as you cook them, the ribs will stiffen up. After a couple of hours, the connective tissues and fats break down and the ribs loosen up again to give you the bend. Use your tongs to bend the ribs and check on how forgiving they are. You can also push your finger in between the rib bones to see how tender the meat is. They are done when the meat gives a little. The thing with slow and low cooking is that there's no precise time on when your food is ready to eat. BBQ is done when it's done. These ribs usually take around 3-4 hours.

7. Slice the ribs and serve. They will be incredible the way they are. Pure! Or, you can sprinkle a bit of the dry rub onto the ribs for that Memphis dry rub taste sensation. And if you need a sauce, these work with the Alabama White Sauce (see below).

Alabama white sauce chicken

Alabama white sauce chicken. Photo: © David Loftus

Every town, county and state in the United States has their preferred BBQ sauce. Big Bob Gibson put this sauce on the map in the early part of the 20th century and now it can be found in numerous BBQ joints across America. I love tangy, and this definitely has some tang! It's been my most popular dish at cookouts - tried and tested deliciousness.

Serves 4

BBQ set-up: Half and half technique


1 chicken, about 1.5kg (3lb 5oz), jointed into 8 pieces (thighs, drumsticks, wings and breasts) For the Alabama white sauce:

250g mayonnaise

175ml cider vinegar

Juice of ½ lemon

1cm fresh horseradish root, grated

1 tsp paprika or chilli flakes (if you want to spice it up)

1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

2 tbsp black pepper (or more)

1 tbsp sea salt


1. For the sauce, combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and whisk till smooth. Some people like to make a thick version of this sauce to serve with the cooked chicken as a dip, and others just use it as a thin basting sauce. I do both! So, put a couple of tablespoons of the sauce aside, add more mayo to thicken, and serve in a small bowl.

2. Now you need to get your chicken cooking. Once your coals are ready, lay the chicken skin-side down over the direct heat and get some colour rocking on it. Cook for about 15 minutes until it is slightly golden in colour on the outside. You'll need to turn it a couple of times during that 15 mintutes.

3. Keep an eye on the chicken because when the fat breaks down and starts to drip on the coals, there will be lots of flare-ups and it can burn. If it gets out of hand, move the chicken to the indirect side of the grill to mellow out for a bit. Once you have a slight golden colour all over the chicken, move the pieces to the indirect side and put the lid on to retain the heat and keep the chicken cooking.

4. Now the beauty of this white sauce is that there's no sugar, which means you can baste your meat much earlier in the cook - start basting about halfway or two-thirds into your cook. Your standard tomato/vinegar/sugar-based BBQ sauces should be added near the end of the cook, so the sugar doesn't burn. (Having said that, if you've made your own mayo, it's best to use the sauce near the end too, as it won't like the heat and will split.)

5. One by one, remove each piece of chicken from the grill, dip it into the tasty white sauce, and place back onto the indirect side of the grill. Place the lid back onto the cooker and cook for a couple more minutes to cook the glaze.

6. As you approach the end of your cook, give the chicken another dip and repeat the process (dip, put it back on the indirect side, cook for a couple of minutes). Heck, you can even go for a triple dip, cooking the glaze each time. It's your cookout - get crazy!

7. As soon as the internal temperature of the chicken is 72°C (162°F), then you can remove it from the heat. Rest uncovered for 10 minutes, before serving with the thickened white sauce for dipping.

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