8 things we can learn from these Top Pitmasters

by Joost Nusselder | Last Updated:  March 17, 2020

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Pitmasters started out as a class amateur barbeque entrepreneurs and went on to become the masters of their craft which is grilling food. These expert grillers or pitmasters as they are more commonly known have huge responsibilities on their shoulders as they try to make the tastiest barbecue delicacies to satisfy their customers on a daily basis.

You won’t believe how much time and enormous effort they put into their work, not to mention the resources they allocate to their grilling business. So, yes, they deserve a lot of respect for all the hard work they do just to give us a plate of a delicious grilled recipe.

Let’s look at the recommendations some of the top pitmasters have.

bbq pitmasters

Grilling can be super fun with the right tools:

Read our post on the best bbq grilling accessories

The History of Grilling Food

Barbecue or barbeque or the street slang BBQ is a cooking method, a style of food, and a name for a meal or gathering at which this style of food is cooked and served. The cooking method itself could also be called barbecue and it is usually done outdoors by using firewood or charcoal.

However, there are now electrical and propane gas powered grills that can be used indoors if conditions do not favor it done outdoors. The history of barbecuing or grilling food might date as far back as the Babylonians; however, there is one author that made an outlandish claim that it may be even farther back in time.

How to buy a bbq smoker video

Although Zecharia Sitchin’s book The Lost Book of Enki, which has an interesting story about barbecue that occurred after the great flood, is not considered as an authentic archaeological evidence by mainstream scientists – it may be the oldest account of grilling food in Earth’s history which dates back to the 10th millennium BCE!

According to the story (it was actually written in cuneiform texts of the ancient Sumerians and was supposedly translated by Sitchin) the alien Anunnaki (those who from heaven to earth came) gods fled earth via rocket ships to their orbiting space station days just before the flood happened.

As they hurriedly left they forgot to bring food rations with them or more so had to do with their lack of human servants to prepare the food for them like they normally would, because Enlil who was in charge of all the gods on earth decided to destroy the human race via the flood which will come about by a meteor strike in Antartica.

They couldn’t travel to Mars (their outpost) as it had already been destroyed by nuclear bombs thousands of years prior and couldn’t go back to earth due to the flood. So there was no way to get any food anywhere in our solar system.

Help from their home planet Nibiru was also not possible as it was in its apogee nearly twice the length of our solar system flung out further than Pluto due to its elongated orbit around the sun.

They remained in the orbiter for nearly 2 weeks and were famished.

The Sumerian god, Enki, who is the author of the book had his own spaceship and decided to save a family of 4 by instructing a man called, Suisudra (Noah in the Bible), to build a small submarine (not an ark) that could survive the rising tides. He was also instructed by this ancient god to grill beef from cows that had survived the flood.

When the rest of the gods descended from the orbiter their commander, Enlil, who was the half-brother of Enki was furious for what his half-brother had done as he wanted to destroy all of the humans through the great flood. However, upon smelling the burnt beef all of them came rushing to the dining table like flies, which Enki also instructed Suisudra to prepare as he was expecting his fellow gods to be starving to death.

After enjoying their fill of exquisitely delicious grilled food the commanding god, Enlil’s rage has abated and reconsidered his half brother’s proposal to repopulate the earth with human beings.

Now that is an amazing story!

Even if it’s just a myth (although Sitchin and his supporters claim that there is truth in it) it shows how the succulent flavor of grilled food can pacify even an angry god! In fact, if you look at it from a certain perspective the Sumerian god Enki used the barbecue to save the human race from extinction.

I know it sounds like a terrible joke, but there have been more ridiculous instances that people did really stupid things for food. It is actually still true to this day and nobody could resist grilled meat even in their darkest of days.

Meanwhile, wall reliefs and stone tablets of the Babylonians also depict them roasting boars, bulls and other animals which may have been a part of their diet. The Persians, Phoenicians, Greeks, Macedonians, Arameans and the Romans practiced the same cooking methods when their empires were still in existence.

Even the Mongols under Genghis Khan also grilled food when they were raiding cities from Asia to the Middle East!

But it wasn’t until 1526 when one of the Spanish explorer’s account that the word barbacoa appeared in his notes. He translated the native Caribbean language as “grilling on a raised wooden grate” and as time went on by the 20th century the term barbecue became a household name in the United States as well as the rest of the world.

