Meathead Goldwyn started his AmazingRibs.com site in 2005, and it’s still smoking
If you’re passionate about barbecue, odds are you’re familiar with the website AmazingRibs.com and its creator, Meathead Goldwyn. The self-professed “barbecue whisperer” and “hedonism evangelist” started the site 10 years ago, in 2005, and it’s one of the hottest websites on the Internet, period. And, yes, Goldwyn goes by the nickname “Meathead” with everyone but his wife, and he likes it that way. He has degrees in journalism and photography, and has written extensively about food and wine; in addition to the website, Goldwyn has a book about grilling due out next spring. We chatted recently with Goldwyn about the website, his longtime love of food science and writing, and to find out just how many grills he has on his deck at the moment.
Why call the website Amazing Ribs? Well, I had a neighbor who used to brag about his ribs, and I thought my ribs were very good. And he challenged me to a cook-off. I agreed and immediately went to the library to look up some books. There were hardly any on barbecue in 2005. I searched the Internet, and there was nothing there of any consequence. So I saw an opportunity. The name was originally just going to be Ribs, but I wanted the A in there so we would be at the top of the search list. But then using the word “ribs” has been helpful because a lot of people want to learn how to cook ribs when they go looking for barbecue information, and Google has been very friendly to us. We get about 60% of our traffic from Google.
Every once in a while you run a controversial topic. I don’t shy from controversy. I’ve always been interested in science, and I began to understand that a lot of what we know about food and cooking has been handed down to us by generations of cooks and chefs, and that food science was kind of lagging behind. Alton Brown was a great inspiration, and Harold McGee’s book “On Food and Cooking” really fascinated me. We debunk a lot of old tales. One would be beer can chicken, and people won’t let go. They keep believing in it, and they can get really upset and really nasty and mean.
You test all these grills for the website. How many grills do you have? On my deck right now there’s probably a dozen different grills and smokers. There’s another four or five in the garage, and another two on the grass in the backyard. And they come and go. But Max Good is my right hand on equipment reviews. He does all the grill and smoker testing. And so he’s got another 15 or 20 on his deck, and they come and go too.
Any new technology out there that’s really impressed you? Yeah. The pellet smokers. I wouldn’t call them new technology; they’ve been around for eight or 10 years. But they’re really catching on now. It’s an old-fashioned concept, but they have digital controllers so you can set the temperature and it’ll hit and hold that temperature very precisely. In fact, it will hold more accurately than most indoor ovens.
What advice would you have for someone starting a food website or blog? Find a niche and build that market. Be a good writer, be a good photographer, and if you’re not, you’re going to have to find help. You’ve got to make food look gorgeous, otherwise nobody is going to want to read about it. And, of course, you’ve got to be a decent writer. If you’re writing a food website and there are typos and grammar problems, I wonder, how good is the recipe?
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