Master the art of BBQ with these great tips and sauces
Most families like to grill out in the backyard and cook some burgers or chicken.
If you’re craving something more challenging with a tastier reward, it’s time to step up to the plate and take on the endeavor of old-fashioned barbecue.
Most people don’t even realize there’s a big difference between grilling and barbecuing. Grilling is using your propane or charcoal grill to quickly heat up your choice of meat with little or no mess. Barbecue is an art form that requires great skill, lots of time, and an abundance of patience to deliver moist, delicious meats with superior smoky flavor.
True barbecue means slow-cooking your cut of meat at lower temperatures (usually 220 degrees F) for anywhere from two hours up to ten or more. It all depends on the cut and weight of your meat selection. The goal is to slowly raise the internal temperature of the meat while penetrating the surface with smoke to maximize flavor. If done successfully, the end result is moist and delicious meat that melts in your mouth.
Even the most experienced barbecue specialists will tell you that it can be a painstaking process to get it just right. If you aren’t paying close attention and cook your meat at too hot of a temperature, it can go from moist to bone dry very quickly.
There’s various equipment you can use to barbecue meat, but the most popular is a charcoal smoker, which you can pick up at any chain hardware store.
These machines range from $60 to the hundreds of dollars, based on cooking surface size and features offered. You’ll want to get something that can maintain a good, consistent cooking temperature for long periods of time. These types of smokers need to be monitored to make sure the charcoal level and airflow are just right to stay at that magic temperature.
If you’re looking for something that isn’t as high maintenance, electric smokers are very easy to use and need less tending to, as they are controlled by an electric heating element. Both are acceptable options, but charcoal smokers serve up the best flavor.
Throwing wood on the charcoal is what generates the smoke you need to get that incredible flavor that your tastebuds associate with barbecue. You can buy wood chips or chunks in a number of varieties including applewood, mesquite, hickory, maple, and oak. You can even buy the wood chips of Jack Daniels’s barrels to add a hint of whiskey flavor to your food. Remember to soak your wood chips in water for at least an hour before throwing them on the charcoal so they burn long and slow.
Choosing your cut of meat is the best part because there are so many awesome options! You can smoke baby back ribs, St. Louis ribs, beef brisket, whole chicken, chicken wings, Boston butt, turkey, salmon, and I could go on and on. You’ll want to make sure the meat you’re smoking has a decent fat content so it can stay moist throughout the cooking process without drying out.
There are a bunch of different styles of barbecue sauce, and they’re completely different. Let’s review the main sauce styles:
• Kansas City Sauce – This is a thick, reddish-brown sauce that is usually tomato-based and includes sugar, vinegar, and a variety of spices. Kansas City barbecue sauce mostly commonly resembles the basic barbecue sauces you get at the grocery store.
• Memphis Sauce – The Memphis-style barbecue sauce is very similar to Kansas City, but it has a higher proportion of vine- gar and uses molasses as a sweetener.
• South Carolina Mustard Sauce – This is a yellowish sauce consisting of mustard, vinegar, spices, and sugar. As you can tell by the name, this sauce is most popular in the Charleston and Columbia areas, but it’s continually gaining more popularity throughout the entire Southeast.
Unlike Kansas City style, Texas only uses a touch of tomato and sugar. It’s heavy on chili peppers, bell peppers, cumin, chili powder, onion, and black pepper. It can sometimes include meat drippings to really enhance the smoky flavor.
Before you go pouring on the sauce, you should know that barbecue purists prefer to cook their meat with a just good dry rub. A dry rub is a mixture of different seasonings and spices that generously coats the outside of your meat while it’s cooking.
There are lots of recipes for dry rubs out there that claim to be the best, but sometimes the fun of it is experimenting on your own. The key to a good rub is some sugar, which will melt when cooked and caramelize the outside of the meat, trapping all of the moist goodness on the inside. If a dry rub is done just right, the delicious smoky flavor of the meat will be so intense that you won’t even need a sauce to go with it.
Barbecuing can be time consuming, but it’s so worth it! You’ll end up with lots of delicious meat with that signature smoky flavor. It’s a difficult process, but don’t be intimidated! You get better and better every time you try it.
The best part about barbecue is hanging out with friends, sharing recipes, and having fun together during the cooking process. Once you get good enough, there are plenty of barbecue competitions throughout the Southeast each year, including one at Patriots Point this fall called Smoke on the Harbor, November 15-16.
So what are you waiting for? Break out the smoker this weekend, mix yourself a good rub, and barbecue a tasty cut of meat. The work is worth the reward!