What does it take to become your best grilling self? Be vigilant but don’t overthink it, says local grilling guru Jim Foss. And a nice cold one doesn’t hurt either.
Foss, an award-winning chef and the owner of the Leesburg barbecue joint and music venue Smokehouse Live, shares his secrets at a very tasty Prep, Grill and Chill workshop June 24 at Barnhouse Brewery near Lucketts.
“It’s kind of like any cuisine—you think you know what to do until you really do it and appreciate the nuances and the discipline it takes,” Foss said.
During the workshop, Foss and his students will talk about the basics of barbecue including rubs (how to rub and what rubs go best with different meat), some basic butchery and heat distribution. He’ll also offer tips to get smoke using a gas grill and offer a primer on smoking meats—including picking the best smoker for your needs.
Foss, a self-proclaimed charcoal guy, will bring his commercial charcoal grill and whip up some beef for lunch following the workshop—prime rib and tri-tip are on the menu.
Foss, a Philadelphia native who trained at Johnson and Wales University for Culinary Arts and the American Culinary Federation, came to the DC area in the early 1990s as vice president of culinary for the Capital Restaurant Concepts group, owner of several notable DC eateries—including southern cuisine icon Georgia Brown’s. Foss fell in love with barbecue through the group’s barbecue spot, Old Glory in Georgetown, and jumped into the national barbecue competition circuit.
Foss, a James Beard Foundation award winner, opened Smokehouse Live in the Village at Leesburg retail center in 2015, and the restaurant was recently named to the Zagat guide’s list of DC’s top 15 barbecue restaurants. Foss launched the restaurant’s Pitmaster series to help amateur grillers get the most out of their meat, and the workshops alternate between Smokehouse and offsite locations.
The Barnhouse farm brewery near Lucketts was the perfect spot for this month’s event, Foss said, because it gives participants a chance to grill in the great outdoors and puts a spotlight on another local business.
“We wanted to keep it local,” Foss said. “We’re always looking for partners that are as excited about doing events like this.”
And then there’s the fact that barbecue and beer are kind of a perfect match.
“It’s like Oreos and milk,” Foss said.
For Barnhouse, which started out as a garage brewery and moved to its new location last year, the workshop is a way to celebrate its first anniversary in its new digs, which includes 4,000 square feet of patio space in two separate areas and several acres of green space.
For owners Roger and Christine Knoell and Rob and Amy Larrick, special events like the grilling workshop are a way to offer patrons something a little different—and including lunch is always a plus.
“We’re always trying to think outside the box. In the brewery business, there are two primary glue factors: one is having food and the other is having music,” Rob Larrick said. And events like this one, along with food trucks and the brewery’s new Saturday music series are helping to bring in visitors.
And while the class won’t focus on barbecue and beer pairings, Larrick loves to hear what patrons come up with when sampling Barnhouse brews with dishes from the food trucks that park on site each weekend.
“Every now and then somebody will come up to you and say, ‘Hey, this beer goes really well with this brisket,’” Larrick said. “It’s cool to see people trying to pair your beers with the food.”
The Prep, Grill and Chill event includes a brewery tour and a pint or flight of Barnhouse beers, sure to hit the spot with refreshing options like the Harvest Hefe Hefeweisen or a crisp Mountain Pass Pilsner.
“We’re trying to recreate that family-friendly, laid-back atmosphere and not just be a tasting room with people sipping on beer,” Larrick said.
“What I really want this to be is fun,” Foss said. “I want dads to go out there and relax, not have to be this big formal cooking class. Just have a chill day.”
And amateur grillers take note: the next event planned for Smokehouse’s Pitmaster Series is a competition (in the style of the Food Network’s “Chopped”) with area chefs as judges. It’s scheduled to be held at the restaurant in late July. So if you think you’ve got what it takes, get your tongs ready and stay tuned.
Tips from Smokehouse Live’s Jim Foss a.k.a. The Pitmaster
- Don’t overthink it. Keep it simple.
- Pay attention to your rub—find out what works best for different meats.
- Watch the temperature. When grilling with charcoal, keep a squirt bottle on hand in case it gets too hot. When using a smoker, keep the temperature around 250 degrees.
- Pay attention to the wood. It’s an ingredient just like a spice. Foss recommends the medium flavor of oak for most meats.
- For charcoal grills, use indirect heat. Move the coals and wood to one side and put your protein on the opposite side.
- For gas grills, wood chips offer a great smoky flavor. Soak chips in water and put them in foil. Wrap the foil into in a ball, poke it with a fork and put it right on the grate.
- There’s a certain amount of trial and error involved, but getting a meat thermometer takes some of the fear out of grilling.
- Pull the meat off a little early and let it rest for 10 minutes or so—the juices will redistribute and the meat will continue to cook off the grill.
Smokehouse Live’s Prep, Grill and Chill event takes place from noon to 2 p.m. Saturday, June 24 at Barnhouse Brewery, 43271 Spinks Ferry Road, Leesburg. Tickets are $40 and include lunch and a beer flight. For tickets and information, go to smokehouse-live.com. Learn more about Barnhouse Brewery at barnhousebrewery.com