Elbert Bivins has come a long way from his barbecuing roots.
A native of Jackson, Miss., Bivins said he first caught a grilling bug while he was a Boy Scout.
"When I was a kid, we would go on camping trips and we would build these little grates and cook steaks on them," he said. Nowadays, Bivins' grilling setup is markedly more sophisticated.
Bivins is the proud owner and developing master of a Big Green Egg. In a recent Denver Post article titled, "What's Your Barbecue Personality?" Big Green Egg owners were characterized as people who take their grilling seriously. The description fits in Bivins' case.
His grill doubles as a smoker and runs on hardwood charcoal - not the briquettes found at the grocery store.
"One of the problems people have with traditional charcoal grills is they have to use so much lighter fluid to get them going that the food tastes like it's been dipped in gasoline," said Bivins.
He eschews using briquettes for anything but Dutch oven cooking, and instead picks up his fuel at Home Depot or True Value. But beyond the fuel issue, he says his serious grill is actually easy to operate.
"What I like about it is it is very versatile. They cook just as well at 700 degrees as at 200 degrees," he said.
Bivins likes to use different types of woods to infuse his meats with flavor. "I especially like the lighter, more fruity woods for pork and chicken, like apple or cherry."
Sometimes he uses indirect heat to smoke meats, other times he uses the Egg as a regular grill. He said it takes about 20 minutes to get the operation up and going.
Bivins' specialties are pork and chicken, and his pork tenderloin gets rave reviews. A couple of weeks ago, Bivins and his wife, Alisa, and sons, James and Hunter, trekked over to the Telluride Bluegrass Festival. His smoked pork was the featured element at almost every meal - serving as the base for street tacos and barbecued pork sandwiches.
"And ultimately we had Vietnamese style noodle bowels with it when we got home," Bivins said.
Bivins noted his Egg was a housewarming gift from his father, and he did have some trial-and-error experiences as he was learning how to operate it. The first time he tried to crank it up to super high temperatures, Bivins had the inspired idea to use his wife's hair blow dryer to force hot air into the grill's intake.
"I got it up to 650 degrees, but the front part of the hair dryer was all melted," he said with a rueful grin. He hasn't used that technique again.
Bivins noted that his Egg is a great way to cook some unexpected foods. For instance, the family really enjoys making pizza on the grill. And, he noted, the very act of cooking outside on the Big Green Egg is just a great part of summer.
"About three nights a week we fire it up. It's a great thing when you have little kids," said Bivins. "You fill up kids' inflatable pool and we play games and every now and then I check the temperature. It's great."
- Pam Boyd
Combine equal parts of
Add a dash of cumin and liberally rub on meat. Refrigerate overnight.
- Elbert Bivins
When it was legal in the 1960s, Danny Woolsey would grill sea turtles with his dad as a boy growing up in Hawaii.
"I was young," he said. "We don't do that anymore."
He learned how to grill many other things, too, and now he owns Ekahi Grill and Catering at 116 Park St. in Gypsum.
"Sting ray is good," he said. "Fillet it and grill it with a teriyaki or brine sauce."
As far as food that's available here, Woolsey's grill favorites are prime rib, salmon, kalbi ribs and Haiku chicken. The latter is his own creation.
"It's named after a place in Hawaii - Haiku, Maui," he said. "After grilling the chicken, stretch it out into thin strips and fry it with coconut, cilantro, green onions, lime juice and chili flakes. It's my signature dish. People order it a lot."
Kalbi ribs are Korean short ribs and are another specialty of Woolsey's. Woolsey likes to grill prime rib and salmon for himself at home.
"For salmon, I'll wipe it down with a mayonnaise, butter and garlic sauce while it's grilling," he said. "The sauce crisps and turns brown, and looks like a puffed pastry when it's done," he said.
For his home grilling, Woolsey has a gas grill and smoker to use as a backup for times like now when Stage II fire restrictions are in place but otherwise he prefers charcoal grills.
