Summer is officially here, which means it's time to swap the stove for the grill and dine alfresco. But before you reach for the spatula, know that barbecuing isn't as simple as letting a slab of meat cook over an open flame. To save you the trouble, we asked James Beard Award-nominated chef and native southerner Erik Neil, owner of Main Street Meats, a cult-favorite butcher shop and charcutier based in Chattanooga, Tenn., for his pro tips—and his go-to barbeque sauce recipe to slather all over it. "Cooking outside is so relaxing," he recently told InStyle over the phone. "I prefer to do it whenever possible." Take a cue from the grill master with his nuggets of wisdom below, and his breakdown for the condiment that'll have your guests begging for seconds.
1. Buy whole cuts of meat. "Provided you're a meat-eater, whole cuts of beef or pork tenderloin are the easiest to cook. You can let them sit on the grill, then slice them and serve them family-style with a tomato-cucumber-avocado salad."
2. Embrace seasonings. "Season the meat with salt and pepper, then rub olive oil all over it and gently pat on chopped herbs like thyme, oregano, a few sprigs of lavender, and some basil," he says. "It imbues the whole cut of meat with a little more flavor."
3. Let the meat reach room temperature before grilling. "It cooks much faster that way."
4. Make sure the heat is evenly distributed. "Never cook the meat over the hottest part of the fire," Neil advises. "Make sure to put the thickest bit toward the center so it gets more heat, and the skinnier end further away from the fire because it requires less time to cook."
5. Let it sit. "After you remove the meat from the grill, leave it out for five minutes. That way, the juices inside will bloom and percolate back out through the meat so, when you slice it, it won't bleed everywhere."
Smoked Rhubarb Barbecue Sauce
2 lb rhubarb
1/2 lb brown sugar with 2 tbsp orange zest
1/2 lb plain brown sugar
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce ($5; walmart.com)
1/4 cup Steen's Cane Syrup ($6; nolacajun.com)
2 cup sherry ($3; walmart.com)
4 cloves black garlic
1 Chili de Arbol ($4; mexgrocer.com)
1. Take rhubarb and cut into sizes that will fit into a metal pan and place in a smoker.
2. Smoke at a medium heat until soft and tender. There will be some rhubarb juice in the bottom of the pan that you will use for finishing the BBQ sauce.
3. Purée the rhubarb in a Vitamix, adding remaining ingredients in no particular order until it reaches a thick consistency.
4. Finish with the remaining rhubarb juice.