Articles & Recipes

How to Become a Champion BBQ Smoker

July 27, 2018

I FIRST MET KAREN PUTMAN in the mid-1990s when a Kansas City deejay infamously proclaimed, “Women can’t barbecue!” Those were fightin’ words to all of us women who barbecued on the contest circuit, owned barbecue restaurants or wrote barbecue cookbooks. In response, we formed an all-girl team, The ’Que Queens, to go up against an all-guy team in the first Battle of the Sexes Barbecue Contest in Kansas City.

The ’Que Queens (Karen Adler, Beckie Baker, Dee Barwick, Janeyce Michel-Cupito, me, Cathy Jones, Ronna Keck, Kathy Smith, Jean Tamburello, Lou Jane Temple, Bunny Tuttle and Carolyn Wells) took direct orders from the woman who had won more barbecue championships than everybody else combined: Karen Putman, known as the Flower of the Flames in competition circles.


Every barbecuer develops his or her own style after a while. Here’s mine:

1. I marinate or use a dry rub to flavor the food before smoking.

2. I use fruit woods such as apple, cherry and peach, sometimes in combination with oak, sugar maple or pecan, for a sweeter smoke flavor.

3. I spray my food with a fruit juice or citrus spray during smoking, or use a basting mixture of some kind, or both.

4. I follow up with a sauce with a touch of sweetness that provides a counterpoint to the slightly bitter flavor of the smoke.

5. I use a Tucker Cooker for hot-smoking, a SmokinTex® for cold-smoking.


~Judith Fertig

Author of Championship BBQ Secrets for Real Smoked Food


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Barbecue fans everywhere can discover the art of slow-smoking.

Slow-smoked foods, or real North American barbecue, are foods cooked next to a fire, low and slow, flavored with wood smoke....

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