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King of Barbecues

Grant Ford, president of the California Barbecue Association, shares his secrets.

barbecue king, Grant Ford
Photo caption
Don't step between Grant Ford and his 'cue.

Grant Ford knows his pork butt from his brisket. He's president of the California Barbecue Association, cosponsor of the annual West Coast Barbecue Championship held at the Tomato Festival in Fairfield, Calif., August 12 and 13. Information:

Q Why is barbecue so tasty?
A Slow cooking, using indirect heat from a wood fire, allows the fat to melt and mix with the meat so it's extra tender. And the wood smoke, rubs, and marinades add flavor. But cooking foods fast with direct heat and high temperatures—that's grilling. You don't get the same flavor.

Q Is there any barbecue you'd rather not eat?
A Meat that's not really barbecued—it's oven cooked, then coated in bottled sauce. Historically, just seasonings were used, but a sauce can enhance meat's flavor.

Q Which wood is best for barbecuing?

A For beef, oak. For chicken alone, apple. For different meats together, I like pecan.

Q And the best slow-cooking setup?

A One that doesn't require a lot of fiddling. Barbecuing brisket takes 10 to 18 hours.

Q What do you suggest for vegetarians?
A Portobello mushrooms marinated in a teriyaki sauce with pineapple juice. Even the meat guys scarf them up.

Q Ever had any barbecue catastrophes?
A When I first started I didn't understand the power of cayenne pepper. We wound up washing all the sauce off that night.

Photography by Roger J. Wyan

This article was first published in July 2005. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.