By Larry Levine

The City of Santa Maria on the central coast of California is well known for Santa Maria Barbecue. There are many restaurants and barbecue stands throughout the downtown area. The basic Santa Maria Barbecue is tri-tip beef. But there also are chicken and rib. Essential sides are pinquito beans and salsa. Red oak coals are the preferred method. But other coals and even gas are acceptable. The first time I tasted Santa Maria barbecue was a a political fundraiser in 1970. I vowed to track down the recipes. Here they are:


1 tri-tip roast (about 2 lbs.)
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
½ teaspoon garlic powder

Trim the sliver skin and any thick fat from the beef. Combine the salt, pepper and garlic powder and rub the mixture all over the beef. Let it sit at least 30 minutes. It can sit overnight if it’s covered and chilled. Bring the grill or charcoal to high heat. Sear the beef for 2 to 3 minutes on each side. Move the roast to a cooler part of the grill and cook about 20 to 30 minutes of for medium rare. Place the beef on a platter and cover with foil. Let it sit at 10 to 15 minutes so juices can set. Slice on an angle across the grain. Serves 4 to 6 people with sides.


6 chicken halves (or equivalent parts)
Garlic salt
1 or 2 12-ounce cans of beer

Sprinkle chicken with garlic salt and pepper to taste. Grill over medium-hot coals until browned on both sides, about 30 to 40 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the beer in a pot large enough to hold the chicken. Drop the chicken into the pot with the simmering beer. Cover and steam 15 to 20, until chicken is very tender. Makes 6 to 12 servings.


Use 6 to 8 pounds of beef ribs instead of the chicken in the recipe for Santa Maria Barbecued chicken. Grill for 45 to 60 minutes. Then steam in beer 15 – 20 minutes. I’ve done a different version of this with pork ribs. I cut them into sections of 3 or 4 ribs each. Boil them in water about 20 minutes to cook off some of the fat. Then I sprinkle them with the garlic salt and pepper, grill them and then steam them in beer.


1 pound small pinquito beans
1 slice bacon, diced
½ cup diced ham
1 clove garlic, minced
¾ cup tomato puree
¼ cup red chili sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon salt

Cover the beans with water to about 2 inches above the beans. Soak overnight. Drain. Cover with fresh water and simmer 2 hours, or until tender. Sautee bacon and ham until lightly browned. Add garlic and sauté 1 or 2 minutes longer. Add tomato puree, chili sauce, sugar, mustard and salt. Drain most of the liquid from the beans and stir in the sauce. Keep hot over low heat until ready to serve. Makes 12 servings.


3 medium tomatoes, chopped
½ cup finely chopped celery
½ cup finely chopped green onions
½ cup chopped California green chilies
2 tablespoons snipped cilantro
1 tablespoon white vinegar
Dash of garlic salt
Dash of Worcestershire sauce
Dash dried oregano, crushed
Few drips of hot pepper sauce

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl. Stir together well. Cover and let stand 1 hour to let flavors blend. Makes 3 ½ cups.

Share this: