6 BBQ Dos (and Don’ts) From a Bay Area Pitmaster

Matt Gonzalez of Oakland’s Phat Matt’s on the ideal summer meal

Time to treat grilling like the art form it is.
Time to treat grilling like the art form it is.
Andrik Langfield/Unsplash

Matt Gonzalez has been barbecuing longer than Pete Buttigieg has been alive. 

The Phat Matt’s namesake kicked off his career in Chicago (an undersung BBQ destination) before setting up shop on Telegraph Avenue a decade ago. And just in time for our national day of BBQ feasting, the Oakland icon gave us six must-dos (and don’ts) for the home barbecuer.

Do …

1. First thing is to invest in a chimney starter and avoid lighter fluid. Also invest in an instant-read thermometer to check meat temps and doneness. ThermoWorks Thermapen is the absolute best on the market.

2. After lighting your coals, use a two-zone method. When choosing coals, Kingsford is the brand I stand by. Their regular briquettes and their lump charcoal work great! Move the coals to one side for a “hot” zone and use the other side for “cooler” heat. The hot zone is used for searing.

3. Always have a place to store your utensils and seasonings so that you are not running around and leaving your grill unattended — you don’t want to burn your food. As for the makeup of that seasoning: Keep testing. You live and learn, your taste buds grow and then you have that a-ha moment when you figure out the flavors that you like and begin adding herbs and other seasonings you like. Then you figure out the amounts. My first was a mix of salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder and some paprika.

Phat Matt’s Bacon Palooza Beastie
Phat Matt’s BBQ

Do not …

1. Leave your meat out at room temperature. Season and marinate, then put in the fridge until you are ready to grill.

2. Reuse the marinade your meat sat in. Make another batch for basting/mopping while grilling.

3. Use the same tongs for raw meat for flipping cooking meat. Get a clean pair — you want the longest metal tongs you can find; Williams Sonoma has some really good ones. You don’t want to make anyone sick. Same goes for your cutting boards: I use plastic in different colors, using the colors to determine the meats or veggies. For me, red = beef, blue = chicken, yellow = pork and green = veggies.


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