The Pitmaster’s Dedication

Pitmasters from all over the United States were interviewed on this YouTube video and it was amazing to find out just how dedicated they were at doing their job/business. Most of the pitmasters said during the interview that they’ve inherited their business or learned all the expertise on grilling meat from their parents or relatives:

They wake up very early in the morning around 2 – 3 am and prepare everything, then by 8 or 9 am the smoked meat are ready to be served to customers when they open their establishments. Even though their business closes at 5 or 6 pm they would still stay up until 10 pm or so to once again prepare the several tons of meat to be grilled for the next day.

The profit they make may go as high as 6-figures, but the amount of work they do on a daily basis is hardly worth it. Had it not been for the love of doing what they do, we wouldn’t have a great bar and grill restaurants that we’ve come to love so much today.

Pitmasters Tips for Those Who Want to Start their Own Grilling Restaurants

For those of you who have a flair for starting your own bar and grill restaurant, we some interesting tips for you that we’ve got from certified pitmasters. Representatives from GQue BBQ YouTube Channel and AmazingRibs.com agreed to sit down with us and talk about grilling and other important stuff related to it.

Jason Ganahl from GQue BBQ

Whether you’re a complete novice in this business or you’re already an amateur grilling enthusiast, you can capitalize on these tips and use them as a business guide to launching your own bar and grill restaurant. Keep reading to find out more!

  1. Hickory – Hickory wood is the best fuel to bring out the best tasting grilled meat that you can ever cook! According to Jason Ganahl, a representative of GQue BBQ YouTube channel, compared to charcoal or any other type of fuel Hickory wood doesn’t interfere with the taste of the meat you grill. This means that the meat and the marinade will mix well under the heat and will appeal to your tastebuds very much with every bite. Meanwhile, AmazingRibs gave a broader and more comprehensive answer when asked what was their favorite fuel for grilling through this article.
  2. Thermapen – Make sure to always have this handy tool with you whenever you’re grilling or smoking meat because it will determine how good the meat will be once it’s done. Thermapen is produced by Thermoworks but there are other hand-held thermometers out there that you can purchase that works like it. The second most important grilling tool should be FireBoard, then other tools you must have for grilling include tongs, Weber Grill Pan, frogmats, Weber Chimney, Lodge Logic Pro Cast Iron Griddle, Rapala Fileting Knife, Grandma’s Secret Spot Remover, leather gloves, chargon and grill brushes.
  3. Preferred Meat Choice – Jason Ganahl also said that his favorite meat to smoke are ribs and, in fact, 70% of bar and grill restaurant customers prefer this type of meat too over other meat types. So it may be good to note to make ribs as part of your primary dishes when you start a bar and grill restaurant business someday. Interestingly, AmazingRibs echoed Mr. Ganahl’s comments.
  4. Preferred Grilling Method – Both pitmasters said that they prefer to grill meat directly on the rack as it is easier for the heat to get to the meat and cook it thoroughly.
  5. Signs to Look for to Know When the Meat is Cooked – On the outside, you may want to look for the burnt and brownish parts all over the meat, but you may still need to cut through the meat and or something that is nice and soft with good bark and smoke flavor. Using a thermapen is also very helpful in determining if the meat is cooked as you can know what the temperature inside of the meat is without cutting it.
  6. Best Go-To Marinade Ingredients – It’s surprising to know that both pitmasters said that marinades don’t work and simple rubs will do the trick.
  7. Food Grilling Arrangement – The larger and thicker meat should go first in order for you to take advantage of the heat and cook them efficiently, but there’s more to grilling than just meat sizes and thickness. So you may have to dig deeper with what influences cook time for grilling foods.
  8. Advice for Beginners – Both pitmasters say that you shouldn’t be worried about getting it right on the first time, because failure is part of the learning process. By being consistent and always be eager to learn and improve on your cooking, then eventually you will make some great BBQ.

Read more on the top brands expert smokers use.

Barbecue Styles

Since barbecue has become a national tradition in the United States most of the styles we will mention here are from this country, except maybe for the kebab and the shawarma which are although not exactly a type of barbecue, but are nevertheless cooked in a similar fashion and mixed with vegetables for food and taste variety. The central and southern United States originally adopted barbecue as a regional dish from the Caribbean natives due to the large number of wild boars that they could easily catch.

