The Queen of BBQ: Elizabeth Karmel

As Executive Chef of Hill Country Barbecue Market in NYC and Washington, DC, and NYC’s Hill Country Chicken, Elizabeth Karmel knows her way around a grill. In fact, it was her near ten-year career at Weber-Stephen Products (makers of the classic backyard grill) that inspired her to take matters (and tongs) into her own hands by stepping in front of the grill and creating the popular Girls at the Grill as a way to motivate women everywhere to take their rightful place in the typically “male” domain of the barbecue pit.


Since following her passion and launching the Girls at the Grill empire in 2001, Karmel has found rapid success and is a sought-after media personality. She is a frequent contributor for a number of leading lifestyle magazines including Cooking Light, Bon Appetit, Saveur and Everyday with Rachael Ray. We caught up with the Pit Mistress in advance of the Austin FOOD & WINE Festival later this month for a preview of her demo, “If You Can Eat It, You Can Smoke It.”


You’re a pioneer when it comes to making grilling a more female-friendly activity. What’s been your favorite part about starting Empowering women to get out and cook! The kitchen intimidates so many non-cooks — if I can convince them to go outside and grill, and they have a good experience, they go from total non-cooks to dinner-party throwing entertainers in about three cook-outs. (And by the way, it’s almost impossible to have a bad grill experience!)   What’s your teaching style like… or what is the one piece of knowledge you hope people walk away with from your demo? I’m all about the tips! I want people to have a good time but mostly I want to give them usable take aways that they can employ at home.   What would you say is the most common misconception when it comes to grilling or smoking? People don’t know the difference between grilling and barbecue, or the difference between direct and indirect heat and when to use it. Most Americans think anything with sweet red barbecue sauce on it is “barbecue.” Texans, however, are not included in this group — they know their barbecue!   Do you have a favorite wine you enjoy when you’re fire/ pit-side? I am an equal opportunity drinker ☺ I love my tequila and bourbon as much as my wine but my go-to grilling wine is rosé champagne. It’s impossible to be in a bad mood if you are wearing red cowboy boots and sipping on pink bubbles! And sparking wine is a great pairing with grilled and smoked foods.   In 5 words or less, what’s your grilling mantra? How about 9? If you can eat it, you can grill it!”


Elizabeth’s Festival demo, “If You Eat It, You Can Smoke It” will be on Saturday, April 28 at 2:00PM. You can also catch her competing for the Taco Master title on Saturday night as part of the Rock Your Taco Celebrity Chef Showdown.