COOK OF THE WEEK: Booneville man a master of the grill, smoker

·11 min read

Jul. 28—BOONEVILLE — Steve Huddleston has perfected his grilling and smoking techniques to the point where he could cook meat in his sleep if he had to. But that hasn't always been his story.

"My first experience with grilling was with my dad when I was probably 12 or 13," he said. "Steaks were kind of his thing."

In college, he had a tiny grill where he'd make things like hamburgers, but what he really wanted to learn to cook was ribs.

"I was awful at it," said Huddleston, 43. "Then I became obsessed. I read everything I could find on the internet and watched shows about cooking ribs. That kind of sparked my passion for cooking. I got a little gas smoker and went from there."

Today, Huddleston, a claims specialist with State Farm, has five grills: two gas grills, two kettle grills and one smoker.

"My oldest grill was my dad's, and I'm pretty sure he bought it in 1994," he said. "Webers are just good grills. If I could only have one grill, it would be a Weber kettle."

Huddleston handles the majority of the cooking for his family, which includes his wife, Elizabeth, and their 6-year-old daughter, Kate. He figures he probably grills three nights a week. He might make burgers or chicken or pork tenderloin during the week, but ribs are reserved for the weekend.

"You've got to have some time to do ribs," he said. "To do them right, you've got to have at least seven hours."

He also prepares meals in the kitchen, like shrimp scampi, and spaghetti and meat sauce is his daughter's favorite.

"When my wife and I lived in Birmingham, our favorite restaurant was Joe's Italian," he said. "They made the best spaghetti I'd ever had. I got a recipe from the Pioneer Woman and tweaked it. I got fairly close to Joe's. I won't say it's better, but it's close."

If he's looking for a recipe or something new to try, Huddleston is going to rely on the Pioneer Woman or Bobby Flay.

"I watch the Food Network all the time," he said. "I prefer shows where they show you how to do things, like the Pioneer Woman, Ina Garten and Bobby Flay. I do watch the competition shows, but you don't really learn anything from that."

Huddleston was raised in Thrasher, the youngest of four children born to Ellis and Linda Huddleston. Both of his parents liked to cook.

"My mom cooked all the time, but we were picky eaters," he said. "It seems like she had to cook four different meals most nights. I'm not as picky as I used to be, but some of my family still is. I actually think it helps to be a good cook if you're a little picky."



1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef

2 whole eggs

3/4 cup Italian bread crumbs

3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving

3 tablespoons minced garlic

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Splash of milk

1/2 cup olive oil


1 onion, diced

1/2 cup red wine (optional)

2 (28-ounce) cans whole San Marzano or fire-roasted tomatoes

3 tablespoons minced garlic

1 (24-ounce) jar Prego Italian sauce flavored with meat

3 to 4 Calabrian chili peppers, from a jar

Italian seasoning

1 teaspoon sugar

5 basil leaves

2 pounds spaghetti

Olive oil

For the meatballs, combine beef, eggs, bread crumbs, 3/4 cup Parmesan, garlic, salt, pepper and milk. Form into balls and place on a sheet pan. Place pan in the freezer for 5 to 10 minutes to firm up.

In a large skillet or Dutch oven, heat oil on medium-high heat; add meatballs and brown all sides. Remove meatballs and set aside.

In the same pot add onions and cook until translucent. If using wine, add it to the pot to deglaze, scraping the bottom with a wooden spoon. If not using wine, add the tomatoes and deglaze. Add garlic, sauce, peppers, Italian seasoning and sugar. Add basil and set to simmer. Return meatballs to sauce. Cook at least 1 hour, but longer is better.

While sauce is cooking, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add spaghetti and cook just until tender. Remove noodles and drain. Place in a bowl and drizzle with olive oil and mix. Serve pasta with sauce and meatballs. Sprinkle with additional grated Parmesan.



1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef

1/3 cup Italian bread crumbs

Splash of milk

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1 tablespoon butter

1 medium onion, sliced


2 cups beef broth

1 tablespoon Italian seasoning

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 tablespoons cornstarch

2 tablespoons water

Parsley, for garnish

Combine ground beef, bread crumbs, milk, garlic, Worcestershire, salt, pepper and paprika. Mix well and form into 4 patties.

Set instant pot to saute. When hot, add the butter and brown the beef patties, 3 to 4 minutes on each side. Remove to a plate. Cook sliced onions in pot until translucent.

Combine beef broth, Italian seasoning and salt. Add to the bottom of the pot to deglaze, scraping up brown bits with a wooden spoon. Return steaks to the pot and set pressure for 15 minutes. Allow to naturally release for another 15 minutes.

Remove steaks from pot, and combine cornstarch and water. Add to the gravy to thicken it and set to saute, stirring with a wooden spoon. Return steaks to pot and cover with gravy. Serve over white rice or mashed potatoes and garnish with parsley.


1 rack of baby back or spare ribs

Weber dry rub

Yellow mustard


Onion powder

Mustard powder

1 cup apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes

1 tablespoon brown sugar

Remove membrane from ribs using paper towels and a butter knife. Generously apply Weber dry rub to all sides of ribs, then rub with yellow mustard. Sprinkle generously with cumin, onion powder and mustard powder and rub the spices in.

Combine vinegar, salt, pepper, pepper flakes and brown sugar for a mop sauce. Cover and refrigerate mop sauce and ribs overnight.

