Whether you call him Grill Daddy or Pops the Pit Master, there’s something about dads and barbecue that is as all-American as apple pie.  They talk a big game and walk it, these no-nonsense men with grease on their hands, sweat on their brows and meat on their minds from sunup to sundown. Real pit masters pride themselves on perfectly tender ribs, kickin’ chicken and a secret sauce that just can’t be beat.

“I came up with my seasoning by experimenting and trying to get a signature taste; it’s what we call the Q-Team Taste,” says Walter Harris of San Luis Obispo, Calif., of his signature seasoning that’s a hit at monthly church barbecues. Once grilling 1,000 pounds of tri-tip in a weekend, Harris, who has three sons, prides himself on barbecuing in bulk. “I have a five-gallon container in the garage, so I will mix a batch of seasoning, five gallons at a time. It’s serious business.”

Detroit resident Bill Carter honed his ’cue chops growing up in Alabama, and he’s been known to marinate pork ribs, chicken and even turkey drumsticks for up to 48 hours. “That’s the No. 1 thing,” says Carter of the marinade that is required to bring out the flavors of the meat. But instead of a traditional dry rub, which many use, Carter swears by a blend of cayenne pepper, paprika, salt, pepper and Italian seasonings, plus a steady basting technique. The “major” mistake he says novices make is saucing meat too early on the grill. “Be sure you put the sauce on the meat at the right time, because the meat tends to burn if it’s put on too early.”

But in Snellville, Ga., it’s all about the fire being just right. “You’ve got to have charcoal. Let that gas grill go,” says husband and father of two Volzie Griffin Jr., who made his own monster grill that can cook up to 10 slabs of ribs, multiple chickens, and even deep-fry a turkey. “Charcoal is the way to go. No real grill masters use gas,” he says. An old family secret is pecan wood to perfect that smoky-moist flavor. His time-honored tool? A spray bottle. “I won’t reveal what’s in it, but let’s just say you put it on the meat as it gets going. It’s a little sumthin’, sumthin’,” laughs Griffin. “It’s got a little beer in it. That’s all I’ll say.”

Each baron of the grill has his own methods of turning out stellar barbecue that is tender on the inside and slicked with a tangy sauce on the outside. So without divulging all their secrets, these dads share their down-home recipes for serving up the perfect plate of finger-licking barbecue.

Walter Harris, 63
Known for: Santa Maria-style tri-tip beef, ribs and BBQ chicken
Secret weapon:
An open-air barbecue pit with a crank to lower and raise the meat
His best advice:
“Cook it low and slow.”

1|Tri-Tip Beef with Cumin ‘n’ Lime Marinade
Serves 6–8
1 tri-tip roast (between 2½ to 4 pounds)
1¼ cups beef broth
⅔ cup lime juice
½ cup olive oil
¼ cup ground cumin
3 tablespoons ground coriander
5 cloves garlic, minced
Remove all fat and connective tissue from one side of the tri-tip. Prepare marinade by combining all remaining ingredients in a bowl and whisking. Place tri-tip in baking dish; pour marinade over beef and cover. Refrigerate 6 to 24 hours. Remove tri-tip from marinade. Barbecue over medium-hot coals (or oak wood), meat (without fat) side down to sear; turn occasionally, cooking about 35 minutes for rare or longer for desired doneness. Remove all remaining fat and connective tissue from the other side. Let meat rest 5 to 10 minutes. To serve, cut tri-tip across the grain into thin slices.

2|Elder Harris’
Q-Team Chicken
Serves 4

1 cup salt
1 tablespoon granulated garlic
½ cup paprika
¼ cup black pepper
1 teaspoon thyme
1 whole chicken, cut into 6 pieces
Pinch cayenne pepper
1 pint ketchup
1 pint cider vinegar
⅔ cup molasses
¼ cup Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons black pepper
2 tablespoons salt

Combine spices thoroughly and rub onto each piece of chicken; place in dish and refrigerate 6 to 24 hours. Remove chicken from dish and barbecue over medium-hot coals or red oak wood, turning occasionally. Cook for 1½ to 2 hours or until done. While barbecuing, combine all sauce ingredients and cook 20 to 30 minutes over low heat, stirring often.  When chicken is just about done, cover with sauce.  Serve with additional sauce, if desired.
Bill Carter, 63
Known for: Saucy Alabama-style pork ribs and sweet rolls
Secret weapon:
Salting ribs on the grill
His best advice:
“Don’t place your meat too close to the fire because you want it to do more smoking than you want it to do cooking.”

