Catching Up With A BBQ Legend

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I’ve known barbecue and grilling master Ardie Davis for more than 25 years. I first met Davis, aka, Remus Powers, Ph.B. (Philosopher Of Barbeque) at my first American Royal Barbecue Contest back in 1989. I’m pleased to say we’ve remained friends ever since.

Davis has written 11 books on smoking, grilling, and the barbecue sauces. When I heard his book, 25 Essentials: Techniques for Smoking, was getting a reprint, I couldn’t wait to visit with him. I thought, what better to share the thoughts of this local bbq legend than during May-National Barbecue Month.

“It resonates in my bones. It’s a primal thing. I’ve said for years that I could be a vegetarian if it were not for barbecue. When I smell that meat fire, I can’t resist,” Davis told me over a lunch at Johnny’s Barbecue in Mission. The meal was good. The conversation was better.

“I used to be a purist. Barbecue meant cooking ‘low and slow’ with smoke. Grilling was cooking quickly using high heat without smoke. But, now, if someone wants to invite me over for grilled hot dogs and call it barbecue, I’m fine with that as long as the hot dogs are good and there’s some decent beer or wine to drink,” Davis mused. “I believe that grilling is the gateway drug to smoking, so I’m absolutely okay with grilling being called barbecue.”

Along with his book on smoking, Davis wrote and published a book on essential techniques for grilling   in the same year. But, 25 Essentials: Techniques for Smoking was the better seller, so it gets the reboot.

Although attracted to grilling and smoking since he was a child, Davis first emerged on the Kansas City barbecue map after founding the Diddy-Wa-Diddy Barbecue Sauce contest. The first event was held in 1984 and judged by Remus Powers Ph.B., friends, and family. A short three years later Diddy-Wa-Diddy became part of the Royal. Hence, this will be the 30th year anniversary of the Diddy-Wa-Diddy at the world’s largest barbecue contest!

I asked Davis, after all these years, what keeps him coming back to the grill and the smoker, and if he still looks forward to “grilling season.”

“I like the excitement of knowing other people are out grilling and smoking. More than 60 million people in America alone are grilling and smoking, and it’s spreading all over the world. That’s great. And, that gets me excited,” Davis shared.

Lastly, I asked Davis if he could provide some ideas for an entirely grilled and smoked meal. He gave me way too many to print, but his delicious Smoked Stuffed Chile Poppers recipe is printed here. And, you can find other ideas on-line at Also, if you’d like to snap up a copy of Ardie’s new edition, a bunch of places around town carry it.

Happy barbecuing everyone – whatever that may mean to you!

Local Recipes

Smoked Stuffed Chile Poppers

  • 8 ounces cream cheese or Neufchâtel cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 12 large jalapeño chiles (green, red, or both), cored and seeded
  • 1 empty cardboard egg carton, lid removed, or a metal jalapeño popper rack
  • 12 pecan halves, toasted (see Note)
  • 8 ounces thin-sliced smoked bacon
  • 1/2 cup wood chips, soaked in water and drained, or 1 cup dry wood chips for a gas grill
  • To make the popper filling, combine the cheeses in a medium-size bowl and stir them together with a fork. Put the cheese mixture in a gallon-size zipper-top plastic bag and cut a small hole in one corner of the bag. Squeeze each jalapeño full of the cheese mixture. Place the cheese-filled jalapeños in the egg carton. Push a pecan half into each pepper. Wrap a half strip of bacon around each jalapeño and secure with a toothpick.
  • Fill your charcoal chimney with briquets, set the chimney on the bottom grill grate, and light or prepare a fire in your smoker. For a gas grill, turn half the burners to high.
  • When the coals are ready, dump them into the bottom of your grill, and spread them evenly across half. Scatter the drained wood chips on the hot coals, or put the dry wood chips in a metal container and place closest to a burner on a gas grill. Place the jalapeños on the indirect side of the grill. When the smoke starts to rise, close the lid.
  • Smoke the peppers at 350°F for 1 hour and 15 minutes until the bacon is cooked and the jalapeño have a smoky aroma.
  • Note: I toast my pecans for more flavor before using inserting them into the jalapeño. To toast, melt 1 teaspoon unsalted butter in a small cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add the pecans and cook, stirring, until slightly browned.

Grilled Pineapple and Bananas with Lemonade Glaze

  • 8 bamboo skewers, soaked in water for at least 4 hours
  • 4 unpeeled ripe bananas, ends trimmed and cut into 2-inch chunks
  • 1 fresh pineapple, peeled, cored, and cut into 2-inch chunks
  • 1/2 cup turbinado sugar or 1/3 cup cane syrup
  • Zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
  • Make a lengthwise slice on the skin of each unpeeled banana chunk to allow easy peeling after bananas are grilled. Thread the fruit onto skewers, alternating chunks of banana and pineapple.
  • To make the glaze, put the sugar in a stainless-steel saucepan and cook over medium-high heat until it becomes liquid, about 3 minutes. Stir with a wooden spoon and add the lemon juice and zest. If using cane syrup, simply add the lemon juice with zest and stir, without heating. Set aside.
  • Fill a charcoal chimney with hardwood lump charcoal, set the chimney on the bottom grill grate, and light. When the coals are ready, dump them into the bottom of the grill and spread evenly. For a gas grill, turn to medium-high.
  • Brush the skewered fruits with the glaze. Place the skewers over direct heat. Grill 3 minutes on each side, until fruit is browned. Remove from grill and brush again with the glaze. Serve immediately.

Dirty Dick’s Grilled Baby Back Ribs

  • For Dirty Dick’s barbecue spice
  • 6 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 6 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup paprika
  • 3 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon lemon pepper
  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon dried tarragon, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 slabs baby back ribs, membrane removed, trimmed (about 3 pounds)
  • Apple juice, for spraying
  • 2 cups Dirty Dick’s Barbecue sauce or your favorite barbecue sauce

For Dirty Dick’s barbecue spice

  • In a bowl, mix all of the ingredients together thoroughly and sift through a strainer twice. Transfer to an airtight container. This will keep stored away from heat, light, and moisture for up to 6 months.

For the ribs

  • Rub each side of the ribs with 1 tablespoon of the barbecue spice. Wrap and refrigerate overnight.
  • The next day, before placing the ribs on the grill, reseason them. Place about 50 briquettes on one side of a charcoal grill and light them.
  • Once the coals are ready, throw on 2 handfuls of wood chips. Place the grate over the fire and put the ribs on the side opposite the fire. Close the lid. Open the top and bottom vents on the grill about two-thirds of the way. Place a candy thermometer in the top vent to monitor the temperature. (The ideal temperature for cooking the ribs is 350 degrees.)
  • After 1 hour, open the upper and lower vents to maintain the temperature. Turn the ribs and spray with apple juice. When the ribs are done, they will be flexible and the end of the bone will be exposed ½-inch or so, about 2 hours.
  • Remove the ribs from the grill and coat both sides with barbecue sauce, about ½ cup per side. Then wrap the ribs in aluminum foil and seal tightly. Place in a warm spot for 30 minutes, then unwrap and apply more sauce before serving, if desired.

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