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We know that to make Santa Maria BBQ there are very few “must haves”. Tri-Tip, Salt, Pepper…and nicely seasoned Red Oak. Even thought these requirements are few, true Santa Maria BBQ cannot be accomplished without these basics.
To those of us on California’s Central Coast, the Red Oak and many of it’s cousins are plentiful. However, to my friends around the country, Oaks are either of a less flavorful variety or nonexistent. These Oaks of California are not “furniture grade”, they have many twists, turns, knots and kinks…not to mention bark that can approach an inch thick on older trees. These Oaks are meant for Sublime Beauty and BBQ. We don’t take the bark off like other BBQ cultures practice; we treat it the precious maker of fine BBQ coals – the wood and bark give a coal bed of unique texture, burn and smoke rates.
In order to find the wood – several commercial wood companies contract to “prune” in the case of the California Live Oak – and cut the Red & White Oaks…It’s illegal to cut down a California Live Oak without a permit….so ask before you buy, exactly what kind of Oak you’ll be getting.
Visiting local newspaper websites will generally provide contact for people that are selling the Oak wood by the cord – these guys typically are for the local customer, and don’t have the ability to box & ship to a customer…this will however be a great way to get lots of wood much cheaper than “by the box” retailers.
I’ve found a great website for locating Oak BBQ woods near you – many will ship directly to you in boxes or bags.
This is a very complete list and incorporates the major regions of California.
After you get your Oak BBQ wood coming, try this BBQ seasoning…
The Rub Co. - “Santa Maria Style” – purchase it at www.greenleafbbq.com – AWESOME rub for this genre of BBQ – and others – The Rub Co. and their BBQ team just won Reserve Grand Champion (2nd place) over all at the Wild West BBQ Bash…using this line of BBQ rubs!
Best of luck to you in obtaining the BBQ woods that made the Santa Maria Style, the equal of every other BBQ culture in the world.
Carrie & I were shopping the other day – grocery shopping – our favorite pastime. We were trying to decide what to have for dinners in the week ahead. Understanding that we are in the BBQ industry, we typically choose an assortment of meats that might either provide a learning experience, or perhaps fresh material to share. Cornish Game Hens came up last night, and indeed – produced something to share.
Most folks LOVE BBQ Chicken, in one or more of it’s many forms. We serve lots of BBQ Chicken to clients and make many of recommendations to customers looking for a new way to prepare it. One complaint we’ve heard often,” The chicken breasts are just too big” or “We cooked a whole chicken and now we have to store the leftovers – that never get eaten.”
Cornish Game Hens don’t have any of those problems. One hen, split in Half will comfortably feed two people with no leftovers. Even better “SpatchCock” (or a hen with the back cut out and butterflied), but straight hen halves are wonderful.
Here are the Basics of what we did:
Frozen Game Hens – cut in half just like a chicken. One half per person is the appropriate portion.
- I tossed (3) Halves in a 2 gallon Zip Lock bag & poured a “Mojo Criollo” Marinade – this is a wonderful citrus based marinade that is traditional in Cuban or Mexican cooking.
- Let the hens soak in the marinade for (4) hours – that’s all the time I had in order to get them cooked on time. Let them soak longer if you can.
- Get a BBQ or Smoker set up with some BBQ Smoke Wood and plan for “Indirect” heat; adjusting your temps to the 250 Degree range. When the temperature stabilizes, put the hens on the BBQ. I add a water pan to the grill if I am worried about moisture – this is just a metal bread pan filled 2/3 with water & set on the same side as the hens. The pan will steam and add humidity to the cooking chamber. This can be done on ANY BBQ.
- I lay the hens on the BBQ grate - setting the thickest (breast) side of the hen towards the fire – I don’t like burnt wing and leg tips.
- Let the hens cook for 20 minutes – shake on a mellow BBQ rub once the skin has started to sweat a bit. I used D-Dog’s Maple Rub – very complimentary to poultry.
- An hour later, baste on some olive or canola oil, balsamic vinegar & honey mixture that you’ve prepared in the house…this will dilute & emulsify the dry rub that was applied earlier. The color will really come out and begin to look glossy.
- Another hour into the cook, your hens should have been on the BBQ for about 2 1/2 hours now – baste with a final BBQ sauce or glaze. Mine was simple sugar, mint, sage & a touch of brown mustard – all mixed together nicely prior to painting the hens…you can use a bottled sauce at this point too…
- Things should be VERY close to done – ensure now that the BBQ doesn’t get much hotter than the 250 degrees we’ve talked about – that sugar will burn if it does.