3|Bill’s Old-Fashioned Barbecued Ribs & Chicken
Serves 4

¼ cup Stubb’s Mopping Sauce Bar-B-Q Baste
¼ cup Goya Mojo Criollo Marinade for Chicken, Pork & Beef
⅛ cup Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce
¼ cup  vinegar
1  16 ounce-bottle Sweet Baby Ray’s Barbecue Sauce
¼ cup sugar
¼ teaspoon lemon juice
1 slab pork ribs
1 whole chicken, cut into
6 pieces
Black pepper
Garlic salt powder
Ground red pepper

Wash ribs and chicken, then place meat in aluminum pans. Season to taste on both sides with salt, pepper, garlic salt, paprika and ground red pepper. Place aluminum foil over meat and refrigerate for two days. On cooking day, mix mopping sauce, marinade, Worcestershire sauce and vinegar in saucepan and bring to a boil until completely mixed. Set aside to cool.
Place coals in cooker and light. Clean grill with hard brush while coals warm up. Place meat on grill at highest height level. Baste meat with mopping sauce mix on both sides throughout the grilling process. Cook until done (golden brown). Note: Chicken will be done before ribs. Prepare the barbecue sauce by pouring  it into saucepan, then add sugar and lemon juice; bring to a boil. While meat is still on the grill and nearly finished, coat meat with the barbecue sauce, turning frequently and being careful not to burn the meat, about 5 minutes. Slice and serve.

4|Mama Lou’s Homemade Butter Rolls
Makes 36 Rolls

1½ cups milk
½ cup sugar
½ cup Crisco
2 cakes yeast
¼ cup water
1 egg
5½ cups all-purpose flour
Pinch salt
2 sticks softened butter
(or butter substitute)
To make the dough, pour milk, sugar and Crisco into saucepan; warm until Crisco melts. Place yeast cakes and lukewarm water in one jar and shake until blended. Place egg in second jar and shake until egg white blends with yolk. Pour flour into large mixing bowl, then add milk, sugar and Crisco mixture into bowl with flour; add salt. Add egg to bowl with flour. Add yeast mixture to bowl. Stir until dough thickens. Cover bowl when dough thickens; allow dough to rise for 1 hour. Flour a board and place thickened dough on it. Knead dough and roll flat onto board. Use small glass to cut dough into 36 biscuit-sized rolls. Brush butter on the top of each roll and fold roll in half.  Place folded rolls on greased cookie sheet; brush butter on top of rolls, again. Place waxed paper over folded rolls and allow dough to rise for 1 hour. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook rolls for 25 minutes or until golden brown. Brush butter on top of rolls, and serve warm.

Volzie Griffin Jr., 46
Known for: Ribs, fish, baked beans
Secret weapon:
Spray bottle of secret basting liquid
His best advice:
“Don’t poke the meat. When you poke it, you let the juices out. A lot of guys make that mistake. When the juice goes out, it’s over with. You just have to know when it’s done.”

5|Granddaddy’s Down-Home Barbecue Seasoning
Makes enough for 1 whole chicken or 1 slab of ribs

½ cup ground black pepper
½ cup garlic powder
½ cup McCormick
1 teaspoon red cayenne

In a small bowl, mix all
ingredients together, then put mixture into a shaker for easy seasoning. Sprinkle generously on both sides of meat, and marinate overnight. Grill meat over
charcoal and pecan wood
chips, if desired.

6|Southern-Style Barbecue Baked Beans with Ground Beef
Serves up to 18

8 slices bacon
1 pound ground beef
1 medium onion, chopped finely
1 large green bell pepper chopped finely
3 large cans Bush’s Country Style Baked Beans (28 ounces each)
1 cup Sweet Baby Ray’s
Barbecue Sauce
2 teaspoons dry mustard
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Broil bacon in oven until  it is partially cooked; remove from pan and drain on paper towels. Brown ground beef in sauté pan until done; remove from pan and drain excess oil.  Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Place onions and bell pepper in a skillet and sauté until tender, about 5 minutes. In a large bowl, add beans and remaining ingredients; stir well to mix. Pour flavored beans into a greased ovenproof 13×9-inch pan. Top with bacon, then bake until beans are bubbling and the surrounding sauce is “the consistency of pancake syrup,” or about 2 hours. Remove from oven, let stand to thicken slightly, and serve.