The Smoker Tube Tailgate

The Smoker Tube Tailgate

Get wood pellet flavor at the game even if you’re using a portable grill. Moments like this were made for smoker tubes. They’re easy, they’re budget-friendly, and they bring the taste of smoke where it needs to go.  

Tailgate pork chops

Pork chops cook up on the spot at the tailgate. Hall of Famer coach Mike Ditka’s ‘Official Tailgater’s Grilled Pork Chop’ recipe requires a little bit of planning – 24 hours of marinating in orange juice, soy sauce and assorted spices. But once you get to the stadium, it’s salt, pepper, and onto the grill. While the recipe doesn’t ask for wood fuel, pork chops always get even better with some smoke flavor. Guaranteed.

Grilled vegetable platter

A simple but colorful grilled vegetable platter makes for savory snacking and a side dish for grilled meats. Take your pick of the harvest and marinate on the way to the game with balsamic vinegar, oregano, honey and more, then grill and drizzle the marinade over when you serve.

Guacamole with charred corn

Bobby Flay definitely takes game-day dip to the next level with this chunky, colorful and tasty charred corn guacamole recipe. Grill the corn and mash it up with the avocado and lime juice and serve it up. It’s a winner.

Smoky chili chicken

This chili barbecued chicken recipe suggests wood in the grilling fuel. The on-the-bone bird is brushed during cooking with a clear spicy-sour sauce combining cider vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, and three kinds of pepper – chili powder, paprika and red pepper flakes.

Pass the plate and get grilling with attitude this football season. Go, team!

Back to school 3 — best of BBQ hacks from Griller’s Gold

Back to school 3 — best of BBQ hacks from Griller’s Gold

Get your BBQ smarts going with this library of fantastically helpful BBQ tips. It’ll make the rest of grilling season great.

Prepare for a big BBQ — checklist

Make a list and check off your items. Here’s a recent post on the ABCs of prepping for a big party.

Basic BBQ menu planning

Getting your work done means sticking to a schedule. Here’s how to schedule your BBQ menu planning.

Best meats for grilling and smoking 101

Get to know a little of the BBQ science about why it’s actually perfect to use low-cost meats for grilling. Extra credit points here for household budget math skills!

Seasonal tomato sides for easy great taste

Let’s serve up a side of summer – while we still can. Tomatoes are a classic accompaniment to grilled meat. Check out some tomato side dish recipes.

Learn about trendy grilled fruit desserts

BBQ isn’t all about meat and the occasional veggie kabob. This uber-easy grilled peach-and-pound-cake recipe is right on trend and delicious to eat.

Once you’ve studied up, you’ll be able to do an A+ job on grilling. Revel in your top-of-the-class skills and BBQ with attitude!

This family really cooks

This family really cooks

On a sunny July afternoon, Jennifer Luckhart talked to Griller’s Gold about her family’s award-winning BBQ team, Nuthatch Hill BBQ Co., and the business that’s sprung from it. (Bradney Luckhart cheerily answered the call but handed the phone to his wife so he could climb down into the pit to fix a smoker problem.)

Jennifer says, “We have been cooking on a competition level about 10 years. Most teams consist of a group of guys who are friends. We are one of a few husband-and-wife teams.” Today, the Luckharts cook with their two daughters, who are aged 10 and 11. “Since they were old enough – 4 or 5 – they’ve been watching, then helping as they got older. We just dragged them around with us everywhere!” The Luckhart girls cook competitively with the family team, and also on their own at the kids’ level. “It’s a lot of family time together, giving the kids something constructive to do. “

The people on the competition scene matter. “We have found that the BBQ world is very friendly. A majority of people are really nice and helpful. As a team that’s been around for a bit, we pass (knowledge) on to new teams. We all know it’s an art and it’s nice to talk to someone who understands.”

Nuthatch Hill has opted for a more local competition circuit in recent years. “We used to travel all over Illinois and surrounding states – Missouri, Iowa, Wisconsin, Indiana, and Kentucky. Now we do favorite competitions to keep accolades coming in and see our friends that we’ve made along the way. Competitions become a little vacation now,” says Jennifer.

Practice, practice, practice

Even when they’re barbecuing for fun, the Luckharts are thinking about the next competitive event. “At home, we practice for BBQ competition. It’s all down to timing.” The family uses a checklist to manage four meats – just like in competition – each of which requires different timing and attention on the smoker. Jennifer says, “We’re always looking for new flavor profiles and different ways of turning the meat in. We don’t want to get stale; we tweak a little and add something new.” Who eats all this bounty?  “We like to practice on Sunday and a lot of visitors stop by to hang out. We live out in the country on a dead-end road, so they have to have a purpose to come down here. It’s the famous ‘oh I just popped by!’ ‘Oh you have some chicken for me to try!’“ On a typical Sunday, 10 to 15 friends drop in on the Luckharts. They’re always made welcome.