"Mesquite charcoal is about as good as it gets," Woolsey said. "It has a good flavor and produces a steady smoke, unlike briquettes, which I think have a chemical taste."
Woolsey grills all kinds of fruits and vegetables, too.
"You can grill lettuce but you have to do it fast," he said before sharing a tasty-sounding recipe for a grilled-peach desert.
"You've got to watch the peaches on the grill," Woolsey said. "You want them to have lines from the grill but if you leave them on too long they'll stick."
Ekahi Grill's is open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday and Wednesday through Saturday, and is closed on Tuesday and Sunday. The phone number is (970) 524-4745.
- Derek Franz
Make a simple syrup by pouring a cup of sugar into a cup of water and bringing it to a boil. Simmer until the sugar is dissolved, which takes about three minutes.
Remove from heat and put in several pitted peach halves, cut side down, with a cinnamon stick. Leave the peaches and cinnamon in the syrup until completely cooled, briefly put them on the grill and then serve with ice cream.
- Danny Woolsey
Gypsum dentist Steve Oakson has been known to get competitive about his grilling and smoking.
"I used to do five or six barbecue competitions a year in Kansas for seven or eight years," he said. "One year we qualified for the Jack Daniels National."
Oakson placed somewhere in the middle out of 25 teams.
After moving to Gypsum, several years went by when he didn't compete until he participated in the Moos and Brews event in Eagle five years ago. Of course, he still grills plenty at home, about three or four times a week. Pork chops are one of his favorites to slap on his three-burner Weber gas grill.
"For pork chops, I like to use Cajun Marinade - either garlic and herb or roasted garlic," he said. "I let them marinate for a couple hours. Then I go fairly heavy on the barbecue rub, since most of that will burn off, and put the chops on the grill at a medium heat."
Oakson said you don't want to go too hot with things like pork chops and chicken because those meats dry out easily.
"Hazel Dell mushrooms are also really nice on chops," he said.
His barbecue rub of choice is Oklahoma Joe's.
"We used to buy a case of it when we were doing competitions," Oakson said.
The Cajun Marinade can be a little hard to find around here, so Oakson buys it when he happens to see it.
"City Market in Eagle used to have it and now I think they only have it around Thanksgiving and Christmas," he said.
The strangest thing Oakson ever grilled is alligator tail.
"It was horribly tough but that was probably due to our cooking," he said. "That was 20 years ago. My buddy bought it at a meat market."
Smoked ostrich sausage is awesome, though, he said.
Oakson was introduced to smoking before grilling.
"My grandfather used to smoke ribs and pork on the Fourth of July and I would help him as a kid," he said. "My dad grew up helping him, too. That was in the 1940s and '50s. Then we got into grilling."
Oakson said smoking produces a nice, unique flavor but grilling is more versatile.
"With grilling, it's about different flavors," he said. "A lot of people grill ribs but don't think to put wood chips over the heating element."
Another tip he offered is that turkey breast can be good to grill as long as you're careful not to place it over direct heat.
"I like to cook things like pork and chicken slower," he said. "They used to say chicken needed to be heated to an internal temperature of 180 degrees Fahrenheit for the meat to be safe to eat - at that temp, it really dries out. Now they've realized it's OK to cook it only to 165 degrees." (Editor's note: at least three Internet sources confirm this.)
One of the advantages Oakson enjoys with a three-burner gas grill is that he has more control over the cooking.
"It's nice to be able to move something in between the burners where it's off the direct heat," he said.
Of course, another advantage is that he can still use his grill while the Stage II fire restrictions are in effect for Eagle County.
"I was going to smoke some briskets this week but then the fire restrictions went into place," he said.
- Derek Franz
Stage II fire restrictions have been implemented in Eagle County that essentially prohibit any flame that can't be shut off by a switch or valve.
However, municipal governments within the county can impose their own fire restrictions. For downvalley residents who live in Gypsum, the Stage II restrictions apply to charcoal grills. In Eagle, last week the police department sent out a notice stating that charcoal grills at private residences are exempt from the community's fire ban.