Chow Town

June 23, 2013

Barbecue legend teaches art of layering flavors

Layer flavors before, during, and after slow smoking.

Chow Town

The daily dish on Kansas City's food and drink scene

Once, I was an Ohio girl who baked or boiled spare ribs.

That’s shocking, I know.

When I moved to Kansas City, I knew I needed help — and lots of it — with the art of slow smoking.

In the 1990s, I was fortunate to apprentice on the ‘Que Queens team captained by the legendary Karen Putman, a.k.a. “Flower of the Flames,” who had already won the “Oscars” of the barbecue contest world at The American Royal, the Jack Daniels, and two international contests in Lisdoonvarna, Ireland.

Karen passed away on October 14, 2011, but her barbecue legacy lives on through all the people, like me, who learned from her.

One of her not-so-secret secrets? Layer flavors before, during, and after slow smoking.

Here’s a great example of Karen’s layering method: Marinate with Chipotle Marinade, smoke over cherry wood and finish with a Cherry Chipotle BBQ Sauce. Delicious.

Cherry Chipotle Chicken Wings and Thighs

The fabulous flavors of the marinade and sauce take well to chicken on the bone as well as steak and brisket.

Chipotle Marinade Makes about 1 1/2 cups

2 cloves garlic

2 canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (save the rest of the can for other uses)

1/4 cup sherry or white wine vinegar

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

2/3 cup olive oil

Cherry Chipotle BBQ Sauce

2 cups ketchup

1 cup sour cherry preserves

1/2 cup sour cherry juice (bottled)

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

3 tablespoons cider vinegar

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 teaspoon onion powder

2 tablespoons bottled chipotle sauce or 1 teaspoon ground chipotle

Cherry Chipotle Chicken Wings and Thighs

5 pounds chicken wings or thighs or a combination of both, rinsed and patted dry

Chipotle Marinade

Cherry Chipotle BBQ Sauce

To make the marinade:

Process the garlic, chipotle peppers, sherry vinegar, balsamic vinegar, and salt until smooth in a food processor. With the motor running, add the olive oil in a steady stream until all the oil is incorporated.

To make the sauce:

Whisk all ingredients together in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes to let the flavors blend. Remove from the heat. Set aside.

For the chicken:

Place in a large sealable plastic bag (or bags) and pour in the marinade. Seal and let marinate in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.

Prepare a fire in your smoker, using cherry wood.

Remove the wings from the marinade. Do not pat dry. Discard the remaining marinade. Arrange the wings in a single layer in a disposable aluminum pan.

When the smoker has reached 225 degrees and you can see a wisp of smoke, place the pan of chicken on the smoker. Close the lid and smoke for 1 hour. Brush the chicken with barbecue sauce and close the lid. Smoke for 1 hour or until the juices run clean when the chicken is pierced. Serve with the remaining barbecue sauce.


Adapted from Championship BBQ Secrets for Real Smoked Food (Second Edition) by Karen Putman and Judith Fertig.

Award-winning cookbook author Judith Fertig lives, cooks, bakes, grills and writes in Overland Park, Kan. She is the author of “Heartland: The Cookbook” and “I Love Cinnamon Rolls,” and the co-author of “The Gardener and the Grill” and the IACP award winning “The Back in the Swing Cookbook.”

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