Besides the meat, what are some of the must-have items a backyard chef needs?
Good charcoal, good wood, and good equipment. To flavor that smoke, you’ve got to have good-quality wood. Woodland Tree recently started selling smoking wood, and we carry that now. And for your grill, you want something high-quality that’s not going to rust out, something you can use four or five years.
Your store carries 13 different types of wood — chips and logs. How do grillers choose which will work best?
Chips are great for smoking chicken breasts and for short cooks because chips burn up pretty quickly. For flavor, you’ve got hardwoods, like oak and hickory, and fruit woods, like peach, apple, cherry, and pear. The big difference is hardwood gives a hard-smoked flavor, and fruit wood gives a mellow, fruity, sweet flavor. Then you’ve got specialty woods like sugar maple, which is wonderful for hams, but also great for poultry.
Besides the grill, what types of utensils are indispensable for backyard cooking?
A pair of tongs and a silicone brush. Tongs can be used for just about anything, from picking up racks of ribs to flipping chicken or burgers. And you can add all kinds of flavor using a silicone brush to slather on sauces or glazes. They’re easy to clean and handle high heat.
Grilling seems pretty much like a boys’ club still. Do you have many female customers?
Oh, yes. And that’s a common misconception. The trend is more female cooks, not just in the kitchen but barbecuing — be it contests or entertaining. And I’m not just seeing more women, I’m seeing more families. We’ve got a barbecue team loyalty program set up at the store, and there are several family teams. It’s the husband, wife, and kids, and they get out there and cook on the competition circuit.