What they look for in wood pellets

Great BBQ is a big picture, and wood pellets are a vital element in the process. “It’s really an art,” Jennifer says. “Your art changes with each smoker you use, your type of wood, the piece of meat.”

In the second post of this 2-part series, learn how the Nuthatch Hill family took their competition experience and built a business in sauces, seasonings and catering.

Griller’s Gold is proud to sponsor the Nuthatch Hill BBQ Co. team.

Flavor first: the competitor’s perspective on smoke

Flavor first: the competitor’s perspective on smoke

In the first post of this 2-part series, read more about the Luckharts’ feelings on competing and on enjoying winning BBQ at home. Griller’s Gold is proud to sponsor the Nuthatch Hill BBQ Co. team.

Smoke flavor requires a deft touch. Jennifer Luckhart, of the Nuthatch Hill BBQ Co. team, says, “Balance the meat, what it absorbs, with the wood. Chicken is on for a shorter amount of time since it’s a lighter meat that absorbs faster. Pork has to get a bark built on it” (a crust that results from a combination of caramelization and smoke, not too thin but not too tough and charred, either). “Each meat is different in how it absorbs smoke and how the smoke ring appears.”

In competition, smoke flavor gets judged, as does the look of the smoked meat.

“Smoke rings are very important in competition – judges like the appearance, but not intense smoke flavor that overpowers the meat. You don’t want it to taste like you’re chewing a piece of wood!”

While smoke flavor is unmistakable and irresistible, subtlety counts. ”We kind of became BBQ snobs and didn’t go out to eat for BBQ because we find much of it over-smoked.” (Jennifer notes that excess smoke flavor takes meat to a bitter place.)

Jennifer says that her husband-and-wife team appreciates distinct flavors from different blends. They like the range of flavors of the Griller’s Gold Premium BBQ Pellets line, and particularly appreciate the blends of wood types. “Fruitwoods are mixed and give nice color to  the smoke ring. You don’t have to dedicate your flavoring just one type of wood.”

“Wood pellets make the process easier. We look for a pellet that’s a clean, long-lasting burn,” Jennifer says

“Start with the right wood pellets and the right meat and you can end up with a fabulous product.” (Read about selecting the right cuts and the right wood varieties here.)

A flavor-based BBQ business

Jennifer says, “We’ve had some wins and accolades that helped us open our business. We made our own BBQ sauce and seasonings because we couldn’t find exactly what we wanted. We turned it into a legit business rather than a hobby. We also do catering, and have a food truck, and sell sauces and seasonings at grocery stores.” (The Nuthatch Hill team has a stand at the 2019 Illinois State Fair, running August 8-18.)

As a competitive team, the Luckharts have placed in a number of KCBS-sanctioned competitions. Their product line evolved from their competition experience. “Nuthatch Hill BBQ Co. sauce is our competition sauce. It caramelizes nicely, it’s good for multi-meats, it mixes in well with pulled pork, or on top, it sticks nicely to ribs.“ Just in 2019, Nuthatch Hill products have won recognition in both National BBQ Assoc. (NBBQA) and National BBQ News rankings.

But the biggest win is within the Luckhart family, with two daughters, aged 10 and 11. Jennifer says, “I’m excited that our girls have embraced our hobby, and the business side, at a young age. They’ve learned cooking skills and business skills. They’ve used Nuthatch Hill BBQ Co. in 4H projects. They’re little entrepreneurs in their own right.”

Curate your barbecue playlist

Curate your barbecue playlist

When you’re throwing a barbecue, it’s about more than just food. It’s a vibe. And a time to dine under the stars. And a shared energy. Barbecue is a story that needs a great soundtrack. Here’s some music that has just the right attitude for barbecue. We’ll start with geography that links food and music.


The American South embraced and elevated barbecue  – and gave rise to blues. Traditional blues draws from the work songs and spirituals of African Americans in the rural South, especially Texas, Louisiana and the Mississippi Delta. It was typically played by “roaming solo musicians on acoustic guitar, piano or harmonica at weekend parties, picnics and juke joints….”

Early 20th century dance band leader W.C. Handy helped a national audience discover the Southern music, and migrations north between the World Wars spread the sound to Memphis, Chicago, Detroit and beyond. “Muddy Waters, who had lived and worked on a Mississippi plantation before riding the rails to Chicago in 1943, swapped acoustic guitars for electric ones and filled out their sound with drums, harmonica, and standup bass. This gave rise to an electrified blues sound with a stirring beat that drove people onto the dance floor and pointed the way to rhythm and blues and rock and roll.” Major rock bands hit the charts with blues covers and adaptations, led by the likes of the iconic Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin.

