On today's episode of the 5 Things podcast:
It's a Five Things Barbecue Bonanza! From the meat, to the sides, to the desserts to the drinks. We've got everything you need to host the perfect barbeque this summer.
We sat down with barbeque experts and owners of Pig Beach BBQ restaurant Matt Abdoo and Shane McBride to talk about their favorite spread. Spoiler alert, it's not a small one.
We also sat down with USA TODAY books and food reporter Jennifer McClellan and talked barbecue in the Southwest and what makes it different than other places.
Finally, we sat down with Danielle DeSiato, the kitchen and cooking editor at Reviewed to play 'high/low' with barbecue essentials like grills.
To follow James Brown on Twitter, click here.
To buy the Pig Beach BBQ cookbook on Amazon, click here.
For a great deal on grills and more click here.
Hit play on the player above to hear the podcast and follow along with the transcript below. This transcript was automatically generated, and then edited for clarity in its current form. There may be some differences between the audio and the text.
James Brown: Hello, and welcome to 5 Things. I'm James Brown. It's Sunday, July 3rd, 2022. Happy 4th of July.
Boy this year is moving fast, and it's been a bumpy one for me. I've had a lot of change and dealt with a lot. So when I can, I lean on things that feel right. I'm from the snowy, windy, often unforgiving Rust Belt. In this part of the country, we earn our warm days. They don't come easy or stay for very long. I learned early that you'll regret not enjoying springs and summers, especially when the snow hits in the late fall. Or in the deep freeze of January, February, March, and sometimes even April. So this time of year, I make time for long drives and long walks and barbecues. Every summer I find a cookout or two or three or four to go to to relax, to eat, to drink and be merry, to throw around a football, kick a soccer ball, to talk about nothing or talk about the profound. All this made me wonder what makes the perfect barbecue. As my Phoenix-based colleague, Jennifer McClellan says, it depends on where you live.
Jennifer McClel...: You need a pool, or you need to be by some form of water if it's anytime between late April and October, because it's just way too hot to stand outside in the sun without some water relief.
James Brown: We'll hear more from Jennifer later, but first we need your help. At 5 Things, we're working on a project. What is the defining food of your town, your state, your region? We want to know. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We'd like to feature you and that food on our show. Once again, that's email@example.com. Now we're headed to West Palm Beach, Florida where Shane McBride and Matt Abdoo are opening the latest location of the Pig Beach Barbecue restaurant. They also have locations in New York City and they're coming to Louisville, Kentucky soon. They're also the authors of Pig Beach Barbecue Cookbook Smoked Grilled Roasted and Sauced. We'll link to it in the description of this episode. I caught up with them at their grand opening and asked them what kind of barbecue they would construct with an unlimited budget.
Shane McBride: Matt and I live outside of the normal barbecue world in the sense that we are classically-trained chefs. I'm a wine and whiskey nerd. So I would definitely have some really great champagne and rosé to start the day with, that's 100%.
James Brown: What kind?
Shane McBride: Pick up. What's that?
James Brown: What kind of rosé?
Shane McBride: Rosé? My favorite rosé is is called Arnot-Roberts.
James Brown: Ooh, that's fancy.
Shane McBride: Yeah, it's very esoteric. I would probably go with something like that and I would totally 100% do the Pol Roger Winston Churchill champagne, all day long. If I could drink that every day, all day, that would be my guy.
Matt Abdoo: Yeah. That's the total normal stuff barbecue people are drinking at their home barbecue for the 4th of July.
James Brown: Yeah, for us durable folks, explain what the Winston Churchill rosé combo looks like. What does it taste like?
Shane McBride: So Winston Churchill is the top tier champagne of Pol Roger. It was the cuvee that Winston Churchill drank. It's just a really kick ass champagne. And then it's really just kind of super bright rosé, Arnot-Roberts is a really kind of... It's got a little funk to it, goes really good with food. So I would kick off there and I would have some beer for people.
Matt Abdoo: For me, I mean, I'm happy to always drink whatever he brings, the stuff that he brings is always topnotch and delicious. But for me, if I'm having a barbecue and I'm getting up early in the morning to start cooking, I got my buddies or my friends or family coming over to cook with me. It's usually either a nice ice-cold light beer, something like a Miller Light is my go-to drink. I'm a light beer guy. I am. That's what I enjoy drinking. Especially when you're doing the long-term longevity drinking for the day, which is barbecue. The light beer is you can keep going. If you get into the heavier ones, like the IPAs or the hoppy things, they get a little bit harder to put down throughout the day. Plus you get a little intoxicated too quickly with them. Or I also enjoy drinking just some really light crisp white wine, like a Pinot Grigio with lots of ice cubes in it, hot summer day, we're doing a barbecue, just staying hydrated, keeping cool, keeping refreshed is my go-to jam for that.
