Grilling Guru Steven Raichlen Shares His Favorite Recipes

Looking for the perfect barbecue and grilling recipes for Memorial Day weekend? 

Steven Raichlen is to grilling what Julia Child is to French cuisine. For more than 20 years, he has shared his knowledge of live-fire cooking with aspiring gourmets of the grill. He has written 28 cookbooks (that have been translated into 15 languages) and won five James Beard Awards. He graciously agreed to share recipes from two of his cookbooks, The Barbecue! Bible and Man Made Meals: The Essential Cookbook for Guys.

The Barbecue! Bible, a 900,000-copy best seller has been redesigned for its 10th anniversary with a new section that answers the most frequently asked questions—about grills, fuels, smokers and, very importantly, testing for doneness. Man Made Meals is all about tools, techniques (yes, grilling features prominently) and includes more than 300 recipes with real guy apppeal like Blowtorch Oatmeal, Finger-Burner Lamb Chops and Steak on a Pitchfork. “Men get a real pleasure out of cooking and they enjoy showing off a little bit too,” says Raichlen.

Memphis-Style Ribs

The pork rib is one of the most perfect morsels ever to occupy a grill. The meat is generously marbled, which keeps it moist during prolonged cooking. As the fat melts, it crisps the meat fibers and bastes the meat naturally. You can choose any type of rib for this recipe—baby back ribs, long ends, short ends, rib tips. Serves 6.

For the grill

1½ cups wood chips or chunks (preferably hickory), soaked for 1 hour in cold water to cover, then drained

For the ribs and rub

3 racks baby back pork ribs (about 7 pounds), skin removed or 2 racks  pork spareribs (6 to 8 pounds total), skin removed
¼ cup sweet paprika
4½ teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
4½ teaspoons dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon salt
1½ teaspoons celery salt
1½ teaspoons cayenne pepper
1½ teaspoons garlic powder
1½ teaspoons dry mustard
1½ teaspoons ground cumin

For the mop sauce

2 cups cider vinegar
½ cup yellow (ballpark) mustard
2 teaspoons salt

  • Combine the paprika, black pepper, brown sugar, salt, celery salt, cayenne, garlic powder, dry mustard and cumin in a small bowl.
  • ​Whisk to mix.
  • Rub two-thirds of this mixture over the ribs on both sides.
  • Transfer ribs to roasting pan.
  • Cover and let cure in the refrigerator for 4 to 8 hours. 
  • Prepare the mop sauce.
  • Mix together cider vinegar, mustard and salt in a bowl and set aside. 
  • Set up the grill for indirect grilling and place a large drip pan in the center.
  • If using a gas grill, place all of the wood chips in the smoker box and preheat the grill to high. When smoke appears, reduce the heat to medium.
  • If using a charcoal grill, preheat it to medium. Toss the wood chips on the coals when ready to cook.
  • Brush and oil the grill grate. Arrange the ribs on the hot grate over the drip pan. Cover the grill and smoke cook the ribs for I hour.
  • When the ribs have cooked for an hour, uncover the grill and brush the ribs with mop sauce.  If using a charcoal grill, you will need to add 10 to 12 fresh coals to each side of the grill.
  • Re-cover the grill and continue cooking the ribs until tender and almost done (¼ to ½ hour longer for baby back ribs; ½ to 1 hour longer for spare ribs). 
  • Fifteen minutes before the ribs are done, season them with the remaining rub, sprinkling it on.
  • To serve, cut the racks in half.

Tip: Cooking times are approximate. Ribs are done when the meat is tender enough to pull apart with your fingers.


[Photo: Lucy Schaffer/Man Made Meals, Workman Publishing Company]

Jalapeño Poppers

Who first had the idea to stuff a jalapeño with cheese and roast it wrapped in bacon? A guy, no doubt. The popper (aka armadillo or rattlesnake egg) may be a fixture on the American barbecue scene but, by using your favorite cheese, you can make it your own. Makes 16 poppers. Serves 4.

16 large jalapeño peppers
8 ounces cheese (cheddar, jack, manchego, smoked mozzarella, cream cheese or any other favorite cheese), cut into matchstick slivers if using a hard cheese.
16 sprigs fresh cilantro
8 slices artisanal bacon, cut in half crosswise.

