trucker barbecue

Part of our ‘Big Rigs and Barbecue’ Series

John Fitzpatrick is a country boy, even now, at 58.

The oldest of five kids, Fitzpatrick learned to barbecue from his father, his scout leader in Boy Scouts.

From his dad, Fitzpatrick learned how to cook over an open flame, clean fish and build snow caves in the frigid Canadian winter.

“We always barbecued growing up. When my parents started camping, that’s when I got really into grilling,” he says.

John chicken wings 2Fitzpatrick, a company driver for Canadian American Transport, is a long-haul trucker who spends up to four weeks at a time on the road. But he still grills out every chance he gets.

Among friends, Fitzpatrick is called “The Barbecue King,” with good reason.

The die-hard griller has two grills and three smokers at home in Kingston, Ontario.

“I do love my grilling,” he says. On the truck, Fitzpatrick grills out on an 18-inch gas grill he travels with, using mesquite, cherry or apple wood chips to enhance his barbecue. But at home, he cooks for others.

“We invite family and friends over and we all get together,” Fitzpatrick says. “There’s camaraderie. We have a good time.”

At gatherings, Fitzpatrick cooks up beef ribs on the smoker.

“My friends like the flavor and how tender and moist my meat is,” he says. “The juice just pours out.”

Fitzpatrick’s friends savor his ribs most of all. That’s probably because he makes a homemade rub that John bbq ribs and wingsgives his ribs an extra kick. He calls it Bone Dust. It’s a mix of cumin, chipotle powder and other seasonings. “I can take any type of rub and change it to give it my own flavor,” Fitzpatrick says.

Fitzpatrick has tried to cook brisket on the road, but it’s never the same.

So he saves his brisket for home time and does it right—smoking it at 210 degrees for 18 hours. The result is delicious, says.

“Patience is the key, and keeping a close on eye it,” he says. “You never want to rush it, whether you’re cooking on the grill or the smoker. If you rush, you’ll end up with tough meats. It takes a lot of practice.”

Fitzpatrick has been smoking his own meats for 25 years and grilling for 40 years. He enjoys cooking for his wife, Evelyn, most of all.

“I wish she was with me on the road,” he says. “When I retired after working 25 years at DuPont, we traveled in a camper together for a year. I loved driving with her.”

Evelyn loves her husband’s lemon chicken.

Fitzpatrick rubs it with salt and pepper, stuffs it with halved lemons and smokes it on his vertical smoker for about two-and-a-half hours. “It’s her favorite,” he says.

When Fitzpatrick retires from his CDL trucking job, he and Evelyn will drive Route 66. “We’ll hook up the camper and just stop wherever we stop,” he says. “We’ll go fishing and enjoy the journey.”

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Featured photos from; other photos courtesy John Fitzpatrick.


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Marty steaks

Part of Drive My Way’s ‘Big Rigs and Barbecue’ Series

Marty Wickliff can grill anything. The company driver for TMC out of Des Moines, Iowa, learned to cook from his mom when he was a boy. He only improved from there.

Wickliff’s cooking skills were refined all the more at 16, when he got a job as a short-order cook at a navy base in Florida.

Marty Wickliff

Marty Wickliff

By the time Wickliff was 18, he was managing a Waffle House in Alabama. That’s where he honed his culinary chops most.

“The waitress would call out the order, and you had to remember it,” Wickliff recalls. “That job taught me how to time food preparation and get food out hot all at once.”

With the high volume at Waffle House, Wickliff learned to work quickly and memorize orders. It unleashed in him a passion for cooking on the fly. All these years later, that passion is still with him.

Wickliff’s culinary experience is diverse. In the years after Waffle House, he cooked at a five-star resort and attended culinary school for a time. While his dreams of becoming a chef weren’t to last, “I retained a lot of what I learned,” he says.

Wickliff took up truck driving nearly 6 years ago, after getting laid off from a factory job he had. His grandfather and former stepfather were both drivers, and Wickliff grew up observing them. “I always wanted to drive a truck, so I finally decided to do it,” he says.


Wickliff’s grilled London broil with bacon-wrapped cabbage

While he sharpened his cooking skills as a mere teen, today, at 49, Wickliff is a true grillmaster. He’s read up a lot on the technique and learned even more from doing it himself. Wickliff drives with a little gas grill he bought at Wal-Mart. It allows him to eat healthy while on the road.