- The hens will be done now – and can be pulled off the BBQ. I like to put mine under a foil tent on a platter or other type of “steamer” – this allows the hens to rest while other parts of the meal are finished off.
- Enjoy those nice Cornish Game Hens – they should be super juicy & tangy sweet.
We used a Traeger Pellet Grill for this recipe, you can easily replicate this on a Charcoal or Gas grill. The Traeger Pellet Grill is easy & low maintenance – we recommend them.
Thanks for checking out our BBQ blog – I try to come up with stuff that anybody can try with success – We have many of the items mentioned in our online BBQ shop at: www.greenleafbbq.com
Best of luck,
I know – this is a shameless plug for our BBQ shop. But, sometimes the information being delivered demands some attention – even if it is from within!
Our BBQ Shop is located at: 21 South Livermore Ave. Livermore, CA in the Historic Blacksmith Square. We regularly have Big Green Eggs on sale and offer prices significantly under retail. Please visit our website for more information at: www.greenleafbbq.com – We can drop ship special orders as well!
Here are 10 of the best reasons ever to invest in a Big Green Egg…
1. They can hover at the magic 250 degree mark for almost 24 hours with a good lump charcoal fire – making the “Low & Slow” style a reality.
2. They are supremely efficient users of fuel – Good charcoal is expensive and getting more so.
3. They can really do a great job as a grill – those temps can easily get to 500 – 700 degrees and stay there for over an hour – if you have a “steak night” for 15 folks, this will come in handy.
4. They look cool.
5. They make you cooler!
6. They will last forever & include a limited LIFETIME warranty – Parts are commonly available and easily replaceable.
7. The array of ceramic accessories will allow perfect indirect heating & a wonderful brick over flavored pizza on a Big Green Egg Pizza Stone.
8. There is nothing that cannot be cooked to perfection with a little practice of fire management & technique – a VERY forgiving BBQ.
9. Air flow is managed at both ends and the adjustments actually work, unlike junk grills that have air flow vents more for cosmetic reasons.
10. Cooking technique that is learned in a kitchen can easily be applied to this charcoal fired porcelain oven – learn fire technique & the world will be your oyster.
I don’t really need to go on any more – “Backyard Nirvana” is possible and now within reach.
Seriously, these are wonderful BBQ units that will be enjoyed for years…a true investment. Consider renting one from us for $50 a day – we’ll take the rental expense off of your bill should you decide to buy.
Green Leaf BBQ is proud to announce the arrival of our newest BBQ product. “California Vineyard Smoke Woods”. These Oak wood pieces were infused with wine as they assisted in the process of making great California Wines. Green Leaf BBQ has partnered with many wineries to bring you a truly superior BBQ smoke wood. From small cubes to smoke in that gas grill, larger pieces to mix into the charcoal pile on your Weber and longer slats for that stick burning smoker rig.
Reviews have been coming in… John Ruloff, a Big Green Egg Rep. and BBQ competitor in Fairfield Ca. took some with him to the 6th Annual West Coast BBQ Championships this past weekend. Visitors chattered, “The wood was great” others, “With the right amount, the smoke flavor was unique and interesting”, another commented, “something different”.
Recommended Use: Place about 8 pieces on the fire as you are locking in the temperature of the BBQ. By the time things have settled down to the magic 250 +/- degree mark, the pieces should be producing a nice light smoke. Keep in mind, if the pieces are tossed on a huge flaming fire, they will just burn up. The burning isn’t what will give you a unique smoked flavor…so remember those Low & Slow cooking methods. Some folks soak them in more wine, others in water, others go dry. Experiment with what works best for you.
Big Green Egg & Weber WSM & UDS: Toss them or stir the pieces into the charcoal bed and catch the temperature you like. Remember it is easier to capture temps that are rising as the fire is growing – it is difficult to put the brakes on a monster hot fire and bring the temps down.
Weber Kettle: Set up for an indirect fire – add the smoke wood as the temps stabilize around the edges of the fire. I use foil covered bricks down the center of my kettle & make the fire on one side. The bricks radiate heat well – extending and stabilizing the length of a usable fire.
Gas Grill: Fill your smoker box with a handful of the small cubes – get them smoking – not burning – then add your meat. Some people dedicate a burner for the smoke box, it may be easier to moderate the burn/smoke rate to your tastes.
Smoke Note: NEVER try to smoke your food while the BBQ is billowing white smoke, thick white smoke will make your food taste like garbage and it will turn black and sooty. Please wait until there are nice clean wisps of smoke and heat – then add your food. (If your fire lacks oxygen – air flow – there will be continuous white smoke – add some air to stabilize the burning characteristics and clean up that smoke)
Availability: If you’re interested in purchasing California Vineyard Smoke Woods, visit our online store, Visit our website at:
and click “Shop Online”. First shipments go out Sept. 14th.
