Sterling “Big Poppa” Ball brings together the worlds of barbecue and music. As the founder of Big Poppa Smokers® and the President of Ernie Ball®, the legendary guitar strings company, Sterling finds time for both his passions while dominating the barbecue competition circuit.
He has won a combined 77 Grand and Reserve Grand Championship titles and the American Royal. In addition to those awards, Big Poppa Smokers has been named the KCBS National Pork Champion (2015), Tri-State Champion (2016), CA Team of the Year (2016, 2017, 2018), has been inducted into the California BBQ Hall of Fame, and has consistently ranked in the top 20 in KCBS since 2012.
Big Poppa’s Tips
Flavor without the heat
If you want the flavor of fresh jalapeños without the spicy heat, remove the seeds and white internal membrane when slicing. That’ll dial back the heat without losing any of the pepper’s distinctive flavor.
The bend test
Baby back ribs are done when they have a good “bend” or smile to them when you pick them up. At this point, they should not be falling off the bone. If you want your ribs even more tender, continue cooking until you can’t hold both ends of the rack without breaking in the center.
Most people cook too hot on cast iron. While that’s great for some purposes, it can quickly lead to over caramelizing on the outside of a nice, juicy steak. If you have an infrared thermometer, use it to monitor the heat of the pan and make sure it doesn’t go over 325°F. If not, try using the hand test; if you can hold an open palm three inches above your pan for 6 to 7 seconds without pulling away, you’re likely at the right temperature.