JUSTIN Kyllo is still the king of the grill - at least according to the judges at the Canadian National BBQ Championships.
The North Vancouverite and former autoworker outcooked the competition at the popular annual cook-off in Whistler over the B.C. Day long weekend, taking home top prize for the second time in four years.
The reining champ's culinary secret? Seclusion. "I really wanted to win this and I wanted to be left alone, so that's what we did," said Kyllo, who also won the event in 2009.
Rather than cooking on the main drag, Kyllo requested a somewhat secluded spot that would allow him to focus on his pork shoulder, ribs, chicken, and beef brisket.
"We didn't want to be out on the main course," he said. "I was really focused this year and didn't want to be distracted by sampling and the crowds."
Kyllo's victory over 32 charcoal challengers, mainly from B.C. and Alberta, earned him a new barbecue, $1,500 in prize money and $3,000 in travel vouchers, which he's already planning to use for a January scuba vacation.
Kyllo's wife, Cheryl, was by his side at the competition, helping to oversee the beef brisket during its 14 hours on the grill at a temperature of about 200 degrees.
"My beef brisket has won me a lot of money over the last few years," he said. "In my opinion, that's the best barbecued (meat) there is."
While it is difficult to cook well, Texas-style beef brisket can have the most rewarding flavour, according to Kyllo.
"It's tough," he said. "It was a garbage meat at one time, because the only way they figured out how to cook it was to cure it and then boil it, like what they do with corned beef or pastrami," he said. "We cook them all night long. . . . It's real barbecue. There's no gas."
The difference in taste between wood grilling and propane cooking is enormous, according to Kyllo.
"That smoke just imparts a flavour into the meat," he said. "Most people who have never had real barbecue, the first time they have it, they just can't believe how good it is.
"It's got to be something primal in us. That's how we originally cooked our food, right? Over fires."
Kyllo uses charcoal as a base and wood for flavour, and advises novice grillers to follow his lead.
"The biggest tip I can give you for the least amount of money is to go buy - and I know this sounds strange - go buy a charcoal grill," he said. "Go buy a $90 charcoal grill, like a Weber charcoal grill, because that alone will make your food taste better than your $1,000 gas grill."
While some ambitious cooks raid the spice cabinet to season their meat, Kyllo is in favour of a simple rub.
"You need an equal balance of sweet, salty, and some spices," he said.
"Even the top chefs, when they're finishing their meals before they're putting them out, they're seasoning them with salt and pepper."
The victory also landed Kyllo automatic entry into the Jack Daniel's World Championship Invitational Barbecue in Lynchburg, Tenn. He's also slated to compete in the barbecuing portion of the World Food Championships in Las Vegas this November.
A longtime autoworker, Kyllo was forced to look for a new career after a debilitating paragliding accident in 2002.
Discussing travelling to Kansas City for a competition after heading to the Kamloops Ribfest, Kyllo laughed and said: "That's my work schedule."
"I was unhappy as an autoworker," he said. "I'd done it; I wanted a new trade. I had young kids, I didn't know what to do. And everything worked out, and my life is just so different. I have a pretty cool life."