As the temperature rises and the beaches become busier, the signs of summer are all around us.
With that being said nothing says summer or America like a good old fashion BBQ. The smell of ribs and corn on the cob along with an ice cold adult beverage are some of the things that make summer awesome. For some, nothing is more intimidating then being in charge of the grill while a group of STARVING friends and family wait for your culinary master piece.
As a wise man once told me, “BBQ is a labor of love.” If you want fast meals and not a lot of time then this is NOT the article for you. If you have a love for BBQ then keep reading and take notes kids, pop quiz next week!
Slow and Low:
With BBQ this is the phrase that pays. Low heat and slower cook times equal awesomeness. The process helps get the meat tender and juicy, moist. Since this process takes so long it makes for great family and friends time. Sharing stories and playing games is pure Americana and takes the pressure off you while you “man” the grill. The food changes during the cooking process introducing new flavors to your food. Let’s break down the elements for being a kick-butt Pit Master or, at least, the cool aunt or uncle at the next family party.
-First, do not use electric smokers! They don’t give you the flavor you want, ever.
-Top of the line smokers are made of ceramic, aka Akron style, which retains heat better and requires less charcoal.
-Bullet type cookers, named after their shape, are a less expensive alternative and they offer two levels of cooking.
-Barrel and drum smokers
-Easy and lightweight food cooks directly over the charcoal
You get what you pay for so DO YOUR RESEARCH before you buy.
I prefer a smoker because they offer more cooking space, and I have always gotten better results from them. The key to good BBQ is temperature control throughout the cooking process.
Keep it simple. Start with the basic proteins which are the following:
BBQ Chicken: Cook to at least 170 degrees
Pulled Pork: 180-190 degrees
Ribs: 180 degrees
Brisket: 180-190 degrees
Whenever you can use a butcher to get the freshest meats DO IT! Your chicken and ribs will take the shortest amount of time so plan ahead. Pork and Brisket will be a true labor of love and can take 10 hours plus. Take it from me though, the results of the time are well worth it when you take that first bite, or get that first high five from someone.
Sauces Vs Rubs
-Rubs are a mixture of dry ingredients and should be applied to the meat BEFORE cooking. For maxim yummy let the rub settle into the meat for at least 15 minutes. Dry rub creates that crust that separates the wanna be grill masters from the Masters.
Sauces are applied toward the end of the cooking process. They give the flavor of your choice to the meat and create a savory caramelized crust. Putting it on too early can cause the sauce to burn or dry out and leave a nasty after taste.
A little smoke goes a long way, wood, chips, pellets come are the secret weapon of BBQ and come in all flavors. Use this chart to get started:
Type of Wood
|Apple||Produces a sweet, fruity taste. A mild wood that works well on poultry and ham.|
|Alder||This is the wood that is greatly preferred for most any fish, especially salmon.|
|Cherry||Similar to apple, this wood is sweet and usually very fruity depending on the age of the wood. Tends to be mild making it a good choice for poultry, fish, and ham.|
|Hickory||Probably the most well-known woods. While some folk may disagree, it tends to be a bit too pungent for my own taste therefore great care must be taken so that it is not overused. Used correctly it is excellent on ribs and most red meats. Can also be used (very sparingly) on cuts of poultry.|
|Maple||Gives a light and sweet taste which best compliments poultry and ham.|
|Mesquite||My personal favorite barbecue wood. Great care must be taken or it can become overpowering. Best not used for larger cuts which require longer smoking times but I have been known to be quite successful at it by using it in tandem with another type of wood.|
|Oak||Good choice for larger cuts which require longer smoking times. Produces a strong smoke flavor but usually not overpowering. Good wood for Brisket.|
|Pecan||Gives somewhat of a fruity flavor and burns cooler than most other barbecue woods. It is similar to Hickory and is best used on large cuts like brisket and pork roast but can also be used to compliment chops, fish and poultry.|
BBQ can be a great hobby. Don’t get overwhelmed by it, just have fun. Start small and try different ideas. Enjoy the summer and be safe; I’m off to check on my brisket and grab some more ice, cheers!