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Fourth of July Barbecue Tips From Houston Pitmasters Ronnie Killen & Will Buckman

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There's no question that the Fourth of July is a barbecuing holiday. Today is the day before this meat-feast celebration, so we wanted to help you decide what to plop on the grill this year by getting expert advice and ideas from a couple Houston barbecue pitmasters. We spoke with Ronnie Killen of Killen's Barbecue and Will Buckman of CorkScrew BBQ to find out what's going on their grills at home.

Ronnie Killen, owner and pitmaster of Killen's Barbecue in Pearland is known for his tender brisket and pork ribs, so it's no surprise that he likes to cook the barbecue holy trinity on the Fourth of July.

"Pork ribs, brisket, sausage, potato salad, beans and all that good stuff," Killen says. "I kind of do it a little differently than I do it at the barbecue place because you're cooking at home and you can kind of play and do things a little bit different. I see if the friends and family like it and then adjust if [I] need to adjust. And then of course you always have some beer. Because barbecue and beer go hand-in-hand."

Killen doesn't baste or glaze his meats at Killen's Barbecue, but when he's cooking for his friends and family at home, he says he likes to see how adding that extra ingredient turns out.

"I kind of use the Fourth of July to experiment and play around to see what the kids like, what family and everybody likes, and then go from there, if I am going to incorporate any of that into the menu or do anything to change anything. Normally family is the one that's the hardest on you and they're going to be honest with you and let you know if it's good or not good... especially if they've had a couple of beers!"

If you plan to make a big feast on Friday, Killen says to make sure everything begins cooking at the proper time. The last thing you want is a starving crowd. Hangry ( hungry + angry) emotions are not a pretty sight.

"I usually do the brisket the night before; I'll put it on at 9 or 10 o'clock and just kind of slow cook it throughout the night," Killen says. "If you start out early in the morning, that's when you get into really late Fourth of July eating because brisket takes so long, especially the ones they have at the store [which are] normally big, and they just take a long time. Temperature [is] 225 or 250 for an hour per pound; normally the day of I'll start cooking the ribs, so everyone can eat around 12 or 1, then eat again for dinner."

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Will Buckman, owner and pitmaster of CorkScrew BBQ in Spring will be working through the weekend this year, but once all of the food has been sold, he and his family will head home to cook for themselves (and feast on a few items from the barbecue stand).

"...in the past I've done boudin-stuffed pork loin, beef tomahawk, and of course your American standard hot dogs and hamburgers," Buckman says. "I have done a lot of stuffed backstraps with Jack cheese and fresh jalapenos; it's always a crowd favorite."

Buckman agrees with Killen that cooking brisket, sausage and beef ribs is always a good choice. But, you might want to add a few non-red meat items as well.

"There's something for everybody," he says. "So, if you're having a get-together at the house, maybe you should add a poultry to that if you've got people who don't eat red meat or pork. So, turkey breast or chicken is always a good thing to have as a stand-by for those folks."

Readers, what are you planning to cook on the Fourth of July?

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