James Brown: What's on the grill? What's your main course?
Matt Abdoo: Well, I think for the perfect barbecue that you have to have a fun spread. A barbecue is about hopefully bringing a bunch of people together, minimum group of 10. When you're cooking barbecue, most big format meats do feed large groups of people. So personally, I would love to have a spread, wouldn't you? Like you have a little chicken, have a little brisket, have a little pulled pork or ribs, or both. Throw a couple sausages in the mix.
Shane McBride: Got to have some chicken wings.
Matt Abdoo: Some chicken wings, and the more the merrier, really. If you have the time to cook it all, and you're planning a big feast for some friends coming over on a barbecue day, you want to check all those boxes. Definitely have some form of poultry, have some form of beef, have some form of pork. And then from there as sides, I'm always a huge fan in the summertime of cold sides. Things like a cole slaw or a nice corn salad when you're in peak corn season in the summertime. Things like that for me would be great. Have some watermelon, got to have some nice fresh fruit. Hot summer day is a perfect addition to any barbecue.
Shane McBride: Tomato salad.
Matt Abdoo: Tomato salad. Ooh, that'd be good.
Shane McBride: All day.
Matt Abdoo: Watermelon, cucumber, feta salad. That's something fancy, but very, very delicious. I think that's the route that I would go for sure.
Shane McBride: Absolutely.
James Brown: Oh, Shane, are you on the same course?
Shane McBride: I'm in there. I would throw in our mac and cheese, for sure.
Matt Abdoo: Can never go wrong with mac.
Shane McBride: I have a body built by mac and cheese, so I got to keep that, that's in my repertoire.
James Brown: Where would you go in terms of your desserts?
Shane McBride: I go directly to my Florida boy roots and Key lime pie. It's one of my favorite things of all time when I was a kid, my grandparents had Key lime trees in their backyard.
Matt Abdoo: That's dope.
Shane McBride: So we had fresh Key lime pie probably at least once a month. And it's still to this day, probably my ultimate favorite dessert.
Matt Abdoo: I don't think you'd ever go wrong with any kind of pie for a barbecue. I also love doing things that are fun and shareable on large formats things like we do these great s'mores treats. It's like a play on a rice crispy treat, but you use Golden Grahams and Cocoa Puffs and chocolate and marshmallows, and you mix all that together and make a s'mores treat. So they're like the bars. Or I'm also a huge fan of these lemon bars that we make, which is like a sweet cookie, shortbread cookie crust with this really amazing lemon limeade filling. It's similar to a Key lime pie, but more of a lime square kind of thing, which is really fun. I think the citrus aspect of any dessert is always a nice touch to a barbecue because you're eating all these really rich and heavy meats and having something acidic at the end helps lighten up that belly full of barbecue, if you will.
James Brown: Well, so where are we doing it? Obviously you'd love to do it at your barbecue joints, but let's say we're outside. Where do you do it? Do you do it at a park? Do you guys have special places that in your lives where you'd want to hold such a bash?
Shane McBride: That's a great question.
Matt Abdoo: I think that's a great question. For me-
Shane McBride: Unlimited budget still?
Matt Abdoo: No, we got past unlimited budget. We're on a normal budget. On the back of a yacht in the middle of Pacific. No, for me, any friend or family that might have a really big backyard, maybe a pool or a Slip and Slide or something where you can just have a lot of fun and be outside and play around, the kiddos can run around while mom and dads can enjoy a few adult beverages and enjoy the barbecue. And maybe a grill's also going for the kids with a hamburger and hot dog. Our business partner, Rob Shawger has an incredible home with a great big backyard and pool outside, which has always been the perfect backdrop and was the catalyst for me and Rob, when we got started doing barbecue, that's where we did all of our R%D and started practicing. So for me, that has a special nostalgia place in my heart.
James Brown: Jennifer McClellan has one of the coolest jobs here at USA Today. She oversees all things books and food related. She also writes a lot about food herself and as you might have guessed, she loves a good backyard barbecue. So I asked her, what are cookouts like in Arizona?
