When I imagine moments of iconic American childhood, I imagine fishing down by the creek with my father or standing alongside him as he patiently dispenses wisdom and tends the meat on the barbecue pit.
I must imagine these scenes because my own father was not much for either of these things. One summer, the whole family — my mother, sister, father and I — went deep-sea fishing on a charter near Cape Cod. Another time, we went crabbing with our friend Eugene Kidd. As for barbecuing, I have only the vaguest memories of my father ever being in front of the pit.
When it came to inviting folks to our house for barbecue, my mother did most of the work. She chose the menu, prepared the side dishes, invited the guests and performed the cleanup before and after. Even this most masculine of culinary pursuits requires a woman’s work more often than not.
Recently, I teamed up with the South Carolina pit master Rodney Scott to write his autobiographical cookbook, “Rodney Scott’s World of Barbecue.” Unlike me, Rodney has many memories of cooking whole hogs alongside his father. Not all of these memories are good ones, as the old man was a tough task master in the old-school mold. Those hard lessons paid off, though. Rodney won the James Beard Award for Best Chef Southeast in 2018.
My son is 3 years old now. Having him around the barbecue pit presents more opportunities for danger than for possibilities for fellowship and enlightenment. Still, as the weather gets warmer, I’m hoping to hone my skills at the grill to the point where the cooking part will become second nature and the fathering part can be as idyllic as I have imagined.
The recipes we share here from the new book are relatively simple ones. No need to construct a pit in the backyard.
I hope that you fire up the grill and make these recipes. I also hope that the food will be spectacular. But remember: You’re not just making barbecue, you’re making memories.
We raised chickens for their eggs when I was a boy. The difference between fresh-laid eggs and store-bought eggs is huge. Yard eggs are richer in flavor, and when you beat them, they even seem thicker in texture. We would buy chicken at the market to eat, rather than slaughter our laying hens. My mother used to make what we called “barbecue chicken” in the oven. It was basically baked chicken with commercial barbecue sauce. I don’t want to knock it. I enjoyed that baked chicken, but I wouldn’t call it barbecue. It wasn’t until later, when we added chicken to the menu at the family restaurant that I got into true smoked chicken. The oven and the pit are very different, obviously. When you taste this chicken, you’ll have a hard time going back to your oven. —Rodney Scott
2 whole chickens (3 to 4 pounds each), spatchcocked and halved through the breastplate (a total of 4 halves)
3 tablespoons Rib Rub
4 cups Rodney’s Sauce
Fire up your grill to between 225°F and 250°F.
Sprinkle the chickens on all sides with the Rib Rub. Place the chicken onto the hot grill, bone-side down. Close and cook until the bone sides are nicely browned, about 1 hour and 30 minutes, being careful to maintain a steady grilling temperature between 225°F and 250°F.
Mop the skin side with the sauce, then flip the chickens and mop the bone side with sauce as well. Close and cook until the thickest part of the thigh reaches 165°F, about 1 hour.
Mop the chickens once more. Take them off the grill and allow them to rest for 5 minutes before serving.
(Makes 2 cups)
½ cup Diamond Crystal kosher salt
¼ cup Jesus’s Tears (aka MSG)
¼ cup freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup paprika
¼ cup chili powder
¼ cup packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons garlic powder
2 tablespoons onion powder
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Mix all of the ingredients and place them in an airtight container. Cover and store in a cool dry place until ready to use.
(Makes 1 gallon)
1 gallon distilled white vinegar
1 lemon, thinly sliced
½ cup ground black pepper
¹⁄₃ cup cayenne pepper
1¼ tablespoons red pepper flakes
2 cups sugar
In a small stockpot, warm the vinegar over medium-high heat. After about 5 minutes, when the vinegar reaches 150°F on an instant-read thermometer, just before it starts to simmer, add the lemon slices and continue to cook until the lemon peels begin to soften and wilt, about 10 minutes more.
Whisk in the black pepper, cayenne, pepper flakes and sugar. Continue to cook over medium-high heat until the sugar is completely dissolved and the sauce reaches 190°F, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to completely cool before using. Once the lemon
is removed, the sauce can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 8 weeks.
I knew I wanted to have chicken wings on the menu and I knew I wanted to do something different from the fried wings that are on every sports bar menu from coast to coast. The obvious thing was to put them in our pits to get that flavor on them and then fry them for that wing-crispy crunch everybody loves. The first couple of times we tried it, we smoked the wings too long. They came out of the fryer dry. We finally found the sweet spot by smoking them for about 30 minutes and then chilling them until just before time to serve them. Then, after a quick fry, they’re just right. When you’re planning the timing of your meal, don’t forget that these wings need to be refrigerated for 1 hour before they are fried and served. —Rodney Scott
2 to 5 pounds chicken wings, split into drumettes and flats (leave the wing tip attached to the flats if you choose)
2 to 5 tablespoons Rib Rub (1 tablespoon per pound of wings)
2 cups canola or other vegetable oil, for frying
Fire up your grill to between 225°F and 250°F.
Pat the wings dry with paper towels and season them with half of Rib Rub. Place the wings directly on the grill grate, spreading them out so they do not overlap. Close and cook the wings until the smoke and rub have rendered them a deep red color, almost maroon, about 30 minutes. Be careful not to overcook the wings or they’ll be dry after they are fried. Remove the wings from the grill, allow to cool completely, then refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
Add the oil to a cast-iron skillet. Fill it about 2 inches deep and heat it to 375°F. Working in batches to avoid overcrowding the pan, use tongs to transfer the wings to the oil. Fry the wings until they are golden brown on both sides, 2 to 3 minutes, flipping regularly, to ensure even cooking.
Use a slotted spoon or frying spider to transfer the cooked wings from the skillet to a large bowl and toss them with a few sprinkles of the remaining Rib Rub. Repeat with the remaining wings and serve.
Reprinted with permission from “Rodney Scott’s World of BBQ: Every Day is a Good Day” by Rodney Scott and Lolis Eric Elie Copyright © 2021 by Rodney Scott’s BBQ, LLC, a South Carolina limited liability company. Published by Clarkson Potter, an imprint of Penguin Random House.