Friday, February 22, 2008

INTERVIEW: Derrick Riches of is an online reference source staffed by experts in a variety of fields. Owned by the NY Times, was founded in 1996.

Derrick Riches is the resident BBQ and grilling expert for Derrick and serves as what I look to refer to as a gateway service. Although Mr. Riches spends a great deal of time assisting anyone who needs BBQ related help, his acumen is greatly appreciated by those that are making their first moves from backyard grilling to true enthusiast.

Derrick’s expertise and knowledge level are tested on a daily basis. He is a true BBQ guru and we are grateful for his participation.

Mr. Riches kindly agreed to be interviewed by the Home of BBQ and we are happy to present that interview today.

Q. How long have you been interested in cooking and how did that interest develop?

My mother had three boys and was dead set on making sure we all knew how to cook. Me, being the youngest, received the brunt of the cooking lessons. My father loved to cook and was very good at it, but was rather lazy. He had me flipping steaks when I was tall enough to reach the top of the grill. What dad was particularly good at was experimenting. He took the classic English meals his mother would make and constantly worked to adapt them to different ingredients and different cooking methods. He and I were always trying all sorts of crazy recipes. So between my mother’s insistence that I know the basics and my dad’s experiments, I can honestly say that I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t cooking.

Q. When did you get interested in BBQ?

In my childhood, I had at my disposal everything you would need to prepare great barbecue without actually knowing what true barbecue was. For most of my early life I lived in a house built on a large piece of what was once an orchard. There were dozens of giant old cherry, apple and peach trees which had a constant supply of dried wood. When I was about ten years old, the neighbors moved away and left us with this big green thing we called a Hibachi. It was in fact a Kamado style cooker similar to a Big Green Egg, brought over from Japan after the war. Since we lived very near the mountains I had grown up eating as many campfire meals as kitchen cooked ones. I had been taught to tend fires at a very young age and knew how to prepare and cook a fish over an open fire before I knew you could cook them any other way. Add into this mix my father’s constant experimenting and we were cooking low and slow barbecue before any of us knew what it really was. After graduating from High School, I took a trip to Texas to visit some friends and this is where I tried real barbecue for the first time. I was hooked immediately and once I figured out how it was done I adapted my childhood training to making real barbecue from that day forward.

Q. How did that interest in BBQ lead to your being the ‘low and slow’ guru for

I was literally looking for something to do when I noticed a want add online for this new start up dotcom. I applied and was almost immediately picked to be the Barbecue and Grilling Guide at That was in March of 1997 and after 11 years I think I’m starting to get the basics covered. Writing about barbecue was a natural fit and this has been the best “job” I’ve ever had.

Q. What is the most frequent question you get from users of

Most of the questions I receive are about types of cookers. There is an endless amount of smokers, grills and other outdoor cookers on the market and a seemingly infinite number of confused consumers. After this most people ask about the basics of barbecue. There are a lot of people out there who want to make great barbecue, but they simply don’t know where to start. I think that if I can help them have a good first experience then they will be more likely to make barbecue a part of their lives.

Q. How often do you receive solicitations for assistance from readers?

It changes through the year. By the middle of May I should be getting about 30 to 40 email questions a day. In January it drops down to around a dozen. There are days when it seems answering my email takes all day.

Q. If you were to recommend a resource to a BBQ enthusiast other than your own, what would it be?

I think that there are a great number of excellent resources for specific smokers. The Virtual Weber Bullet, Big Green Eggs forums, or Cookshack’s forum are great places for people to get specific help for the problems that are having. I feel that getting people with the same equipment together is the best way to learn and perfect their barbecue. I also fully encourage people getting involved with their local barbecue societies. It is the local groups that preserve the real traditions of barbecue. My advice to anyone wanting to learn more is to find the group for their local and the group for their cooker.

Q. Are you a member of any other online BBQ communities?

I have been involved in many groups over the years. Unfortunately, my schedule has gotten so full that I simply don’t have time to actively participate in many of the great communities out there. I do read a lot of what’s going on so I can keep up, but between writing, answering emails, traveling, cooking and the other projects I’m involved in, I simply lack the time.

Q. Do you participate in competitive BBQ?

I am a certified KCBS judge and I judge a wide range of events, but I do not compete. This has been a conscious decision on my part. I work with several teams and competitors, helping them with their technique and recipes but I prefer not to compete. I know many great competitors and admire them for what they do, but being that focused is just something I don’t feel I have the resources for right now. I do, however love competitions and hanging around with competitors. I play with the idea of competing from time to time so maybe someday I will.

Q. Of the people out there that are dedicated to educating others about BBQ, who do you most admire?

I’ve found that some of the best insight I’ve ever received came from people who said the least. I’ve had the opportunity to attend several barbecue classes and to speak with many of the modern legends of barbecue. What I have found the most insightful however, are the discussions not so much about barbecue but about the lives of the people who are really good at it. A while back I flew down to Fast Eddie’s cooking class at the Cookshack factory on Ponca City, Oklahoma. Since Ponca City is pretty much in the middle of nowhere I flew into Tulsa, about a two or three hour drive from the factory. Cookshack had arranged for me to come down so they decided that one of their people would pick me up at the airport and drive me over. Turns out Fast Eddie himself ended up being my driver. We had a long conversation the whole way in and while we talked a little Q. We also talked a lot about Eddie and his experiences. I learned as much during that drive as I did during the all day cooking class the next day.

Anyway, to throw out some names I’d have to say that Ray Lampe, Rick Basso, Fast Eddie Maurin, Rick Browne (who is a really nice guy), and Myron Mixon are just a few who really stand out in my mind right now. Increasingly, I have been reading a lot of blogs that have popped up in the last couple of years. It is very refreshing to read from the perspective of people who are just starting out, so there are a number of these people that I have been following as well.

