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A tray with a burger and salad at Backyard BBQ in Lake Tahoe

Smoke Without Fire

Article by Joshua Lurie 05.16.2016 Photographed by Jake Stangel

Chef Stanley Miller knows the secret to keeping guests coming back for more. The South Carolina native is the barbecue master behind The Backyard Bar & BBQ at The Ritz Carlton, Lake Tahoe. Though he’s clocked more than a decade in hotel dining, there are a few tricks up this chef’s sleeve that can be used by the home cook as well.

Is there a go-to rub for meat?

Not exactly. Meats are “rubbed with unique individual spices” that best suit their profile. For ribs — for which Miller uses pork backs, which reside between baby backs and spare ribs on the pig and have an equal ratio of meat to bone — the chef favors a rub of sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, brown sugar and herbs. Slow-and-low cooking brisket gets a simpler recipe: fine-grained salt, cracked black pepper and sugar. And for chicken, Miller likes a spicy Cajun rub of paprika, cayenne pepper, sugar and garlic powder.

Any rules about sides?

Hold the mayo. “If you eat more of the acid, more of the vinegar, it helps to cleanse the palate,” Miller says. The Backyard’s sides include peewee potato salad tossed with vinegar and mustard, and vinegar-based purple cabbage slaw.

What tools do I need to get started?

Miller favors charcoal, which he says “imposes flavor,” over gas grills. Other than that: “You need a set of tongs, a spatula and a brush. With that, you can grill anything you’ll ever need.”

What’s one skill a griller needs to achieve perfection?

Patience. “If you try and cut a steak immediately after it comes off the grill [you’ll see] all the juice and flavor pour out. If you let it sit and rest, it will actually hold itself together, and the meat starts to relax again. It becomes tender.” It’s a good thing Miller exercises patience behind the grill—because once the plates are served to diners at The Backyard, no restraint is necessary.

A chef glazes cooking ribs at Backyard BBQ at The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe

Chef Miller overseeing the all-important saucing.


The Backyard Bar & BBQ offers a year-round casual dining experience on the back patio with poolside service during the summer and ski-in/ski-out outdoor dining in the winter.

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