Team PokerStars Pros Hit the Grill to Prep for BBQ Season

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Summer is here and in most parts of the world that means more than just warm weather and sunshine. Even poker players, who spend most of their time indoors playing poker, will spend a lot more time outside.

That's because it's officially grilling season. Family and friends are cooking out this weekend and every weekend for the foreseeable future. In fact, it's time for a PokerStars Blog BBQ and everyone is invited.

Some might think PokerStars and BBQ don't go hand in hand, but that's because they haven't been paying attention. Original Team PokerStars Pro member and 2003 World Series of Poker Main Event Champ Chris Moneymaker is from Tennessee, where BBQ is a way of life.

Moneymaker may live in Nashville, but he's spent his fair share of time in Memphis, a city so famous for its particular style of barbecue it has been recognized as one of the four predominant regional styles of barbecue in the United States. The other three include Carolina, Kansas City and Texas.

"Memphis is one of the four BBQ capitals of the world essentially," Moneymaker said. "It has its own flavor that's not sweet like Carolina BBQ."

And as far as Nashville is concerned, Moneymaker said it's no contest.

"Nashville has no BBQ," Moneymaker said. "They just copy Memphis."

Copying Memphis-style barbecue means mostly barbecuing pork ribs and shoulders. The meat is often slow cooked or smoked in a pit. Ribs are usually dry rubbed with a whole host of various spices or brushed with sauce through every stage of the cooking process - often both.


BBQ Ribs.jpgSlow cooked pork ribs are always a BBQ showstopper


Hitting the grill Moneymaker-style

At home, Moneymaker uses a smoker and then the grill. He often uses Charlie Vergos Rendezvous Famous Barbecue Sauce from the popular Memphis BBQ joint or Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ sauce for his own take on Memphis-style ribs. However, there's a special cooking process that takes these ribs over the top.

"We peel the back off the ribs, season the ribs with BBQ powder and put them in the fridge overnight," he said. "Then we pull out them out and place them in a smoker for seven hours or so. When the meat is tender and basically falling off the bone, we apply the BBQ sauce and move them over to the grill. We char the BBQ sauce onto the ribs, pull them off and enjoy."

Moneymaker says charcoal grills or the new grills and smokers that use wood chips can really help take your BBQ to the next level. Plus, there are a few more special ingredients he always recommends.

"Lots of alcohol," he said. "Top it off with a pool and music on a sunny day and you are set."


Moneymaker_bbq_24May17.jpgChris Moneymakers knows his way around the poker table, and a grill too


Brazil joins the party

People across the United States prove every Memorial Day and Fourth of July weekend that they know their way around a grill. But it's not the only country that does BBQ right, and Moneymaker is not the only Team PokerStars Pro you'd want cooking for you outside on a sunny summer day.

If you've ever been to a Brazilian Churrasco steakhouse, or spent any time in Brazil, you're well aware it's one South American country that prides itself on great BBQ.

Brazilians throw big barbecues for just about every occasion - even when there isn't one. All friends and family are always invited and it's a tradition that most contribute to the feast.

It was at the many Ramos family barbecues Team PokerStars Pro Felipe 'Mojave' Ramos experienced growing up that his father taught him everything he knows about the art of Brazilian Churrasco.


Felipe Ramos_bbq_24May17.jpgFelipe Ramos was taught how to man the 'Q by his father when he was growing up in Brazil

"Our setup is pretty simple," Ramos explained. "Most of the time we use either bricks or barrels to cook the meat. On bricks, we cook everything pretty fast with mineral charcoal. We also use eucalyptus. In the barrels, the process is slow, as we leave a whole piece of meat overnight for the perfect cook."

Ramos said the cooking process differs according to the piece of meat.

"For instance, our Brazilian Picanha is cooked on the bricks, while our ribs are cooked in the barrel," he said. "They are the kings of our Brazilian Churrasco."


How to cook picanha beef

Picanha is a cut of beef that is very popular in Brazil. In other parts of the world it's referred to as sirloin cap. Ramos says it's an easy cut to grill if you follow a few simple steps.

"Select a juicy piece, no larger than two to three pounds and cut it the right way, diagonally and in thin slices with the fat always on top. This means you are always cutting perpendicular to the fibers," he explained. "Add some thick salt on both sides and put it on the grill. It's really as simple as that, but don't let it overcook. The best Picanha is served rare to medium."

Ramos also says the best Brazilian Churrasco starts with sausages. Toscana and Spicy types are his favourite.


Churrasco.jpgA Brazilian Churrasco in action (Image courtesy of Benjamin Thompson/Flickr)

"This is not only because we love them, but because they also help the fire get going on the homemade grill," he said. "We don't use [lighter] fluid, so the sausage fat drips to get the fire on point!"

Not surprisingly, Ramos also recommends some special ingredients very similar to Moneymaker's.

"That, along with some beers, and we are off," he said. "You really don't need much. Of course, we also make a delicious Caipirinha Drink, which is a mix of Cachaça, lemon and sugar. And of course, in every Churrasco, we have music.

"Most of the time, live music with Pagode, our traditional Samba music from the people, which is played with simple percussion instruments, guitar and Cavaquinho, a Brazilian instrument close to a Ukelele, but louder because of the steel strings. Everyone sings and dances, of course."