Wholesale interests: Please email: email@example.com or call (209) 342-7878.
So we all know that steaks like to be cooked HOT. I’ve cooked plenty of steaks this way & as long as they have good marbling, they come out great. This usually means steaks like a Rib Eye in the USDA Choice category at a minimum.
Carrie and I stoked the Egg one eve and whipped out this amazing steak cooked at over 700 degrees in the Egg. Keep in mind that as long as the internal temps in a steak stay around 120 -125 degrees – the meat stays red and juicy inside. When the temps get higher than that, the steak begins to cook through. Your job as a BBQ master is to cook that steak in as little time as it takes to lightly char the exterior & leave a tender pink interior with as little grey around the edges of the pink as possible. Of course if the preference is more of a medium or we done steak -LOWER the temps at which you cook it.
For what is’s worth, many steak afficionados love the Medium Rare steak & that is my taste as well…
We used some of the Rub Co. “Santa Maria” product as our base & added butter, garlic & rosemary near the end. I like to add the herbal ingredients late in the cook so that the flame doesn’t just burn them off – you can see the coarse garlic & rosemary in the photos.
If you haven’t tried this style of steak cooking – it will probably take some practice – everything happens pretty fast. Don’t give up, as the reward is all the equal of a Morton’s, Ruth’s Chris etc. type of steak -except the price! So go fire that BBQ, get your self a great cut of meat and go to work!
“This sumptuous feast of barbecued sirloin, salsa, Pinquito beans, toasted French bread, and green salad has been called by Sunset Magazine, the “best barbecue in the world”"
Simple aroma of the Red Oak burning in the bottom of an iron pit. The hot smokey air surrounds everything, changing everything. The deep crackle of the big oak logs, the fire is preparing to give up its gift. Men in jeans and boots, as authentic as the aroma itself prepare the 4″ thick Top sirloin “Block” steaks or tri-tips. Preparation is simple – shaking on some coarse garlic, salt & pepper. We have a few beers – waiting. We aren’t going to trim very much – the fire will need that. Families are happy, women talk. The fire wisps and cracks as we lower the iron grate on the rotating shaft. We control heat with the movement of the grate. This scene has been repeated thousands of times, more in this Central California region. We know nothing else. This is our lifestyle. Every important event. Every sad event. Grill marks, weeping, dripping fat into the fire, reddened meat, swollen. This is my BBQ. This is Santa Maria Style.
Families grill everyday in “backyard” California. Our weather is beautiful for 9 months of the year. Some slow smoke, others charcoal grill, others gas grill.
This style, like other landmark BBQ styles, is not the “only” way to BBQ, it is just the only true CALIFORNIA BBQ. It is ours. As simple as the corner of Mill and Vine streets in Santa Maria where the first Tri-Tip roast was discovered. Bob Shultz stumbled into the core of modern Santa Maria BBQ…only by accident. This discovery put Santa Maria BBQ on the map.
The fire lighting tips are simple:
Traditional Oak Pit: as pictured, load it with 5 or so logs and light it up. When those logs burn down, to coals, put one log in the back of the pit at the edge of the fire. This log will smolder and give you new coals slowly as the main fire burns down. Continue to add logs to the rdge of the fire as needed to continue making coals. Rake or drag the coals to the center as you BBQ. (If you have one of these pits, my information probably isn’t new or revolutionary. Have patience for those that are new.)
Charcoal grill or any “Stick Burner”: make a fire with BBQ oak wood chunks/small logs make a large pile, light them up, add more until you get a nice bed of coals 3″ thick. During this process, you probably won’t have seen your grill emit this much fire, so add sparingly to keep the fire manageable. A person could add charcoal to the BBQ chunks, but that isn’t what we’re talking about here. This is a process, enjoy it. Have a glass of wine, enjoy friends around that huge pile of burning oak wood.
Gas Grill: I don’t know what to tell you. Oak chips soaked in water don’t do it. Use this an excuse to buy another type of BBQ. After all, two or more isn’t bad.
Let the coal bed rest until you can keep the back of your hand over the coals for about 2 1/2 seconds. It’s gonna be hot… On the charcoal grills, move the coal bed to one side, block the fire with foil covered bricks or something firm, creating a slightly indirect heat.
In this temp range, the term “indirect” sorta goes out the window. We could be looking at 600+ over the fire, and around 450+ on the “cold side” In a charcoal grill, where you don’t have much control of the heat/grill height. Wait until the heat is within the 350-400 degree range before even thinking about putting that $30 dollar 4″ Sirloin Block or tri-tip on the grate. If you have an Oak Pit, lower the grate as the fire cools to maintain the 350 degree range. Oh yeah, you probably aren’t going to need that lid on the charcoal grill or Big Green Egg, Weber etc. Cook this on the grate, moving it around as needed to keep things in line.
