If you are into woodfire cooking, you have heard of Santa Maria-style BBQ and wondered how it came about. Or you have had the opportunity to enjoy Santa Maria-style BBQ at one of the landmark restaurants in Santa Maria, California, and wanted to learn more about its roots for a greater appreciation of it. You may wonder if there is an authentic grill to enjoy this style of BBQ on your own.

The following brief explanation of the evolution of grills made in the Santa Maria BBQ style will help answer these questions and more.

What is the Santa Maria Style BBQ Technique?

The Santa Maria-style BBQ technique involves making a pit fire using red oak wood as fuel. You then season the meat with a dry rub that consists of a blend of garlic, pepper, and salt and then cook it directly over the fire. The result is a distinguished, smoky, savory-flavored meat that the people of Santa Maria and many others from all over love.

Where Did It Originate?

During the mid-1800s, local ranchers in the Santa Maria Valley hired herders to look after their livestock. However, they were stumped on how to feed them. So they devised the idea to dig pits in the ground, allowing them to cook large pieces of meat. The pits were then filled with red oak wood to create the fire, and the meat was placed on skewers to keep it from directly touching the flames.

The traditional choice of meat back then was the shoulder part of the cow. However, today, the tri-tip part of the cow, which is the triangular cut of beef from the bottom sirloin, is also synonymous with Santa Maria-style BBQ, thanks to a local butcher in the 1930s. Meanwhile, the traditional sides included pinquito beans, side salad, and bread.

The locals still carry on the tradition of this style of grilling to this day, which is evident by the many barbeque restaurants and social gathering places that serve as their historical must-visit sites. However, today, the Santa Maria-style BBQ sides of choice include pinquito beans, a green salad, salsa, and French bread dipped in butter.

They have also since changed the grill style to include an adjustable grate, which makes it easier to transport and use with different pits.

The Santa Maria Style Grill Today

Today, companies like JD Fabrications help make it easy for anyone to engage in Santa Maria-style barbequing. They have used their local experience to create a Santa Maria style grill that people can use at home.

These grills come in various portable sizes from 36″ to 72″. They also have single-crank or dual-crank style grills, or you could even choose a BBQ grill trailer.

Santa Maria BBQ-style grills are also made to insert easily into your countertop island. Depending on whether your opening has block or hollow walls, you can choose between a firebox or drop-in frame. They are also comprised of steel with steel grates for added durability.

Restaurants and commercial establishments anywhere can also get in on the Santa Maria-style BBQ craze with an authentic grill designed especially for large crowds and social gatherings.

Some companies also sell add-ons and accessories to help further enhance the experience, including rotisserie, log lighter, and charcoal grate options. This way, the grill is versatile enough to cook any meats you’d like and make the experience all your own. You can even use it to grill vegetables.

You are also not limited to just using red oak wood for fuel. Instead, you can use any wood to create your own smoky, distinct flavour.

The area’s locals have beloved Santa Maria-style grilling since the 1800s. But the evolution of the authentic grill helps take the intimidation out of being able to utilize the technique yourself. It also eliminates the need to travel to enjoy Santa Maria-style BBQ. This way, you can appreciate it wherever you are and with your family and friends to create your own firepit grilling traditions rooted in the heritage.

Author-Paul Sebastian