• Carrie Selin

Creating a world class BBQ experience in your own backyard

It’s no secret that Albertans love BBQ season! With the warm weather quickly approaching, we reached out to a couple of the best BBQ teams in the country to get their insight on how Albertans can create a world class BBQ experience for themselves in their own backyard.

We chatted with Russell Bird from You Need a BBQ and Janice Smella from the SmellaQue BBQ competition team, both award-winning BBQ experts who have won multiple competitions across Canada and the US. Since the options are endless when it comes to cooking BBQ, we decided to focus on Alberta pork. We provide some tangible takeaways, including recipes, that our readers can try out with their favourite local pork this BBQ season.

A bit about our experts:

You Need a BBQ - Russell Bird

Russell Bird is part of an award-winning Competitive BBQ Team and the owner of You Need a BBQ. Having travelled across Canada and the US, they are known for winning 1st place for their pork ribs in the Montana State Championships, among many others. Russell started You Need a BBQ with his father-in-law in the summer of 2020 when they saw an opportunity to pivot their business goals at the height of the pandemic.

What started as a small show room in the office of their promotional business quickly scaled to opening a store in Sherwood Park. They now sell grills, tools, seasonings and sauces and offer cooking classes to share the tips and tricks behind a terrific BBQ. Their mission is to teach others how to take their BBQ to the next level, and combine premium grilling, ingredients and meats together to help you make world class BBQ in your own backyard.

Where you can find them:



Instagram: @youneedabbq

SmellaQue - Janice Smella

Competing since 2014, Janice Smella is the head cook for the SmellaQue BBQ Team and the 2018 – 2019 National Canadian Champions for BBQ. SmellaQue had the experience and opportunity to compete across Canada and the US, focusing on cooking pork shoulder, ribs, brisket and chicken. With a passion for smoking and cooking outdoors, and a love for the science of cooking, Janice started the website and blog SmellaQue as a way to share her best tips, tricks and recipes with others.

Where you can find them:



Instagram: @janice_smellaque

Tips for a world class BBQ experience

What’s in your tool kit?

Let’s start with the basics – what are the tools you should be using to create the best experience? It’s natural to think that the fancier the tools the better the outcome, but when it comes to necessities, both Janice and Russell agree that having a good internal, instant-read thermometer is one of the most important tools you should always have on hand. With regards to grills, it’s not necessarily true that more expensive equals a better result.

“The quality of the cooking really comes down to the technique and the temperature control,” says Janice, “so as long as you can control the temperature on your grill, that will do the trick.”

That being said, for those who are looking to take their grilling experience up a notch, Russell highly recommends the wood pellet grills, such as those made by Pit Boss and Louisiana Grills. “The wood fire adds a lot of great flavour to meat, even without the seasoning,” he notes.

A cut above the rest

We asked our experts what they would recommend is the best cut of pork to use when it comes to grilling. Of course, both of our experts are famous for their award-winning pork ribs, so it’s no surprise that pork rib (particularly side rib) is their go-to cut for grilling pork. “This is the easiest option for grilling pork,” says Janice, “you really can’t go wrong with it.”

A close second for Russell is creating pork steaks out of pork shoulder butt. Russell adds, “often times you can find these steaks pre-cut at the butcher shop or grocery store and it’s a very affordable option.”

Tips and tricks

Now that we have our tools and our preferred meat, let’s dive into some of the best tips and tricks for creating a perfectly tender BBQ pork. When it comes to pork, both experts agree: Low and slow is the way to go!

“For BBQ ribs, we always recommend the 3-2-1, method,” says Russell. Start by grilling the ribs, bone side down, for three hours on the grill at 250 degrees. After three hours, wrap the ribs in foil and add your additional flavours and seasonings to the foil pack to help season and tenderize it, then continue grilling in the foil for two hours. Remove the foil, add your sauce to the ribs and place them back onto the grill for one more hour.

If you’re trying for pork steaks instead, Russell recommends that you cook them until the thermometer reads an internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit. The long-standing rule of well-done pork is a thing of the past according to Russell. He claims that “these days, since the quality of the meat has really come a long way, pork can actually be eaten medium.”

Another tip for cooking your pork, which can be applied to any meat, is to remove the pork about 5-10 degrees below the ideal cooking temperature. “This will give the meat time to rest and continue to cook to its desired temperature,” Janice says.

If you’re interested in learning more about cooking and grilling, You Need A BBQ holds cooking classes out of their store. Check them out online to learn more.

Choosing local

Based in Calgary and Sherwood Park, our experts are both big fans of choosing locally sourced meat for their grilling. So, we picked their brains on some of their favourite spots to pick up local pork. Both experts agreed there are so many terrific butcher shops that sell high quality local pork products. In the Calgary area, Janice recommends Master Meats, Ryan’s Meats or Sunterra Market. In the Sherwood Park and Edmonton areas, Russell recommends checking out Butcher Block in Sherwood Park and Darcy’s Meats in St. Albert and their new location in south Edmonton.

We always encourage Albertans to find the shop near you that sells and supports local producers!

Favourite BBQ pork recipes

Now that you have the BBQ secrets from the best of the best, we wouldn’t leave you hanging without some of their top-notch recipes. Here are the favourites from our experts (click on the photo or the title to link to the recipe):

Russell’s Famous Competition Ribs

Smellaque’s Smoked Chinese Char Siu (BBQ Pork Belly)

We hope you’ll use some of these recipes and tips to create your own world class BBQ experience in your backyard this summer. Don’t forget to shop local!

Credits: Written By: Elisa Valade Photo Credits: Russell Bird, Janice Smella and Alberta Pork

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