Smoky, Low and Slow – True Barbeque in Victoria

Cold brew in one hand, set of tongs in the other. It’s hard to imagine a better way to spend a languid summer afternoon. Though these days I’m an apartment dweller and my BBQ dreams are sadly confined to a grill pan, the craving has never left. 

When someone says barbeque, my first thought is always steak, burgers, or hot dogs, charbroiled at a high heat for those snazzy-looking crosshatched grill marks. At temperatures over 155 ºCelsius (or 311 ºFahrenheit), whether on the grill, in the oven, or on a pan, food undergoes the Maillard reaction, wherein amino acids and sugars react to create the particular aromas and flavours we love. Meanwhile, those grill marks char the outside for a hint of charcoal smokiness.

IMG_6294While you might be doing this on a barbeque, calling it by that name is an all too common mistake. “That’s not barbeque at all, see, that’s grilling,” Clark Deutscher of Hank’s Untraditional Barbeque (See the article Colin wrote in the print magazine here) told me. “We don’t get too concerned about the distinction, but some people do.” It’s the charcoal flavour that makes this such a distinctive technique, so why not move up from grill marks and imbue the whole dish with that smouldering wood flavour? And while you’re at it, why not figure out a way to stretch that golden Miller time from a few quick minutes into a couple hours of sheer hedonism?

The practice of long, slow smoking predates recorded history. Done “cold,” it’s an excellent method for dehydrating and preserving meats like beef, pork, and fish thanks to the antibacterial qualities of smoke. These days we mostly use it as a technique to enhance flavour, so it has evolved into an active method that uses indirect heat and convection to cook rather than cure. It even comes with its own interesting chemical reaction; as the outer layer of meat absorbs smoke, nitrogen dioxide mixes with the moisture and forms nitric acid. This gives the inside edge of the cut a signature layer of pink.

Hank’s small location makes it an ideal spot for lunch, and though the décor and (and especially the beer fridge) are far more advanced, I can’t help but be reminded of Frank Underwood’s favourite rib joint. “Everything that we serve is smoked in house,” said Clark. “It’s barbecue basically, and in that sense it’s traditional. Everything is cooked with smoke over longer periods of time at low temperatures.” The guys at Hank’s use a temperature-controlled electric burner so the smoker can run overnight. “We use hickory, maple, cherry, and oak in different combinations for different meats.” For shorter-term barbeque (it’s still not grilling, okay?) there’s another method that takes a little more mechanical know-how.


When my family lived in East Vancouver, one of our neighbours was a truck driver. One year for a neighbourhood block party he rigged up a washing machine motor to turn a spit, roasting an entire pig over hot coals. When it comes to drier faire like chicken, rotisserie cooking like this is ideal as the turning motion bastes the food in its own juices.

IMG_6370“It’s probably the most interesting grill I’ve ever worked with,” says chef Aaron Eahadur of 5th Street Bar & Grill. “Been working 10-12 years always as a grill guy, and you can put anything on it. What’s interesting about it is with no other grill do you have to maintain and create your own fire.” 5th Street uses a large, four-bar rotisserie mounted next to a charcoal grill, where Aaron builds a live fire using mesquite hardwood. “The rotisserie takes away an oven, that’s the kind of element it replaces. With an oven it’s quick, you don’t get a smoke in there, if you don’t do it properly you can dry it out quicker. With this, you get a nice slow cook, keeps it juicy inside especially with a brine we get a really juicy piece of meat off there which is ideal.”

Aaron and his co-chef Eric Robinson put the birds in a honey brine for 24 hours, then let them air-dry for another 24 before “rolling” them in the smoker for two. In the last ten minutes, Aaron adds wood to the fire to raise the flames and create a crispy skin. “I like to let the flame lick the skin right at the end there.” The fire-roasted half chicken is served with either gravy or a sweet hickory BBQ sauce. The chefs also do a prime rib and other cuts by putting them into a cage or rotisserie basket. “Barbecue has always been about summer, it’s a summer thing,” says Aaron. “Nothing like being outside on the grill with a couple buddies, and adding a rotisserie to that just goes you more options.”

Chile Rubbed Smoked Pork Butt/Shoulder Steaks with Fresh Blackberry Salsa


For those of you itching to try smoking at home, Clark from Hank’s was kind enough to give us a recipe borne from his years of smoking at competitions all over North America. Though a charcoal grill is ideal, this method for wood chip smoking works on a gas grill.

Ingredients :

4 half-inch thick pork butt steaks

For the dry rub:

1 tbsp. granulated onion

2 tbsp. pure mild chile powder (ancho, New Mexico, or guajillo)

1 tbsp. dried thyme

1 tbsp. brown sugar

1 tbsp. kosher salt

1 tsp. ginger

½ tsp. cinnamon

Blackberry Salsa

1 cup fresh blackberries

¼ cup fresh cilantro

¼ cup diced red onion

1 tbsp. maple syrup

Juice of 1 lime



Soak 1 cup of wood chips for at least a half hour before you plan to cook.

Combine and mix dry rub ingredients well.

Rub 1 tablespoon dry rub on each side of each steak.

Set up your grill for smoking! Place your wood chips in aluminum foil and seal, then pierce the top of the package with a fork.

Set one burner on your grill to medium and place the packet of wood chips on top.

Put the meat on the grill opposite from the heat source. You want a temperature of around 135º C (275 ºF) where the steaks have no direct heat on them.

Let the steaks cook for about two hours until they reach an internal temperature of 90 ºC (195 ºF)

While the steaks are cooking, combine your salsa ingredients.

When the steaks reach your desired internal temperature, top with salsa and enjoy!

Written By:

Vancouver-born photographer, writer and designer Sol Kauffman has had his hands dirty in restaurant kitchens for years, washing dishes and slinging pizzas. In 2008 he moved to Victoria to pursue a BFA in Creative Writing at UVic ...