In honor of the adopted hometown of the inimitable Muddy Waters, read Meathead Goldwyn’s tasty article about Chicago-style barbecue. Thanks to PBS for blues history quoted here.  Read about the roots of American BBQ in our favorite Griller’s Gold BBQ History piece.


Jamaican jerk is a great form of barbecue. Reggae, the musical voice of Jamaica, suits summer nights and outdoor festivities just fine. Here’s good reading about reggae great Bob Marley, who helped this Caribbean sound go global and changed pop music forever. And listen to some reggae while enjoying this classic jerk chicken recipe for your wood pellet grill. Ya, mon!

While other musical genres might not be directly tied to barbecue’s roots, they play well all summer long and complement your cooking. Use these cues to build your playlist with some new choices on top of your old favorites, or check out what Spotify and Pandora have to offer.

  • Pandora Classic Rock BBQ Station
  • Spotify Summer BBQ Playlist
  • Southern rock
  • Country & western
  • Roots
  • Soul
  • Doo-wop
  • Motown
  • 60s beach party
  • Elvis
  • And finally, looking at lyrics instead of genres, search for songs with ‘summer’ or ‘smoke’ in the titles. (Here are some hints: Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, Smoke on the Water… You get the idea!)
Big BBQ Planning Checklist

Big BBQ Planning Checklist

Planning a big BBQ? Give yourself time to work through all the necessary steps. A systematic approach will free you up to enjoy good food, drink, and company on the day of the event.

Checklist items fall into two buckets: Food and drink. And everything else.


Pick your menu. And go! You’re going to need ingredients, and a schedule for putting it all together and serving it up right.

Meats, mains and sides—So you’re making a favorite recipe that serves 6 to 8. And your invitation list may be several times as many hungry guests. For big BBQ menu planning, calculate the number of servings needed and multiply every ingredient in the recipe accordingly. 

Put specific quantities on your shopping list for every. Single. Item.

Condiments and buns for hamburgers and hot dogs—The bigger the event, the more likely you’re going to opt for burgers and sausages to serve the crowd.

  • The essentials: Ketchup, mustard, relish, pickles, salsa, chopped or sliced onions
  • Cheese slices
  • Buns! Go for uniformity or offer both whole wheat and white buns

Sauces—If homemade BBQ sauce is your thing, prepare several days in advance.

Rubs—Have correct quantity available and time for rub to make its magic.

Dessert—Serve up sweets that won’t melt or go bad in the heat.

  • Cakes and pies hold up well on the outdoor dining table
  • Goodies with chocolate need to be placed in their container on a platter of ice to avoid casualties

Beverages—Stock up on adult beverages and non-alcoholic quenchers.

  • Beer, cider, and wine are the basics
  • Non-alcoholic beverages can range from sparkling water to homemade lemonade to artisan root beers
  • And there’s always a thirst for the old-school soda standards in either big 2-liter bottles  (cost-effective) or cases (convenient)


Grill gear—Check your gear the weekend before the event to make sure all the essentials are in good shape.

  • Tongs, fork, spatula, meat claws, a bristle brush for basting, a grill/oven mitt, apron, instant-read meat thermometer, a wire brush for cleaning the grill grate

Coolers and ice—You want your drinks cold to wash down all that hot grilled goodness.

  • Distribute coolers around the space, with a focus on the bar station

Table settings—Make sure you’ve got quantity to spare. Even for a big crowd, nice reusables can be a cost-effective choice.

  • Cups for the variety of beverages you’re serving
  • Plates for dining, plus forks, knives and spoons
  • Napkins in quantities that allow every guest to use several during the course of the party

Serving pieces—Pull the big party-sized pieces out of the cabinet and give them a quick rinse.

  • Platters, bowls and trays all come in handy at a big BBQ
  • Jumbo-sized serving spoons, forks, ladles, pie-cutters

Seating —Move indoor chairs out onto the patio or deck. Use every folding lawn chair you’ve got.

Safety—Invite safety to your event with conspicuously placed bug repellent, citronella candles, and a fire extinguisher. Keep the first aid kit within reach.

Cleaning—Put together multiple trash and recycling receptacles and place in different corners of the party area.

Tunes—Set up your BBQ playlist in advance and make sure to get speakers set up and connected in advance of the first guest’s arrival.

And don’t forget to bring enough grill fuel! Use Griller’s Gold Premium BBQ pellets in a wood pellet grill or with a smoker tube on any type of grill.

For some more detailed thought starters for a big BBQ with attitude, read the Griller’s Gold take on:

Burger trends

Menu planning

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