Santa Maria barbeque originated in southern California in the late nineteenth century. The Chumash people cooked over oak and sycamore logs, giving their meats a rich and hearty flavour. Weather conditions and high winds in the region forced the cooks to dig pits where they could cook their barbecue.
The protein would go onto a stake directly over the fire, ventilated by the wind passing over the hole. Eventually, above-ground grills came out in the early twentieth century. The racks could rise or lower, depending on the weather conditions, becoming Santa Maria-style grilles. You can make the perfect chicken, sausage, or tri-tips for your next barbecue using this cooking method with the tips below.
1. Choose the Best Wood
You must use the best wood for your meats when cooking on a Santa Maria grill. Remember, traditionally, Chumash people used oak or sycamore. Build your fire first, adding embers of the wood you choose. The meat will cook quickly on the fire made under the wracks. You will not get the same smoky flavour from Hickory, but the new taste will excite you. The hot temperatures will finish your barbecue in no time.
2. Use Reverse Sear Techniques
When you cook Santa Maria-style, you want to use reverse sear techniques. Season your meat to create the additional flavours you need. The goal of reverse searing is to keep the inside as juicy and moist as possible. Keep your racks high when cooking to avoid a dry steak or piece of chicken. You want to go low and slow as much as possible. After the exterior looks finished, cook the barbecue closer to the fire. Let the meat rest when finishing to absorb the juices lost in the pan. You will get the perfect taste every time!
3. Flip Your Meats as Much as Possible
You may typically leave your barbecue meats alone when grilling. Santa Maria-style cooking requires you to flip your protein as often as possible. Do not let the fire flare up and char your steak or tri-tips. You will know when the chicken needs to flip, as the skin will darken. As mentioned, you want to keep your racks high at first to slow down the cooking methods. If a piece of meat gets too dark, flip it and repeat the process.
4. Keep the Grill Clean
Make sure you clean your grill before your next cooking session. You do not want any of the leftover flavours to ruin your barbecue taste. Use a piece of fat to wipe down the racks or the flat top. This method allows the cooking surface to absorb the flavour of the meat, further enhancing your meal. It will soak up the oils and residue left behind, providing a clean area for your cooking needs. Make sure to wipe down the grill after use to make the cleaning steps easier the next time.
5. Choose the Best Spices
You will never achieve the Santa Maria flavour profile if you do not use the right spices on your meats. Combine salt, black pepper, and garlic salt to achieve a rich and delicious flavour. Some companies make a pre-made spice rub you can rub on your protein. Refrigerate the meat until you are ready to cook to allow the mixture to set. Add as much or as little spices as you want to achieve the perfect flavour your family will enjoy.
Start Using the Santa Maria Grill Technique
Santa Maria grilling is one of the most delicious and unique ways to make barbecue. This method originated in the nineteenth century in California. The locals cooked their proteins over a fire in a pit, allowing the wind to keep the barbecue rich and juicy. You can achieve the same results today by incorporating the same wood chips in your grill.
Remember to use oak and the best spice blends to achieve the taste your family will love. Flip the meats consistently to ensure they do not become too dry in the cooking process. You will know it is time to move to the other side when liquids flow out of the protein. Remember, Santa Maria-style meat is the best medium to medium rare.