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Up Your Game at the Grill: 6 Recipes to Challenge Your Skills

We recently posted a blog featuring 8 easy recipes that will ease you into prime grilling season, everything from Maple-and Sriracha-Glazed Chicken Legs to the Great American Hamburger.

But what if you’re a serious griller, and are looking for some grilled or smoked dishes that will challenge your skills? Steven and I nominated the following recipes, all selected from Steven’s books or television shows to help you up your live-fire game in 2021.

Six Recipes to Challenge Your Skills

1. Baby Back Rib Sandwich

First introduced in 1981 by an iconic fast-food chain, this sandwich developed a cult-like following. Usually available for a limited time, it’s actually made from “restructured” pork—flaked meat from the shoulder. We knew we could do better. Our version is the real deal, made from a whole rack of baby backs, smoke-roasted to slide-off-the-bone tenderness and served on a loaf of rustic bread with pickle chips, onions, and barbecue sauce. The trick is to score the ribs vertically on the bone side, making their removal easier. One sandwich serves 3 to 4 people. Instagram worthy? You bet.

Rob’s Real BBQ Baby Back Rib Sandwich

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2. BBQ Titan’s Brisket

Most backyard pitmasters—even or especially those on the competition circuit—experience a bit of trepidation when smoking brisket. There are dual reasons for this: 1) Brisket is a notoriously finicky cut of meat, and can be tough and/or dry if not cooked properly; and 2) It has become relatively expensive, with whole packer briskets sometimes selling for more than $100. Master brisket, and you’ll have bragging rights for a long time to come. This particular recipe is technique-rich and uses a coffee-inflected rub from Brooklyn’s Fette Sau and a complimentary espresso barbecue sauce from Austin’s Franklin Barbecue.

BBQ Titans’ Brisket

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3. Roast Suckling Pig

Never one to shy away from a grilling challenge, our late fire wrangler and recipe tester Rob Baas knocked it out of the park when we asked him to write a blog on roast suckling pig. It’s a must-read, a primer on the challenges and joys of roasting a whole animal. We loved the photos, too. We miss you, Rob.

Suckling Pig Rob Baas

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4. New School Coulibiac

One of the most spectacular dishes on Project Fire, Season 1, was a riff on a luxurious Russian dish. Traditionally, coulibiac consists of pastry wrapped around a savory filling featuring (among other things) salmon and hard-cooked eggs. Reimagined, Steven’s version is labor-intensive, but worth the effort: The result is an aristocratic dish that is not only impressive to behold, but outrageously delicious.

New School Coulibiac: Grilled Salmon With Smoked Eggs

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5. Beef Shoulder Clod

Rarely seen outside of Texas—Kreuz Market in Lockhart has been serving it for more than 100 years—beef shoulder clod is a huge hunk of meat harvested from the chuck. Weighing from 13 to 18 pounds, it’s the bovine equivalent of pork shoulder. However, it’s not nearly as forgiving as its porcine counterpart. Leaner than brisket, shoulder clod contains five discrete muscles and should be smoked to an internal temperature of at least 195 degrees. You’re unlikely to see it at your local market; usually, it must be special-ordered. What a carnivorous treat, though! And well worth the 12 to 18 hours of tending it requires.

Texas Shoulder Clod (Barbecued Beef Shoulder)

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6. Smoked Cheesecake with Burnt Sugar Cream Sauce

This divine dessert nearly brought the crew of Project Smoke to its knees when we were celebrating Steven’s birthday, which occurred during the shoot. Decadently rich with the haunting flavor of wood smoke, you’ll want to add this one to your repertoire.

Smoked Cheesecake With Burnt Sugar Cream Sauce

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What are some of your grilling challenges? Share them with us on Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, or Instagram!


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