Our BBQ&A with Pit Master Hugh Mangum
Everything you'll ever need to know about grilling, sauces, and dry rubs, and then some.
Photos courtesy Mighty Quinn's Barbeque
Ditch the frozen meat patties and “American-style sliced cheese product”: summer is in full swing and it’s time to barbecue like you mean it. We sat down with Pit Master Hugh Mangum of Mighty Quinn’s Barbeque to smoke out all the best tips and tricks to turn up the heat at your next cookout.
“Low and slow” is generally the guiding principle of barbecue, but is there ever a time you’d want to go direct or high-heat first?
Not direct or high heat first, but to finish, sometimes its applicable. [Our] new special, the adobo baby back ribs, are smoked until they are tender, and then are finished at high heat to help caramelize the sauce.
Why do we always want to preheat our grills before adding food?
It’s the same principle as heating a pan — the proteins will not stick to the grill when it’s preheated and it makes it easier to handle during the cooking process. The best way to clean a grill is when it’s hot as well, so as your preheating your grill, make sure to give it a quick clean.
What's a good coal-to-wood ratio for smoking?
No exact ratio — charcoal is your heat, and wood is your smoke. We like to have one or two-inch layer of embers (wood) burning in our pits to give the meat enough smoky flavor.
You definitely shouldn't check your meat too often, but what’s a good sign that you’re on the right track and don't need to check in? Is a thermometer the only true option?
Depends on the meat your smoking. If you're smoking ribs or brisket, the rule is to let it go for an hour without opening your pit, and then you can check it very quickly every 30 minutes to every hour (and make sure you’re spraying it with apple cider, which helps to create a nice bark on the outside of the meat and won’t dry it out) .
Another way is an old-school technique pit masters use, where you check your meat after every beer (that is, if you’re a slow drinker).
Let’s talk sauces: There’s Texas, Alabama, South Carolina, Eastern North Carolina … Does it all just come down to what you were raised with and personal preference, or are there times to definitely switch it up and try something different?
What you learn is what you’re raised with, but in this day in age, with more information available, cultures and regions have been blurred. Switching it up is more fun, and you should try different sauces. That’s part of what made Mighty Quinn’s so popular — we’re not just Texas or Carolina barbeque, we take influences from both to make something great.
Marinades vs. dry rubs: Are their certain types or cuts of meat when it’s better to use or avoid one or the other?
At Mighty Quinn’s, the only thing marinated is the pastrami (which is pickled for two-and-a-half to three weeks). Everything else is dry rubbed, which forms a better bark and makes it easier to sear. When meat is wet, it takes to a dry rub better than a marinade, and soaks up the flavor more.
When it comes to grilling veggies, is it all corn, skewers, and the occasional Portobello, or are there some fancy grilling techniques to help us gussy up our side dishes?
Absolutely! Yes, you can grill just about any vegetable. Grilled squash with garlic, chili, and olive oil with lemon juice is amazing. Grilled asparagus with Maldon Sea Salt and lemon juice is also a refreshing addition to your plate. One really cool thing to do is you can make a “hobo pack” with Yukon potatoes, lemon, olive oil and salt in an aluminum foil pack and put that over the grill while your meats are going for an easy side dish.
Grilling peaches is also a nice treat if you top them with vanilla ice cream — it’s a great way to finish off a great barbecue meal.
For more delicious recipes and cooking tips, check out the Westchester Magazine Recipes page.
Mighty Quinn’s Barbeque
The Westchester Mall 4th Floor
125 Westchester Avenue, White Plains