Smoke Signals

Tips and tricks from Chicago's Barbecue Life Coach

Gary Wiviott–LTHForum founder and barbecue fanatic–smoked hundreds of ribs, chickens and steaks before penning his guide, Low & Slow: Master the Art of Barbecue in 5 Easy Lessons.

The book, released last summer, covers chicken, spareribs, baby back ribs and pulled pork. But this year, Wiviott's got a new meat obsession: bone-in lamb breast, a.k.a lamb ribs.

He says the breast is just as ripe for discovery as skirt steak was 20 years ago. Like spareribs, the lamb breast comes from the belly. Its layers of fat and connective tissue melt down after three hours in a smoker, leaving rich and meltingly delicious meat.

Like all the best barbecue, the process starts with a dirt-cheap cut. Wiviott gets his lamb from Fresh Farms in Niles ($2 per pound; be sure to request the whole breast, which runs about 2 pounds); in Chicago, it's available at Paulina Meat Market ($5.50 per pound) by request. Season it with his proprietary chile-laden barbecue rub, or try a Middle Eastern blend of za'atar and sumac.

As for the smoker, Wivott recommends a Weber Smoky Mountain: "It's small, it's  less than $300, and you can jam a lot of meat on that thing." His book includes instructions for smoking with a basic charcoal kettle grill (click here to download an excerpt). But he's also partial to the pricier ceramic Big Green Egg, a versatile backyard smoker that can reach 750° and is ideal for his other current project: pizzas.