Wickliff grills steaks, ribs, hamburgers, vegetables, fish, you name it. “My go-to is steak, but if it goes on the grill without falling through the grates, it’s pretty much fair game,” he says.

Wickliff likes his steaks rare. He seasons them, then marinates them for 24 hours in Worcestershire sauce. When it’s time to cook his steak, he grills it for about three minutes, then flips it and cooks it for five minutes more. As an accompaniment, he often grills up vegetables on the side.


Wickliff’s barbecued pork ribs with grilled vegetables

But Wickliff doesn’t stop at steaks. He also loves making boneless pork country-style ribs. Marinating them in 6 Pepper seasoning from Sam’s Club for 24 hours “gives the ribs a sweet and spicy bite,” Wickliff says. He also adds garlic powder and lemon pepper to the mix.

Wickliff sears his ribs on high heat, then turns the heat down to about 225 degrees and lets the ribs grill for a half hour. He tops them off with Sweet Baby Ray’s barbecue sauce and lets them cook with the sauce for 15 minutes more. To him, it’s all perfection.

“Mainly, I go back to what I learned in the restaurant business,” Wickliff says of his technique. “I’m pretty good at picking out meats. I drive solo, so I have to do all my prep work myself. To me, grilling is relaxing. Just to sit out here in my lawn chair and grill out and unwind, it’s a great way to end the day.”

All food images by Marty Wickliff; image of Marty Wickliff by Rachel Torres

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Smoking, Meats

Part of Drive My Way’s ‘Big Rigs and Barbecue’ Series

If Karl Pickard were a recipe, he’d make for an interesting mix: one part truck driver, one part foodie.

The company driver for ATS out of St. Cloud, Minn., started cooking in his mama’s kitchen at age 8.

He’s pushed his culinary boundaries ever since, whether he’s cooking at home or on his truck.

“Us out here on the road, we don’t have much. The one thing I do insist on is good food,” says Pickard in a smooth drawl. Pickard puts few limits on what he’ll cook, even if it means having to improvise while on the road for his CDL trucking job.

Karl and Jeanette“Everything we cook really does not have a recipe,” he says of himself and his wife, Jeanette. “We’ll look at the recipe online and get the general idea, then we take it in any direction we want to take it.”

Having a CDL trucking job doesn’t hinder Pickard’s ability to cook what he wants. He’s been at it long enough to make anything work. On the road, Pickard loves to grill truckside. On any given evening, he could be firing up brats, sausages or the stuffed hamburger Jeanette makes.

But when he’s home, it’s all about the smoker. Pickard learned to smoke meats when he was a teenager. He learned from watching his uncle and stepdad, who were “big into it.”

By now, Pickard, 57, is big into it, too. He’s smoked it all, from brisket and pork shoulder to fish and sausages. When asked what he prefers to smoke, he replies, “Everything. I’m an eater. I’m a foodie. I just like eatin.”

The Prep

Pickard loves pork short ribs most of all. He recommends first pulling off the membrane on the inside of the ribs. If the membrane is on, the dry rub won’t soak in. And for Pickard, it’s all about the dry rub.

“The rub gives the meat its flavor,” he says. “So you start with a good dry rub, like McCormick’s applewood dry rub. I add to that chipotle, cayenne powder, brown sugar and black pepper. You rub it on your ribs really thick—really thick—and put them in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours.”

When Pickard’s ribs have marinated long enough, he fires up the grill to 225 degrees. He soaks wood chips in water, getting them nice and wet so smoke develops. Then he puts his ribs on the grill and closes it up, letting them smoke for 8 to 10 hours at low temperature.

Cooking on the Truck

Pickard cooks ribs on the truck, too, but when he does, it’s quite a different process. When the ribs have Karlmarinated in the refrigerator for 24 hours, he cuts the slab into three equal pieces and places them in his Aroma cooker, one slab on top of the other. He sets them to “slow cook” for three to four hours, “until they’re nice and tender,” he says.

Then he fires up his 18-inch gas grill and cooks the ribs for about 10 more minutes per side, until they’re crispy.

“If you want sauce, I’ll bring sauce to the table,” Pickard says. “I do not sauce my ribs. I take pride in what I make. It’s the best feeling to see the looks on people’s faces while they’re eating what I cooked.”

Missed our first “Big Rigs and Barbecue” story? Check it out here.

Featured image courtesy RealAKP / Pixabay, other images courtesy of Karl Pickard.


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