Food & Drink

Grilling Techniques from Shannon “Firebug BBQ” Kimball

 Private chef and award-winning sauce creator Shannon “Firebug” Kimball teaches grilling techniques for novices and veterans.

Shannon Kimball is one of those people in Kansas City uninterested in limitations and he has the awards to prove it.

Shannon and his wife Lori, owners of Kimball Stone and Tile, have over twenty years of experience in custom tile installation. Not content to rest in so-called spare time, Kimball has developed a busy culinary life as a private chef, cooking instructor and award-winning sauce maker.

Awesome Sauce

He began developing a sauce over the course of two years with guidance from a chef to help balance the flavors. Kimball finalized the recipe in May 2009 and entered his grilling sauce the following October at the American Royal. Right out of the gate, his Firebug Grill’n Sauce earned a third-place award and has gone on to earn more accolades.

The award-winning FireBug BBQ and Grilling Sauce, created by Shannon Kimball.

What is a grilling sauce versus a barbecue sauce? Because the two cooking techniques vary on time, heat intensity and other factors, Kimball’s hand-crafted sauce is made for shorter grilling times and flavors that vary from most sweet, hot or vinegary barbecue sauces on the market.

“Growing up, my mom made ‘beef sauce’ from barbecue sauce and grape jelly,” Kimball says. “I like that fruit forward flavor so I add raspberry and blackberry. The heat kicks in later.”

Firebug Grill’n Sauce comes in mild and hot. The latter packs a habanero pepper kick. Visit to order the sauces online.

Cooking with Class

Kimball hails from Emporia, Kan., where he grew up on a cattle ranch and raised quarter horses. During cookouts, Kimball was tasked with tending to pit fires where whole slabs of beef would turn on a spit. “That’s where my nickname Firebug came from,” he says. “I loved to feed the fire and tend to the coals.”

His grandmother taught him how to fish, filet, marinate and cook fish as a kid. Many of the recipes he uses and teaches today are adaptations of family recipes learned from his mother and grandmother. Today, Kimball shares his love of cooking through classes on backyard grilling, cast iron cooking and simple, rustic French cooking at Le Creuset and at The Olive Tree in Leawood.

He says, “I teach people how to make everything from jalapeño cornbread in a skillet on the grill to grilled dessert to curing and smoking meats and salmon.”

To learn more about Kimball’s private chef services and class schedule, visit

Firebug’s Grilling Tips

• Buy fresh meat. Get to know your butcher and learn where your meat comes from. • Learn how various cuts of meat react to heat and cooking times.

When grilling, set up two to three zones of charcoal fire with direct, indirect and minimal heat. Don’t pile all of your charcoal in the middle of the grill. Set the pile to the side so you have an indirect, cooler zone to finish meat after the initial sear.

• Use herb sprigs like rosemary to brush on oil and marinade. Use separate sprigs for meat, fish and vegetables. Essential oil from the rosemary’s leaves will flavor the food. • Use herb sprigs (separate from the brushes) as skewers for soft vegetables like cherry tomatoes and fruit. Smoke from charred herbs will also add flavor.

Keep the seasoning simple. Kimball uses kosher salt, fresh-cracked black pepper and garlic cloves. Add fresh minced herbs or smoked paprika for variety and flavor.

Make your own rub. Most store-bought rubs contain significant amounts of iodized salt. Try a blend of kosher salt, pepper, ground coffee and minced fresh rosemary in equal amounts for beef.

• Use grape seed oil for grilling. Grape seed oil has a higher smoking point than olive oil and won’t turn bitter after heat exposure.

After grilling, let meat rest before slicing to allow the inner juices to settle. Otherwise, the flavorful juice will immediately drain out. Take meat off the grill before it reaches the desired temperature, place it on a platter and cover with foil.

Kimball says that temperatures will still rise 2-5 degrees after meat is removed from the grill. Let small cuts rest for five minutes; large cuts should rest 10-15 minutes.