Australian-native-turned-Texas-resident Jess Pryles is a cook, author, TV personality — and full-fledged Hardcore Carnivore
Story by Joe Willey
BBQ is a style of cooking that has no pretense and makes no excuses. If food could walk, BBQ would swagger. It is unapologetically tricky to master but easy to eat. In short: It is perfect.
Few people are as ready to share the secrets, tips and reasons to BBQ as the renowned live-fire cooking expert and Hardcore Carnivore brand-founder Jess Pryles. An Australian native, Pryles had visited Texas so often that she eventually relocated there permanently. She says she made the move because of the people and the food, but BBQ lovers know it was probably the food.
The lure of BBQ is multifaceted. Pryles thinks one of those reasons is that using live fire to cook is primal. The kind of cooking she and other BBQ experts are passionate about is a visceral experience. Your senses are engaged as you see the fire lick the sides of a pan or smell the fragrant smoke wafting around you. But there is another reason that is equally compelling: It extends a great meal and includes other people in the cooking experience. When you BBQ, invite your friends.
Diving deep into the lifestyle of live-fire cooking and the BBQ scene can be a daunting task, as Pryles is quick to acknowledge, but she gives scholarly advice on how to get started. “There is a correlation between the quality of gear and the quality of cooking,” she explains. She encourages experimentation with what you may already have available before investing in a large smoker or pit. Using a charcoal grill reconfigured to use wood is an inexpensive way to begin. One of the reasons pellet grills have become popular is because they are easier to use, and pellets provide consistency.
As an acknowledged meat advocate and expert on BBQ, Pryles is constantly asked questions about how to cook Texas-BBQ-joint-worthy food. Responding to those questions is a role that suits her well, and she answers with knowledge and enthusiasm that flickers like fire. “A lot of cooking is just a matter of logic. If you know the principles, a lot of it’s easy,” she says. Her understanding of those principles has laid the foundation for her success.
According to Pryles, one of the most frequently asked questions is, “What is the number-one mistake in live-fire cooking?” which she says involves not allowing the surface to get hot enough, so she encourages patience. For those who live on the Delmarva Peninsula and always make sure chicken is on the menu, she has special advice to keep it juicy and flavorful. “Always brine chicken. It is a delicate meat, and heat removes moisture.
It’s about principles, remember.”
BBQ is not always easy, but it is worth the time and effort. It is a way to slow down, connect with what you are cooking and be around those who appreciate the results. It is worth the time spent to master cooking in this unique way. But once you do, you will be swaggering, too.