A BBQ Pitmaster Rustles Up Some World Class Chow
Taghkanic resident John Markus is an expert at BBQ. What man isn’t?, one might well ask. But, as it happens, Markus is the real deal. An Emmy-award winning TV writer (The Cosby Show, The Larry Sanders Show, among others) and the creator and executive producer of The Learning Channel’s current hit BBQ Pitmasters, Markus cooks competitively on the national BBQ circuit, sometimes with his own team, sometimes on the team of one of his mentors. These include 10-time world-champion pitmaster Paul Kirk (aka The Baron of Barbecue) of Kansas City, and Chris Lilly, executive chef at Big Bob Gibson, a restaurant in Decatur, Alabama that was founded by the great-grandfather of Lilly’s wife.
Last weekend Markus’ team, Central Pork West, nabbed first prize against 70 competitors in the chicken category at a KCBS (that’s the Kansas City Barbecue Society, the NFL of competitive grilling) event, the Hudson Valley Rib Fest, in New Paltz, NY. Next weekend, he will not be competing; instead, he will be exhibiting his skills as he mans the grill at a benefit barbecue at the Churchtown (NY) Fire House. The menu will include his winning chicken, with it’s “secret Alabama glaze,” as well as hickory-smoked pork spare ribs and brisket. Proceeds from the event will benefit Taghkanic Neighbors and the legal fund of The Granger Group, an organization engaged in a battle to block a proposed car racetrack from being built on private property in the town.
To preview what lies in store at the event, catch the third episode of Markus’ series, now in its second season, airing on TLC Thursday night at 10 p.m. “We took twenty of the best teams in barbecue and created an elimination,” says Markus, who sees BBQ as “a culinary pursuit that has a lot of layers. It can be done on a grill that costs $90. Or you can get obsessed with the pastime and find yourself yearning for one that costs $20,000.”
The following recipe, which Markus claims will turn out perfectly well on the aforementioned $90 grill, is not on the menu for next Saturday’s event, though it is a competitive barbecue staple. Markus’s recipe presumes a gas grill. For a charcoal grill, see his note at bottom.
John Markus’s Beer Can Chicken
1/2 cup butter,
1 tablespoon garlic salt
1 tablespoon paprika
salt and pepper to taste
1 12-fluid ounce can beer
1 4-pound whole chicken
1. Preheat an outdoor gas grill for low heat.
2. In a small skillet, melt butter and mix in the garlic salt, paprika, salt, and pepper.
3. Discard 1/2 the beer, leaving the remainder in the can. With a manual can opener, make two additional openings in the top of the can, then, using a funnel, pour 1/2 of the butter mixture into the beer can. Place the can on a disposable baking sheet then lower the chicken onto it, inserting the can into the bird’s cavity so the chicken does a sort of handstand on the baking pan, the tips of its legs and the can forming a stable tripod. Baste chicken with the remaining melted and seasoned butter.
4. Place baking pan with the beer can and the chicken on the prepared grill. Close the grill lid and cook over low heat for about 3 hours, or until internal temperature of chicken reaches 180 degrees F (80 degrees C)
For a charcoal grill: Bank ten coals on each side, when they’re ashen you are ready to start. Place the chicken and close the lid, lifting it every 30-40 minutes to add 3 or 4 new coals to each side. (Most grills have hinged flaps on the side for easy briquette addition.) Put a thermometer in the top vent to make sure the fire isn’t too hot. Between 225 and 275 is BBQ! Low and Slow always gives you moisture in your poultry.
Editor’s note: If you want a 4-pound chicken, better buy it from a farmer. The smallest we could find in a supermarket was 4.81 pounds. This is an issue because a larger bird standing upright is top heavy and also could interfere with the lid of the grill. Ours barely made it. Getting the beer can out of the bird without spilling the remaining contents requires four hands—two gloved ones to lift the chicken straight up, two others to grasp the can with tongs and pull it straight down, during which procedure our bird fell apart a bit. It was, nonetheless, delicious. The aromatic steam that results when the contents of the beer can heat up kept the interior moist and flavored it.
Championship Southern Style BBQ
Churchtown Fire House
2219 Country Route 27, near the intersection of Rtes. 27 &12 and Taghkanic-Churchtown Road.
Saturday, August 28; 4 - 7 p.m.
At the door (space is limited, so availability cannot be guaranteed): $25/adult, $10/child over 5