Pigs were a low-maintenance food source that could be released to forage in woodlands during the 19th century. The people would then hunt them down for food later on when seasons weren’t favorable for crops to grow.

The styles began in the Cajun culture in New Orleans when wild hogs and pig slaughtering became a time for celebration for whatever the occasion may be. Then barbecue evolved through the unique styles of the sauces that came along with the grilled meat.

Soon there came the North and South Carolina styles, the Lexington syle barbecue also rose to fame as was Memphis, Alabama, Georgia, and Tennessee.

Kansas City-style barbecue was the first style of grilling that used a variety of meat types, which included smoked sausage, pork ribs, smoked turkey, smoked/grilled chicken, beef brisket, pulled pork, burnt ends, beef ribs, fish and other seafood.

Maryland preferred to roast large bulls outdoors while the Kentucky-style barbecue preferred sheep meat and mutton. Meanwhile, the kebab and shawarma barbecue originated in Turkey during the Ottoman Empire and has recently become popular in western countries as well as Asia and Oceana.

Korean, Mongolian and Japanese styles of barbecue are also now known due to the exotic flavoring they add to their sauces, which is very popular in most parts of the world.

Barbecue Cooking Techniques

There are various barbecue cooking techniques that have been developed over the course of 500+ years since the Spaniards discovered it in the Caribbean. The natives in the Caribbean islands grilled their meat slowly over firewood for hours with temperatures reaching 115 –145 °C.

In the modern times, grilling has evolved since the Caribbean Indians started the tradition and there’s even been a significant amount of technology and ingenuity added to the latest grill models. The science of grilling has also been deeply explored and as a result, we’re now able to grill food better, make it taste better and reduce the cook time to nearly half of what it used to take.

Here are some of the best-known grilling techniques:


The process of preserving food through cooking and flavoring by allowing it to bathe in hot smoke from smoldering or burning material such as wood, charcoal, and other heat sources is called smoking. Commonly smoked foods are meat and fish; however, cheeses, vegetables, nuts, and ingredients that are needed to create beverages like beer or smoked beer also go through this food preservation process.

Now, you can do this with using a vertical position for your meat as well as a horizontal one lying down.


Roasting, on the other hand, is not a method to preserve food compared to smoking, but rather it uses a masonry oven to cook or roast the meat thoroughly under intense direct heat or heat from convection. You can also do barbecue-baking in a masonry oven as well as traditional stove-ovens and even bake casseroles, desserts, bread and other starches.

Roasting can enhance flavor through caramelization and Maillard browning on the surface of the food.


Since braising uses convection heating, it can be done either on the charcoal grill or stove. Braising is a semi-complicated cooking process of meat as the first stage of the cooking involves sauteeing or searing the meat in vegetable oil.braising meat

The second stage is cooking the vegetables in the same oil until they are tender, then the final stage is to simmer the sauteed meat and vegetables together in 1 cup of red wine and then adding another 4 – 6 cups of water for over an hour. Adding the aromatics and other herbs will be the final touches, but you can only stop cooking it once the meat is tender enough for a fork to pierce through it.


Grilling could also be considered as radiation cooking as the food being grilled on the grate does not necessarily come into direct contact with the fire from the wood, gas, electrical heat induction or charcoal fuel below it. Grilling is a great way to cook meat or vegetables quickly as the heat source is more than sufficient for the foods being cooked at one time.

Plus you’ll also be able to control the temperature on the grill and cooking at certain temperatures can determine how fast the food can be cooked. Some of them like the reverse flow smoker best as it enables you to control all this even more.

Interestingly enough since the words “barbecue” and “grilling” have been widely proliferated all over the world people use them interchangeably. However, chefs and food experts would beg to differ as they have formally classified grilling as the matriarchal progenitor of barbecue, because this cooking process involves high temperatures to sear the food.

While barbecue, on the other hand, is just a type of grilling that uses low heat and generally involves a slow process of cooking food.

Be sure to check out our bbq gift guide if your special someone is really into smoking as well.

Joost Nusselder, the founder of Lakeside Smokers is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with BBQ Smoking (& Japanese food!) at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.