How to Grill Like a Dirtybird

Barbecue tips and a prized recipe from Grillson himself.

Claude VonStroke (Photo by Katie Laskowska)

When Claude VonStroke, Justin and Christian Martin, and Worthy were setting up their first-ever live-music event in Golden Gate Park in 2003, they met a random guy named Chris Wilson who offered to man their grill. Fourteen years later, you’ll still find Wilson — now called Grillson — at every Dirtybird barbecue, although his roles have changed a bit over the years.

In the early days, Wilson says, “it went from cooking carne asada tacos with friends to grilling 500 cheeseburgers for the first 500 crazy, dance-music fans that came through the gate.” Now that the barbecues attract a few thousand people per event and require travel to other states, Wilson’s responsibilities involve less cooking and more planning. He hunts for “the best barbecue dudes in each city” and hires them to cater the event, instead of grilling everything himself.

Though he’s never prepared it at a Dirtybird barbecue, a favorite recipe Wilson has been “using for some time now” is spice-rubbed smoked ribs with a maple-horseradish baste. He based the recipe off one from chef Bobby Flay, and says that although the ingredients do not state it, one of his secret additions is “a certain type of booze.”

To cook the ribs, Wilson recommends having the fires on the grill set at different temperatures, leaving one side “blazing-hot” and the other side cooler for almost-finished meats.

“Remember,” he says, “it takes a bit of an adventurous spirit and a whole lot of trial-and-error before you get really good at barbecuing.”

Wilson also recommends testing multiple products and bases to get better at grilling. “Experiment with different cuts of meat, flavorings and seasonings, types of grills and smokers, and cooking methods,” he says. “You just might stumble upon something you really like.”

Spice Rubbed Smoked Ribs with Maple-Horseradish Baste

Ingredients

Maple-Horseradish Glaze:
2 cups pure maple syrup
1/2 cup prepared horseradish, drained
2 heaping tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon ancho chili powder
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Ribs:
1/3 cup Spanish paprika
3 tablespoons ancho chili powder
3 tablespoons New Mexican chili powder
2 tablespoons ground coriander
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
3 cups wood chips (hickory, mesquite, or applewood)
4 racks pork ribs (3 pounds each)

Directions

Glaze:

Whisk all ingredients together in a medium bowl. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Ribs:

Stir spices together in a medium bowl.

About one-half hour before cooking time, soak hickory chips in enough water to cover. Drain chips. In a covered grill, place slow burning charcoal on both sides of a drip pan. Sprinkle coals with wood chips.

Rub top side of each rack of ribs with about 3 tablespoons of the rub. Place ribs, bone side down, on grill. Close cover or place cover on the smoker. Grill about one and one-half hours, adding chips every 20 minutes. During the last 10 minutes of grilling, brush liberally with the Maple-Horseradish Glaze.

Read SF Weekly‘s cover story on the label, “The Hatching of Dirtybird.”

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