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Chefs, Pitmasters, and Personalities

BBQ Board Moderator: Brad Olson

He joined the community back in 2004 and has written more than 6,000 posts since then. That’s an average of about 2 posts daily! He’s none other than Brad Olson, aka “ScreamingChicken,” one of our dedicated board moderators, so I thought it was about time we grilled him with a few questions to get to know him better.

Q: What’s your favorite Steven Raichlen book? Recipe? Or grilling tip?
The favorite book is a tough one, because they range from introductory (How To Grill) to barbecue and grilling in the US (BBQ USA) to worldwide (The Barbecue! Bible, Planet Barbecue). The one I reach for first, though, is usually BBQ USA.

My two favorite recipes are probably Garlic Pepper Rib Roast and Baltimore Pit Beef, both from BBQ USA.

The tip I like best isn’t really related to a specific ingredient, recipe, or technique: “It’s not rocket science.” It’s a good reminder that there’s a level of forgiveness in barbecue and that it’s not necessary to obsess over the minutiae.

Q: Why did you join the BBQ Board back in 2004?
I was moving beyond simple direct grilling then and wanted to know what others were doing.

Q: How often do you grill per week?
Weather permitting, three days or more. And on weekends that can include more than one session per day and/or an overnight cook. However, it’s not uncommon for me to take a week to 10 days off a couple of times a year, just to recharge.

Q: What grilled dish do you make most often?
That’s a tough one. I buy beef in bulk so I have a lot of different steaks on hand, and whenever pork chops or pork steaks are on sale I stock up. I think I’d have to say that pork steak is likely to be the cut I cook most often.

Q: What grill(s) do you use? What do you like about it?
Weber kettles from the Smokey Joe all the way up to the 26-3/4″ model (although I do use a Go-Anywhere for tailgating). When I was young my dad had a kettle grill before he switched to gas so it’s what I learned on, and growing up less than 2 hours from Weber’s home in Arlington Heights, IL, meant a lot of exposure to Weber products. And when my wife and I moved into our house in 1990 her brother gave us a 22″ Bar-B-Kettle, so the die was pretty much cast at that point. My Webers have always been well built and a good value for the money (especially when bought used), and Weber customer service is outstanding.

Q: What’s your grilling style?
Because my grills aren’t close to the house I try to pick side dishes that can either cook relatively unattended or quickly while the meat’s resting so that I don’t have to run between the house and the garage too much, or side dishes that can be done at the same time. Overall, I have a pretty simple approach and don’t go for gadgets; the most complicated piece of equipment I use is a $10 probe thermometer dropped through the lid vent to keep track of the temperature. I also probably experiment recipe-wise less than others and tend to stick to minor variations of tried-and-true things.

Q: What do you love about grilling?
The way it makes the food taste, of course, and that it gets me out of the kitchen. It was also the first style of cooking I really got into, so it has a certain nostalgic value as well. I took a class called “Bachelor Cooking” in 8th grade, and my favorite day was when we went to a local park and grilled.

Q: What’s your favorite grilling tool or product and why?
That’s a tough one, because some are more specialized than others. A good pair of tongs is used far more often than a press or weight, but when the latter’s needed, nothing’s more important. But I do love using my rotisserie, so let’s go with that. There’s just something about watching the spit turn.

Q: What was your best or proudest grilling moment?
I can’t really think of a single instance, but whenever someone asks for seconds, I know I’ve done a good job. And since I’m not a competitive barbecuer, that’s my goal every time.

Q: What’s your favorite grilling story?
We were in Hawaii in 2004 for my wife’s cousin’s wedding and we stayed at a condo with my in-laws. There were gas grills there, so one night I grilled some pork chops and when they were done I turned the burners to “high” to clean off the grates, but didn’t remember to turn them off until we were well into dinner. By that time the grill was a roaring inferno, but fortunately nothing bad happened, and the guy who used it next had some very clean, very hot grates to work with!

Q: What are the harshest or most extreme conditions you’ve ever grilled in?
Since I grill in a covered structure the winter weather here in Wisconsin isn’t usually a factor, but in the summer it can get pretty hot, and there have been a number of occasions (especially last summer) when the temperature inside has gotten up past 105 degrees … and it’s NOT a dry heat! That must be what grillers in the southeast deal with on a regular basis.

Q: What grilling tips, advice, or wisdom would you like to share?
ScreamingChicken: Never be afraid to experiment or ask questions. It’s a learning process that never ends and mistakes are never the end of the world.