Jennifer McClel...: That is a good question. I would say that it's pretty much, you need a pool, or you need be by some form of water if it's any time between late April and October, because it's just way too hot to stand outside in the sun without some water relief. So that also makes it so that you need to look for foods that do well in the heat. And that also if you're having some water fingers or if you're near the water, it's not going to get ruined. So things like that, you have to think about when you're here.
James Brown: So give me a couple examples. What's a food that does well in the heat?
Jennifer McClel...: Guacamole, as long as it's not out all the time, but that is a good one. You can make it ahead of time. It never lasts long enough to be able to go back in the fridge when you're around here, everyone has their own twist on it. Obviously really good avocados, tomatoes, jalapenos and onions, but then people put really cool things in it like pomegranate seeds, maybe some different types of cheeses and things like that. So it's really fun. You can go straight, normal guacamole or people can really play around with it and have that be a lot of fun.
James Brown: What's the go-to drink for you at one of these events?
Jennifer McClel...: Go-to drink, well, water for sure. But also canned cocktails are a big thing that I'm into right now. When you are outside and eating, and especially if you're barbecuing with my friends, we all have little kids. Like I said, we're around the pool a lot. So anything in a glass bottle or in an open cup is probably going to get spilled or broken at some point in the day. So I always like to look for things in cans, whether that is just some sparkling water, something like that, anywhere from the canned cocktails, the hard spiked cider. Really good, the last like year or so, I think that canned cocktails have gotten a lot better. They used to have a weird metallicky taste and people in America are very enterprising, so they have cracked that code in my opinion. And I really haven't had a bad one lately. There's vodka tonics, there's margaritas, there are all sorts of things. If you just wander into your local beverage store or down that special aisle in the grocery store, tons of tons of choices right now that are really good.
James Brown: Yeah. I was going to ask you, do you have a tier ranking for the best canned cocktail?
Jennifer McClel...: It's a very scientific approach of having to try those. Not really. I've liked all of the ones that I've tried this summer. I don't really have brand names off the top of my head, but some of them, they had, oh gosh, there was a sex on the beach one that was really good. There was the vodka tonics, obviously out here, margaritas, tequila are really big. So a lot of my friends opt for that, the margarita in a can.
James Brown: Where we going in terms of sides?
Jennifer McClel...: Okay. So sides are where I shine. I love sides. So I mean, I like macaroni salad or potato salad. You have to have a starch. And I like the more oil-based dressings and that's partially just because where I am, it's pretty hot. So unless I am making it ahead of time and it's in the fridge... Let me, backtrack. Everything's made ahead of time. I think everything with the sides, you need to make that a day or two ahead of time. Those need to be ready to go when the other stuff is so that you're just setting it out. So the mayonnaise-based stuff is delicious, but for a barbecue, especially where it's really hot, it can go one way or the other. You forget about it. And then any leftovers are ruined because you don't want that out in the heat for any extended period of time. So I opt for the pasta salads that have the Italian dressing-type of dressings and sauces on it. It's good if you can to throw in maybe some salami and cheeses and things like that. I really like it packed full of other veggies. So tomatoes, I've thrown bacon in there a couple times, that was a hit. A lot of people like bacon and when you can throw it in surprising things like that, hey, why not?
James Brown: Who's going to complain about bacon?
Jennifer McClel...: And then also baked beans are a really good one. So those are really good. If you are able to put them in a pressure cooker or something, the day ahead of time, soaking those, I like to soak them and to make them from scratch, you get the flavor jam-packed into the beans if you're able to do it that way. And you don't need a lot of ingredients to make really good baked beans. And then any sort of salads, veggies, fruits, that stuff, anything that people can just throw on their plate, as they're going. So I always like to do maybe some cucumbers and carrots and peppers, things like that, just a nice little veggie tray, mostly so that when you're packing your face with the brisket and the chips and all the other stuff, you can be like, I'm healthy. I ate a vegetable today.
James Brown: I could tell that this is totally your jam.
Jennifer McClel...: We could talk about food all day.
James Brown: I wish our listeners could see your face right now. You just lit up. It's wonderful.
Jennifer McClel...: Yeah, sides are where it's at. I mean, I love the main dish. Don't get me wrong, but all of those different flavors, you're taking a bite of one thing and then another, and it makes me happy. It's silly, but it just makes me happy.