  • May be cooked on a grill or in the oven.
  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. If you’re using a wire rack, place it on top of a baking sheet. 
  • Stuff the jalapeños by cutting in half lengthwise. Using a spoon, scrape out the seeds.
  • Stuff 16 of the jalapeño halves with cheese and fresh cilantro. Place the other jalapeño halves on top. 
  • Wrap each reassembled jalapeño crosswise with a piece of bacon. Secure with a toothpick.
  • Arrange the jalapeños on a baking sheet. Bake until the bacon is browned and crisp and the jalapeños feel soft when squeezed, about 20 to 25 minutes.
  • Drain the jalapeños on paper towels.
  • Serve at once.


Oaxacan Pork Fajitas

Who knew that a cheap cut of beef—the skirt steak—would become a popular party food? (Fajita means “little girdle” in Spanish.) Here’s a pork version, fragrant with cinnamon, orange and ancho chiles. Serves 4 to 6.

For the pork and marinade

2 pounds boneless pork shoulder, loin or tenderloin, sliced as thinly as possible
⅓ cup pure ancho or pasilla chile powder
¼ cup distilled white vinegar
¼ cup fresh orange juice
4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 teaspoon coarse salt (kosher or sea)
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

Prepare the pork and marinade:

  • Place the pork in a nonreactive baking pan.
  • Place the chile powder, vinegar, orange juice, garlic, salt, black pepper, oregano, cumin and cinnamon in a blender and blend until smooth.
  • Pour the marinade over the pork, turning the pieces to coat well.
  • Marinate covered in the refrigerator for 1 to 4 hours.

For the vegetables

2 poblano peppers
1 green bell pepper
1 red bell pepper
1 yellow bell pepper
1 large sweet onion, peeled, but root intact, cut into 6 wedges
1 bunch scallions, trimmed

  • When ready to grill, brush and oil the grill grate.
  • Place the peppers on the grate and grill until dark brown on all sides, turning with tongs (about 15 minutes).
  • Transfer the grilled peppers to a cutting board and let them cool. 
  • Meantime, grill the onion wedges and scallions until browned, 2 to 4 minutes per side, turning with tongs.
  • When the peppers are cool, stem and seed them.
  • Cut the peppers and onions into thin (½-inch) strips.
  • Cut the scallions into 2-inch pieces.
  • The vegetables can be grilled up to 30 minutes ahead. If grilling on a charcoal grill, you may need to add fresh coals. 
  • Just before serving, drain the pork slices well.
  • Place on the hot grate and grill until browned and cooked through, about 2 minutes per side.
  • Transfer the grilled pork to a cutting board and cut into thin strips.

For serving

12 small (7-inch) flour tortillas (if serving four people; 18 if serving six people)
2 cups Pico de Gallo or Salsa Chipotle, or your favorite store-bought salsa
1 cup sour cream or Mexican crema
1 bunch fresh cilantro, rinsed, stemmed, and coarsely chopped
2 limes, cut into wedges

  • Just before serving, preheat a skillet on the grill.
  • Warm the tortillas (10 to 15 seconds on a side) and place in a cloth-lined basket.
  • Place salsa, sour cream and cilantro into separate bowls. You can serve the fajitas hot off the grill. Or, for the sizzling platter effect, arrange the slivered pork and the sliced vegetables in a pre-heated skillet and place the skillet on a trivet on the table.
  • Use tongs to load up the tortillas with sliced pork and grilled vegetables.
  • Top the fajitas with salsa, sour cream and cilantro.
  • Serve with lime wedges.


Raichlen’s popular classes—Barbecue University or BBQ UniversityTM for short—at the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs are always a sell out. This year he returns with a
program called “Up In Smoke,” which focuses on the world of smoking—from hot smoking, cold smoking and smoke-roasted techniques to the best woods for smoking (think spicy pimento and pungent mesquite). In hands-on classes, students learn how to smoke and grill iconic dishes like Lone Star brisket, Carolina pork shoulder, Kentucky smoked lamb and single-malt whiskey-smoked salmon. Sessions are June 3-6 and June 7-10. For more information and to register, visit

The Barbecue! Bible: 10th Anniversary Edition
Man Made Meals: The Essential Cookbook for Guys by Steven Raichlen (Workman Publishing Company) are available at bookstores and on Steven Raichlen’s website

Categories: Recipes