Lets see, what else…yeah, your arm hairs may be singed, and you eyes may sting from that cookable clear smoke – that’s a sign that everything is normal. Just keep that meat moving a bit, don’t burn it & make sure to serve it with a great salad (and strawberries if you can get them)
This BBQ Style will take practice, and will probably cause a newbie some degree of frustration at first. Stick with it, and you will begin to unconsciously begin to “feel” your BBQ & it’s sumptuous rewards.
We’ll continue to have more on Santa Maria Style BBQ in the future…
I saw this video and thought I’d pass it along. In case you haven’t noticed, I like to focus on techniques that create sound fundamentals. I’m aware that in order to get great BBQ, many additional techniques are advised that can only be applied when the fundamentals have been established. We’ll be adding a few of those expert tricks along the way to truly make great Q.
Notice that this guy uses a Weber WSM to cook these ribs. If a person is using a different style of BBQ, Like a Traeger, Big Green Egg, Horizon Offset or a Gasser etc…keep in mind that the attainable temps may be different and should be accounted for in overall cook time.
Oh yeah, don’t depend on your charcoals flavor – add wood chunks or chips to your BBQ to give it a unique flavor & use a fire starter chimney or paper to light that BBQ — Please no lighter fluid.
Marbling, simply put, is the distribution of fat within a cut of beef. The USDA measures this “Marbling” and assigns a grade to the beef. Many recognize that without a degree of marbling, a steak or beef cut just doesn’t taste very flavorful, and may even be tough and dry after cooking. There is a commonly accepted relationship between the amount of marbling in a beef cut, and it’s inherent flavor. There is also a direct corollary between marbling and price per pound of beef. This chart explains why a “Select” grade Rib Eye steak will taste remarkably different than a “Prime” Rib Eye steak – and cost more too.
These are excerpts from the USDA marbling chart. I wanted to post this as an example of the differences that exist between meat grades that we commonly see in the store. The standard USDA grades are labeled, Kobe Beef falls between “Prime” and “Marble Score 4″. The “Marble Scores” come from Australian Wagu Beef, or other unique breeds of cattle. Draw your own conclusions about the grade of beef and the fat content of each.
So, next time a “Select” New York steak steak goes on sale at you local market , realize that a “Prime” sirloin may be the more flavorful cut at a similar price. Keep in mind that all steaks or beef cuts are NOT created equal. One simply cannot cook the same steak at home as was had at a restaurant unless the grade is the same or similar…no matter how amazing your BBQ skills are.
I thought is was visually interesting to see all of the beef grades together for a quick comparison. I hope this leads to a more well informed beef purchase and better quality BBQ.
I couldn’t resist posting this sauce – I got it from a friend some time ago, and have been fiddling with it a bit. This BBQ sauce is a really smooth peachy sauce that should be tried when the regular red sauces get boring. With peach season upon us here in California, maybe some fresh freestones could be substituted, make sure to add a bit of sugar to the peaches to encourage a syrup before puree process.
Black pepper can me an option if your base rub uses pepper.
Remember – different flavor layers MAKE a great BBQ.
Peach BBQ Sauce:
48 fluid ounces peach slices in light syrup
1 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon garlic, crushed
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon ginger, ground
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
3/4 cup maple syrup
1 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1. Puree peaches
2. Mix cornstarch with a little water
3. Combine all ingredients in a large saucepan and heat to low boil, stirring occasionally
4. Continue to simmer 30 minutes, stirring frequently
5. Sauce may be thin, so at the end of cooking time, if necessary, add sufficient water/cornstarch mixture to give sauce consistency of commercial barbecue sauce
Apply this one very lightly – over the top of whatever dry rub that you used – adding thin coats until the desired “stickey factor” has been achieved. Don’t burn it – reduce temps below 300 degrees during the application process.
* The ribs in my header picture received this glaze…
Best of Luck and feel free to tell me how I should improve this recipe!
Green Leaf BBQ is excited to present a new online store – we’re even MORE excited to add more unique product. We’ve tried hard to locate quality spices and sauces. We carry complete lines of Weber, Traeger & Big Green Egg.
Visit us when you’re looking for an addition to your BBQ repertoire. We’re adding products every week so check to see what’s new. Store:
or website: www.greenleafbbq.com
Remember that our store is client driven — if you’d like to see something here, make a suggestion & we’ll try to make it happen.