When ready to cook, set up smoker or grill to a temperature between 225 and 250 degrees. Add 3 to 4 pecan, apple, hickory or cherry wood chunks to the grill. Remove ribs from the refrigerator and place directly on smoker or grill.

Cook for 3 hours without opening smoker. Mop ribs with the sauce. Place ribs in aluminum foil and mop again. Return ribs to smoker and cook 1 hour for baby backs or 2 hours for spare ribs before unwrapping. Cook until your ribs will bend over when picked up from one end, typically another hour. Once they're almost done, apply more Weber dry rub mixed with cumin, onion powder and mustard powder to the top of the ribs and allow to caramelize before removing from smoker.


Chicken wings, separated into drummettes and flappers

Canola oil

Weber dry rub


Onion powder

Mustard powder

Dry wings with paper towels. Toss with canola oil. Sprinkle with Weber dry rub, then cumin, onion powder and mustard powder. Set up smoker or grill to 300 to 350 degrees. Cook wings over indirect heat for 30 minutes. Apply more rub to wings, flip over, and apply rub to the bottom of the wings. Heat smoker or grill to 400 to 450 degrees and cook 15 minutes more. Let rest for 10 to 15 minutes before serving.


1 (2-count) package pork tenderloins

Canola oil

Kosher salt


Granulated garlic

Crushed red pepper flakes (optional)

Hawaiian rolls

Spicy brown mustard

Pat tenderloins dry with paper towels. Remove as much silver skin as possible. Coat tenderloins with oil, then season generously with salt, pepper, garlic and crushed red pepper.

Set up grill for two-zone cooking on high, where direct heat is on one side and indirect is on the other. Sear tenderloins on all sides to get a good char (2 to 3 minutes per side). Move them to indirect heat for the remainder of the cooking time, typically 20 minutes of total cook time. Remove tenderloins when an internal temperature reaches 145 degrees for a slightly pink middle or 155 for a less pink middle. Don't let the temperature rise above 160 degrees or meat won't be tender.

Cut into 1/2-inch or 3/4-inch slices and serve on Hawaiian rolls with spicy brown mustard.


Beef fillets

Kosher salt


Canola oil

3 tablespoons butter

2 to 3 garlic cloves

2 to 3 sprigs rosemary

1 bunch asparagus, trimmed

Garlic powder

Grated Parmesan cheese

Pat fillets dry with paper towels. Season generously with salt and pepper. Roll fillets in excess salt and pepper in the plate to season the sides.

Preheat cast iron pan over high heat. Once pan is scorching hot, add 2 to 3 tablespoons canola oil and immediately add fillets. Sear the first side for 4 minutes, then flip. Add butter, garlic cloves and rosemary to the pan and constantly baste the fillets with the pan sauce for another 4 minutes. Sear the sides of the fillets for a couple of minutes per side and continue to baste. Remove from pan when the internal temperature reaches 135 degrees for a mostly pink center.

Place asparagus in a bowl and drizzle with canola oil. Season with salt and pepper, garlic powder and cheese. Preheat oven or grill to 400 to 450 degrees. Cook asparagus until just tender, about 5 to 10 minutes, depending on thickness. Serve asparagus with the beef fillets and mashed potatoes.


8 ounces thin spaghetti

Olive oil

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter

Minced garlic

1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined (leave the tails intact)

Kosher salt


Juice of 1/2 lemon

Chopped fresh parsley or basil, for garnish

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and a little olive and cook until tender. When noodles are done, drain, but reserve some of the pasta water for later.

While the noodles are cooking, melt butter in a large skillet; add 3 to 4 tablespoons oil and garlic and start heating it up on low heat. Once the garlic sauce is fragrant, start adding the shrimp to the pan, and season with salt and pepper. Cook until just pink on each side, 1 to 2 minutes. Add cooked spaghetti to the shrimp and garlic sauce, stirring to coat the noodles. Add the lemon juice and continue to stir. If mixture seems thick, add some reserved pasta water to loosen it. Garnish with chopped parsley or basil.


1 whole turkey

Kosher salt

Canola oil

Weber dry rub


Garlic powder

Mustard powder

Cut turkey into breast, thighs, leg and wings. Pat turkey pieces dry with paper towels. Season all sides with salt. Place a wire rack inside a rimmed cookie sheet and place turkey pieces on rack. Refrigerate overnight or up to 2 days.

When ready to cook, set up smoker for high indirect heat, 375 to 400 degrees, using 3 to 4 chunks of apple or cherry wood.

Rub turkey with oil and season with Weber dry rub, then cumin, garlic powder and mustard powder. Place on smoker and cook for 1 hour. Check the internal temperature of the breast and remove when it has reached 160 degrees (usually about 1 1/2 hours, depending on size). Pull the dark meat off when it reaches 175 to 180 degrees. Let rest 30 minutes before slicing.


2 sticks unsalted butter

1 1/4 cups brown sugar

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons cornstarch

1 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 3/4 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Melt butter, then let cool at least 10 minutes. Combine melted butter and sugars in a large bowl. Add egg and egg yolk and stir well. Stir in vanilla.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cornstarch, baking soda and salt. Gradually add flour mixture to wet ingredients. Stir in chocolate chips. Place dough in the refrigerator to chill for 30 minutes.

Drop dough by tablespoons onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake at 350 degrees for about 11 minutes or until cookies are just soft in the middle.

DO YOU KNOW A GOOD COOK? Send your nominations to Ginna Parsons, Cook of the Week, P.O. Box 909, Tupelo, MS 38802. Or you can call (662) 678-1581 or email them to

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