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After engaging with and listening to tens of thousands of pitmasters and growing the I Love Grilling Meat community in to one of the largest and most active grilling, meat smoking, and barbecuing communities on the Internet, we’ve learned a few things.

  1. The vast majority of expert BBQ pitmasters will tell you that learning directly from other highly skilled and knowledgeable pitmasters is the easiest, fastest, and most enjoyable path to crafting your skills to make better barbecue.
  2. Many of the most highly skilled and knowledgeable BBQ pitmasters are not just the people you’ve seen on television shows, but instead they are the underground backyard BBQ experts and small business owners that live for the cue day in and day out.

With that being said, we would like to introduce you to several of highly skilled and knowledgeable BBQ pitmaster experts in this article the top 10 underground pitmasters to learn from in 2015. Each of these gentlemen plays a very important role in our I Love Grilling Meat VIP Facebook forum by sharing knowledge, answering questions, and providing feedback, alongside the several thousand other members all helping each other to make better BBQ.

Here they are in no particular order:

Top 10 Best Underground BBQ Pitmasters To Learn From In 2015

Danny McTurnan – St. Louis, Missouri

How Long Have You Been Grilling & Smoking Meat? 35 yearsbbq pitmaster danny mcturnan

What Do You Love Most About Being A Pitmaster? What I enjoy the most is seeing people enjoying my cooking. It’s that smile with sauce all over the face. It’s that compliment you get after they have filled their belly. It’s the smell of the smoke that takes me back as a child hanging bacon with my dad and the bacon was taller than me. It’s seeing people enjoying what cue and smoking brings to the table.

What Is Your Specialty & Why?  I love doing pork butts and brisket. They are 2 totally different pieces of meat, both are robust in flavor, yet grilled or smoked the taste is totally different and takes completely different spices to bring out the true flavors of these meats.

What Single Piece Of BBQ Advice Would You Leave For Readers? Learn your grill/smoker and your spices. I’d say that 90% of mistakes are made by not knowing how your smoker or grill performs. As for spices, all spices are not for all meat, my dad drove this into my head constantly. Learn your spices and do not be afraid to experiment. Finally, do not rush your cue always allow enough time for you to finish properly, low and slow.

More From Danny McTurnan: Backyard Smoked Pork Shoulder Recipe & Smoking Tips

Derrick Blackwell Sr. – Morningside Maryland

bbq pitmaster derrick blackwellHow Long Have You Been Grilling & Smoking Meat? Grilling/barbecuing for 25 years and smoking meat for 10 years.

What Do You Love Most About Being A Pitmaster? What I truly and simply LOVE about it is the look of satisfaction that my grilling, smoking, and barbecuing gives to others. There is nothing like seeing the look of total pleasure from those who have taken part in communing with you according to your gift of grilling/smoking/barbecuing.

What Is Your Specialty & Why? I would say that my specialty is seafood. I choose seafood because I get more requests for it than anything else. I also chose seafood because it’s not as easy as some believe. It is very easy to either over cook or under cook seafood, however when barbecued just right seafood is better than warm apple pie.

What Single Piece Of BBQ Advice Would You Leave For Readers? First, never feel ashamed or too proud to ask for assistance. Second, when in doubt, research it out. In other words, post your questions in the ILGM VIP group and watch how fast you receive answers.

Derrick is a BBQ pitmaster and entrepreneur having just launched his BBQ sauce line D-BONZ BBQ Sauce. He makes his sauces preservative and additive free with several flavors and sizes available. Derrick is also the owner of M&E BBQ INC. a BBQ catering and competition Team. They cater wedding receptions, family reunions, small gatherings, large gatherings office parties and all other occasions as well as offering delivery of grilled/smoked/barbecued foods. Derrick and his team are currently working on a website for D-BONZ Sauce orders however in the mean while they may be reached at 202-679-5271 for price inquiries, orders, as well as catering services.

Randy Siltzer – Cheyenne, Wyoming

bbq pitmaster randy siltzerHow Long Have You Been Grilling & Smoking Meat? 25 years.

What Do You Love Most About Being A Pitmaster? What I love about BBQ is that it draws people together. The ILGM VIP Facebook forum has members from all over the world. Though we all have our individual differences, we are one in our love of grilling meat and barbecue. I’ve met some of the nicest people through this forum and would love to get together with them and cook.

My cooking is an expression of my love for people. It thrills me to death when someone enjoys food that I have prepared. The smile on their face is their way of showing love back. I’ve never seen anyone angry when their mouth is full of barbecue!

What Is Your Specialty & Why? My specialty is pulled pork. It’s hard to mess up a pork butt! It can handle most of your mistakes and still come out pretty good. Believe me, I’ve made a lot of mistakes!

What Single Piece Of BBQ Advice Would You Leave For Readers? Never stop learning! Experiment and try new things. I always say, the day I stop breathing is the day I stop learning. Who cares if you make mistakes? That’s part of the fun. Start small and work your way up. Who knows, you may come up with something that will change the world!

Tony McHale – Grand Blanc, Michigan

bbq pitmaster tony mchaleHow Long Have You Been Grilling & Smoking Meat? I’ve been grilling for 20+ years, since I was a teenager, and I’ve been smoking meat for about 5 years.

What Do You Love Most About Being A Pitmaster? What I love most about it is the anticipation of the outcome, even when I make the same things over, they always seem to come out a little different every time, and usually better, so it’s always fun to get to the prize (the meat) and see what you’ve won, so to speak.

What Is Your Specialty & Why? When it comes to grilling I’m in love with making burgers. I make them different almost every time and it’s hard to make a bad burger, so experimenting is worth it. When it comes to smoking, my favorite is definitely the brisket. Brisket is practically made for the smoker, low and slow, with a good rub, mouth-watering every time and feeds a lot of people. When I fire up the smoker for a brisket it’s going to be a long haul, and its fun for me. After the smell starts getting around the neighborhood the neighbors start asking questions like, “when’s it gonna be done?”, lol

What Single Piece Of BBQ Advice Would You Leave For Readers? When it comes to grilling the best advice I think is to get the air circulation going right and try not to cook anything too fast. I only use charcoal when I grill so its easy to burn, but keep an eye on those coals, and move your food around. As far as smoking goes, a meat probe thermometer is going to be your best friend. I always tell people to cook to temperature, not by time and when it reaches your desired temperature, pull it out, wrap it, and let it rest. And finally, never cut the fat off before you smoke!

More From Tony McHale: 5 Basic Tips For Smoking Meat

Brian Bickley – Austin, Texas by way of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

bbq pitmaster brian bickleyHow Long Have You Been Grilling & Smoking Meat? I’m originally just a griller and have been doing it for almost 20 years now. Then my wife bought me a small CharBroil H20 water smoker in 2006. I was still living in Philly at the time, but I didn’t use it. I brought it with me to Texas and began to learn the art of smoking meat in 2009 and I’ve been HOOKED ever since.

What Do You Love Most About Being A Pitmaster? I love the smell of the wood burning, pecan and cherry are my favorites, and the tender meat that’s produced when the smoking process is finished. I actually do more smoking than grilling, but I’m good at BOTH now.

What Is Your Specialty & Why? My specialty would have to be ribs when it comes to smoking meat. I feel that it’s my strong suit. My favorite dish is SURF n TURF prepared on the smoker/grill. I usually will have a 40 ounce cowboy ribeye steak along with a 12 ounce lobster tail. I usually smoke the ribeye first until the internal temp is around 130 degrees using either pecan or oak (preferably Jack Daniels oak barrel wood blocks), then I REVERSE sear it on the grill. Talking about good? Ribeyes are SPECTACULAR when done this way.

I also LOVE my lobster tails done on the grill as well. I love splitting the back of them and pulling the meat out of the shell and placing it on top. This way the flame gets to kiss it some and give it a little smoke as well.

What Single Piece Of BBQ Advice Would You Leave For Readers? My advice is to those just getting started is to PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE! Don’t worry about the meat that might get ruined, just focus on LEARNING all you can thru trial and error. You can use other people’s advice to start as a guide, but you have to put your OWN stamp on it, and don’t be afraid to experiment.

Ricky De Leon – Phoenix, Arizona

bbq pitmaster ricky de leonHow Long Have You Been Grilling & Smoking Meat? Since I was about eight years old I was on my own on the grill.