Q. Do you have any favorite BBQ cook-books?

I have literally hundreds of barbecue books. I receive virtually everything published for review (though I am way behind on book reviews). I really enjoyed Mike Mills, “Peace, Love and Barbecue” but not so much for the cooking parts as everything else. Of the books I use regularly I keep the Adells and Kelly “Complete Meat Cookbook” close by as well as several general reference books. I’m a tinkerer by nature so I have a lot of difficulty following recipes without throwing my own ideas into it. Cookbooks are a good starting point for me.

Q. Of anyone alive or dead, who would you most like to cook with and why?

This is probably a much shorter list than people I would like to drink with, but if I really thought it out it would end up being a list far too long to manage. I’m a history buff by nature and I am really fascinated about how we got where we are. Don’t get me wrong, I’m always interested in hearing about the latest techniques and methods but I think you have to admit that where barbecue is today is, well, a little strange. Take a long walk through a big competition. It’s amazing that this backwoods form of cooking has developed to the point where there are show teams that spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on equipment, motor homes, smoker rigs, flat screen TVs. Okay, maybe I digress, but I if I could really cook with anyone in history I would probably like to go back a hundred years and see barbecue in the raw. From the Q shacks of backwoods South Carolina to the chuck wagons of Texas. I guess I would like to cook with the people that taught Walter Jetton or Arthur Bryant and the greats of the last generation. To me that would be really cool even though I wouldn’t learn a thing that would win a competition.

Q. is a resource for all aspects of BBQ; including regional recipes, equipment and news updates. How do you educate yourself on all of the topics covered?

The best way I have learned about barbecue is by making mistakes. It doesn’t take long for someone to point out the error of your ways. Over the years I have engaged a lot of people from all over the world to help me out. I am fortunate that barbecue is about the friendliest pursuit in the world and that I have made so many friends who know so much. In recent years I have been able to do a lot of traveling , enabling me to get a lot of first hand experience with a wide variety of cooking techniques and foods. Recently I travelled to South Korea to spend a week touring and eating. Not a bad job if you can get the work.

Now, hardly a day goes by that some inventor, manufacturer, competition cook, or just backyard chef doesn’t contact me about something new. I get new equipment all the time to tryout and am very fortunate that so many people have taken their time to set me straight and tell me about there way of barbecue

Q. What do you think BBQ means to our society?

I think that barbecue today is the antithesis of everything that has gone wrong in our world. Barbecue is the slowest food possible in a fast food world. While it may not be health food it is certainly real food which is something disappearing from out diets. It requires patience and a desire to experiment. These are virtues in my eyes. Imagine a room full of men sitting around talking about the difference between Italian and Greek Oregano. These are people with a passion for food and by extension a passion for life. In a world as competitive as ours barbecue competitions result in more sharing than in any other activity I know of.

Q. Where changes would you like to see in the world of BBQ in the next ten years?

The biggest problem I see in barbecue today is a quest for standardization. I know that from a competitive stand point it is important that everyone work on a level playing field, but I fear that many of the small regional differences are being wiped out in favor of one big national or global standard of what is barbecue. Anyone who knows anything about barbecue can tell you about the great barbecue regions, but what people don’t realize is that there are far more than four or five regions, there are hundreds. I would love to see more of the local flavors win out over the more general standards. There needs to be a way to inspire the preservation of our barbecue past while continuing to grow the popularity of barbecue as a competitive activity. It is after all one of the truly unique American cultural elements and something that needs to be preserved for the future.

Q. After your long tenure at, do you plan on branching out into any other BBQ mediums, such as a cookbook or radio show?

I have been very close to both book and TV deals in the past and something has always come up. I am certainly open to virtually anything that would be offered but I don’t actively pursue these deals. I keep telling myself that I will work on something as soon as I get caught up. Unfortunately, in 11 years my to-do lists have just gotten longer, not shorter. However, I will probably have the time and energy to get working on a book soon and hope to be able to shop it around in the near future.

Q. What would you like our readers to know about

I believe in love at first site. When it comes to barbecue if you don’t get it right the first time you try, you might just give up and never try again. First impressions are important and what I am trying to do here is not make you the best barbecue cook in the world, but to try and make sure that the first time some one fires up a smoker to cook a rack of ribs that they have the best chance of getting a good meal. If your first experience is good, you’ll be back. I want more and more people tending the fires and making great food. Learn to cook, take your time and have fun. Remember, patience is a virtue.

The site has a focus on BBQ sauces. Can you provide us with the recipe for your favorite sauce?

Burning Tomato Barbecue Sauce

• 1 cup ketchup
• 1 cup tomato sauce
• 1/2 cup Louisiana style hot pepper sauce
• 1/2 cup water
• 1/4 cup cider vinegar
• 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
• 2 tablespoons brown sugar
• 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
• 1 tablespoon garlic salt
• 1 tablespoon molasses
• 1 teaspoon dried parsley flakes

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Store in refrigerator in an airtight container.


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tammy said...

What is the best nat gas grill under 600.00. Is the broil king crown 70 worth the extra $$ over the crown 20model? Is the burner better on the crown 70? is the crates better on the 70? The crown 70 has a extrarear burner for rotisirie and might get the grill hotter for steaks. I have to have agril that can convert with a kit back and forth from nat gas to propane and from propane to nat gas.Can the crown 70 #94977 be mounted on a post like the crown 20 #94628? does the 70 have better main burner?? who knows these answers?? I need to but a grill for my dads b-day, Please help me !! $600.00 max what about the lil texas jr infra red grill? what do I buy him for a good averall grill?