James Brown: What time of day is it in Phoenix?
Jennifer McClel...: Well, probably starts in the late afternoon. That way you can be a little bit shaded where I am, around our pool or where you're at. And then you can start early with the appetizers, with the fruits and the things that you have set out. You can get a good guacamole base going, and then you've got your water activities, all that. The kids are playing, your chatting with your friends. You're waiting for the brisket or whatever it is to come off the grill. That's a couple more hours. And then there's dinner. Everybody stops. Everybody sits down, kids are wrapped in towels and everyone's just eating off the paper plates and balancing it on there. And then you go back to the water and then you bring out dessert and stuff after. So I would say late afternoon so that you can roll it into the evening when the sun goes down, not as hot, the perfect day.
James Brown: Sun is starting to set and we're moving into the dessert country. What's dessert?
Jennifer McClel...: What's dessert. Dessert is popsicles for the kids. So you can get them checked off the list. For the adults, I like fruit. So any sort of like a strawberry shortcake situation, you can have your cake ready to go. You've got some strawberries that you've chopped up. You've either boiled them a little bit or roasted them so that they get really soft and become like that syrup. And then you just spoon that over the cake, whipped cream on top, done.
James Brown: One last thing. We're going to play a game with Danielle DeSiato. Did I pronounce it correctly?
Danielle DeSiat...: You sure did.
James Brown: The Kitchen and Cooking Editor at Reviewed. Danielle, welcome to 5 Things.
Danielle DeSiat...: Hi, good to be here. Thanks.
James Brown: So our game is very simple. There are three answers. It's called high-low. What is the best high-grade grill that you can get your hands on? What's the best low-grade grill you can get your hands on? And what's your wild card? A favorite, one that we wouldn't think about that does a good job? Help me fit into different budgets.
Danielle DeSiat...: Awesome. So definitely at the high end, super classic high quality, the Big Green Egg, that's going to be your Kamado grill that can grill, it can smoke, it can even be an outdoor oven. It's probably going to run you anywhere from 1000 up, depending on the bells and whistles, the size and the setup, but it's going to last you a really long time. It's going to be a workhorse. It's awesome.
James Brown: Outdoor oven.
Danielle DeSiat...: Yes. Outdoors pizza, cornbread. I mean, you can really up your grilling game with an outdoor oven and smoker. I mean, your briskets and your pulled pork, it's going to deliver all of that stuff. Super delicious, high quality. It's heavy, but it's not hard to use.
James Brown: Outstanding. On the low end for us people with a tight budget, where would you see us going, where what's a good option?
Danielle DeSiat...: Get a classic charcoal grill. You can't go wrong. A Weber is going to run you as low, if you get the portable version, as low as 90 bucks. Get yourself a charcoal starter to go with it, about 20 bucks. And you're going to be grilling all season long, really tasty, super easy to use and not a huge investment.
James Brown: And what's your wild card? What does a good job that's off the beaten path? Things we hadn't thought about?
Danielle DeSiat...: Well, you need a gas grill. It's not off the beaten path, but for gas grills, you're really going to be in the middle of the road. You're going to spend more than you will on a charcoal grill. You're not going to be quite at the do-it-all workhorse level of a Kamado grill. But you got the Weber Genesis even the Weber Spirit, and those are going to do you really well. You're not going to spend a ton of money on them. They're going to last you years and years, and you're going to be able to grill a lot of awesome stuff for all your friends, barbecuing all summer long.
James Brown: Outstanding. And that's the whole idea here, to get the best barbecue possible.
Danielle DeSiat...: Yeah. Weber's Classic, you really can't go wrong. They're going to be running a lot of great deals for all the summer grilling needs. And whether you get gas or charcoal, you've really got a range of options there.
James Brown: If you like to show, write us a review on Apple Podcasts or wherever you're listening and do me a favor, share it with a friend. What do you think of the show and how do you feel about barbecue? Let me know @jamesbrowntv on Twitter or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I'd love to hear from you. Thanks to Danielle, Jennifer, Shane, and Matt for joining me. You can find links to all of their work in the description to this episode. Thanks to Alexis Gustin for her production assistance. Taylor Wilson will be back tomorrow morning with 5 Things you need to know for Monday. And for all of us at USA Today, thanks for listening. I'm James Brown and as always, be well.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: We've got the meats and the sides: Making a perfect barbecue