What Do You Love Most About Being A Pitmaster? Just the thrill of being able to help out my dad and uncles on all family gatherings.

What Is Your Specialty & Why? My specialties are chicken and ribs because I like the challenge on them two. If I don’t leave them long enough I don’t hear the end of it, lol. Brisket is also the same time n temp is what matters.

What Single Piece Of BBQ Advice Would You Leave For Readers? Just to make sure not to over season with salt on all meats. Also, don’t over power your meats and poultry with smoke when you’re smoking so that you can actually taste your meat.

More From Ricky De Leon: Mustard Smoked Whole Chicken Recipe & Tips

Leroy Bee – Vallejo, California

bbq pitmaster leroy beeHow Long Have You Been Grilling & Smoking Meat? I have been barbecuing since I was a kid with my Dad and as I got older and got out on my own I really started grilling and smoking.

What Do You Love Most About Being A Pitmaster? I love being outside cooking and also trying new things.

What Is Your Specialty & Why? I enjoy smoking meat the most. I do a lot of ribs and tri-tip because for those cuts you have such a wide variety of wood to use that just makes the meat taste different.

What Single Piece Of BBQ Advice Would You Leave For Readers? Don’t be scared to try different things and don’t get discouraged if it doesn’t come out right the first time you do it, just try again because practice makes perfect. No one starts off as a pitmaster, we all have to work for it.

Nino Lipari – Blue Springs, Missouri

How Long Have You Been Grilling & Smoking Meat? 22 years

What Is Your Specialty & Why? Pork of any kind because you can season and cook pork many different ways. My favorite way to cook pork is a pork chop stuffed with oyster and escargot dressing.

What Single Piece Of BBQ Advice Would You Leave For Readers? For me the most important tip to anyone is to be adventurous with whatever your cooking….cook with confidence trust what you make will be better than the last time. Thanks for the opportunity to be a part of this!

More from Nino Lipari: 5 Best Practices For Preparing Your Meat

Shaun Mittower – Painesville, Ohio

bbq pitmaster shaun mittowerHow Long Have You Been Grilling & Smoking Meat? I have been grilling and smoking meat since last year (2014) and my skills have greatly improved since joining I Love Grilling Meat VIP Facebook group and forum.

What Do You Love Most About Being A Pitmaster? There is nothing better than firing up the grill and barbecuing something to share with family and friends.

What Is Your Specialty & Why? At this time I’m big on smoking chicken because it’s cheap and you can’t go wrong with smoked wings.

What Single Piece Of BBQ Advice Would You Leave For Readers? I have seen quite a few questions being asked on ILGM VIP group forum regarding how long to grill or smoke particular cuts of meat. My advice is to cook to temperature rather than cook to time. Cook times make a good general reference however I have seen food look done on the outside but still be under cooked on the inside. (*Get a probe meat thermometer like this one to cook your meat to temperature)

More From Shaun Mittower: Homemade Sweet & Spicy Dry Rub Recipe For Chicken

Something interesting to point out that was mentioned by Shaun Mittower above is that he has only been and smoking since 2014 yet he’s was nominated from a pool of several thousand members as a top Pitmaster to learn from. This goes to show that you can craft your barbecuing skills to a very high level in a relatively short period of time if you have the right mentors and the right community like we have in the I Love Grilling Meat VIP Facebook group and forum.

mystery bbq pitmasterBy now you’ve probably noticed that we’ve only listed 9 pitmasters and this article is called the Top 10 Best Underground BBQ Pitmasters To Learn From In 2015. That being said we’re looking for more grilling and meat smoking enthusiasts to be a part of this awesome community so we have left the 10th spot opened for you because we want you to join us and be our next featured pitmaster. Click the image in the right sidebar to join us.

Those who are already members know that these 9 expert pitmasters humbly provide their knowledge and know-how among the many others who selflessly contribute to the exclusive “ego free”, “negativity free” environment that we are proud to call the ILGM VIP group. We are grateful to have each and every one of you.

Feel free to show these 9 awesome gentlemen some love and appreciation by sharing this article on Facebook, Pinterest, and anywhere else you can think of online by clicking the social media sharing buttons to the left and/or at the bottom of this post, let’s make them famous!

We appreciate you,

I Love Grilling Meat