When It Comes to Grilling, This Truck Driver is Right on

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

When Charlie Clark says she grew up on a truck, she’s not exaggerating. The long-haul truck driver, an owner operator leased to Larry Gary, really has been in trucking “for the long haul”—ever since she was 2 weeks old.

An Alabama native, Clark is a child of the highway. She was raised by her father, a truck driver. And while Clark inherited her father’s love of the road, she likewise inherited his passion for barbecue.

Charlie with her fiance, Matt Horne

Clark with her fiance, Matt Holmes

“My daddy always had a grill with us on the truck growing up,” Clark says. “I was all up in his face when he was grilling, so he could either teach me or I was going to become annoying.”

Clark’s father, a southerner from Oklahoma, had wanted a son. So he named his girl Charlie. But it didn’t take Clark long to prove that when it comes to barbecue, she can hang with the big boys.

“The first thing I did on my own was I smoked a brisket when I was 11 years old,” recalls Clark, who was home schooled on the truck yet graduated from high school a year early. “We used to make deer jerky all the time. I’ve been making jerky since I was 7 or 8. That’s like second nature to me.”

Clark recalls catching grasshoppers at age 6 and using them as fish bait; constructing makeshift grills at campsites; and barbecuing with her dad at the lake.

“I did a lot of rabbit as a kid,” Clark says. “I’d kill ‘em and skin ‘em and grill ‘em. Grilling is in my blood.”

Truck Driver Is Right on Today, Clark teams with her fiancé, Matt Holmes. When they’re off the clock from their CDL trucking jobs, Clark prefers making steaks and barbecued ribs. She coats her ribs with a homemade dry rub, marinates them in whiskey or beer and lets them sit in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for 24 hours.

Clark cooks her ribs on an 18-inch grill, cutting the slab in half so they’ll fit.

“My concoctions differ,” says Clark of her dry rubs. “Some of them will be spicy, some won’t.” Cayenne, garlic, some secret seasoning she picks up in Florida, it all depends on which meat Clark is cooking.

Clark uses her 18-inch grill for cooking nearly anything.

Clark uses her 18-inch grill for cooking nearly anything, such as these chicken-fried steaks.

So what’s Clark’s secret to making great barbecue? “Time and patience,” she says. “Anybody can cook a hot dog, but it takes patience to cook a steak or a brisket just right.”

The last time Clark cooked brisket, it was on her 18-inch grill. “Nobody’s sleeping,” she says of the experience. Clark wrapped her brisket in aluminum foil and let it cook on low heat for 29 hours. It turned out great, she says.

“Barbecuing is our time to relax and kick back,” Clark says. “It gets us outside the truck. It’s the equivalent of going home for the weekend.”

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