The South’s Best Butts: Pitmaster Secrets for Southern Barbecue Perfection
Several years ago I talked to Matt Moore about his cookbook, The South’s Best Butts:
Pitmaster Secrets for Southern Barbecue Perfection. Moore, who lives in Nashville, Tennessee, hit the
road, chronicling how barbecue differs in the 12 southern states he calls the Barbecue Belt.
Now luckily, in a time when going out to dinner means firing up the grill, Matt’s been busy
driving and flying (he owns a small airplane) again. Covering 10,000 miles in three months, he’s gathered
special recipes and tips from the eateries of Southern grillmasters and restaurants owned by such well-known chefs as Michael Solomonov, owner of Zahav in Philadelphia and Ashley Christensen’s Death &
Taxes in Raleigh, North Carolina. He’s put all this together in his latest book, Serial Griller: Grillmaster
Secrets for Flame-Cooked Perfection.
“It’s an All-American guide to grilling,” Moore tells me. “I think we’re really fortunate to live in a
country where people come from someplace else and we can pull from all those different countries. I
wanted to make sure the recipes were diverse.”
Indeed the multi-ethnicity of grilling comes out with recipes like Athenian Chicken and Sweet
Potatoes Rescoldo, which he describes as melding Louisiana and South America flavors. Al rescoldo is a
popular South American technique where foods like potatoes are cooked in the dying brasas, or embers
of a fire.
Moore also wanted to make sure Serial Griller was instructive and easy to use, no matter what
type of grill or foods you use.
“We spend a lot of time talking about the different meats, vegetables, even fruit as well as
fuels,” he says. “We give instructions for using both gas and charcoal instructions for each of the
Moore had to use persuasion to get some to reveal their secret recipes.
“There’s a little more secrecy in barbecue, there ae recipes they don’t want to give out,” says
He also includes his own includes his own, like one for Grilled Watermelon.
“The concentrated sweetness and hint of smoke that juicy melon gets from a brief rest on a hot
grill adds surprising pizzazz to a refreshing dessert that is big on flavor and short on hassle,” he writes in
the recipe’s introduction. “Sweeten things up, in a healthy way, by adding a rich, creamy dollop of
vanilla Greek yogurt. The best desserts are all about sensory balance—here, hot meets cold, and creamy
and juicy counter crunchy and chewy.”
The following recipes excerpted from Serial Griller © 2020 by Matt Moore. Photography © by Andrea
Behrends and Helen Dujardin. Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.
Sweet Potatoes Al Rescoldo
TOTAL:1 hour 35 minutes
4 sweet potatoes
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup roughly chopped pecans
1 teaspoon Mexican cinnamon (canela)
½ teaspoon guajillo chile powder
Finely chopped fresh parsley
Prepare a fire of live red oak coals or two chimneys full of charcoal. If you do not have two chimneys,
work in batches to produce enough coals. After the coals have gone from glowing red-hot to gray, pour
the coals onto a grilling surface and use tongs to carefully submerge the sweet potatoes completely
beneath the coals.
Allow the potatoes to sit in the coals until completely cooked, about 1 hour. Remove the potatoes from
the coals and let cool to the touch. Brush clean and cut in half.
Meanwhile, melt the butter in a saucepan over medium-high heat on the stovetop or over direct heat
on the grill. Add the sugar, pecans, cinnamon, and chile powder and mix until thoroughly combined.
Generously spoon the butter on top of the cut potatoes. Place the potatoes, cut-side up, back on the
grill over direct heat (500°F), cover, and cook for 5 minutes to allow the potatoes to firm. (You can also
place the potatoes under a broiler for 2 to 3 minutes to set.)
HANDS-ON: 50 minutes
TOTAL: 26 hours, including 24 hours marinating
1 (3- to 4-pound) whole chicken
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1½ teaspoons paprika
½ teaspoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
⅓ cup lemon juice
¼ cup yellow mustard
¼ cup honey
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1½ teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon fresh cracked pepper
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Minced fresh parsley
For the chicken: Remove and discard the giblets from the chicken. Wash the chicken thoroughly and pat dry. In a small bowl, mix the oregano, paprika, cumin, salt, and pepper together. Using your hands, rub
the spice mixture all over the bird, including inside the cavity. Place the chicken in a shallow dish, cover, and marinate in the refrigerator for 24 hours or overnight.
Open the bottom vent of a charcoal grill completely. Light a charcoal chimney starter filled with charcoal. When the coals are covered with gray ash, pour them onto the bottom grate of the grill, and then push to one side of the grill. Adjust the vents as needed to maintain an internal temperature of 300° to 350°F. Coat the top grate with oil, place on the grill. (If using a gas grill, preheat to medium-high [300° to 350°F] on one side.)
Place the chicken, preferably on a rotisserie or rack, over indirect heat and cook, grill covered, for about 1 hour, until the internal temperature reaches 165°F. The chicken can be served whole, or you can remove the backbone and serve in halves or quarter it by removing the thighs from the breasts.
For the sauce: Mix together all the sauce ingredients in a small bowl. Generously drizzle the sauce over the cooked chicken and garnish with parsley.
The sauce can be made in advance and kept for up to 2 weeks in the fridge, covered. Bring to room temperature and shake vigorously prior to serving.
HANDS-ON: 10 minutes
TOTAL: 10 minutes
8 (1-inch-thick) seedless watermelon wedges with rinds
½ cup vanilla whole-milk Greek yogurt
¼ cup roasted salted pistachios, roughly chopped
2 teaspoons crystallized ginger, finely chopped
½ teaspoon grated orange zest (from 1 orange)
Freshly ground black pepper
Open the bottom and top vents of a charcoal grill completely. Light a charcoal chimney starter filled halfway with charcoal. When the coals are covered with gray ash, pour them onto the bottom grate of the grill. Adjust the vents as needed to maintain an internal temperature of 450° to 500°F. Coat the top grate with oil, place on the grill. (If using a gas grill, preheat to high [450° to 500°F].)
Place the watermelon wedges on the oiled grates; grill, uncovered, until grill marks appear, 1 to 2 minutes per side.
Place a grilled watermelon wedge on each of eight serving plates. Top the wedges evenly with the yogurt, pistachios, ginger, and orange zest. Garnish with pepper.