Acclaimed Pitmaster Chris Lilly Reveals His Seasoning Secret For Grilling - Exclusive

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If you're looking for tips on how to season food for the grill, it would be hard to find a better person to ask than Chris Lilly. He's been working as the pitmaster at Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q for three decades, has won numerous awards at barbecue competitions, and is a member of the Barbecue Hall of Fame (via Charleston Wine + Food). But Lilly is not just a master of low-and-slow pit-smoked Southern regional barbecue; he's also knowledgeable about all types of grilling you might conceivably do at home.

Lilly shared some of his wealth of grilling knowledge with Tasting Table in an exclusive interview. In addition to giving us the rundown on how to properly set up a fire and control the temperature of a charcoal grill, the pitmaster also shared some recipes and seasoning tips with us, including his advice for the best seasonings to use on grilled foods.

Chris Lilly doesn't overcomplicate his seasonings

BBQ champion Chris Lilly advises home grillers against getting too fancy with their seasonings. In an exclusive interview, Lilly stated: "A lot of times you want to just keep it simple for the grill, especially if you're a beginner." The important thing is to make sure that you cook the food properly so it has a nice char on the outside and isn't overcooked on the inside, which is easy to do if you build a fire with a cool zone and a hot zone and use a meat thermometer to check doneness. Lilly likes to grill over charcoal, which adds a smoky flavor to the food.

Though he recommended using a simple salt and pepper combo to season meat, Lilly did have some tips for incorporating more complex flavor profiles into bastes and sauces. He shared a live-fire chicken recipe that uses flavors like soy sauce, garlic, ginger, sambal oelek, and Korean chili paste to season a butter baste, which is brushed over the chicken as it cooks.

He also walked us through the basic seasonings used in different styles of barbecue sauce: from vinegar-based Carolina-style sauce to sweet Kansas City-style sauce seasoned with brown sugar, cumin, and chili powder. The specialty of his own restaurant, Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q, is Alabama white sauce, a unique combination of vinegar, mayonnaise, lemon juice, salt, and pepper.

For the recipe for live-fire chicken, as well as many other grilling recipes and tips, visit Kingsford Charcoal's website.

To taste Chris Lilly's cooking, you can go to Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q, which also ships meat and sauce nationally. His books, "Big Bob Gibson's BBQ Book" and "Fire and Smoke," are available on Amazon.