Brian Misko makes his home in Surrey, but if you taste his back-yard cooking, you might wonder if he has roots in the American South.
Misko never spent a day in culinary school, nor did he apprentice under well-known chefs or pitmasters—his love for slow-cooked barbecue began relatively late in life. After he travelled through the southern United States as a sales rep for a software company and indulged in the region’s food, Misko’s curiosity about the cuisine led to a discovery that would change his life.
“I learned that there were barbecue competitions,” Misko writes in the intro to his new cookbook, Grilling With House of Q: Inspired Recipes for Backyard Barbecues. When he returned home and discovered that a local competition was fast approaching, he and a friend, Glenn Erho, took their wives on a daytrip to see the cook-off firsthand.
“Team after team of pitmasters…were more than willing to chat about what they were doing and how the contest worked,” writes Misko. “We asked questions, lots of them, but the best part was going from tent to tent to sample the food.”
After eating their “body weight in barbecue samples”, the pair made a pact to enter the competition the following year. House of Q was born just nine months later, and in 2005, Misko and Erho placed third for their chicken and sixth with their ribs at their first-ever competition.
Ten years later, House of Q, which Misko now runs with his wife, Corinne Misko, sells a line of barbecue sauces and spices. He has attended countless competitions, and the team has never gone home empty-handed.
“We just did nine weeks [on the road] last fall and 11,000 kilometres from here to Missouri to Texas, back to Tennessee, over to Vegas, and finally back home,” Misko told the Straight during an interview at his recent book launch. Their most prestigious win came in Las Vegas, where the team won the top prize in the rib category at the World Food Championships.
“About 80 percent of what I cook is pork, mostly ribs, but there’s nothing like a good steak,” said Misko as he showed the Straight how to cook his southern-rubbed strip steak.
“Believe it or not, a simple sirloin is my go-to,” he said. “If it’s well-aged, a good cut, and a good grade, there’s nothing more that you really need.”
Misko recommends having a designated “hot zone” and “cool zone” on the grill to ensure the best results. “Steak is pretty much the only thing you’ll want to cook on high heat,” he added.
Brian Misko’s southern-rubbed strip steaks
High-grade, well-aged beef needs only a bit of salt and pepper to bring out its flavour. However, every once in a while when you want a bit more seasoning, try this recipe. Serve the steaks with yam fries.
1 Tbsp (15 mL) sea salt or kosher salt
1 tsp (5 mL) black pepper
1 tsp (5 mL) paprika
1 tsp (5 mL) granulated garlic
1 tsp (5 mL) ground dried thyme
Olive oil for brushing
2 to 4 strip-loin steaks, 2 lb (900 g) total
Herb-infused olive oil or aged balsamic vinegar for drizzling (optional)
- Prepare your grill for direct grilling, medium-high heat on one side and low on the other. Brush or wipe the grates with oil, if necessary.
- In a medium bowl, stir together the salt, pepper, paprika, granulated garlic, and thyme until well mixed.
- Using a silicone brush, lightly brush both sides of the steaks with olive oil. Generously sprinkle the steaks with the rub mix.
- Place the steaks directly over the hotter side of the grill, close the lid, and sear on one side undisturbed for 2 to 6 minutes. (Closing the lid keeps the heat inside your grill and the grate hot.) If you are seeking the perfect criss-cross grill marks, lift one edge of the steaks and check if they have established the right colour, and then lift, turn the steaks 90 degrees, and set them on an unused part of the hot grill. Sear for another couple of minutes to create the crosshatch marks.
- Turn the steaks over, move them to the cool side of the grill, and cook until the internal temperature of the meat reaches 120 °F (50 °C) to 130 °F (55 °C) for medium-rare or 130°F (55 °C) to 140°F (60 °C) for medium.
- Remove from the heat, and allow your steaks to rest for 10 minutes before serving. You can cover them with aluminum foil, if you want; however, remember that they will continue to cook under the foil.
- To serve, arrange the steaks on individual plates. Drizzle them with herb-infused olive oil or balsamic vinegar.
Yield: 2 to 4 servings.
Adapted from Grilling With House of Q: Inspired Recipes for Backyard Barbecues (Figure 1 Publishing, 2015) by Brian Misko. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.