Ask a Pitmaster: Sterling Smith’s BBQ tips and advice.

It’s not often you get firsthand advice from a grand champion.

Sterling Smith, creator of the Brown Sugar Hickory Pork, stopped by our Facebook page to field your hot BBQ questions. Here’s what he had to say:

Twist’d Q: Sterling, you and Loot N’ Booty BBQ are headed to the American Royal World Series of Barbecue next weekend. Who’s on your team?

Sterling: My team is usually me, my wife, my son Jimmy (10) and daughter Saylor (8). Unfortunately, my wife and kids will not be able to make it to KC so I have a friend from home and some guys from Texas I met at my first American Royal in 2014 who were my neighbors. Great guys – I think they are good luck!

Sam C.: What’s the best advice that you can give to people just starting out in BBQ?

Sterling: Take a class! It will save you so much time and energy in the long run. There are some great classes out there! As I grow in this hobby, I am continuing to learn every day.

Bo A.: What happened to your GA accent?

Sterling:  That’s what happens when you live in the desert for the last 19 years. Molly always knows when I’ve been talking to my family in GA. The Georgia accent kicks in real quick!

Megan F.: What kind of briskets are you cooking? Are you injecting all your meats? Are you hot and fast on brisket and pork? Fat side up or down? In a pan or on the grate?

Sterling: Snake River Farms Blacks (18-20 lb), I inject brisket and pork. Yes – hot and fast on everything! Directly on the grate fat side down. The fat is protection. 300 degrees.

Todd M.: Can you share some Chicken secrets? I’m always last in comp using Myron Mixon’s techniques.

Sterling: Throw away the muffin tin! Chicken is all about getting that bite through skin. Are you missing points in flavor or tenderness? Nail tenderness, and flavor is an easy adjustment. Bite through skin?

Todd M.: Flavor. The bite through skin is fine. Tenderness is spot on.

Sterling: Change your rubs and or sauce.

Chris R.: Do you plan to change anything for the Royal as you are headed to an entirely different region of BBQ and judges? Sauce, rub, technique?

Sterling: Thanks, buddy! The base of what I do will be the same no matter where I go (process, timeline, base flavors, etc.), but I will tweak a few things on my sauce. I think the judges out west are used to a little spice. I’ll temper it down a bit heading into KC.

Jason B: Smitty, what cooker do you cook your pork on?

Sterling: For competitions, I’ve been using my Gateway Drum. I also like using my GMG Daniel Boone and finishing on the drum.

Jason B: So hot and fast on the drum; how many butts do you cook for a comp?

Sterling: Yes sir! 3 – 4. I’ll probably run 3 each day in KC.

Mark M.: Smitty… me out. Chicken thighs on the Davy Crockett or steaks on the grill for dinner? Great to see you going strong. Good luck at the Royal!

Sterling: Both, buddy! This is America! Why only have one option? Thanks, Mark!

Larry C.: What do judges look for in competition pork ribs?

Sterling: I think they look for that perfect bite! Tenderness is key, not fall off the bone, but a good clean bite. Also balanced flavor. Not too anything, too smoky, too sweet, too salty, etc. Balance.

Matt K.: Are you going to make injections soon?

Sterling.: I’ve been working on a few more rubs and sauces. No plans for injections at this time. Maybe in the future though!

Tim L.: First protein to smoke?

Sterling: Ribs! Everyone loves a good rack!

Josh D.: Is orange soda good when injected in pork butt?

Sterling: Only the Red Beard Brand! That’s what championships are made of!

Want to BBQ like Sterling?