Elite Spotlight: Jesse Stanley (@pitmasterpastor)
Praise be, it’s time to go to (meat) church. After over a decade of serving his community as a youth pastor, Jesse Stanley began serving up BBQ tips and tricks in 2020 under the moniker @pitmasterpastor.
Driven by a desire to show amateur chefs everywhere that they can make truly great BBQ in their own backyards, Jesse likes to bust common BBQ myths with back-to-basics tutorials and friendly advice for beginners. He sat down with Dalstrong recently to talk about his favorite kitchen tools, what makes a great chef, and why everyone seems to mess up their brisket.
@Pitmasterpastor: Interesting handle, what does it mean?
I don’t actually pastor anywhere currently, but a good portion of my adult life I was a pastor, twelve years. I cooked BBQ at the church, one of my people called me that and I loved it. Not in a physical church now, just spreading the good news of BBQ. I’ve done some catering.
What’s your favorite new recipe discovery?
When it comes to BBQ, right now I’m having a lot of fun with burnt ends. Traditional burnt ends are brisket, but it’s expensive and difficult. So I’m using other things, pork roast, belly, rib eye burnt ends, showing you can make a juicy bite of BBQ with other things. Versatile, having fun with that.
Best kitchen hack?
I always say this: cook for temp, not time. A lot of people get hung up on the time, it’s all about getting to the temp. Whether you’re at 350 or 200 as long as you get it to the temp you need, it’ll work out. Don’t worry about the timing or temp of the cook chamber, worry about the temp of the meat.
When you’re not grilling, where are you?
I live in Minnesota, so I’m an ice fisherman. There’s like three feet of ice on our lakes right now, you can drive a truck on six inches. It’s a blast. Everyone has the 30K ice houses which look like cabins.
Fishing and watching football, it’s so fun. I have three kids, they’re kind of my hobby. And my wife, spending time with them. I’m pretty simple when I’m not BBQing, I read a lot of books. Follow leadership, everything rises and falls with leadership, always looking to grow in that way.
Do you cook what you catch?
Yep, I take a grill out on the ice, cook what I catch. It’s crappies and walleye, northern pike, perch.
What ingredient or spice do you secretly hate?
Onion anything. Actual onions, onion powder, onion salt. Most pitmasters use onions to create flavor, but I can’t stand it.
What is the kitchen tool(s) you can’t live without?
My cooker, a Smoker Builder DraftMaster Drum. I cook on it constantly. ThermoWorks Thermapen Mk4 thermometer, can’t live without that. A good charcoal, B&B lump charcoal, how long it lasts. And my Dalsrong knives, my Shogun Cleaver I use more than anything. I need the Shogun Chef Knife. I got a few other chef knives, but that’s the one you use the most. It’s on my list to get.
Who is your cooking hero?
When it comes to BBQ, the first person I go to is my dad. He showed me how to BBQ, he’s cooked on everything I’ve cooked on and more. He’s the guy who works every day and cooks every night, he’s my main inspiration.
And also Matt Groark (@groarkboysbbq), he’s a good friend and inspires me to cook. Family-centered and family-driven, I can really relate to him and he’s always there if I have a question or need support.
If you could cook a meal for one person, who would it be?
Gordon Ramsay! You’re either going to be called a donut and this is the worst f-ing meal I’ve ever had or it’s ok. He just carries himself in a way that’s … you’re going to learn something from that guy just because of where he’s been and who he’s been influenced by.
What is the one dish that everyone seems to screw up?
I think that it’s brisket, here’s why: it takes a long time to get to where it needs to be temp-wise, but then it stops going up so they take it out, but it needs to keep cooking. I’ve had so many people say I stopped at 180 so I took it off and it was tough as leather. It had 20 more degrees to go.
What is the mark of a great chef?
I think that it's the willingness to try new things and get better. It doesn’t mean you’re cooking a different dish all the time. You understand that even if your dish is great, it can get better.
Do you have any advice for chefs just starting out or home cooks who want to up their game?
I would say start on YouTube, go and search for what you want to cook, and watch a bunch of videos. Don’t be afraid to fail several times. Research what you want and who you want to follow. There’s so much stuff on there, reach out to someone who inspires you. Build a relationship.
What would your last meal be?
Super simple. Steak and mashed potatoes, some kind of vegetable on the side. Maybe broccoli. I love that combo. It’s a comfort meal, it hits the spot. And a shot of bourbon.
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Written by Abby SlateBorn and raised in the South, Abby lives by three things: bacon goes in everything, all food can (and should) be deep fried, and hush puppies are religion.