The smell of garlic, paprika and chile powder wafted from the kitchen as the doors swung open and Richard Berardi stepped away from his morning preparations.
Berardi, owner of Tin Roof BBQ and Catering on South Guild Avenue, does not appear like he should specialize in grilling and barbecuing.
A tan, Italian man of average height, Berardi nevertheless has turned marinading, dry rubbing and cooking meat into a science, and his restaurant is now one of the most popular establishments in Lodi.
“I can’t keep up with business,” he said. “Things just went ‘boom’ about a year ago, and we really haven’t stopped since.”
Berardi begins every morning around 6 a.m., opening the restaurant and getting to work quickly on either creating the rubs for his meats or patting them down to stick them on the grill or barbecue — a process that could take all day depending on the cut of meat.
It is the rub, he said, that is the key to success for why his meats taste so good. Having the meat sit for 24 hours in the rub is also important, Berardi added.
“You don’t want to overpower the meat, because the meat has such a great flavor,” he said. “You pick and choose spices that will complement or enhance the flavor.”
Berardi uses eight ingredients to flavor meats like his tri-tip and brisket, including pepper, celery salt, celery seed and his secret ingredient: a tablespoon of thyme.
Berardi also only uses kosher salt or sea salt, a trick he says most barbecuers or grillers do not use often enough. The purity of the salt brings out a better flavor in the meat, he said.
Another tip for tasty meat — distinguishing between grilling and barbecuing.
According to Berardi, grillers use direct heat to cook meat, whereas barbecuers use indirect heat to achieve their meat masterpieces.
Noel Reid, owner of private catering company A Touch of Mesquite on East Lodi Avenue, does his meat a little differently from Berardi.
Unlike Berardi, Reid marinates his meat for only 30 to 45 minutes before he sticks it on the barbecue.
To achieve the flavor he wants for his meat, he punctures tiny holes in after he has trimmed it of its fat so that marinade juices can “sink in and soak.”
To keep the meat from losing its flavor during the cooking process, Reid rolls the meat in vinegar — which type, he said, does not matter — to create a type of seal so that the marinade stays inside the meat.
“It’s like a layer of protection,” he said. “You don’t get that with a rub, where you just put it on the meat and then stick it on the grill. It dries the meat out. With this seal, the meat stays nice and moist.”
Another necessary step that most people do not remember when barbecuing is how to cut meat, Reid said.
Reid said that to best enjoy your barbecue, you cut across the grain of the meat and always slice thinly.
“You aren’t doing yourself a favor by cutting your meat thick,” he said. “You want your meat thin and tender.”
Contact reporter Katie Nelson at firstname.lastname@example.org.