Barbecue Fest: Big Bob Gibson's Chris Lilly and Kingsford




Chris Lilly of Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q in Decatur, Alabama, is competing at Barbecue Fest. He's also working the rounds as the official pitmaster of Kingsford Charcoal.

Chris is a renowned barbecuer — a cookbook author, two-time Barbecue Fest Grand Champion, a contestant on Food Network's Best in Smoke.

So I ask him about selling out to Kingsford. He politely laughs at my very rude joke and notes he'd been using Kingsford since he started barbecuing, years before the company approached him.

Before Chris arrived for our interview, I spoke with Drew McGowan of Kingsford, who tells me that the company dates back to the 1920s and Henry Ford. The first charcoal was made from wood scraps from Model Ts.

Drew points to the trophies in Big Bob's tent to emphasize why the company works with Chris.


"I like the company," Chris says. "They're proactive. They send me samples to test, and they look for input from backyard barbecuers."

Chris says he has his own style of cooking. He doesn't believe in basting continuously ("I put the meat on the cooker, shut the door, and forget about it") and he doesn't let the sauce do all the work, preferring to let the flavor of the meat stand out.


He thinks that using all wood for cooking isn't the way to go. The end product, he says, "is overly smoked." Instead, he suggests using the charcoal for heat and then adding wood for flavoring.

"This will prevent a lot of mistakes," he says.

Another suggestion: Create two zones in the cooker, with smaller cuts of meat over the briquets and the larger cuts (ribs, brisket) receiving indirect heat and thereby staying moist.

While sharing tips, Chris stops to make a point.

"It's not all about barbecue," he says. "It's about how much fun you're having and who you're hanging out with."

Keep the Flyer Free!

Always independent, always free (never a paywall),
the Memphis Flyer is your source for the best in local news and information.

Now we want to expand and enhance our work.
That's why we're asking you to join us as a Frequent Flyer member.

You'll get membership perks (find out more about those here) and help us continue to deliver the independent journalism you've come to expect.

Add a comment