Memphis, North Carolina, Kansas City, Texas and Santa Maria--all are barbecue styles; only one is native to California. Traced to early ranchers and vaqueros (Mexican cowboys) of the 1800s Central Coast, Santa Maria barbecue is traditionally grilled meat cooked over native red oak.
Today, many restaurants are dedicated practitioners of the style--from the Hitching Post II and Far West Tavern north of Santa Barbara to Culver City's aptly named Santa Maria BBQ. However, it's not so complicated that an average non-pro chef can't give it a good ole cowgirl or cowboy try, vegetarians too.
All you need is a grill, wood, spices, some beans, a few sides and whatever you are cooking up. Turn the page for tips and techniques from the experts.
Wood. If you're going old school then you'll need red oak firewood as the heat source. Southeast of downtown, Fire Wood of My Ranch has red and white oak (40 pounds of red oak is $10) and supplies many local restaurants. Look for Fire Wood of My Ranch red oak stacked next to the wood burning pizza oven at Los Feliz's Mother Dough.
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Daunted by the idea of grilling over a wood fire? Take a weekend-long lesson from professionals this October when Frank Ostini of the Hitching Post II and Chef Pascal Godé of Alisal conduct a BBQ boot camp at the Alisal Guest Ranch in the native red oak-studded Santa Maria Valley.
For more deliciousness, follow Kathy A. McDonald on twitter: @writerkathymcd.